Racial Discrimination Act stirs council passions

The federal government's proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) have been officially opposed by Holroyd and Parramatta councils, despite debate and resistance from local Liberals.

On Monday night, Parramatta Labor councillor James Shaw's motion to oppose the federal government's plans to change the race hate law was passed with a narrow vote after heated debate.

"I don't believe that bigotry is OK," Cr Shaw said.

"It's a particularly important issue for us as a diverse area, as a multicultural area, that we do take a stance on what the federal government is doing."

But Liberal councillor Steven Issa was "perplexed" the motion had been "sprung on the chamber as a matter of urgency by the Australian Labor Party".

"I'm a member of an immigrant family, most of my constituents are members of immigrant communities, and not one person has called me," Cr Issa said. "I'm not speaking for or against S18C or the amendments.

"What I am speaking on is this council's position to speak on something that we've had zero community consultation on."

Liberal councillor Jean Pierre Abood said he could not fathom why the council's time was used to debate a federal issue: "I can't believe the nerve," he said.

Liberal councillor John Hugh said the council should "mind our own business" when it comes to federal matters. But independent councillor Lorraine Wearne hit back at claims that Labor counterparts were overstepping their jurisdiction.

"I've just sat here and listened to the greatest load of codswallop I've ever heard in my life," Cr Wearne said. "We are here with a mandate from our community ... I see no point in the proposed changes, nor does quite frankly your own state Liberal government."

On April 15, Holroyd passed a motion that council "intrinsically understands the importance of section 18C of the RDA" and that it become a supporter of the Racism: It Stops With Me campaign. Liberal councillors abstained from the final vote.

Holroyd's motion noted S18C of the RDA provides people protection from offensive behaviour because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin and required the mayor to write to Attorney-General George Brandis to request he withdraw his draft exposure bill.

Liberal councillor Ross Grove, who raised an alternative but unsuccessful motion, said the push to oppose the changes was part of a "Labor template" to "score cheap political points".

"The Labor Party are also moving this motion at The Hills Council and the Blue Mountains City Council," Cr Grove said.

Holroyd council has backed S18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, saying it provides people protection from offensive behaviour based on their race, colour, national or ethnic origin and will write to Attorney-General George Brandis to request he withdraw his draft exposure bill.

Holroyd council has backed S18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, saying it provides people protection from offensive behaviour based on their race, colour, national or ethnic origin and will write to Attorney-General George Brandis to request he withdraw his draft exposure bill.

"We're not senators, we're councillors."

But Labor councillor Greg Cummings said local governments could take a stand on community matters.

"Any part of the Australian community is entitled to make comment," Cr Cummings said. "Last time I checked, Holroyd was still part of Australia."

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