Page 855 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 April 2014

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Another example I can think of is the Xpresso route through Curtin where we received extensive feedback that that left people with increased travel time. They are the sorts of examples where adjustments have been made based on community feedback.

Mr Barr: I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.

Racial discrimination—legislation reviews

Debate resumed.

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (3.35), in reply: This has been an important debate about protecting individuals from racial abuse in Canberra and Australia. It is about the right to freedom of speech being balanced with the freedom from racial abuse—two important foundations for our modern Australian democracy.

It seemed strange then that the debate put forward in favour of the right to freedom of speech was just about listing protections from racial abuse. Meanwhile, defamation laws protecting a person’s public reputation, and arguably a more commonly evoked limitation of the freedom of speech, are left to stand. Perhaps this turns on the influence of those being protected in each case.

I see this debate as part of the process of the current review of the commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act and the public debate that all Australians and all communities to which we belong should be a part of. I look forward to the ACT making a submission to the review. It seems the promises made by the then federal opposition in 2011 to somehow free Andrew Bolt to hurl abuse are harder to deliver in government.

Some of the government’s biggest supporters—Warren Mundine, New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell, as mentioned by Ms Porter, and various members of the federal Liberal Party, including Ken Wyatt AM—are voicing their opposition to the changes. I understand Senator Brandis’s proposal was altered substantially when it came to cabinet, and more changes are likely.

Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner, as quoted this morning, has spoken on the matter. He pointed out the faults in the changes and the effects of racial abuse. One of those was suppression of alternative voices, individuals and communities bullied by racial abuse and keeping them quiet, suffering in silence.

Our society’s greatest achievement is overcoming our past and embracing multiculturalism. Let us not return to the dark ages when only the strongest voices of white Australia had a say in our society.

I welcome the support of the ACT Greens and the Canberra Liberals for this motion. A bit of bipartisanship, or should I say tripartisanship, can go a long way. Ms Porter, Ms Berry and ministers Barr and Burch spoke of the strength of Canberra’s multicultural community and how popular our celebration of it in the National

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