News National Government defends the right to offend with act changes

Government defends the right to offend with act changes

George Brandis
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The Abbott government plans to remove the words insult, offend and humiliate from a controversial section of the Racial Discrimination Act.  

But it plans to include a section that makes racial vilification unlawful, Attorney-General George Brandis told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Senator Brandis said a meeting of coalition MPs had agreed to repeal section 18C of the Act, which was used to prosecute conservative commentator Andrew Bolt over a column he wrote about “fair-skinned people” of diverse ancestry choosing Aboriginal racial identity for the purposes of political and career clout.

A new section will be inserted into the Act which preserves the existing protection against intimidation.

“I have always said that freedom of speech and the need to protect people from racial vilification are not inconsistent objectives,” Senator Brandis said.

Laws which were designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech, he said.

Section 18C makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

Senator Brandis said offending, insulting or humiliating people amounted to “hurt feelings” and should not be unlawful.