The Government has announced that it will amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and make sweeping changes to the operation of the Human Rights Commission. These changes follow our highly successful Save Free Speech campaign which has mobilised hundreds of young people from around Australia to speak up and have their voice heard on this critical issue.
While the Government’s decision hasn’t gone as far as abolishing section 18C, which is Young Liberal policy, today’s announcement is a step in the right direction which will ensure that the infamous QUT case and the Bill Leak case can never happen again.
The Government’s announcement today includes a number of key measures:
- Removing "offend", "insult" and "humiliate" from section 18C, replacing those words with "harass";
- Inserts a new reasonable person test to determine whether any alleged breach of 18C reaches a certain standard;
- Require the Human Rights Commission to observe the rules of natural justice;
- Raise the threshold required for the Human Rights Commission to accept a complaint;
- Provide additional powers to the Human Rights Commission to dismiss unmeritorious complaints;
- Limit access to judicial review of unsuccessful complaints; and
- Provide disincentives against making unmeritorious appeals to the court by allowing costs to be awarded.
Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson recorded an exclusive video for the Young Liberal Movement explaining the changes which you can view here:
The need for change
Without these important reforms, young Australians will be under threat. Right now, young people can be hauled before courts and tribunals for more than four years, just to be found innocent. In addition to having your reputation trashed, this process can cost you upwards of $30,000. Sadly, this isn’t a cameo – it’s exactly what happened in the QUT case.
That’s why it’s so important that the law be changed to protect freedom of speech and to ensure that the threat against young people is removed.
While our Save Free Speech campaign has been successful in achieving this positive policy outcome as Government policy, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the Government’s legislation passes the Parliament.
Aiden Depiazzi is the Federal President and Josh Manuatu is the Federal Vice President