Response to Joint Standing Committee report on Draft Anti-discrimination Bill

The Gillard Government welcomes the detailed work of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in examining the draft Bill to consolidate five pieces of legislation which form the body of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

The Gillard Government welcomes the detailed work of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in examining the draft Bill to consolidate five pieces of legislation which form the body of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

“I thank Committee Chair Trish Crossin for constructively seeking public views to help identify whether the Bill meets the Government’s intention of consolidating these important laws,” said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

“In particular, I note the Committee has accepted the Government’s suggestion of removing paragraph 19(2)(b) from the draft, on the basis that it could impact on freedom of expression.

“This extensive report will require close consideration and a full response will be made shortly. This is a complex project and I want to ensure the final consolidation carefully balances the two objectives of defending free speech while protecting Australians from discrimination,” said Mr Dreyfus.

“The Opposition’s dissenting report confirms their decision to oppose this consolidation purely on political grounds while using the process to attack some of Australia’s most important anti-discrimination protection.

“We have witnessed the Opposition posing as crusaders for free speech to disguise their true intent of attacking existing protections against racial vilification and persecution. Let me be clear on that point: hate speech has no place in this country and never will.

“As a staunch defender of free speech throughout my career I will do all in my power to ensure the Opposition does not succeed in using the process of consolidating these laws to attack long-standing protections against racial vilification.

“The Coalition’s “free speech” posturing is jarringly at odds with a long history of using political and legal processes to shut down legitimate discussion,” said the Attorney-General.

“Let’s not forget Peter Costello's gag order on charities, cuts to Environmental Defenders' Offices, freedom of association limited by John Howard’s WorkChoices, Mr Howard’s use of conclusive certificates to prevent FOI releases, Ted Baillieu’s denial of public access to large government contracts, Joh Bjelke Petersen’s banning of street marches and Sir Robert Menzies’ repeated attempts to shut down political activity in the 1950s.”


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