Armidale ‘one small voice’ against change

ARMIDALE Dumaresq councillor Herman Beyersdorf knows his council’s opposition to controversial changes to the racial discrimination act were just “one small voice”, but he’s happy it’s helped convince the federal government to scrap the move.

Yesterday the government announced it wouldn’t proceed with the repeal of section 18C of the act, which makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people because of their race or ethnicity”.

Attorney-general George Brandis claimed the change was necessary to protect freedom of speech.

Opposition to the move came thick and fast though, Fairfax Media revealing last week that 76 per cent of 4100 submissions to a government review on the proposal were opposed to it.

In May, Armidale Dumaresq Council unanimously agreed that section 18C of the act was important for the protection of individuals from offensive behaviour and called on Mr Brandis to withdraw the amendment.

They also urged all levels of government to combat bigotry at every opportunity.

Cr Beyersdorf, who put the motion to the council, said he welcomed the federal government backdown and was proud his council voiced its opposition.

“Even though we played a very small part in a groundswell of opposition, I’m pleased we made that stand,” he said.

“I welcome this decision by the government not to continue with these controversial changes and, I think, very negative ones.

“This act has served Australia for many years and I’m glad they reconsidered.”

The NSW government also applauded the rethink, Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello saying section 18C of the act “emphasised the practical importance of multiculturalism”.

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