Racial reforms unwelcome

CONCERNED: Beck Legal director and Law Institute Victoria president Geoff Bowyer. Picture: PETER WEAVING

CONCERNED: Beck Legal director and Law Institute Victoria president Geoff Bowyer. Picture: PETER WEAVING

Lawyer saddened that council failed to act on proposal

I was very surprised our council hasn't jumped on board with this. - Geoff Bowyer

BENDIGO lawyer and Law Institute of Victoria president Geoff Bowyer has called on the city's council to make a submission against proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

The federal government wants to change sections of the act to make it lawful, in certain circumstances, to offend, insult or humiliate a person based on their race.

At least 15 councils across Australia are reported to have passed a motion calling on federal Attorney General George Brandis to ditch the proposed changes.

While councils including the City of Ballarat, Darebin City Council and the City of Melbourne have joined the campaign, the City of Greater Bendigo is absent from the list.

Community wellbeing director Pauline Gordon said the council elected not to make a submission on the draft reforms to the Act.

“It felt it was not given enough time to review or debate the proposed reforms, and did not want to speak on behalf of the community without proper consultation," she said.

Mr Bowyer was surprised the council had failed to act.

"It was a short time frame but given a range of other Australian councils have found the time, and given the importance of the proposed amendments and the impact upon minority groups, I'm saddened that the City of Greater Bendigo hasn’t been able to respond," he said.

"Whilst the formal period has closed, I would be surprised if the Attorney General wouldn’t take a late submission."

Mr Bowyer said Bendigo had an "enviable record" when it came to ethnic diversity in the community.

"The council has made a concerted effort in the past decade to encourage, particularly business, migration," he said.

"I was very surprised our council hasn't jumped on board with this."

The Law Institute of Victoria made its own submission against the proposed changes to the Act, stating that the government had failed to make a case for a need to change the legislation.

"It’s extraordinary, from a law institute perspective, that the government has gone down what we would call an ad-hoc route," Mr Bowyer said

"Normally there'd be a formal consultation process which would involve compiling a report from a government or independent body to examine all the issues and look at overseas experience.

"The report would generally involve a level of public consultation."

Submissions opened on March 25 and closed on April 30.

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