Canberra Labor MP Andrew Leigh has hit back at Tony Abbott for promising to repeal a section of the Racial Discrimination Act.
In a major speech today, the Opposition Leader recommitted a Coalition Government to dumping Section 18C which prohibits statements that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” another person or group of persons on the grounds of race or ethnicity.
“A ‘hurt feelings’ test is impossible to comply with while maintaining the fearless pursuit of truth which should be the hallmark of a society such as ours,” Mr Abbott told the Institute of Public Affairs.
Dr Leigh pointed out that Mr Abbott has benefited from a court case about hurt feelings.
“In 1999, Tony Abbott sued for defamation, and received $66,000 for damage to his hurt feelings,” Dr Leigh said.
“But when it comes to racial minorities, he wants to repeal their right to sue for hate crime, because he says: ‘a “hurt feelings” test is impossible to comply with while maintaining the fearless pursuit of truth’.
“I can’t help feeling that Mr Abbott’s views on freedom of speech are pretty selective.”
Finance Minister Penny Wong also hit back at Mr Abbott's stance on section 18C.
“Says a lot that Tony Abbott's priority is not victims of racial insults, humiliation and intimidation, but those engaging in such behaviours,” Senator Wong posted on Twitter.
In the speech, Mr Abbott also said the Gillard government was trying to ''bully'' its critics into silence.
He said the findings of the Finkelstein media review which calls for greater media regulation, looked like ''an attempt to warn off News Limited from pursuing anti-government stories''.
In his speech on freedom of the press, Mr Abbott said the federal Government should “reveal its true colours”.
“'The constant struggle to survive [in a minority parliament] has brought out its authoritarian streak,” he said.
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