Feds Plan Changes to Human Rights Commission
Tuesday, 11th February 2014 at 9:08 am
The Federal Government is planning to legislate reforms for the Human Rights Commission amid concerns it focuses too heavily on anti-discrimination issues.
Federal Attorney-General Senator George Brandis has previously criticised the commission for being too narrow and selective in its view of human rights.
He says he will introduce legislation into Parliament this year to ensure the commission carries out the role it was designed for.
"First of all, it will ensure that the commissioners who operate within the commission deal with a range of human rights, not just anti-discrimination issues," he said.
"It will also enact some structural reform that [commission president] Professor [Gillian] Triggs herself has been looking for."
Last year, former Institute of Public Affairs Policy Director and Liberal Party member Tim Wilson was appointed as human rights commissioner.
After his appointment, Wilson continued to push for changes to Section 18C of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act.
The section makes it unlawful to do an act that "is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people" on racial or ethnic grounds.
It was used to prosecute News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt for publishing deceptive and offensive material about Indigenous people.
In December, Senator Brandis said the Government had not settled on a position on Section 18C and did not necessarily support Wilson's views.
Wilson said at the time that the issue was much broader than Andrew Bolt's case.
"I need to state that these issues aren't just about Andrew Bolt, they're about a principle that we universally share," he said.
"We need an open contest of ideas, we need free speech.
"The only way to challenge and tackle offensive speech is to have more speech and for people to openly mock and ridicule things that people say they find offensive,” he said.