Stop the presses! The Australian has found one poll that suggests 48% of Australians want “insult and offend” removed from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Change the law immediately!

The IPA-commissioned Galaxy Poll paints a somewhat different picture of Australians’ views on the issue. A majority of Australians (52%) either disagree with changing the law, or don’t have a view on it. The actual question asked by Galaxy was:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the proposal to change the Racial Discrimination Act so that it is no longer unlawful to ‘offend’ or ‘insult’ someone because of their race or ethnicity? It will still be unlawful to ‘humiliate’ or ‘intimidate’ someone because of their ethnicity.”

A total of 48% of the 1000 respondents to Galaxy’s phone calls said they either approved or strongly approved of the change, while 36% said they either disapproved or strongly disapproved of the change, and 18% said they didn’t know. Those for the change were up on 2 points on the last time it was asked. Still, the vast majority (95%) said they thought free speech is important to them. It’s a pity the parliamentary inquiry is not concerned with other free speech issues like defamation law, or offensive language offences, or the Border Force Act.

If, as The Australian has previously demanded, we have a plebiscite on something Australians are consistently in favour of (over 60%), then perhaps a plebiscite on 18C is the way forward. The committee is already likely to be divided on its views. Liberal chair Ian Goodenough has suggested the law needs to be changed, while Labor deputy chair Graham Perrett put out a press release yesterday saying any changes would have dangerous consequences.

Peter Fray

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