Page 1183 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 29 March 2017

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federal Liberal-National parties that alterations to section 18C could give a free pass to ugly and damaging forms of racial vilification.

Our nation’s laws do reflect our society’s standards and our values, and watering down these laws signals the wrong message about Australia, a message that condones and supports a small minority’s wish to offend, insult or humiliate others on the basis of their race, without any repercussions. But that should not be reflective of the inclusive capital that we live in.

As the parliament prepares to debate the changes on 18C later this week, an IPSOS poll of 1,400 voters shows that 78 per cent of Australians believe that it should be unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their race or ethnicity. We should rightly condemn the federal government for their leadership failure in attempting to water down the Racial Discrimination Act.

But condemnation is not enough. That is why today’s motion calls on the ACT government to act, as we have acted so many times in the past, to stand up for inclusion. I remind the federal parliament that you are not the only parliament that can legislate on racial vilification. If you exit the field or you create a vacuum that sends the wrong message on racial hate, then that must cause us to investigate what steps need to be taken here in the territory to ensure that Canberrans can live without vilification.

That is why this motion calls on the ACT government to investigate what further steps may need to be taken to protect Canberrans and visitors from racial offence, insults or humiliation if the commonwealth parliament passes the proposed 18C amendments. We are an inclusive capital, and we want all people to belong here, regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability or the disadvantages that they face.

As we reflect on the tremendous two months of inclusion in our capital, celebrating our diversity, awarding those who have strengthened our community, we must also take action to protect the inclusive values of our Canberra community and those who live within it. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism and Major Events) (10.12): I thank Mr Steel for bringing this important motion before the Assembly this morning. It is timely, and it is a crucial debate. It is fair to say that our city has long been inclusive, and the ACT government, particularly the government of the past 15 years, has committed Canberra to being the most inclusive city in Australia. We welcome diversity and we work hard to break down barriers in all aspects of society.

We are a refugee welcome zone, we have funded the safe schools program and we have just finished ACT Seniors Week. These three examples are varied, but they demonstrate how the ACT government supports inclusion in all aspects of our community. It is important that government leads the way in community inclusion. People elected into this place have a responsibility to lead the community in inclusivity, to set the tone for debate and to encourage all parts of society to contribute

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