President Stuart McMillan cautiously welcomed the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report into Freedom of Speech in Australia.
“Since union 40 years ago, the Uniting Church in Australia has always been committed to confronting racism wherever it emerges in Australian society,” said President McMillan.
“Freedom from racial discrimination and vilification must be vigorously protected by law.”
The controversial inquiry, which sought to balance legal protections for anti-discrimination with freedom of speech, failed to make a definitive recommendation on changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
The Uniting Church in Australia’s submission argued that Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act, which identify situations where offensive and racially discriminatory behaviour is unlawful, do not pose unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and should not be amended.
We welcome the report’s recommendations to support, strengthen and develop education programs that address racism in Australian society, and that urge community and political leaders to condemn racially hateful speech where it occurs in public.
The recommended changes to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 that strengthen and clarify the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission in resolving complaints of racial discrimination and offering assistance to complainants were also welcomed.