JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Desire to bring Muslims back 'onside' led to dumping

Date

James Massola, Latika Bourke

EXCLUSIVE

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Racial discrimination changes dropped

The Prime Minister says the government won't proceed with changes to the Racial Discrimination Act as the government attempts to expand terrorism laws.

PT0M0S 620 349

After nearly six months of political pain, it took only 60 minutes for federal cabinet to kill the proposed changes to section 18C on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Attorney-General George Brandis on Tuesday morning his legislation had to be dropped. Cabinet had no idea the move was coming.

"As recently as Monday night, Senator Brandis had defended his legislation on television".

"As recently as Monday night, Senator Brandis had defended his legislation on television". Photo: Andrew Meares

After months of consulting community groups and more than 5000 submissions, the decision, in the end, was overwhelming and cabinet's decision was unanimous.

It was the first time the proposal had been discussed by the cabinet since March, when Senator Brandis was forced to water down his legislation to an exposure draft, which then opened the changes to public consultation.

As recently as Monday night, Senator Brandis had defended his legislation on television. But, less than 24 hours later, Senator Brandis opened the discussion at the cabinet table.

The Prime Minister's view was that the overwhelmingly negative feedback about the changes, combined with the proposed anti-terror laws, meant the government could no longer keep Muslims offside.

In the cabinet room, as one senior source put it, the Prime Minister allowed the Attorney-General the dignity of opening debate and then endorsed the decision to dump the legislation.

''It was seen to be swimming in a different direction to the terror legislation,'' a cabinet source said.

''The purpose of the exposure draft was to get community feedback and the feedback has been 'don't change it'. As part of combating terrorism, we want the moderate Muslim community to be onside. One of the sticking points has been 18C.''

Mr Abbott had been considering for weeks whether to ditch the plans once and for all and offered ''no defence'' of the draft legislation. Not a single minister argued in favour of proceeding with the election promise.

The pledge was made before the election and ethnic groups had not signalled they would marshal their opposition in such an aggressive and effective way.

The Attorney-General's opening salvo, ''everyone has a right to be a bigot you know'', had resonated badly in the electorate, especially in the migrant-rich outer suburban seats of Sydney and Melbourne.

As one source put it, ''it told every person who had ever been called a wog'' it was OK to be called such names.

''It only matters what people hear and they heard their government telling them it was OK to be a bigot,'' the source said.

A colleague said: ''That moment in the Senate was the moment we lost the argument. George Brandis is responsible for losing the politics of this.''

Before the Prime Minister had made his ''leadership call'' public, News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, who had been prosecuted under the current laws, blogged about his disappointment.

''Too many lobby groups hate free speech,'' he wrote. ''And the reforms were badly sold.''

One Liberal noted: ''We're now in the worst of both worlds - we've defended the rights of bigots and now we're selling out the bigots, even though it was never about that and only about free speech.''

Follow us on Twitter

299 comments

  • Haha. Oh my. They didn't change their mind because it was the right thing to do. They did it for political reasons.

    Commenter
    ab
    Date and time
    August 06, 2014, 6:39AM
    • Oh this LNP .... full of thought bubbles & hot air ....
      What worries me, is that you would think these guys have fully thought through their policies before announcing them .... But clearly they fail to see the other side of the fence. This shows their lack of basic understanding, lack of ability for empathy or compassion & their inability to think through tough decisions!
      Come on lads ... seriously, what are you doing in parliament? Represent@! .... & we all know who.

      Commenter
      Yuppy
      Location
      Yuppy Ville
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:09AM
    • Indeed. In fact I think the back down may have been a case of being very politically motivated as it was timed to coincide with the new anti terrorism laws. Given this governments previous deceits and misdirections I am wondering what is in those new laws that they are trying to avoid public scrutiny on? How bad are they?

      Commenter
      Lance
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:10AM
    • Oh ab take the blinkers off. Once again this week Abbott is showing what a strong leader he is becoming.

      Commenter
      Cat amongst
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:14AM
    • Exactly ab. "Team Australia"Abbott says now. Wow,empty weasil words from him. Does anyone believe a word he says now?

      Commenter
      favela liberal
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:18AM
    • After so many submissions telling them to back off the penny finally dropped. I suspect they haven't joined the dots though and realised they don't have a clue as to the pulse and temperature of the electorate and will blindly barge on with their other ill conceived, unintelligent, infantile and damaging ideological agenda items. Only 2 years to go and we can kick this mob out!

      Commenter
      eyeroll
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:24AM
    • They did it probably because the IPA told them to do it.

      Commenter
      mattoxic
      Location
      Mont Albert
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:26AM
    • Exactly ab, and it shows the sheer shallowness of Abbott and his teams beliefs and policies that when it suits him he will override his own and this countrys AG for his own political ends.

      You can bet your bottom dollar if the Liberal Party were riding high in the polls this decision of Abbotts would never have happened.

      It is again an example of how unfit they are for the running of this country that even after 6 years of Opposition they are still making policy on the run 10 months into office .

      There was no moral thought or rethinking behind this decision .

      It was done in the name of political expedience .

      Commenter
      mirrorsofsmoke
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:26AM
    • Not a good look but at least Abbott has put this to bed. Better a u-turn now than an ongoing tin ear.

      Commenter
      Flanders
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:28AM
    • Everything they do is for some conniving political wedge motive. This government is scary in how extreme it is. They need to bring on the double dissolution before they can do any more damage to this country.

      Commenter
      City_side
      Date and time
      August 06, 2014, 8:35AM

More comments

Comments are now closed

Related Coverage

Tony Abbott government backdown on race laws

Australians will no longer be afforded the ''right to be a bigot'' after a stunning backdown by the Abbott government from its crusade to water down and remake the Racial Discrimination Act.

Tony Abbott makes a welcome 'leader's call' by dumping proposed changes to race hate laws

Unlike Abbott's other notable "leader's calls" – committing to his overly-generous parental leave scheme and reintroducing knights and dames – his decision to dump plans to repeal race hate laws one will be well-received by voters and by his backbench.

Tony Abbott's gesture - and backflip - on race hits the right note

The shelving of the government's plans to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act was the right move and shows the Prime Minister understands the battle for "hearts and minds" is an important counterterrorism strategy.

Andrew Bolt says dumping of changes to Racial Discrimination Act section 18C is 'dangerous'

Andrew Bolt has told Barry O'Farrell to "pour yourself another expensive red" after the former NSW premier mocked the conservative columnist's fury over the collapse of changes to race hate laws.

Clive Palmer and Malcolm Turnbull meet for afternoon drinks at the Hyatt

Only two months after their last meeting sent shockwaves through Australia's political scene, Malcolm Turnbull and Clive Palmer have been spotted having afternoon drinks in Canberra.

Tony Abbott dumps racial discrimination changes (Thumbnail) Racial discrimination changes dropped

The Prime Minister says the government won't proceed with changes to the Racial Discrimination Act as the government attempts to expand terrorism laws.

We are not like the Gillard government: Tony Abbott defends backdown on race-hate laws

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared that he is nothing like the Gillard government in defending his decision to break an election promise to change race-hate laws, saying he is putting the nation’s security first.

Liberal Party members threaten to quit party after Tony Abbott's backdown on changes to race hate ...

Dozens of disillusioned Liberal Party members have approached the Institute of Public Affairs, the free market think tank says, threatening to quit the party because of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's broken promise on the Racial Discrimination Act.

Related Coverage

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo