Anti-mosque flyer did not breach laws
An artist's impression of the mosque proposed for Gungahlin. Photo: Supplied
A controversial anti-mosque flyer distributed in Gungahlin has probably not breached the ACT’s Discrimination Act, but has prompted the Human Rights Commissioner to again call for stronger anti-discrimination laws in the territory in a report on the matter released yesterday.
The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its ‘‘social impact’’ on the ‘‘Australian neighbours’’ in the northern Canberra region.
The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, ‘‘public interest’’ and the proposed size of the development.
ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Helen Watchirs, who was asked to investigate concerns the flyer constituted racist material, released her advice on the matter yesterday.
Dr Watchirs said although the flyer was ''undoubtedly offensive'', the ACT's current discrimination laws had too high a test for racial vilification for the flyer to be considered in breach of the Act.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell said laws prohibiting religious vilification should be considered by a review of the act that is being conducted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council.
The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its ''social impact'' on the ''Australian neighbours'' in the north Canberra suburb. The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, ''public interest'' and the proposed size of the development.
Dr Watchirs, who was asked by the government to investigate the pamphlet, said it was unlikely the flyer breached the act because it was ''concerned with religious issues, rather than race''.
''It is also unclear if the flyer would satisfy the high test for vilification in the Discrimination Act, which has an 'incitement' requirement','' her report states.
But Dr Watchirs said complainants would probably have more success under federal discrimination laws, which required a lower threshold to establish racial hatred and included an explanatory statement that ''envisages that Muslim people represent a racial group''.
Dr Watchirs recommended the act be reformed to include better provisions for discrimination against religious groups.
''I would recommend that the ground of religious conviction be added to the current vilification protection in the Discrimination Act as a matter of priority … ''
Mr Corbell said the law reform council was about to publish a discussion paper for public comment.
''It's going to identify options and issues it's seeking comment on and I think issues around religious vilification should be considered and this is the place for that consideration to happen,'' he said.
Mr Corbell said the government had received several submissions in response to Canberra Muslim Community Inc's development application that objected to the material in the flyers.
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