Council unites against racism

Racism not welcome: At the last Liverpool Council meeting Anne Stanley called on her fellow councillors to oppose the federal government's planned changes to anti-discrimination laws.Picture: Simon Bennett

Racism not welcome: At the last Liverpool Council meeting Anne Stanley called on her fellow councillors to oppose the federal government's planned changes to anti-discrimination laws.Picture: Simon Bennett

LIVERPOOL councillor Anne Stanley says she can't believe Australia is having a debate over changing elements of the Racial Discrimination Act.

At last week's council meeting the Labor councillor called on the council to speak out against a government proposal to change section 18C of the act.

The federal government had published a draft amendments to the act which would repeal section 18C, which prohibits offensive behaviour on the grounds of race, colour, nationality and ethnic origin.

But community and ethnic groups around the country as well as many Liberal MPs have spoken out against the plans.

"Surprisingly, my motion was supported unanimously," Cr Stanley said.

Many of Cr Stanley's motions are opposed by the Liberal-dominated council but she said this one received support from all, due to its importance.

"This matter is important to all Australians — people shouldn't have to live with the fear of bullying or bigotry," she said.

"Liverpool is very ethnically diverse so this legislation is important here — but it should be important to everyone.

"There are no valid reasons for this to be changed now. Freedom of speech is one thing but bigotry is not something we accept in this country.

"The vast majority of people don't act this way anyway, but we need this law to keep those few who do in check."

Her motion called on the council to recognise the importance of 18C and to write to all local state and federal MPs outlining the council's stand. It also called on the council to write to the federal Attorney-General requesting he withdraw the draft exposure amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Councillor Tony Hadchiti (Liberal) seconded the motion. He said he remembered being bullied at school and didn't believe the act needed to be changed.

"I don't think this debate should have lasted for so long," he said.

"We don't need to change it — just keep it the way it is."

Cr Peter Harle said he had considered voting against the motion because he does feel that it limits free speech but he changed his mind.

"People should be able to express their opinions on race matters," Cr Harle said.

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