Senator Linda Burney
Senator Linda Burney

The previous speaker, the member for Hughes, said that all Australians are decent people. I hope that is true. It is true in the main, but let me read you a tweet that I received this morning, and then I want the member for Hughes to back in what he has just said. It says: ‘@LindaBurneyMP: Why are you Abos allowed to harass people for dollars outside grocery stores? You are uneducated drug addicts and disgusting. Change it.’

She is talking about 18C. She is talking about what you people are about to try and do. International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination—what a mess! What a total mess of trying to weaken 18C on a day that is about the elimination of racial discrimination. People that have never experienced racism cannot possibly stand in the shoes of those that have. Many of the people that are advocating for these changes, that are so passionate about these changes, have not stood in the shoes of Aboriginal people, have not stood in the shoes of people from a non-English-speaking background and have not stood in the shoes of people that represent those people. That is very, very clear, or you would not be advocating the nonsense that you are advocating. To say that ‘insult, offend, humiliate’ are not strong in relation to replacing them with the word ‘harass’ is just a complete nonsense. ‘Insult, offend, humiliate’ are exactly the effects of racial vilification and hate speech. Harassment is about being and feeling annoyed; it is not the deep feelings of insult, it is not the deep feelings of offence and it is certainly not the deep feelings of humiliation. How does ‘harass’ replace these three descriptors? It does not replace these three descriptors.

Look at the hypocrisy, look at the cowardice of how this is being dealt with by the government—and I do say the cowardice. These changes are not being introduced into this House, where they can be debated, where they can be voted on, where the government has the numbers by one and where, therefore, the government would probably win the argument. The cowardly way in which this government is dealing with this piece of legislation is by introducing it to the upper house, where it is clear that these changes are not going to be successful. Therefore, in the normal scheme of things these changes to the legislation will not make it into this House, thereby saving the Prime Minister’s face. That is what this is about. I wonder how the large Jewish community of the seat of Wentworth feel about their local representative. I wonder how they feel about the fact that this person, our Prime Minister, has slowly and surely diminished, day by day, by wiping out what he stood for six or eight months ago. This, as has been said, is the last part of that diminution of this Prime Minister. He now stands for nothing. He stands for nought. He stands for nil.

To these people opposite, who are advocating these changes and saying that they are doing it because it is going to guarantee free speech in this country, I repeat the question asked by Anne Aly today: what is it that you want to say after these changes that you cannot say now? I challenge you to be able to articulate that. You have not made the case in six years about the need for these changes, you have not made the case in the last six weeks, you have certainly not made the case in the last six days and you have not made the case in the last 24 hours. There has not been one piece of articulation where you can explain the questions that were asked in the House today. I say to you: if you really want to advocate to protect freedom of speech in this country, desist from what you are doing. It makes no sense, it is mischief-making and you are in fact undermining your own leader. Let’s be honest: that is what this is really all about.

Chamber House of Representatives on 21/03/2017

Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Racial Discrimination Act

Speaker :Burney, Linda, MP

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