Dreyfus must abandon the anti-discrimination draft Bill

“Newly appointed Commonwealth Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus should abandon his predecessor’s attempts to consolidate federal anti-discrimination law, and repeal s 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975,” said Simon Breheny, Director, Legal Rights Project at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

“The exposure draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 is a fundamentally flawed proposal. It is a massive threat to freedom of speech, it reverses the burden of proof and it would encourage frivolous litigation. The consolidation project has been exposed as a failed idea,” said Mr Breheny.

“Today I have written to the new Attorney-General, asking him if he agrees that the draft Bill is beyond saving and should be abandoned,” said Mr Breheny.

“The government recently conceded that it is inappropriate that the draft Bill would make offensive and insulting conduct a basis for legal disputes. This reveals a gaping inconsistency in the government’s defence of other areas of the law that use the same language,” said Mr Breheny.

“I have asked for Mr Dreyfus to clarify whether he agrees that the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ should be removed from the definition of discrimination under the draft Bill and, if so, would he also agree that these words should be removed from other areas of the law?” said Mr Breheny.

“Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 makes offensive and insulting conduct unlawful in the same way that the draft Bill would make this kind of conduct unlawful. No area of the law should restrict free speech in the way that s 18C has been shown to,” said Mr Breheny.

The Coalition has committed to opposing the draft Bill outright and has also committed to repealing s 18C if elected to government later this year. S 18C was the law used against Andrew Bolt.

“Liberal democracy can only function when all laws that restrict freedom of speech are repealed. Mr Dreyfus should affirm a commitment to freedom of speech in Australia by abandoning the draft Bill and repealing s 18C.”

My letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus can be found here.

For media and comment: Simon Breheny, Director, Legal Rights Project, 0400 967 382


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