I can see why many Australians think the Coalition’s obsession with watering-down the Racial Discrimination Act is simply irrelevant.
Watering-down section 18C won’t create jobs, train apprentices, re-open TAFEs or help teachers in our schools.
It won’t make seeing the doctor cheaper, the NBN faster or solve the gas emergency we have right now in manufacturing.
But the one thing this change will do is make it easier for people to be insulted or humiliated on the basis of race.
I do concede this government has someone with a sense of humour to choose Harmony Day to weaken protections against racism.
But they have never been able to answer one simple question: What insult do they want people to be able to say that they cannot say now?
Now, I understand it is possible to consider watering-down these laws if you never know what discrimination is like.
Just like it’s easy for the Prime Minister to support cutting penalty rates, because he doesn’t know anyone who relies on them.
It’s easy to dismiss a hurt you won’t feel. It’s easy to weaken a protection you’ll never need. But that’s not leadership. That’s not what Australia is about.
The only two cases the Prime Minister held up as his rationale could both have been addressed by improving the process – not by changing the law. This isn’t about free speech; it’s about the Prime Minister appeasing his party.
How much more will Australia throw overboard to save one man’s job? Labor will never support the right to be a bigot.”
Hon Bill Shorten MP