Media Releases

FECCA’s Statement to Senate Inquiry into the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 (18C)

24 March 2017

(Please check against delivery)

The following is the opening statement by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) Director, Dr Emma Campbell, to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present. I am here to speak on behalf of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia and its members on the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. I would also like to recognise the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act and the protections offered by 18C to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Australia’s first peoples.

As Director of FECCA I am accompanied here today by Mr Victor Marillanca JP, a member of the FECCA Board and its Disabilities Chair; by Ms Diana Rahman OAM, Chair of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum and by Mr Harry Oppermann, Deputy Chair of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the video clips on the news…with depressing regularity:

On a Sydney train, a woman shouts at the boyfriend of a young Asian woman: ’You can’t even get an Aussie girl, you have to get a gook!’

On another train, a passenger is confronted by someone screaming ‘My grandfather fought in the war to keep you black bastards out!’

In an emergency department waiting room at an Ipswich hospital, somebody shouts at foreign students ‘we are paying taxes for you arseholes.’

(Please check against delivery)

The following is the opening statement by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) Director, Dr Emma Campbell, to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present. I am here to speak on behalf of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia and its members on the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. I would also like to recognise the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act and the protections offered by 18C to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Australia’s first peoples.

As Director of FECCA I am accompanied here today by Mr Victor Marillanca JP, a member of the FECCA Board and its Disabilities Chair; by Ms Diana Rahman OAM, Chair of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum and by Mr Harry Oppermann, Deputy Chair of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the video clips on the news…with depressing regularity:

On a Sydney train, a woman shouts at the boyfriend of a young Asian woman: ’You can’t even get an Aussie girl, you have to get a gook!’

On another train, a passenger is confronted by someone screaming ‘My grandfather fought in the war to keep you black bastards out!’

In an emergency department waiting room at an Ipswich hospital, somebody shouts at foreign students ‘we are paying taxes for you arseholes.’

And in FECCA’s own community consultations, the many stories of success are too often offset by terrible stories of racism. There’s the young girl who told us of her sister’s experience wearing a headscarf at the shop where she worked. A customer demanded of the manager ‘why are you hiring terrorists? Why are you hiring terrorists in your shop?’

These are the incidents both caught on video or shared directly with us. Who knows how many more happen on a daily basis around Australia. This is not casual racism. It’s naked bigotry played out in public places. And too many of the people FECCA represents face the daily fear of being offended, insulted, humiliated because of their race.

The good news is that for over two decades, we’ve had a law that prohibits offensive bigoted comments, insulting racial slurs, the humiliations. But this week we’ve been told we don’t need that law anymore.

The proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act send a strong signal that racism – the stories that I’ve shared – is acceptable. That it is acceptable to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their race, colour or their national or ethnic origin.

Changing 18C and weakening the Racial Discrimination Act as proposed in this Bill would grant a license to those who want to undo Australia’s harmonious, tolerant and cohesive multicultural society. The message would be clear – that it is acceptable in Australia for one person to verbally attack another – to offend, insult and humiliate – based on their race.

After nine years of surveys, the Scanlon foundation has found this year that experiences of discrimination in Australia on the basis of ‘skin colour, ethnic origin or religion’, are at their highest levels.

Put simply, the level of racism in our country is rising.

FECCA believes that The Racial Discrimination Act, as it stands, provides protection for vulnerable communities against racial attacks while defending the right to freedom of speech.

Certainly, the defence of free speech is an admirable cause. But there is no threat to free speech by the Racial Discrimination Act as it currently stands. No person advocating for a better Australia has been found to be racist under the Racial Discrimination Act. The Racial Discrimination Act protects those who want to debate, discuss and yes even joke about race, nationality and ethnicity.

FECCA does acknowledge that improvements can be made to the process for hearing complaints in the Australian Human Rights Commission. This is not a criticism of the Commission itself which has FECCA’s full support in its excellent work to prevent racism and discrimination.

Migration has enriched the lives of all Australians, as well as our economy and society. The overwhelming majority of Australians accept that multiculturalism is good for this country and has always been good for this country. And Governments of all persuasions over decades have declared their strong support for immigration and a multicultural Australia.

The Racial Discrimination Act stands as a legal protection and a symbol of our acceptance…our acceptance of the Filipina-Australian care assistant looking after our old people; of the Bangladeshi Doctor working in our rural community; of the Italian Nonna taking her time to get on the bus because her hips aren’t what they used to be; it symbolizes our acceptance of the Jewish Australian who chooses to proudly wear his yarmulke to the footy; the Indian student on a train late at night with his head in a textbook; it protects the Lebanese-Australians who have given so much to this country for generations and who now find themselves classed as outliers; and the woman from South Sudan who has survived two wars to find safety in Australia for herself and her children.

