Main content area

Freedom of speech amendments

The Federal Government have proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). The Attorney-General George Brandis has released an exposure draft of the changes the Government intends to introduce. The Freedom of Speech (Repeal of 18C) Bill 2014 will repeal most of Part IIA which deals with the prohibition of offensive behavior based on racial hatred:

  • section 18C – offensive behavior because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
  • section 18B – reason for doing an act
  • section 18D - exemptions
  • section 18E – vicarious liability

The Bill will replace these sections with the following:

“(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if: (a) the act is reasonably likely:

(i)            to vilify another person or a group of persons; or

(ii)           to intimidate another person or a group of persons, and

(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section:

(a) vilify means to incite hatred against a person or a group of persons; (b) intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm:

(i)            to a person; or

(ii)           to the property of a person; or

(iii)          to the members of a group of persons.

(3) Whether an act is reasonably likely to have the effect specified in sub-section (1)(a) is to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community, not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community.

(4) This section does not apply to words, sounds, images or writing spoken, broadcast, published or otherwise communicated in the course of participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.”  Source:  Amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.  See also media release ‘Racial Discrimination Act’, 25 March 2014.

The Attorney-General has called for submissions on this draft by 30 April 2014.

Responses to these amendments

In the media:

 Australian Human Rights Commission:

Human Rights Law Centre:

Find out more about racial discrimination in our research guide racial discrimination – Human Rights: HSC Legal Studies.