The Case For The Repeal Of Section 18C

This research report was co-authored by Andrew Bushnell, Morgan Begg, Chris Berg, Simon Breheny, and Sab Reinehr for the Institute of Public Affairs.

Executive summary

Research conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs demonstrates that section 18C
of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 must be repealed to protect freedom of speech
in Australia.

Part A of this report comprehensively outlines the case for the full repeal of section
18C, and the reasons why alternative proposals for reform fail to stand up to scrutiny.
The key arguments of this report are that section 18C:

  • Is a restriction on the human right to freedom of speech and an attack on human
    dignity;
  • Undermines democracy;
  • Is inconsistent with a peaceful and cohesive society;
  • Punishes defendants through an unfair process;
  • Is partially redundant;
  • Undermines attempts to combat racism;
  • Is unconstitutional.

The report rejects the following proposed compromises as inadequate:

  • Removing ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from section 18C;
  • Replacing ‘offend’ and insult’ with functionally similar language;
  • Reforming the process for hearing section 18C or the Australian Human Rights
    Commission.

None of these reforms will address all of the problems created by section 18C.

We conclude that section 18C must be repealed in full, along with the associated
provisions in Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Part B of this report outlines the history of section 18C and how it has been
interpreted. This information forms the basis for the argumentation in Part A.

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