The Attorney-General of Australia, George Brandis, has been criticised for his proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
Brooke Boney

18 Nov 2013 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2013 - 8:40 PM

The Racial Discrimination Act is the part of the law protecting different racial and religious groups from vilification and discrimination.

The Act is also referred to as the 'Bolt Laws', after News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt accused a group of fair-skinned Indigenous people of using their Indigenous identity for political and personal gain.

Labor member Shayne Neumann says opinions of the Racial Discrimination Act changed after the publication of Mr Bolt’s column.

Senator Brandis initially flagged his intention to amend the Act prior to this year’s Federal election. 

"Since that time we've seen from the Attorney-General that they propose to amend this legislation," Mr Neumann says.

The Attorney-General wants Section 18c amended. This part of the Act makes it unlawful to publish material that offends or insults an individual or group because of race, nationality or ethnicity.

But Peter Wertheim from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry says an amendment will change more than just how Australian law is interpreted.

Mr Neumann agrees that the consequences could spark violence in Australian communities.

“It's not about political correctness and it's not about people being heard. We know there's a link between hate words and physical violence,” says Mr Neumann.

Senator Brandis says he wants the amendment to be the first bill he introduces as Attorney-General and that he's currently in discussion with community leaders about the Act.

It's not clear yet exactly how the Act will be changed but it's likely some of the more stringent aspects will be removed, making it more difficult to breach the Racial Discrimination Act.