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Victoria’s anti-vilification laws don’t need changing

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Recently, I wrote on these pages about my reservations over the federal government's religious discrimination bill. Although I respect the effort that has gone into that bill, I expressed my doubts and wondered whether the bill was at all necessary.

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Yet, here I am again. This time, however, I’m writing on a Reason Party bill introduced recently into the Victorian Parliament by Fiona Patten to widen the application of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and lower the threshold for criminal guilt and civil liability. At least I'm an equal opportunity critic.

When this legislation was first introduced in 2001, I entertained misgivings then about whether the right balance had been struck. But, as is the nature of this type of legislation, once it is enacted it is not possible to recalibrate.

Even with these concerns, this legislation has been relatively uncontroversial compared with legislation elsewhere, including at the federal level. One of the reasons for this is that currently Victoria’s Act is hard to use if your sole object is muzzling the speech and behaviour of those you simply don’t like, even with good reason.

The Reason Party is proposing two key changes to the Act. First, the bill would add five additional attributes to the Act’s coverage: disability, sexual........

© The Sydney Morning Herald