NACCHO Aboriginal Health #RDA #18C and #Racism News Alerts : 22 Recommendations : Download 189 Page Inquiry Report

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 ” In fact, many Aboriginal people feel the RDA is not strong enough. It has been bypassed three times in its history – and every time it was to undermine the rights of Aboriginal people (the Hindmarsh Island affair, watering down of native title, and the Northern Territory intervention).

Nevertheless, today the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has tabled its recommendations on proposed changes to the RDA (and the government is expected to respond in due course). The Sydney Morning Herald reports that one of the key recommendations is the replacement of the words “offend, insult and humiliate” with the word “harass”.

Another proposed option is to change the way the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC) functions, such as allowing it to knock back so-called vexatious complaints earlier in the process. ”

Fighting words Reform of section 18C is back on the agenda By Amy McQuire see full report 2 below

Download or Read the Full Freedom of Speech Report Here

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 “Surveys suggested racism was already a near-universal experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, with 97% having experienced it in the past year and more than 70% reporting eight or more incidents in that period. Almost one-third said they had experienced racism in the health setting.

By settings standards of conduct, the law had an important role in containing the spread of racism and race hate, and described the watering down of sections 18c & d of the RDA as a “major risk” for the effective implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023.

The Plan envisages a health system free of racism, offering effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable health services to Indigenous Australians “

Matthew Cooke Chair of NACCHO

From post 21 December 2016 Aboriginal Health and #Racism : NACCHO submission to #SavetheRDA #18C Inquiry into #Freedomofspeech

Download our full submission here

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Photo Above :Federal Labor MPs are speaking out against the Turnbull Govt attempts to weaken & water down Section of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Download or Read Labor Press Release

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Plus Download or Read Greens Press Release

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Parliamentary inquiry sidesteps making recommendation on 18C

 ” Malcolm Turnbull had hoped that throwing the controversial section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to a parliamentary inquiry would help resolve an issue that has become totemic for conservatives in the increasingly vitriolic culture wars.”

Writes Michelle Grattan in the Conversation

As is his luck these days, it has done no such thing. The joint committee on human rights has provided extensive and sensible advice on how to improve the processes for dealing with complaints, including to weed out vexatious ones early. But on the core question of the section’s wording, it has tossed that very hot potato right back into the laps of the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

In a search for maximum consensus among its members the committee, after hearing extensive evidence for the status quo on the one hand and various changes on the other, has presented a “range of proposals that had the support of at least one member of the committee”.

No one can say it’s not been comprehensive. But the list could have been written without the inquiry.

The current 18C outlaws actions “reasonably likely … to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone or a group of people, on the basis of race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

Section D provides exemptions and defences, including that of “good faith”, “public interest” and “fair comment”.

The options the committee has put are:

  • No change in wording of 18C and 18D.
  • Amending the act to ensure that the effect of it “is clear and accessible” by codifying the judicial interpretation. This would deal with the problem of the gap between what words like “offend” and “insult” mean in legal cases and their everyday meaning.
  • Removing the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” and replacing them with “harass”.
  • Amending 18D to also include a “truth” defence similar to that of defamation law.
  • Changing the objective test, from assessing the likely effect of the conduct on a “reasonable member of the relevant group” to “the reasonable member of the Australian community”; and
  • Further investigating criminal provisions on incitement to racially motivated violence on the basis that existing state and federal laws have been ineffective.

The 18C debate is a microcosm of the divisions within the present Liberal Party. Even Liberal members of the committee are split and, as the report was released, were arguing their separate cases in the media.

Committee chair Ian Goodenough, a Liberal from Western Australia, says his personal opinion is that the bar is too low – he would favour replacing “offend” and “insult” with “harass”, leaving “humiliate” and “intimidate” as is.

But fellow Liberal Julian Leeser, from NSW, argues the current wording is satisfactory and sufficient reform can be achieved by altering the processes.

Those conservatives – politicians and vocal sections of the media – who have their teeth into this issue will put strong pressure on Turnbull to rework the wording.

The Human Rights Commission and its outgoing president Gillian Triggs have become high profile and symbolic targets for the conservatives; the case involving QUT students and the controversy over the Leak cartoon gave them bountiful ammunition.

