In December, PIAC made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights that is currently inquiring into freedom of speech.
The inquiry is looking into the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA), and the complaints handling procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
In our submission, PIAC recognised the importance of the right to freedom of expression, while also acknowledging that freedom of speech is not absolute. In fact, it is already subject to legitimate regulation in many civil and criminal contexts.
Evidence from 21 years of operation of this law shows that Part IIA of the RDA provides protection against racist hate speech, is an important normative statement of the right to live free of racial discrimination and strikes an appropriate balance with the right to freedom of speech. PIAC therefore submitted that it does not require amendment.
PIAC recognised that there may be a case for amending complaint handling provisions to require leave from a court where the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission has found a complaint to be clearly lacking in merit, to have already been dealt with or to have been unduly delayed. However, such an additional hurdle should only be placed in the way of a complainant in clear cases.
The committee is anticipated to report on 28 February 2017.
You can read PIAC’s complete submission here.