These are the people affected – let’s face it threatened – by the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

And in closing I want to put once again the question which has still not been answered by those who want to change 18C.

Just what is it that Australians want to say that they can’t say now?

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au

Proposal to change 18C announced on Harmony Day is an insult to multicultural Australia

21 March 2017

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils today expressed its dismay following the Government’s announced proposal to change Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA).

FECCA’s Chairperson, Joe Caputo said: “The proposed changes to the RDA send a strong signal that racism is acceptable“.

The Government plans to replace the words “insult, offend and intimidate” with “harass”.

“I would ask the Prime Minister what insulting, offending and intimidating words about Australia’s ethnic minority communities does he feel should be allowed?” said Mr Caputo.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils today expressed its dismay following the Government’s announced proposal to change Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA).

FECCA’s Chairperson, Joe Caputo said: “The proposed changes to the RDA send a strong signal that racism is acceptable“.

The Government plans to replace the words “insult, offend and intimidate” with “harass”.

“I would ask the Prime Minister what insulting, offending and intimidating words about Australia’s ethnic minority communities does he feel should be allowed?” said Mr Caputo.

Mr Caputo emphasised: “Today, Australia celebrates Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is an affront to Australia’s diverse community – that on this day – the Government is proposing to weaken protections against racism.”

“Australia’s international reputation as a strong, successful multicultural and multi-faith community is threatened by this proposal,” he said.

Mr Caputo continued: “There has been a palpable increase in hostility toward certain minority groups in Australia which promotes feelings of exclusion and fear in the community. The Racial Discrimination Act – as it stands – provides protection for vulnerable communities against racial attacks while defending the right to freedom of speech.”

“Australia’s harmonious and vibrant multicultural society should be a source of tremendous national pride,” said Mr Caputo. “Migration to Australia has enriched the lives of all Australians, as well as our economy and society. We need to do all we can to protect it. FECCA and the diverse communities that we represent will fight this proposal.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from CALD backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.

 

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au

FECCA gives cautious welcome to Government’s Multicultural Statement

20 March 2017

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia gave a cautious welcome to the Government’s Multicultural Statement – Multicultural Australia: United Strong, Successful – announced today by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia gave a cautious welcome to the Government’s Multicultural Statement – Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful – announced today by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Joe Caputo, Chairperson of FECCA said: “The Multicultural Statement is another step in our ongoing efforts to maintain and strengthen Australia’s inclusive, prosperous and harmonious multicultural society.”

“The release of this statement is a great opportunity for our politicians to lead and unite all Australians in celebrating the tremendous economic, cultural and educational benefits which have come from Australia’s longstanding commitment to immigration,” said Mr Caputo. “We applaud the fact that, over decades, all Australian Governments – whatever their political persuasion – have remained committed to a program of immigration and multiculturalism.”

Mr Caputo continued: “FECCA urges the Government to use this opportunity to show leadership in supporting Australia’s multiculturalism by announcing tangible policy initiatives including a Federal Multicultural Act and the development of a National Language Policy.”

FECCA also welcomed the Prime Minister’s clear statement that racism and discrimination have no place in Australia.

“This reminds us of the importance of legislation including Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act that provides protection from racially motivated attacks against Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities,” said Mr Caputo.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from CALD backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au

 

FECCA expresses concern over punitive measures in the Government’s proposed Omnibus Bill

3 March 2017

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has expressed its concern over the proposed Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017 or ‘Omnibus Bill’ through a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017.

Chairperson of FECCA, Joe Caputo said: ‘FECCA opposes proposals in this Bill to change the portability of the Age Pension and other payments including the Disability Support Pension’.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has expressed its concern over the proposed Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017 or ‘Omnibus Bill’ through a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017.

Chairperson of FECCA, Joe Caputo said: ‘FECCA opposes proposals in this Bill to change the portability of the Age Pension and other payments including the Disability Support Pension’.

If this legislation is passed, pension recipients who have lived in Australia for less than 35 years will have their pension benefits reduced if they travel overseas for more than 6 weeks.

Mr Caputo said: ‘Nearly 40 per cent of people receiving the Age Pension were not born in Australia. These provisions will disadvantage a significant section of the Australian population who were born overseas and who wish to maintain ties with their place of birth.’

‘Migration has made Australia great, and migrant Australians should not be punished in their older age because they wish to make an extended visit to their country of origin,’ said Mr Caputo.

The Australian Government already imposes waiting periods of ten years for people born overseas before they can access pensions.

Mr Caputo said: ‘These additional changes will further disadvantage culturally and linguistically diverse Australians leaving them with fewer rights. This is inequitable and does not contribute to social cohesion within Australian society.’

Mr Caputo also expressed concern about other elements of the Bill that will impact some of the most vulnerable members of our community including extended waiting periods for unemployment payments, further cuts to family payments, and the abolition of the energy supplement.

The submission is available here.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au