Government 'rethink' of race law changes cautiously welcomed


Labor and the Australian Greens are cautiously welcoming reports the federal government is preparing to backdown on plans to scrap sections of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Attorney-General George Brandis has received more than 5000 submissions on a draft plan to scrap section 18C of the Act which makes it illegal to publicly "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate"  someone on the basis of race or ethnicity.

Under proposed changes, the government wants to retain as an offence any action that would "intimidate another person" and create a new clause making it illegal to "vilify another person" on the basis of "race, colour or national or ethnic origin".

But Senator Brandis is reportedly planning to water down the changes, saying he didn't have a consultation period with the intention of not listening to what people have to say.

Western Sydney Labor MP Ed Husic, says the Attorney-General should abandon the changes altogether.

"George Brandis deserves absolutely not an inch of credit for anything yet because he has not come out [to announce the government will scrap race law changes]," he said.

"He has chosen the coward's way of announcing that they may be backing off. He owes it to communities that are concerned about division that they will drop these terrible set of proposals. No government should make it a priority to scare and divide."

Australian Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt agrees the Attorney-General should not get any credit for his reported back-down.

"George Brandis is quite possibly the worst Attorney-General we've ever had," Mr Bandt said.

"His priorities are to allow people in this country to say hateful things that damage others in the Australian community and rip at the fabric of multiculturalism. And he's been called out on it - he does not have the country's support for his war against multiculturalism."

Source SBS

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