Racial Discrimination Act: change? Scrap?

The raging debate over 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is still still red hot to some commentators, especially Andrew Bolt. The case involving seven students from Queensland University of Technology – three of which were taken to court by Cindy Prior – after the students were told to leave a computer lab allegedly reserved for Aboriginal students. The boys protested on Facebook, calling it “fighting segregation with segregation” and one asking sarcastically where the “white supremacist” computers were. One of the defendants Callum Thwaites was also accused of using the “N” word, but has emphatically denied it.

While the case was dropped and Prior was demanded that she pay thousands in legal fees, which allegedly sent her bankrupt. While the defendants were ruled as being innocent of any crime, their careers have allegedly being trashed. According to Bolt, Alex Wood explained how his future had been badly damaged and his chosen career had been destroyed:

At that point in my life, it all sort of hit me at once. I was afraid. I felt that uni had been for nothing. I had studied quite hard and had a GPA of 6.3, and I thought that was going to go down the drain. I thought I was going to lose my job and potentially not be able to get a job after uni. I thought my friends would shun me if they thought I was racist. I honestly believe 18C was extremely close to ruining my life and still has the potential to do so.

There were absolutely no winners in this case. Reading about this case,  especially what Wood has said has made me change my mind about 18C. The fact it got as far as it did and had such devastating consequences on everyone involved.

There are three options that are often brought up when discussing this case and 18C – scrap the section, take the words “insult” and “offend” out of the section or leave it exactly how it is. I wonder if there could be another option – have a blanket anti – hate – crimes act that covers race, religion, sexuality,  gender identity, etc.Currently, Australia has a number of anti – discrimination acts, both State and Federal. Why not make it all one?

I would say too, that words like “offend” should be avoided. Why? Because they are too vague and open to interpretation. So what should an anti – hate crimes act entail. Well, quite simply, it should make it unlawful to attack someone because of race, gender, sexuality, etc. I also think that anti discrimination provisions for employers and services should remain. It’s just that, I believe that QUT case has proven that 18C doesn’t work. Even if you win, you lose. There needs to be a line drawn. There is no room for incitement to violence or deliberate discrimination or abuse in our society. However, what I find so heartbreaking is when well – meaning people are dragged through mud and the mud sticks no matter what they say. That’s what I think about the case against Andrew Bolt in 2011. I didn’t read the two articles that got him sued and were banned by the court, but I have since read his arguments since. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Bolt being branded a racist. Last night on Sky’s ‘Paul Murray Live’, I saw a clip where Labor Senator, Sam Dastyari – who is Iranian born – ranted against changes to 18C. While he didn’t call Bolt by name, it was obvious, I think, that the tirade was partly aimed at him. Unsurprisingly, Murray condemned Dastyari’s speech.

I just don’t think 18C as it is is working. It may have had it’s place in 1975 when the Act was first introduced, but something has gone off. I think it needs to be mended so it can’t be open to interpretation as easy. Like I said, what about have a blanket anti – hate crimes Act instead plus workplace and services protections?

What do you think about 18C? Do you think it should be mended? Scrapped? To those who are in other countries, what anti – discrimination laws do you have? Do you think they work or are adequate? What changes would you like to see? I know these are quite a few full on questions. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. 

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