A key crossbench senator says the Turnbull government must carve up its overhaul of race-hate laws if it wants to see any elements of the reforms passed.
Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie says if a contentious section of the Racial Discrimination Act is left untouched, she is open to discussing other changes with the attorney-general.
“I think he’s going to have to split the bill – it’s as simple as that if he wants a result,” Senator Lambie told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
The Turnbull government wants the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act changed to “harass and intimidate”.
Labor, the Greens, Senator Lambie and the Nick Xenophon Team are all opposed to the re-wording.
However, Senator Lambie is open to giving the Australian Human Rights Commission power to head off frivolous claims at an early stage, as well as implementing a “reasonable person” test.
Greens Senator Nick McKim is staunchly opposed to such a test.
“It is logically absurd for the government to try and establish a benchmark for racism in this country that doesn’t solely rely on the lived experience of the group of people being impacted by that racism,” he said.
“It’s a crazy suggestion – it’s another attempt to water down protections against racial hate speech in Australia and we won’t have a bar of it.”
The draft laws are expected to come on for debate shortly after an inquiry report is tabled on Tuesday.
The AHRC and Law Council say the existing Act has worked well but acknowledge processes could be improved to ensure greater fairness for people lodging complaints and those complained against.