Paech: Town Council should ‘combat bigotry’

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Alice Springs Town Council should lobby the NT and federal governments on the issue of mooted amendments to the federal Racial Discrimination Act, specifically the repeal of section 18C, Councillor Chansey Paech (right) has urged.

 

The section makes it unlawful for a person to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” others because of their race (for more, see Professor Andrew Lynch’s comment in The Age).

 

Cr Paech surprised council last night with a Notice of Motion on the matter. Cr Eli Melky seconded on the spot.

 

Cr Paech said Alice Springs is a “harmonious multicultural community” and council should be concerned to protect its members from “hate speech”. The RDA should be left as it is, having operated well for four decades, he argued.

 

His motion sought that council express its understanding of the “fundamental importance” of section 18C, recognising the protection it provides; that it urge all levels of government to “combat bigotry at every opportunity”; that it write to the NT Government to express its concerns; and that it request the Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis, to withdraw his “draft exposure amendment”.

 

Senator Brandis, in defending his move to repeal 18C, controversially defended people’s “right to be bigots”.

 

Cr Steve Brown did not want to vote on the matter without having more information before him: what does the section say now, what is the change being proposed.

 

Crs Brendan Heenan, Kylie Bonnani and Liz Martin were of the same view, with Cr Martin wanting to know why council should write to the NT Government on the issue.

 

There are no legislative provisions in place in the NT (that address racial vilification), unlike in other jurisdictions, said Cr Paech, and other groups are looking to address that lack.

 

He did not go into specifics but Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie has announced she will be seeking bipartisan support for a private member’s bill to strengthen the NT’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

 

Chairing the committee meeting, Cr Jade Kudrenko suggested a report be provided to the Ordinary Meeting at the end of the month.

 

Crs Paech and Melky didn’t see why council should defer a decision, seeing protection against bigotry as a cut and dry matter.

 

However, Director of Corporate and Community Services Craig Catchlove told the meeting he would like to do a report; it was a “point of view”that the Act has uniformly “worked well”, he said; and  “debateable”that section 18C was a safeguard against hate speech. The matter needs to be “fully put to members”.

 

It was agreed to defer.

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16 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Steve Brown
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    @ Melanie so your idea of the world is simply to act unquestioningly on what somebody tells you as long as that someone comes from your side of politics.
    I believe it’s called “Lemming Politics”. Someone tells you to jump and you jump! Personally I like to question what I am being told and to make up my own mind.
    In listening to the conversation so far and on my own analysis, I find myself leaning very much in support of the repeal of [18C] something you should consider supporting yourself Melanie. From where I stand much of your comment could see the Bigot label hanging firmly round your own neck, under some interpretations of the existing Act! Hadn’t thought of that had you?

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  2. Melanie Ross
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    I await Mr Catchlove’s analysis of the effectiveness of 18c with great anticipation.
    And if it’s not the role of the local council to discuss and take a position on an issue that affects our community, then whose job is it?
    I suspect if it was a motion to support the repeal of 18c many of the far righters here would be slapping the council on the back for a job well done.

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 1:33 am

    @Observer
    Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm
    You have raised a couple of points.
    Firstly I do not think it is at all irrelevant that Cr Paech is a staffer for a serving ALP politician, if he is.
    Secondly, why single out Crs Paech and Kudrenko as examples of passion on ASTC? While I respect them both, I would suggest instead that there is passion in all our serving councillors.
    You ask if I think it’s a good thing that the councillors brought this matter up. Sure. We can kick this can down the street. Perhaps a resolution? “We are against bigotry.” Now, what about that missing shade in Todd St North?

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  4. Observer
    Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    As I understand it the NT Senator sent the same letter to every council in the Northern Territory asking them to assist. I am aware that Darwin did pass a motion of support of some kind to show support to its community.
    So what if he is or he isn’t a staffer that’s irrelevant. I genuinely think that Paech and Kudrenko are passionate about the changes.
    Hal, if what Steve is saying is true then isn’t it a good thing that councillors brought this matter up rather than leaving under the carpet or forgetting about it like so many other things.

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  5. Hal Duell
    Posted May 16, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Well said Daniel Davis. Bigotry is not racism, although it does denote intolerance. It is incorrect to use it to form a lazy bridge to racism.
    This topic is a beat-up from Federal politics where major parties are trying to score points against each other.
    After re-reading the comments in this thread, I am struck by Cr Brown’s statement that this issue has been kicking around in council chambers since a letter was received from Senator Nova Peris.
    Am I correct in thinking Cr Paech is on the Senator’s staff as an advisor of some sort? I seem to remember reading that, but will stand corrected if I have that wrong. Otherwise I am forced to wonder if Cr Paech is on a soapbox working an agenda.

