Media release: 25 November 2013
One’s freedom ends where racial vilification begins – hence ECCV endorses religious and ethnic groups coming together across Australia to voice their opposition against the government’s proposed repeal of sections of the Racial Discrimination Act in the name of “free speech.”
Recent reports show that around one in five Australians say they have experienced humiliating and offensive racial abuse including racial slurs or name-calling. Currently section 18C of the Act still tells us that this is unacceptable.
“The proposed repeal of section 18C is a step in the wrong direction. Ethnic communities and people in general need legal protection against vilification, offensive remarks and hate speech,” said ECCV chairperson Joe Caputo OAM JP.
The Government’s argument that free speech needs to be upheld is understandable but not valid in this case, when sections C and D of the Act already ensure the balance between freedom of speech and protection from racial abuse.
“Who is going to protect victims when offenders realise they are no longer accountable under the law?“ asks Mr Caputo.
ECCV calls on the government to consult with ethnic communities in order to gain an understanding of the levels of racial hatred and vilification experienced by these groups.
People who have had to endure the mental and sometimes physical effects of racial abuse, hostility or even violence need to be consulted about the impact of legislative change.
In 2012-13, the Australian Human Rights Commission received a 59 per cent increase in racial vilification complaints.
Increasing levels of racial abuse is something that ECCV as Victoria’s peak multicultural body has been trying to halt by consulting with police, local government and the community to raise awareness that racial profiling, discrimination and racial vilification is unacceptable and against the existing legislation.
In a recent interview with the ECCV, Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane explained why Section 18C should not be repealed.
“We have had laws concerning racial vilification for close to 20 years, they have been the expression of our values as a multicultural society that values racial tolerance. It will be important that Australians continue to enjoy effective legislative protections against racial vilification.”
ECCV supports this position and also the recent joint statement by religious and ethnic organizations including Indigenous, Jewish, Arab, Chinese, Greek, Armenian, Lebanese and Muslim communities against the repeal of sections of the Racial Discrimination Act.
“We call on the Attorney-General George Brandis and the government to reconsider its plans to amend section 18C leaving people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds vulnerable to abuse and without legal protection,” says Mr Caputo.
As a proud supporter of the Australian Human Rights Commission “Racism. It Stops With Me” campaign ECCV has and will continue to strongly condemn racism and call for an Australia free of racism.
Please find the full media release attached.
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The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria Inc. (ECCV) is the peak body for ethnic and multicultural organisations in Victoria. It is a community based, member driven organisation committed to empowering people from diverse multicultural backgrounds. We are proud to have been the key advocate for culturally diverse communities in Victoria since 1974. For more than 35 years we have been the link between multicultural communities, government and the wider community.www.eccv.org.au