The TAS government’s proposed change to the Anti-Discrimination Act will not stop the chilling of free speech
FamilyVoice Tasmania director Jim Collins has welcomed the government’s proposed amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Act, but says it does not go far enough.
The amendment, tabled in the House of Assembly this week, would provide a “religious purpose” exception to section 17(1), which outlaws conduct that offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules another on the basis of attributes including race, age, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Hodgman government deserves praise for seeking to adjust the current ‘overstep’ problem with our anti-discrimination law, despite being howled down by opponents,” Jim Collins said.
“This law has rightly been under national scrutiny after a Tasmanian church leader was subjected to stressful litigation, merely for gently explaining church teaching on marriage to parents who had chosen his church schools for their children.”
However Jim Collins believes the proposed change, merely to allow an exception of a “religious purpose”, is inadequate. It would still allow someone to take offence at innocuous remarks of a non-religious nature, triggering stressful litigation similar to that experienced by Tasmania’s Archbishop Porteous.
“It is absurd that s17(1) centres around the nebulous concept of 'taking offence' at somebody's remarks,” Mr Collins said. “We already have other laws, such as s19 of the Act, that prohibit real ‘hate speech’.
“Free speech has been a way of life for Australians. We can still be respectful as we put forth differing points of view, but to haul people before anti-discrimination tribunals for a subjective claim of offence doesn't advance freedoms in our society. It only creates further division.
“I urge the government to solve this thorny problem by repealing section 17(1),” he said.
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