Turnbull must pull Bernardi into line on 18C

Parliament is only just opened, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is already facing an open rebellion from his own conservative backbench bent on watering down protections against hate speech.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

THE HON TONY BURKE MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER

SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR WATSON  

 

TURNBULL MUST PULL BERNARDI INTO LINE ON 18C

 

Parliament is only just opened, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is already facing an open rebellion from his own conservative backbench bent on watering down protections against hate speech.

 

Mr Turnbull has repeatedly said making changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is “not a priority” but has refused to rule them out. Senator Bernardi’s actions are the direct result of Mr Turnbull’s weakness on this issue, and failure to stand up to his own backbench.

 

According to reports, Senator Bernardi has signed up ten coalition senators to support his private members’ bill to change Section 18C. This is no longer the mutterings of a few members of the right-wing fringe of Mr Turnbull’s party. This is a bloc within the Senate, led by Senator Bernardi, which is openly defying Mr Turnbull’s leadership.

 

It has not taken long for the right wing of the coalition to sense weakness and take their advantage. Whether Mr Turnbull stands up to Senator Bernardi, and publicly distances himself from his private members bill and the bloc he is leading, will be a true test of his leadership.

 

It is time for Senator Bernardi and his colleagues to drop their ideological obsession with Section 18C. The Australian community, and Labor, stood up to Prime Minister Tony Abbott last time the Coalition launched an attack on protections against race hate speech. It will do so again this time.

 

Those who support changing Section 18C should explain what form of abuse they want to be able to state that is currently not permitted.

 

The Australian community values multiculturalism and legal protections which maintain respect between people of different ethnic groups. It is time opponents of 18C realised that.