A group of Filipino-Australians joins the growing chorus of people strongly opposed to changing the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations, Inc. (APCO) will file a submission next week stating their objection to key changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

On March 25, the office of the Attorney General of Australia, Senator George Brandis, announced that certain sections of the Act will be removed and a new set of rules will be introduced instead.

One section, Section 18c, in particular, which states that it is unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person or group because of their “race, colour or national or ethnic origin” will be removed from the Act (read this Mamamia article: "George Brandis says we have the right to be bigots. Seriously?")  

This will instead be replaced by the rule that it  is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely to vilify or intimidate another person or a group of persons and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of that person or that group of persons.

If the draft recommendations become law, it would mean -  broadly speaking -  that there will be no legal consequences if anyone offends, insults or humiliates a person based on race. Just as long as you stop short of vilifying or physically intimidating a person or group of person based on their ethnicity.

Senator Brandis said in the official announcement that the changes will still protect people from racial vilification while, at the same time, not restrict freedom of speech.

But the founding past president of APCO, Dr. Cen Amores, said that the changes could encourage bigotry and racism that could potentially lead to social unrest.

“The reference not to ‘offend, insult and humiliate’ . These are important words that should stay within the legislation. If we delete this particular provision, it is more likely that people will just say whatever they want to say regarding race and other cultures without fear of any repercussions,” said Dr. Amores.

Dr. Amores said that APCO is not the only group that believes the importance of this section. Several members of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, of which APCO is a member, have also voiced their objection.

According to the 2011 Census, more than 20% or 1 in 5 people in Australia  are born in a Non-English Speaking Country.

APCO  is the umbrella body of more than 50 Philippine community organisations and hundreds of independent members residing  in New South Wales.

To support the group’s petition or be a signatory to it, you can email APCO President Ruben Amores on rfamores@yahoo.com.

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