Cory Bernardi, who recently quit the Liberal party, has a private member’s bill to which last year he signed up almost all Coalition senators; the bill, removing the words “insult” and “offend”, has gone to a committee and is expected to be debated this year.

Former Senate leader Eric Abetz reminded the government about the bill, saying he hoped it progressed changes to 18C and D “in line with the private senators bill, supported by all backbench senators, and with our values”.

The critics won’t be satisfied with just the better processes that have been recommended. This has been set up as a test of Turnbull’s credentials with the “base”.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce injected a real-world reality check into the debate when he told Sky on Tuesday that in his recent travels in regional areas people hadn’t been raising 18C with him. Conservative Victorian senator James Paterson acknowledged Joyce had a specific constituency but said he was “disappointed” to hear his comment. Apparently in circles in which Paterson (a member of the committee) moves there is a “very high community expectation that we address this issue”.

Turnbull originally did not want to touch 18C. Under pressure from the agitators, he became more amenable to overhaul – hence the inquiry.

But a glance through the summary of evidence to the committee shows this is another issue on which he can’t win, because feeling runs high on each side of the public debate. It’s also a dangerous issue in marginal seats with big ethnic votes.

Meanwhile Triggs’ term ends mid-year. The government will be searching for a replacement. Turnbull will not adopt the Abbott advice to scrap the commission. Whoever is chosen will have the task of overseeing not only significant changes to the processes for complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act but also, one would expect, to the commission more broadly. It will be an appointment closely watched.

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Fighting words Reform of section 18C is back on the agenda By Amy McQuire

It is telling that those who claim section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) is an assault on freedom of speech have the largest microphones. Despite their claims of victimhood, what they say is heard in the most powerful halls of the country. Why else are we still having a debate around the RDA?

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Australia, everytime it talks about repealing the racial discrimination act. #18C #auspol

The fact that we are still talking about it shows that their fears are completely unfounded. They have not been silenced, so what else could be motivating them?

It’s been more than two years since Senator George Brandis announced that people had the right to be bigots, and Tony Abbott was forced to back down from abolishing section 18C following outrage from ethnic and minority groups.

Aboriginal groups in particular have been vocal in their condemnation of the proposed changes, and for good reason – it was the legal victory against News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt’s vitriol that first sparked the furore.

In fact, many Aboriginal people feel the RDA is not strong enough. It has been bypassed three times in its history – and every time it was to undermine the rights of Aboriginal people (the Hindmarsh Island affair, watering down of native title, and the Northern Territory intervention).

Nevertheless, today the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has tabled its recommendations on proposed changes to the RDA (and the government is expected to respond in due course). The Sydney Morning Herald reports that one of the key recommendations is the replacement of the words “offend, insult and humiliate” with the word “harass”.

Another proposed option is to change the way the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC) functions, such as allowing it to knock back so-called vexatious complaints earlier in the process.

Speaking on behalf of the HRC today, Gillian Triggs told Senate Estimates that the complaint against News Corp cartoonist Bill Leak, one of the conservatives’ favourite causes, could have been dropped earlier if Leak had worked in “good faith”.

aaaaaaa

He apparently hadn’t taken up the HRC’s invitation to demonstrate good faith.

Conservatives have already responded to the 18C recommendations: Dennis Shanahan for instance argues somewhat predictably [possible paywall] that the HRC should be reformed.

The general conservative consensus is that the RDA as it stands represents an unwarranted obstacle to free speech and therefore must be changed.

Aboriginal Labor MP Linda Burney is concerned that changes to the RDA would unleash racists, while Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says it is a distraction and voters “do not invite me into their shed … and then say ‘Barney, sit down in this chair, I want to talk to you about the Racial Discrimination Act’. They are thinking about bigger issues, he says.

Those issues played out against the backdrop of Senate Estimates today, where it was perhaps ironic that South Australian Liberal Senator David Fawcett compared asylum seekers to “fleas” during an immigration hearing.

Meanwhile the “debate” around the RDA and the HRC is likely to dominate, while the people who deal with its fallout are pushed to the back of the papers.

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