Section 18 of the Australian Racial Discrimination Act 1975 details about the provisions with regards any kind of behaviour which is odious in nature due to race, colour or national or ethnic origin in Australia. The said section came into effect during the Whitlam Government which states that the racial discrimination is illegitimate in Australia. However the said section is a debatable one, due to the various pros and cons it has. Section 18C states that any act is considered to be illegal in the public if the said act is reasonably and in all possible stances will affront or abuse or disgrace or threaten another individual or a group of such individuals and if the said action is done because of race, caste, national or ethnic origin of those being the victim.
Section 18 in its present edifice offers a practical and an eminent stage or else difficult to understand and hateful tones by depicting the unmerited notice of the media as in the case of Jones v Toben (2002). During an interview with ABCs Damien Carrick, Adrienne Stone had said that even though he is ready to consider the fact that the anti- disparagement laws are not essentially in contrast to the freedom of expression, yet there seems to be an actual risk of counterproductive self overpower effects. Specifically due to the said reason, Toben was given a decade’s chase in the courts, which is an international platform wherein they can narrate their view points and thus enable to change oneself from a person who was basically engaged in the oppression of a religious community to an individual who considered oneself as a sufferer of such a disadvantageous stature. The said problem has lead to the development of the next pros. The section in its present state twists objectives of this type of legislation into supposed willing victims for freedom of speech. It has been correctly understood that if a person is not careful, the media will ensure that a person detests the people who are suffering the brunt of oppression and their attitudes will become pro the oppressors. Such a misrepresentation in thinking would lead people to perceive the things in a manner which is illogical and often is increased by turning oppressors into the perceived martyrs and those who are being oppressed into apparent oppressors (Sherlock, 2017).
Many think that categorizing such actions of an individual against another into the heading of illegitimate is a stupidity. The law passed is too broad in nature but the bar it sets is not up to the mark. The said act is defined as inadequate as it states that the trigger for section 18C should not happen if a speech merely offends or insults another individual. Thus inclusion of such words makes it very easy for anyone to file a suit against another person. The feeling of insult should not be reason enough to put restrictions on freedom of one’s speech. The section is framed in such a manner that it puts legal obligations as well as punishments for such issues which are far from being considered as serious (Holmes, 2014). Thus it does not refer to any such speech which can cause hatred and concentrates upon petty issues. Therefore it is not written down in a manner to deal with to the point notions.
Thus one can say that the said Section is not consistent under the Australian Constitution. Therefore it is considered to be one of the major threats to the freedom of speech of Australians thereby not paying heed to the other restrictions that exists. Thus due to these restrictions it calls for repealing of the said section as it entirely prohibits the freedom of speech as one is unable to talk about the actual issues such as tax related matters, terrorism or Islam.
Further it says that Australia’s Grand Mufti has demanded for safeguarding the interest of the Muslims similar to the other ethnic groups. Thus the law also demands for inclusion of Muslims protection as well. The ethnic origin has been interpreted as to take into account safeguarding the Jewish and Sikh people but does not specify anything about Muslims. The act can take into account claims of racial detestation construed by the Muslim community. Thus if a person says that he or she had to face hate speeches because they belong to the Muslim community which is beyond their employment status, then their issues are not dealt with by the said Section of the Act (Lewis, 2017).
However the said section does not only have disadvantages to it, but also has certain advantages attached to it which cannot be ignored. There were times in the past when there existed no law with regards how a person would talk to someone else and would not behold to any unacceptable speech given but was simply considered as personal opinion of a person. But fortunately the same had undergone a change with the advent of Section 18C. The past four decades has stated that it is no longer acceptable to discriminate and distinguish people basis their race. As per this Section, individuals are allowed to articulate their views about the benefits of racial criticism laws, however while analysing these claims and calls for curtailment of two things should be adhered to i.e. around 88 percent of the people who voted in the Fairfax-Nielson poll in the year 2014 stated that people should not be allowed to malign other basis their race, ethnicity and national origin. Secondly, it is blurred as to what does section 18C permit a person to behave like in public (McNamara, 2016).
