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'... this reform is not about freedom of speech. It is a scarcely concealed “up yours” to the weak and vulnerable from the ones with power.' (Image via @WorldOfMarkyD)

Watering down protections against racist hate speech on Harmony Day sends an unmistakable message to both bigots and the persecuted, says managing editor Dave Donovan and Indigenous affairs editor Natalie Cromb.

IT REALLY sends a message to the Australian public that on Harmony Day on Tuesday (21/3/17), the Turnbull Government announced plans to weaken the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act.

This issue wasn’t important to Malcolm Turnbull before, but the loony far rightwingers in his Party will not be denied — at least not by Prime Miniature Tremble.

Here’s what our ever erudite Indigenous affairs editor Natalie Cromb had to say on Facebook on Tuesday after hearing about the Government’s latest unmissable message to minorities:

Symbolism is important to this government — it's the preferred method of sending messages to the masses. To announce today, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (or Harmony Day), the plan to water down current race hate protections contained in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA) sends a strong one: white Australia will not have their freedoms to express themselves impugned by minorities that dare to be offended.

Natalie Cromb

The calls for the amendment or removal of this section are under the guise of protecting freedom of speech and expression, a sentiment supported by Prime Minister Turnbull who, at Bill Leak’s funeral, perversely claimed the cartoonist “united Australians” [IA emphasis]:

“… in recent times he was accused of racism, because of a cartoon — a cartoon. A cartoon that united Australians; united them in defence of freedom. Freedom to draw it, agree with it, freedom to disagree with it.”

This is the government voted in by Australia. This is the majority consensus of Australians. That privileged voices are more important than those who are maligned by the words used to denigrate the oppressed.

If your “freedom of speech” is being used to vilify minorities, then you vividly demonstrate that you do not understand the import or value of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a concept borne out of the many groups historically oppressed and unable to speak out about this oppression. It is not about some white dude with a blowhorn shouting offensive shit in a Newscorp rag.

When will sanity ever prevail?

One day soon, we hope.

As Natalie says, this reform is not about freedom of speech. It is a scarcely concealed “up yours” to the weak and vulnerable from the ones with power. To announce these changes on a day dedicated to racial harmony is chutzpah beyond comprehension.

Luckily, with enough of the Senate crossbenchers opposed to these moves, the amendment appears doomed from the start. As Natalie said, it is all about symbolism. It is a dogwhistle to the Liberal Party base. A warning to minorities. And a sign this is a government that does not govern for us all.

You can follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz and Indigenous affairs editor Natalie Cromb @nataliecromb.

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