The Federal Government has taken contentious changes to racial discrimination laws “off the table” to protect national “unity”, whilst moving to toughen the nation’s security laws to combat home-grown terrorism.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, flanked by Attorney-General George Brandis and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, revealed the measures at a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra.
Mr Abbott said he was dumping Senator Brandis’s draft laws, which would have removed key sections of the Racial Discrimination Act which the Attorney-General said made it illegal to “hurt the feelings of others”.
The PM said he had made a “leadership call” to abandon the changes, because they had become a “complication” in the Government’s relationship with the Australian Muslim community.
“When it comes to counter-terrorism, everyone needs to be part of Team Australia,” Mr Abbott said.
“The Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have become a complication in that respect.
“I don’t want to do anything that puts our national unity at risk at this time and so those proposals are now off the table.
“It is, if you like, a leadership call that I have made after discussion with the Cabinet today.
“In the end, leadership is about preserving national unity on the essentials and that is why I have taken this decision.”