Racial law retreat joy

Shepparton’s ethnic council manager says the city’s multicultural community will be relieved at Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to abandon controversial plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act.

Mr Abbott yesterday said it was a ‘leadership call’ that prompted him to scrap the proposed changes to Section 18C of the Act. The section makes it unlawful for a person to publicly offend, insult or humiliate a person or group of people based on their race.

Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District’s Chris Hazelman said it was a fantastic result.

‘I think it’s a demonstration of the community at large very strongly voicing an opinion that has been heard by the government,’ Mr Hazelman said.

‘Gauging by the public’s reaction (to the changes) it was an ill-conceived idea in the first place and it wasn’t very well thought out.’

News of the proposed changes to the Act had been unpopular with ethnic leaders and large sections of the public. In April, members of the ethnic council and Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group appealed to the community to oppose the changes by signing an open letter to the Federal Government.

Shepparton Region Reconciliation Group co-convenor Deirdre Robertson said Mr Abbott’s decision to scrap the changes showed real leadership. ‘It’s really wonderful because the proposed changes were not sending a good message to our country,’ Ms Robertson said.

‘It’s fantastic to have that response from government and it certainly reflects the overwhelming response from the community.’

Mr Hazelman said Shepparton’s multicultural community would warmly receive yesterday’s announcement. ‘A lot of people will be very, very happy with the outcome,’ he said.

‘There was a lot of heat and energy in the community (when the proposed changes came out) and particularly in the multicultural community, who saw it as particularly offensive.’

Article and image courtesy Shepparton News


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