Page 1192 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 29 March 2017

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Lastly, I want to draw a contrast between this government and those opposite, and their colleagues across the lake, by discussing section 18C. Last week, we saw Harmony Day shamelessly cast aside so that the Australian government could protect the rights of people to be bigoted, racist and intolerant. Rather than see an opportunity to distance themselves from this debate, those opposite chose to remain silent. Silence is acceptance. I have always believed that the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. I would like to add my voice—

Mr Coe: Do you want to talk about the contribution Elizabeth Kikkert made last night?

MADAM SPEAKER: Mr Coe, please. Ms Cody, please continue.

MS CODY: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I would like to add my voice to reaffirming Canberra as a place where everyone feels welcome. I would also like to condemn the Liberals across the lake for their attempt to water down protections for those who need them most. I believe, and this government believes, that Canberra is a place where everyone belongs and should be free from all forms of racial vilification. Again, I thank Mr Steel for bringing this motion forward. I commend it.

MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (10.45): I would like to thank my colleague Mr Steel for moving this motion. In doing so, he has brought attention to the importance of inclusivity and a reminder that this is a core value of the ACT.

The past month saw some great events. The Multicultural Festival once again lived up to its impressive reputation. Similarly, the Enlighten festival served up plenty of reminders of our inclusive community, most notably this year of the 1967 referendum, and reminds us that we have more to do to ensure Australia’s First Peoples enjoy the same quality of life as all Australians.

More recently, we celebrated Harmony Day. This is an important occasion where Australians come together and celebrate the different cultures that make Australia a wonderfully diverse place to live. But against this backdrop of Harmony Day, we saw something very disappointing. The Liberals decided that Harmony Day, of all days, was the appropriate time to relaunch the debate regarding section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

At the current time, the Liberals propose that section 18C of the act will replace “offend, insult and humiliate” with “harass”. The federal government intends to introduce a reasonable persons test to see if the act has been breached. It would make racial discrimination about a pub test. But, Madam Speaker, these changes themselves do not pass the pub test. These changes drastically change the intention of the act. They are poorly considered and will likely cause disruption to the lives of people from culturally diverse backgrounds, the people whom this act is meant to protect. It will make it harder for people who are vulnerable to racism to speak out.

It is actually worth considering the history of this act and its importance. It was first introduced in 1975 under the Whitlam government. In introducing the bill,

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