Opinion: Anti-Vilification Law Promotes Cross-Cultural Understanding

May 4, 2006

Source: The Age


On May 4, 2006 The Age ran an opinion piece by Daniel Aghion, a barrister and public relations officer for the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, on the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Aghion writes, "Today, State Parliament is expected to vote on some proposed amendments to the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001. The amendments follow a multifaith forum convened in September 2005, attended by many religious groups. Representatives of the Jewish community attended that forum... The legislation and the amendments have the support of the Victorian Council of Churches. They have the support of the Islamic Council of Victoria. They also have the support of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria. So what is the legislation? Quite simply, the act makes it unlawful to engage in conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, another person, on the ground of race or religion... Those who attack the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act would like to see the notion of incitement restricted to physical harm. Words alone, no matter how evil, should be protected from action, they say. We in the Jewish community know only too well the dangers that words can do. Words are powerful tools of incitement that can be used as the precursors to action. The Nazi party started with rallies, marches and propaganda. These swept up a nation in their hateful rhetoric with disastrous results for the Jewish people, and for all of humanity... The legislation is an important step in promoting tolerance of others, and cross-cultural understanding. It deserves the support of the major political parties, and of the entire Victorian community."