I can see why many Australians think that the coalition’s obsession with watering down the Racial Discrimination Act is simply irrelevant. Watering down section 18C will not create jobs; it will not train apprentices; it will not reopen TAFEs; it will not help our teachers in the schools; it will not make seeing the doctor cheaper; it will not make the NBN faster; and it will not deal with the gas emergency that we have got right now in manufacturing.
The one thing this change will do is make it easier for people to be insulted or humiliated on the basis of race. This government does, I concede, have someone with a sense of humour—they choose Harmony Day to weaken protections against racism.
They have never been able to answer one simple question: what insult to they want people to be able to say that they cannot say now? I understand that it is possible to consider watering down these laws if you never know what discrimination is like. It is easy to support cutting penalty rates if you do not know anyone who relies upon them. It is easy to dismiss hurt that you will not feel; it is easy to weaken protection that you will never need.
But this is not leadership and this is not what Australia is about. The only two cases the Prime Minister held up today as his rationale could be solved by improving the process—and not by changing the law. This is not about free speech; this is about the Prime Minister appeasing his party. How much more will Australia throw overboard to save one man’s job? Labor will never support the right to be a bigot.