Turnbull works on free speech changes

AFP  Getty Images                       Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act has been a point of division recently for the Coalition

AFP Getty Images Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act has been a point of division recently for the Coalition

In a press conference with Attorney-General George Brandis today Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Coalition's Party Room had agreed to attempt to amend the oft-cited section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and a number of other pieces if legislation.

Section 18c of the RDA now makes it illegal to insult, offend, humiliate and intimidate a person on the basis of their race.

Coalition MPs on Tuesday will consider making changes to a contentious section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it an offence to offend, insult or humiliate someone based on their race.

The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, James McGrath was the first to confirm the decision as he declared, "freedom of speech is everything". "We are defending Australians from racial vilification by replacing language which has been discredited and has lost credibility".

The Turnbull government is considering the recommendations of a report into possible changes to race hate laws and the Human Rights Commission, parliament has been told.

The AHRC said it received 77 complaints under section 18C of the Act a year ago, and 52 per cent of racial vilification complaints were resolved at conciliation.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said ordinary Australians who had seen their wages cut or not growing, cuts to family tax benefits, would be wondering how the government was so out of touch.

Labor said it was ironic the government had chosen the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to unveil what it labelled a weakening of domestic laws.

Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon also indicated he wouldn't back the changes.

"There will also be changes made to the complaints handling process of the Human Rights Commission".

Former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott campaigned to have the Act changed but took his proposal off the table in 2014, saying it was distracting to his relationship with the Muslim community.

Mr Turnbull admitted he did not have plans to change the act when elected, but said the change was prompted by high-profile cases involving Queensland University of Technology students and cartoonist Bill Leak.

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