The Abbott government has been warned in a formal submission that the amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) will lead to race riots.
Influential ethnic groups have united in opposition over the proposed changes to the racial discrimination laws saying there is a potential for riots similar to notorious Cronulla riots in 2005.
The government wants to repeal key parts of the RDA, including Section 18c which currently makes it illegal to publicly “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person or a group of people.
Attorney General George Brandis released a draft legislation of the changes five weeks ago and submissions are due to close today.
However, the plan to removed 18c has been roundly criticised, including by members of the Government’s own backbench.
Submissions urging the Government to abandon the proposal poured from several groups, including Chinese, Arab, Indigenous, Greek and Jewish communities.
According to ABC, peak lobby group the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has warned the Government that the change would leave Australians with no protection against racial vilification.
“FECCA is of the view that the exposure draft fails to achieve an appropriate and reasonable balance between the protection from racial vilification and the protection of free speech,” the submission read.
“Furthermore, it provides hardly any restrictions on free speech, while reducing the racial vilification protections to naught.”
The Chinese Australian Forum (CAF) has labelled the move “immoral”, saying it will encourage racism.
“By repealing the racial vilification provisions in the RDA, the Government will be sending a message to the community that essentially anything goes in the name of free speech,” the CAF submission says.
“That the changes to Section 18c will definitely perpetuate racial comments and abuse that will offend and humiliate.
“Instead of being the welcoming and harmonious multicultural society that we all know Australia can be, the Government is allowing an element of hate to enter national discourse.”
CAF submission also said that any move in the direction of allowing hate language to enter the society is not only “immoral” but also a step backwards to the “stone ages”.
CAF vice president Tony Peng described the Government’s approach as “gung ho” and said: “I can’t think of one organisation that supports the change”.
Criticisms have also poured from the Australian Hellenic Council NSW, which represents key Greek community organisations.
“No proper case for change in the law has been made” calling for the act to remain unchanged.