Freedom of speech — Bill to change

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Freedom of speech — Bill to change

The Federal Government is to develop alternative drafting for the sections of the draft Anti-Discrimination Bill that have raised freedom of speech concerns.

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The Federal Government is to develop alternative drafting for the sections of the draft Anti-Discrimination Bill that have raised freedom of speech concerns.
 
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has thanked stakeholders for their submissions and evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, in relation to the exposure draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012.

‘This is a complex piece of legislation and the Government has been careful to consult through each stage of its development, including through the release of the exposure draft,’ Roxon said.

‘I thank all of those that have been involved in the consultation and the Senate Committee inquiry. The recommendations from the Committee will provide helpful advice as the Government finalises the legislation.’

Freedom of speech concerns

‘I want to be clear to the public that at the start of January I asked my department to develop alternative drafting for the sections of the draft bill that have raised freedom of speech concerns.’
 
‘Officials from the Attorney-General’s Department will present these options to the committee at their next hearing for consideration. These options will include removal of section 19(2)(b).’

‘Main objective’ of Bill

‘As I have said before, the main objective of this bill is to simplify and consolidate many discrimination laws into one. It has never been the Government’s intention to restrict free speech.’

‘In Australia it should always be lawful to be offensive about a person’s football team or cooking — but not to deny service to someone because they are a woman or a particular race for example.’

‘The original wording of this section of the exposure draft sought to consolidate into legislation the decisions and precedents of the courts — that discrimination includes harassment. It was not an attempt to extend the laws to new areas.’

‘There are many rights that are important in our society — including freedom of speech and the freedom from discrimination. The consolidation of these laws will not alter the delicate balance of these rights.’

‘I know that this will not convince every commentator — as sadly, there are still some in our society who believe our laws should allow sexism, racism, and discrimination on the basis of disability, age or sexuality.’
 
‘For forty years Labor has actively promoted the principles of fairness and equality by developing the sex, disability and racial discrimination acts and forming the Australian Human Rights Commission. And we have no intention of rolling back any of these important protections that we have fought for.’

The Attorney-General’s Department is scheduled to present to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in early February 2013.
 
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