MEDIA RELEASE: Turnbull’s authority in tatters on 18c

Joint Media Release with the Shadow Attorney-General and the Shadow Minister for National Security, Mark Dreyfus QC.

Despite telling Australians in February he has “no plans to change” racist hate speech protections in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, Malcolm Turnbull today left the door open to changes.

When asked in an interview this morning about his position, Mr Turnbull replied “it depends how you amend it.”  The Prime Minister’s answer this morning contradicts George Brandis who told the ABC “the issue is off the table”.

But the Prime Minister went further this morning noting the “worthy arguments” of repealing race hate protections. 

Malcolm Turnbull must outline what he believes these “worthy arguments” are and what exactly he thinks people should be able to say that’s not permitted under the current legislation. 

In what appears to be a concerted campaign by hard right-wing elements within the Parliament to undermine his authority, Malcolm Turnbull is being forced to crab-walk away from his pre-election statements.

This comes just days after it was leaked that Malcolm Turnbull may have agreed to repeal race hate laws in order to gain support to roll Tony Abbott. The Prime Minister has also refused to rebuke Coalition MPs who have agitated for the watering down of race hate protections, including members of his own front-bench.

It’s clear Malcolm Turnbull has very little authority within the Coalition. The extent of the divisions within the Liberal Party and the extent to which Malcolm Turnbull is beholden to the right-wing of his Party is on full display.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act protects against offence, insult, humiliation and intimidation based on race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin.

Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world, and every Australian deserves the right to live free from racial and ethnic vilification. Modern Australia and multicultural Australia are the same thing.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has served Australia well for more than two decades. The only outcome from repealing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act will be more hate speech. This is unacceptable.

AUGUST 19, 2016

Tony Burke