Further to this the section has undergone certain changes over the years which make it more favourable serving the main crux behind implementation of the same. It would be unjust to read section 18C without considering section 18D. The said portion is often forgotten while discussing Section 18C. The political cartoonist are taking the advantage of this flexibility and therefore pushing its limits for decades now. Some individuals are of the opinion that tolerating impoliteness or incivility is a stand of democracy. As per the arguments put forward by Kath Gelber, a social structure has all rights to embrace the basic values at the heart of the democratic ideal of free speech. The same also takes into consideration the freedom to express opinion and the advantage of expressing the opinion in a manner which does not give rise to any such debate in the public. The changes in Section 18 which has deleted the word offend and insult and replaced the same with ‘vilify’ and ‘intimidation’ makes it more particular thus setting high level for the said section. The said changes would ensure that the law does not punish such crimes which are not very serious in nature (Doig 2016),. A survey conducted by academics at the University of Western Sydney has found out that 80 percent of the Australians are in support of the new regime wherein it concerns about the protection of racial vilification. This shows that the Australians are highly tolerant towards racism. It clearly shows that the people of Australia understand the importance of dwelling in a society that denounces racism and also finds it correct that the laws reflect the value of the people of Australia. It is the law which helps to regulate and streamline the aspects of the society then why should not a law be formed which would help deny and prohibit abuse and harassment that goes against protecting the dignity of the oppressed person. The said Act gives a definition to the laws that Australia is such a continent where people are seen equally irrespective of the race thus promoting racial accord. The said amendment in Section 18C has helped to set a stage for the multi cultural community thus enabling zipping of the hatred towards various race found in the bud. The advantage of the said section is that it has helped to balance the freedom of speech and freedom from cultural denigration (Soutphommasane, 2014). Therefore the Section now focuses upon protecting severe and graver issues than the past.
Thus on a concluding note it is understood that in view of looking towards the previous Section 18C, the changes have been encouraged and accepted wilfully. While applying Section 18C, courts have started to emphasise only on graver crimes and issues rather than wasting time on lighter ones. Due to this less than 3 percent of the racial hatred complaints ever make it to the courts.
Doig,M., (2016), Free Speech and 18C: A Rationalist’s Perspective On A Way Forward, Available at https://newmatilda.com/2016/08/23/free-speech-and-18c-a-rationalists-perspective-on-a-way-forward/ (Accessed 28th April 2017)
Holmes,J., (2014), Racial Discrimination Act amendments are either stupid or shameful, Available at https://www.smh.com.au/comment/racial-discrimination-act-amendments-are-either-stupid-or-shameful-20140421-zqxlw.html (Accessed 28th April 2017)
Lewis,R., (2017), Grand Mufti seeks racial Discrimination Act cover for Muslims, The Weekend Australian, (Online), Available at https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/grand-mufti-seeks-racial-discrimination-act-cover-for-muslims/news-story/cf45cf93b9a10ae3be431736f2ccd984 (Accessed 28th April 2017)
McNamara,L., (2016), Section 18C is an important part of a civilised society and no threat to free speech, Available at https://theconversation.com/section-18c-is-an-important-part-of-a-civilised-society-and-no-threat-to-free-speech-64801 (Accessed 28th April 2017)
Sherlock,M.A., (2017), S.18C, Racial Discrimination Act 1975: Free Speech vs ‘Offend ‘ and ‘Insult’, Available at https://michaelsherlockauthor.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/s-18c-racial-discrimination-act-1975-free-speech-vs-offend-and-insult/ (Accessed 28th April 2017)Soutphommasane,T., (2014), No case for changing race laws, Available at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-29/soutphommasane-no-case-for-changing-race-laws/5417076 (Accessed 28th April 20
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