Much more to do for Australians than 18C

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis speak during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. The government commented on plans to introduce legislation to change Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

By Vijay Badhwar

It’s a sign of a dysfunctional Government which distracts public attention from main issues, matters that matter, towards completely irrelevant issues, unimportant in the context of building a nation, its future and the society that can live in harmony. Rather, it indulges in things that polarise the society, highlight differences that separate us and widen the gaps never to be bridged.

Why else this issue of changes to Racial Discrimination Act Section 18c is ignited time and again. Even when it was rebuffed not so long ago. The Prime Minister had committed in the parliament before the election that he had no plans to make changes to the Section. What is so damn important about being able to offend and insult to raise its ugly head again.

Is it merely on the whim of an inveterate Attorney General Brandis who is hell bent to disrupt the norms of a society in the name of free speech, to give more freedom to the likes of Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and late Bill Leak to be able to hurl more insult and abuse on a section of the society. Isn’t there enough freedom in the language to say what is to be said, to practice free speech with responsibility rather than having to resort to offend and insult.

Late Bill Leak’s cartoon was indeed offensive ”“ taunting a race that has been abused and terrorised, massacred and humiliated. It is definitely not in good taste for anyone who has even a speck of conscience left in them not to have empathy with a race whose mental make up was trampled with, children separated and used as sex slaves and labour. People should read their heart-rending stories in Sven Lindqvist’s book Terra Nullius.

The debate over 18C is unnecessary as 18D allows context for a free speech. The proposed amendment is also an exercise in futility as Labor as well as independents such as the Nick Xenophone’s team are expected to vote against the suggested changes. But it may be a deliberate ploy by Malcolm Turnbull to placate his extreme right wing colleagues.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was considered a welcome change from Tony Abbott’s avid conservatism. But, it seems, he is the same – ruled by the dictates of extreme right wingers in the Liberal Party.  Rather than hoping to see an Australian Republic, we may have more of dames and knights in the future.

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