Nick Xenophon rules out support for removing 18C from Racial Discrimination Act

Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon has ruled out supporting any future changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, effectively blocking any amendments.

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm plans to introduce a bill to remove section 18C of the Act, which makes it unlawful for someone to do an act that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity.

Crossbench senators Derryn Hinch, Bob Day and One Nation politicians have also voiced support for amending 18C, which was brought in by the Keating government in 1995.

Attorney-General George Brandis ruled out changes to the legislation last week.

Senator Xenophon has told the ABC he would not support any changes, citing the failed attempt for amendments by the former Abbott government.

He said the proposed amendments, pulled off the table by former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2014, “weren’t well considered”.

“I can understand some of the arguments put forward,” he said.

“But when you have both the Jewish community and Arab community on a unity ticket, in the same room, saying ‘we think these amendments are reckless’, then you know this is an area that we shouldn’t go down.”

If Labor and the Greens also maintain their opposition to changes, there is little chance any amendments will pass the Upper House.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to rule out using the Act as a bargaining chip for the crossbench.

Mr Shorten told media in Melbourne he was concerned it may become an issue as Mr Turnbull was “hostage to the right wing of his party”.

“We’ve seen Turnbull back down on a range of issues,” he said.

“He backed down to the banks, he’s backed down in terms of supporting Kevin Rudd for an international position.

“Goodness only knows what he will do on 18C, if people put pressure on him.”

The Racial Discrimination Act was first introduced in 1975 and changes to 18C were made in 1995 when Parliament passed the Racial Hatred Act.

 

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