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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1016


Senator CHANEY —My question, which is also to the Attorney-General, follows the answer he has just given. I express my agreement with him that we should discourage racial hatred and manifestations of it, but I ask him to assure the Senate that in any consideration the Government gives this matter there will be no attempt to reduce the freedom of people such as Professor Blainey to raise what are significant questions of public policy and issues such as our immigration policy, and that very careful attention will be given to the need to ensure freedom of speech on these important matters.


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am happy to give the honourable senator such an assurance . I remind him that in saying that I am saying no more than I have consistently said in every public contribution I have made to this debate. I am aware of the importance of there being able to be contributions, rational or irrational, to public debate on sensitive topics. One can get only to first base in justifying legislative sanctions of any kind against such expression if they are of a peculiarly extreme kind and constitute something in the nature of incitement. Even then there are legitimate arguments as to how far it is proper for legislation to go. It may well be that it is better to place the emphasis on trying to develop education on these matters in the community and sensitivity to the issues involved by means other than legal ones. But that is a debate we still have to have, and it is not one that I am seeking in any way to pre-empt.