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Conservative Backbencher Cory Bernardi Will Introduce A Bill To Scrap 18C

"Be under no illusion, that freedom is under assault like never before in this country."

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Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has vowed to reintroduce his bill to remove the words "offend" and "insult" from Section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act when parliament resumes in August.

Alan Porritt / AAPIMAGE

Comparing Australia to George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the South Australian senator claims freedom of speech is "under assault like never before" by the PC agenda and needs to be saved.

In his e-newsletter Your weekly dose of common sense he argues a change is needed to the "odious and subjective nature of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act".

"So what can we do? Fixing this problem begins with fixing Section 18C of the RDA. While some want to abolish it in its entirety, a good start would be to remove the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from the act," Bernardi writes.

Section 18C makes it unlawful to do an act that is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people, because of their race, the colour of their skin, or national or ethnic origin.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott abandoned his 2013 election promise to repeal the law after protests from backbenchers who represent multicultural electorates.

Malcolm Turnbull has indicated he has no plans to pursue the reforms, so Bernardi instead will introduce a bill himself in two weeks.

"In the first week back in parliament I’ll be reintroducing the same Bill with the expectation that this parliament will finally get a vote and expose very clearly who among your elected representatives is interested in protecting our freedoms and way of life."

The conservative backbencher argues Section 18C of the RDA is being used as a tool to stifle speech on the basis it may offend or insult someone, not necessarily the person complaining.

Bernardi also applauded Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm for lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over a Fairfax column that described him as an "angry white man". Leyonhjelm said he wasn't offended by the comments but was using them to prove that the law compromises free speech. He argues that “offence is always taken, not given” and “if you want to take offence, that’s your choice”.

Attorney-general George Brandis ruled out removing “insult” and “offend” from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act again last week but Liberal senator James Paterson says the free speech crusaders are closer than ever to getting the reform through parliament.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

"My assessment is we are only one or two votes away from where we need to be in the Senate and the right bill, well-crafted, with the right approach, has a very good prospect of passing this parliament. And I think, if the government

takes it up, as I hope it will and as I am advocating that it do so, then I think we will get very close to getting this done," he told Sky News on Monday.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

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