“Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act: the place to start for a Federal review on the freedom of speech.”

There is no place for bigotry in our community.

The Federal Government is reviewing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and released an exposure draft on 25 March 2014 and has called for feedback on the proposed changes.

I was proud to raise concerns in Parliament on the proposed changes by the federal government that risk the laws which protect Victorians from discrimination and vilification.

Victoria has been the leading state in embracing multiculturalism. We live it, we breathe it and the success of our State is underpinned by the contributions of people from ethnically diverse communities.

Our Racial and Religious Tolerance laws in Victoria, which were passed with both sides of Parliament in 2002 is a great place to start for any federal review on freedom of speech. This Act prohibits the behaviour that incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule against another person or group of people because of their race and/or religion.

The Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Matthew Guy MP has stated that the Victorian government’s position is that we remain unambiguously opposed to any form of discrimination based on an individual’s race, faith or gender or for any other reason. I welcome the Minister’s decision to make a submission to the federal government outlining Victoria’s concerns. I believe this is a great opportunity to offer our Victorian laws as the benchmark for proposed changes.

I commend Colin Rubenstein, the Executive Director of the Australian/Israel Jewish Affairs Council and David Marlow, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chair of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission for their advocacy on this issue.

As the Premier said earlier this week, ‘We want to protect freedom of speech, but it is not unlimited freedom of speech’.

We need to protect and promote free speech as one of the great democratic rights we have in this state and country, but not at the expense of hate and racial abuse.

David Southwick MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Emergency Services
Member for Caulfield

To read my speech in Parliament, click here. To read Minister Guy’s speech click here.

Image: David Southwick MP hosting colleagues at a Jewish Familiarisation Day at the Jewish Holocaust Centre 

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