Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act

Position statements

In response to the Parliamentary inquiry launched on 8 November 2016, DCA surveyed its membership base of employer organisations and made a submission that supports no change to sections 18C or 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act or to the complaints-handling procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

As outlined in its submission, DCA believes the current framework of the Act which aims to prevent racial discrimination and vilification and offers an avenue of redress for complainants, is one which has worked well over a number of decades. We believe it strikes an appropriate balance between the rights of individuals to live free from racial discrimination and vilification and the need for free speech in the community, and is one that business is experienced in working with.

In its consultation with members, DCA found that:

  • More than two thirds (69%) of DCA members who responded to the survey were not supportive of changes to sections 18C or 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.
  • Only 8% of respondents felt that the current Act was not fulfilling its obligations to protect people from vilification.
  • More than half of respondents (59%) agreed that changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act could impact more on some groups of people than others, some of whom are currently experiencing higher levels of discrimination than in past, according to recent research.
  • The majority of respondents (54%) were not supportive of any significant shift in the way that complaints are handled by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Employers and governments play an important role in promoting a cohesive multicultural society. Australian businesses are very aware of the importance of a culturally diverse workforce and of providing workplaces which are free from cultural bias, discrimination and vilification. In fact, there is a clear and compelling business case for doing so. Unfortunately, our own research echoes other studies that show racism is still a problem in the workplace and needs to be addressed.

Messages conveyed to the community, including businesses, by Government policy and legislation are a critical element of creating a culture which supports a society free of racism and promotes cultural diversity.

Changing the Racial Discrimination Act would send a negative message about the type of behaviour that is now acceptable in the community, and this will inevitably have a flow on effect into the workplace.

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