Abbott Government acts swiftly to legalise racism

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(Image by John Graham / johngraham.alphalink.com.au)

In its first sitting week of Parliament, the Abbott Government will waste no time in introducing amendments to legalise racist hate speech. Senior correspondent Barry Everingham says the move has alarmed the Jewish community.

THE ABBOTT GOVERNMENT will introduce legislation into Federal Parliament this week – its very first sitting week – winding back Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The  amended legislation, if passed by both Houses, will give extreme rightwing writers like Andrew Bolt full rein to express their racist views without fear of prosecution.

Bolt has already breached this provision and was in 2011 found guilty of racial discrimination.

His criticism of Aboriginal people has become his stock in trade, traducing light skinned Aboriginals and denying Aboriginal children were ever stolen from their families.

Attorney General George Brandis will steer the  legislation through the Parliament, apparently in the name of "free speech".

As Jessica Wright wrote today in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Coalition's stance is out of step with world opinion and even its own signed undertakings:

Before the Federal election, then-attorney-general Mark Dreyfus called on Mr Abbott to back away from a pledge to repeal the laws, and wrote an open letter insisting the Coalition's stance on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was inconsistent with its support for the London Declaration on Combatting Anti-Semitism.

The London Declaration aims to draw international attention to the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and has been signed by politicians around the world, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed the declaration in April and Mr Abbott and every other Federal Coalition MP also signed up.

But already sections of the community are wary of the so called freedom it will give extremists.

A prominent Melbourne Jewish businessman, Henry Herzog, has attacked Tony Abbott in the letters column of The Australian Jewish News.

His letter expressed his delight that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been awarded this year's Jerusalem Prize for bestowing honorary Australian citizenship on the late Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews from certain death during the infamous Holocaust.

Mr Herzog said Ms Gillard was also the 'first to sign' the historic London Declaration.

'And she meant it,' he wrote.

'Unlike Tony Abbott, who also signed it but after declaring he'd change the  Racial Discrimination Act to make insulting and offending Jews lawful.'

There has  been a spate of anti-Semitism in several Melbourne suburbs, near Orthodox synagogues and schools. Most of them are now surrounded by uniformed private security guards.

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