The St Vincent de Paul Society made the following submission to the Human Rights Policy Branch of the Attorney-General's Department in April 2014.
The St Vincent de Paul Society is strongly against this change to our racial discrimination legislation known as the 18C proposals. The current test is appropriate, reflecting the terrible damage that verbal assault based on race can have, as it occurs against a vast history and entrenched systems of racial oppression. The new test is far too weak, and its exceptions far too broad. It is hard to see what will in fact be captured by it. The new test privileges the freedom to abuse over the right to live in freedom from racial abuse. It also sends a dangerously regressive signal regarding the devaluing of multiculturalism, respect and diversity at a time when both the First Peoples and the most recently arrived asylum seekers face structural and historical injustice. This is unacceptable.
On August 5, 2014 the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced the 18C proposals would be withdrawn. The announcement was made at a joint media conference with Attorney General George Brandis and followed discussions about the proposals in Cabinet. It has been widely reported that the vast majority of submissions on the draft amendments received by the government were opposed to changing the racial vilification laws, and the proposals drew strong criticism from legal bodies and minority groups. For more information see the Attorney General’s Department website.