LUKE WATERS: Thanks, Minister. First of all, how is this ‘reasonable person’ test going to work?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, the Racial Discrimination Act was enacted in 1975 and, basically, Australia has changed. Today we are a very multi-cultural society. Therefore, it is important that today’s Act reflect that diversity. I think that the insertion of a ‘reasonable person’ test in Section 18C will act as an appropriate balance between the freedom of speech and freedom from racial vilification. It will add a higher threshold test for conduct under the Racial Discrimination Act, and as I said, I think it is a workable compromise between freedom of  speech and freedom from racial vilification.

LUKE WATERS: When you say a higher threshold though, would it not be more appropriate for  the test to be from within the community where this potential for race hate or racial vilification is taking place, rather than the broader community? Would that not be an even higher threshold then?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well today’s Australian community is basically one where almost half of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. In-built into today’s Australian community is, what I think is, a higher exposure, a higher level of tolerance to a whole range of different things. And I think that today, the ordinary Australian, or the reasonable person, in the Australian community has had a degree of cultural, social, and religious diversity as part of their lives. So, therefore, I think that it should be part of the test for what is appropriate conduct under the Racial Discrimination Act. That would be the benchmark by which conduct under the Racial Discrimination Act would be judged.

LUKE WATERS: I will ask pretty much the same question about (inaudible) the way you put it when we spoke earlier, what is interesting as well, in terms of the ‘reasonable person’ test being described as the ‘pub test’, that Australian pubs have evolved in the last few years.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well they certainly have evolved, and so, therefore, walk into any pub into Australia – and that is how it is being described in today’s press – but walk into any pub into Australia, and you certainly will see diversity. And that is the diversity that I think should be reflected in the test for conduct under the Racial Discrimination Act in 2017.

LUKE WATERS: Minister, an unnamed Liberal today has apparently said that this ‘reasonable person’ test would still provide fertile ground for Labor and community groups to campaign against the Coalition, saying that it is still easy for racists to speak out. How do you respond to that?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, [Section 18C] would be augmented, it would be added to by inserting into it a codification of the law and a codification of the conduct, by which conduct under the Racial Discrimination Act would be judged. So I don’t accept that argument. I think that the insertion of a test along the lines of the ‘reasonable person’ in the Australian community would add to proper consideration of that appropriate balance between racial vilification and freedom of speech.

LUKE WATERS: It is now going to Cabinet, is that correct? And if so, when is there likely to be some feedback on Cabinet’s appetite for it or otherwise?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, that is a matter for the Government. I am simply adding to the debate, and so that is a matter now for Cabinet.

LUKE WATERS: Okay, that is understandable. Can I just ask one thing finally. Did you happen to see Pauline Hanson commenting on A Current Affair last night, and how do you respond to it?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I’m sorry, I did not see Ms Hanson’s comments. Thank you.

LUKE WATERS: Thank you very much.


Media enquiries

  • Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555