Councillors urged to take bigotry stand

'Right to be bigots': Attorney-General George Brandis.
'Right to be bigots': Attorney-General George Brandis.

Bigotry will be on the agenda at next week's Wollongong City Council meeting, as a Labor councillor urges his colleagues to take a stand against changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

David Brown will use a notice of motion at the start of Monday's meeting to ask the council to recognise "fundamental importance of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975".

This section of the act is currently under review by Attorney-General George Brandis, who has proposed repealing 18C, which makes it unlawful for someone to publicly "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" a person or a group of people.

Senator Brandis said the government was acting in the interests of free speech and famously told the Senate: "People do have a right to be bigots, you know."

The exposure draft bill generated more than 5000 submissions, many voicing opposition.

Cr Brown said he decided to raise the issue before council because he thought the repeal was "a weapon for people who want to be bigots and people who want to racially abuse people to put themselves outside the law".

"In a modern society, and a multicultural Australia, I think it's appropriate that Wollongong joins the campaign," he said.

He said the City of Wollongong's own charter stated the community had the right "to be treated with equal respect, regardless of colour, race, ethnicity, creed or religion", which is why it was important that councillors took a stance on the 18C debate.

Cr Brown said he would be surprised if his motion was not supported by other councillors.

"I haven't picked up any opposition to it yet, so I'm hoping it will get a broad support," he said.


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