Inquiry into NSW racial vilification laws: Final Report tabled

The Parliamentary Committee that conducted an inquiry into NSW racial vilification laws tabled its Final Report on 3 December 2013. The Law and Justice Committee of the NSW Legislative Council was charged with a review of section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), which sets out the criminal offence for serious racial vilification. The Human Rights Law Centre made a submission to the inquiry earlier this year.

In examining the effectiveness of section 20D, the Committee agreed with several submissions that the provision had an important educative and symbolic function. However, given there had been no prosecutions to date, the Committee made a number of recommendations to remove barriers to the real world application of the provision.

The Committee made several recommendations in relation to the substantial offence, including extending the section to cover quasi-public places but providing an exception for private conduct, and including persons of a presumed or imputed race.

The Report noted stakeholder views on the interplay between racial vilification legislation and freedom of expression, and the Committee concluded that the scope of the offence should remain limited to the most serious cases of racial vilification.

The Report comes amidst continued debate following the Federal Government’s announcement that it intends to amend or repeal the racial vilification provision in section 18C of the Federal Racial Discrimination Act. In this context, the majority of the Committee rejected a proposal supported by three dissenting Committee members to insert a paragraph expressing “genuine concern” in relation to proposals to repeal section 18C. Section 18C of the RDA is a civil provision that allows individuals to bring a claim against an individual for conduct that ‘offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates’ on the basis of race (for more information about s 18C of the RDA you can read our fact sheet).

While NSW also has civil protections from racial vilification, the Committee was not asked to consider these in its review.