: Welcome to Team Australia… We don’t say words like that here

Welcome to Team Australia… We don’t say words like that here

Natalie Wade

On 6 August 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced ‘Team Australia’. Team Australia is playing the game of counter terrorism. The strategies to win the game include: monitoring terrorist activity within Australia, having the tech-heads at telecommunication companies decipher ‘metadata’ and conducting community consultation that will specifically include Muslim Australians. Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis will shortly be drafting the rules of the game in the form of new legislation.

To counter terrorism effectively, Team Australia must be united. To ensure unity, the Prime Minister has said section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (‘RDA’) will not be repealed. The controversial election promise has officially become a threat to Team Australia’s national unity.

Section 18C pre-dates the formation of Team Australia. In accordance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the RDA legislates that it is unlawful for a person to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because their race, colour or ethnic origin. Basically, it is not okay to be a racial bigot.

Leading up to the 2014 federal election, the Liberal government made the promise to repeal section 18C in favour of the right of freedom of opinion and expression. When Tony Abbott was sworn in as Prime Minister on 18 September 2013, the repeal of section 18C was imminent. In anticipation, Australians exercised their very right of freedom of opinion and expression to put forward their views on whether the proposal was going to permit healthy and robust public commentary or unleash racial attacks without punishment.

However with the recent formation of Team Australia, the goal posts have moved. The repeal is off, section 18C is staying. In the press release announcing new and improved strategies to counter terrorism, Prime Minister Abbott has labelled his own election promise as a risk to national unity. It would not be in the spirit of the Team to be able to lawfully profane a person on the basis of their race, colour or ethnic origin. In Team Australia we are anti-terrorism and pro-rights of people of different races, and ethnic groups. Go team!?

NATALIE WADE is co-Convenor of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights in South Australia.

(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 195
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