• Bill Leak has been remembered as a master satirist by political and media figures. (AAP) (NEWS CORP)Source: NEWS CORP
EXCLUSIVE: A petition calling for 18c to be repealed has attracted thousands of signatures in less than a day, as social media and radio are hit by demands for Leak's memory to be honoured by scrapping racial discrimination laws.
Robert Burton-Bradley

15 Mar 2017 - 1:46 PM  UPDATED 15 Mar 2017 - 3:57 PM

Opponents of racial discrimination laws, and in particular section 18c, have taken to talk back radio and social media to demand the legislation be scrapped as a memorial for the controversial cartoonist Bill Leak.

A petition has been started on change.org calling for 18c to be repealed and replaced with new legislation called "Leak's law" as a memorial to Leak.

The petition, which calls 18c a "cancer on free speech", went up yesterday and has attracted just under 2200 signatures at the time of writing.

It was started by cartoonist Paul Zanetti whose work, like Leak's, has been subject to a complaint made to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Last year, Zanetti lodged a complaint against federal MP Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected to the lower house, alleging she had discriminated against white males.

The petition also refers to the Queensland University 18c case involving three students and Cindy Prior.

"Recently Section 18c has been used as a weapon to silence cartoonists for commenting on unpalatable truths, and to shakedown university students for innocuous online comments," the petition stated. 

"In the students' case, after considerable financial and personal cost and reputational damage, a judge confirmed the students had caused no intended offence. But 18c had already wreaked unfathomable, unnecessary harm on the innocent."

Amnesty’s Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Roxanne Moore, previously told NITV News that that changing the Racial Discrimination Act could upset a fine balance and be “seriously damaging”.

"The Racial Discrimination Act in its current form meets its international obligations and doesn't need amendment," she said.

Some opponents of racial discrimination laws have taken to social media to demand changes or the complete scrapping of 18c as a tribute to Leak.

This morning, a woman called Radio National Breakfast calling for 18c to be changed as an appropriate tribute to Leak's memory.


PM to attend Leak memorial service

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will attend a public memorial service for Leak to be held in Sydney on Friday, one week after Leak died suddenly of a suspected heart attack.

Mr Turnbull, who was once captured by his friend of 30 years in an Archibald Prize portrait in 1994, will speak at the event.

Cartoonist Bill Leak dies, aged 61
Controversial Australian cartoonist Bill Leak has died in hospital from a suspected heart attack at the age of 61.

Last week he praised the cartoonist for being a "good-humoured sceptic of anybody and anything in authority" throughout his "far too short life".

The prime minister is also reportedly set to fast-track efforts to change race-hate laws.

Leak was investigated for a possible breach of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act over a cartoon about Indigenous parental neglect, but the complaint was subsequently dropped.

Woman behind Bill Leak cartoon complaint dropped charges due to 'harassment'
Melissa Dinnison has told NITV she let go of the complaint because she felt bullied by The Australian newspaper.

Conservative figures, including federal coalition politicians, have used the case to argue the section must be changed.

The federal coalition party room could decide as early as next week how the section could be changed, with Nationals MP George Christensen favouring a swift resolution if the words "offend", "insult" and "humiliate" are removed.

"If coming to a consensus view means getting something through the parliament that is completely at odds with what the rank and file are calling for, we may not as well even do it," he told The Australian on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by AAP