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  6. Daniel Davis
    Posted May 16, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I am not disagreeing with the premise of the motion as the motion in its entirety has not been published here, however a motion urging council to “combat bigotry at every opportunity” is not appropriate in any Australian political arena.
    Bigotry is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself”. People should be free to disagree and hold an intolerance to those that they wish to disagree with, that is their choice.
    Racism and bigotry are two wholly different things. Certainly without bigotry from both the right and the left there would be much less debate between the few regular guest contributors to these pages.

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  7. Matty Day
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    What was once conservative has rapidly become extremist and what was left has now shifted to become the new conservative.
    No valid argument to change the Racial Discrimination Act has been presented to date. Therefore my conservative stance would be to say if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

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  8. Observer
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2014/04/section-18cs-useful-idiots/
    Just in the interests of fairness Matty Day – I’ve found the most “conservative” view that I could find to balance your Guardian reference.

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  9. Interested Observer
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Matty. This is the Territory mate. The fact that 20 other councils down south signed off to this isn’t a reason for us to do it.
    In fact, it’s quite the opposite because we are distinct society here where we don’t run around policing people for statements or attitudes we don’t like.
    We have bigots, lefties like yourself, do gooders and a huge range of people with various ideas and ideals.
    They are all part of the rich texture of Territory society, all accepted and mostly tolerated.

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  10. Matty Day
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    A number of Alice Springs Town Councillors curiously shied away from discussing this topic on Monday night.
    As elected leaders of a multicultural community I would think it is a councillor’s duty to address this topic on behalf of its constituents.
    Twenty other local councils around Australia have united to send a clear message that their communities do not want the Racial Discrimination Act to change.
    See link below;
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/29/councils-fight-racial-discrimination-changes

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  11. Interested Observer
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Great idea Cr Paech. Let’s employ extra rangers tasked to eliminate bigotry in our town with on the spot fines.

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  12. Marcus Wright
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I would have thought that this was a council issue, shouldn’t council stand up and ensure that all members of their community are safe and free from this level of discrimination?
    It’s a national debate I wouldn’t have thought that council would have need more information, I know that other councils in Australian have shown their support to their community members by doing similar work as CR Paech had attempted to do. I find it amusing that CR Brown suggest this a Labor Party campaign – does this mean that other parties support bigotry ?
    Good on you CR Paech. I’m glad that someone in that council is concerned about people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and to everyone who has suggested that this is not a council issues I will remind you:
    Why can’t it be a local community matter? It directly impacts in our local community.
    This is part of the ongoing consultation process and the local council reaction is appropriate.
    The local community goes to its local council first, so the feedback is truest at the local council.
    @1: If you have bothered to read the newspapers and listen to the local radio would see that CR Paech has been very active in trying to get the Northern Territory Government to reinstate the youth street outreach services, so I don’t know where you have been? It often easy to sit back in criticise, but this young fella is actually quite actively been trying to work for and with the community.

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  13. Daniel Symth
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I agree. Enough is enough! Sick and tired of the Council wasting time on matters that are purely political. I want the Council to get back to the basics “the community”.
    We all want to live in a safe environment, that doesn’t cost you and arm and a leg. The lack of support form the Council has directly impacted on the local businesses. They like to be seen to helping “new mall committee” when it’s all too late. More closures to come.

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  14. Observer
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:54 am

    So, we have businesses closing left right and centre, we have people leaving town because they can’t deal with the crime and anti-social behaviour.
    We have those businesses that are surviving adding huge imposts onto their employees by cutting back hours the focus of Crs Paech and Melky is that they want to tell people what they can think and say!
    Time for council to keep their sticky noses out of anything that doesn’t directly concern them. We have more government bodies to enforce this type of stuff, we don’t need the ASTC to do it!

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  15. JB
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:41 am

    The council should leave the politics to government. The focus of council should be on rates and how they are spent. At the moment rates are rising and the benefits to the ratepayers are far from obvious. This should be the focus.
    I am getting tired of hearing councilors using their position to push personal political agendas. Mr Paech should focus on his actual council role rather than jumping on every lefty bandwagon that pops up.

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  16. Steve Brown
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:33 am

    There was no surprise with the presentation of this motion. There has been some discussion running on this subject since a letter from Senator Nova Peris was circulated a while back.
    At that time I also asked for further information from the Senator and was given a web address that contained … you guessed it no further information. It appears that we are expected to conform to what amounts to a Labor Party campaign unquestioningly.
    As I said in reply to the Senator, if it can be demonstrated that the proposed changes do indeed give the green light to bigotry hate speech and racism, I will without hesitation be a signatory to a letter of protest.
    The lack of information is rather curious however, could it be that there is no supporting argument?

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