Abbott Govt Abandons Plans to Amend Racial Discrimination Act
In a rare and unprecedented display of common sense, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dumped plans to water down the Racial Discrimination Act so vehemently championed by the Attorney General George Brandis.
The extraordinary backflip has been positioned as “an attempt to preserve national unity” as the Prime Minister simultaneously pursues a vast expansion of Australian anti-terrorism powers, including lowering the threshold for arrests and forcing people to prove they were not involved in hostile activities overseas.
The prime minister said the government would also begin discussions with telecommunications providers on a mandatory data retention scheme to require the storage of consumers’ metadata for a specified period of time.
He announced a package of significant changes to national security laws on Monday as part of the government’s response to the risks posed by Australians travelling to Syria and Iraq to engage in fighting and then returning home.
Abbott said the government would engage in “ever closer consultation” with communities, including the Muslim community, as everyone needed “to be part of team Australia”.
Among the measures to be included in the bill to be presented to parliament after the winter break will be a new offence of travelling “to a designated area where terrorist organisations are conducting hostile activities unless there is a legitimate purpose”. The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, will have the power to designate those locations.
As a result the government would be dropping its long-promised but highly controversial changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
“I don’t want to do anything that puts our national unity at risk at this time so those proposals are now off the table,” Abbott said, portraying it as a “leadership call” he had made after discussions with the cabinet on Tuesday.
The move has already attracted the outrage and disdain of Andrew Bolt, confirming that it must indeed, be a good thing.