This morning, as Chair of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, I made a verbal submission on retaining and improving protections of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act at Parliament House in Melbourne. My co presenters included Helen Kapalos (VMC) , Joe Caputo (ECCV), Prof Joseph Camilleri & Yasser Soliman (MultiFaith Communities Council) and Andre Obeler (OHPI).
Submissions were made before a panel of cross party Federal parliamentarians and including time for several questions to presenters.
Specifically, I spoke to the ignominy of any inquiry that might even consider watering down protections for its Nation’s most vulnerable. Further, I mentioned in a global climate of increased right wing bigotry, any removal of protections would further the conditions of hate already prevalent, creating a culture of state sanctioned violence. I also pointed out the extraordinary situation of a largely anglo-Saxon, middle-class panel of privileged people being in a position to determine what the parameters of allowable racism against minorities should look like.
“Enshrining a bigots right to offend, should not outweigh my right to human dignity, in a robust, progressive democracy. Let’s not make Australia hate again. Let’s move forward.”
There was significant discussion on the value of strengthening existing legislation by incorporating religious discrimination in the Act. There was also support for robust debate and dialogue in this climate in the spirit of free speech, that didn’t undermine human dignity.
Submissions will be conducted all day in Melbourne, and are scheduled for hearings across the country, with contributions from countless organisations- the overwhelming majority of which support the retention and strengthening of existing 18C provisions over their weakening.