There has been much discussion in the Australian media about the government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and their intention to repeal section 18C of the Act. I sat down to write a long email to the government expressing my strong opposition to these proposed changes on behalf of both myself, members of the Jewish community here in Perth who requested that I frame some of their concerns for them in words, and Holocaust survivors whom I personally know. Here is a small quote from the email, some of these words will be familiar to those who read my blog:
“We do not get to say racist, bigoted, or anti-Semitic words today as if we don’t have the burden of history behind us to show us what can happen when certain words are allowed to flourish without censure from the law. These words, they are a poison, they are an act of violence. It is incredibly naive and historically blind to suggest that people ‘have a right to be bigoted’ without consequences after all we have seen, and all we know today.”
This post is a friendly request to anyone who is likewise concerned about the proposed changes to send an email, or write a letter. The government has specifically instructed that if the wider community would like to voice their opinion about this, to send emails/letters to:
Address: Human Rights Policy Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, 3-5 National Circuit, BARTON ACT 2600.
It takes two minutes to send an email, and it would be nice if everyone made the effort. Not everyone has to write long emails like I did, but if you’re in the mood, go for it! Even just two lines saying you strongly disagree would be enough. Unfortunately, the loudest and most dominant voices in these debates tend to be the most ignorant, and I fear the majority of decent voices tend not to be heard because we often don’t make the effort to publicly object when we see or encounter things that are morally wrong. Let’s make the effort now.
Living in a democracy is a privilege, and it is a privilege that requires vigilance. Living in a democracy is not a free-for-all “freedom of speech” bonanza that tramples on the rights of others, but a more complex and adult process of negotiating certain freedoms with certain protections under the law.
Speaking to Jeremy Jones, he told me that there are many groups opposing the proposed changes, and that the most effective thing we as individuals can do is to let coalition Senators and MPs know our concerns. The government needs to know what the wider community thinks rather than being directed in their policy decision-making by the loudest ignorant voices. So make your voice heard and send those emails and letters.
Some good articles discussing this include:
: : Changes to racial discrimination laws would ‘open door for Holocaust deniers’.
: : “George has really drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid”: Racism ‘always wrong’: Barry O’Farrell takes aim at George Brandis over ‘right to be bigoted’.
: : This is free speech on steroids.
: : Tony Abbott’s Bolt Obsession.
: : George Brandis’ Racial Discrimination Act changes create the whitest piece of proposed legislation I’ve encountered.