Racist abuse condoned at work if law is repealed

Workplaces will not be safe from racial discrimination if provision 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is repealed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis this week.

ACTU President Ged Kearney warned: "There is a big difference between free speech and discrimination and repeal of the law will allow people to use offensive racially-motivated language against others. Is Australia really willing to go back down that path?"

"Repeal of the laws should be seen as an extreme move by a government out of touch with our multicultural landscape. It's not okay to slur others in the workplace because of their skin colour or nationality. That's what the current laws protect against."

"The Fair Work Act provides no remedy for exposure to racial vilification in the workplace unless it creates a risk of injury or is coupled with a deprivation of employment or employment opportunity. The only avenue available in Commonwealth law, to remedy a workplace culture of racial vilification, is this provision."

"If the Government goes through with this repeal, as they seem intent on doing, it will be a green light to those who wish to be openly racist."

"Most Australians are not racist. They don't want to hear racist remarks and they don't speak that way. However, as we have seen from a number of ugly incidents over the past year, some are willing to inflict humiliation, often publicly, on others with unacceptable language. 

"For the first law officer of the nation in an incoming Government to proudly declare that one of his first legislative acts will be to legalise racial abuse is a disgrace and a national embarrassment."

Ms Kearney said that, "Repeal of section 18C is the Federal Government effectively saying to employers that unless, or until, someone loses a job opportunity or suffers an injury - it's fine to be racially vilified at work."

"It's the ugly underside we prefer not to look at but our First People often bear the brunt of this type of discrimination," she said.