HUMAN rights law firm Levitt Robinson Solicitors applauds Prime Minister Tony Abbott for adopting its submissions on dumping proposed amendments to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Commonwealth), which makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person or group because of their race.
Authored by Levitt Robinson’s Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz — who has been a prominent public commentator on the issue — the submissions were provided to Attorney-General George Brandis earlier this year.
The submissions followed on from confidential discussions between Mr Meyerowitz-Katz and Senator Brandis on the status of section 18C.
The announcement comes just days after it was revealed that over 76% of the more than 4100 submissions made to Senator Brandis’ review of the proposed changes were opposed to weakening the protections.
Mr Meyerowitz-Katz welcomed the announcement and applauded the widespread grassroots campaign which led to the decision to drop the changes.
“Section 18C provides a vital safeguard for some of Australia’s most vulnerable groups of people, who are least able to defend themselves against racist slurs and violence”, he said.
“It is very clear that the Australian public overwhelmingly supported keeping the provision as is.”
Mr Meyerowitz-Katz added that, “there is no doubt that the freedom of speech is vital for any free and democratic society, but free public discourse is adequately safeguarded by section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.
“Conduct which humiliates and debases entire groups of people because of the way they were born cannot be considered a legitimate part of the public debate.”
Levitt Robinson is currently bringing a class action lawsuit on behalf of the Indigenous community on Palm Island against the State of Queensland for racial discrimination by the Queensland Police Service in the events surrounding the 2004 Palm Island riots. The action alleges breaches of section 9 of the Racial Discrimination Act.