As we have previously reported, on 8 November 2016, the Federal Attorney General Senator George Brandis announced a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR) inquiry into the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (the RD Act) and in particular Part IIA, containing the now famous sections 18C and 18D, and along with that an inquiry into the complaints handling procedures of the Australian Human Rights Commission (the AHRC) [see our article Much Expected Section 18C Inquiry Announced with Wider Scope Including the AHRC]. That inquiry was to report by 28 February 2017, which it did, in what has been described at best as a "very open and thoughtful" report, through to what some have labeled as an "equivocal and conflicted" report.
Cynics might say that the referral to the PJCHR was to deliver a way out for the Prime Minister, from a debate he did not really want, and from this background the PJCHR was tasked to inquire:
Looking at the PJCHR's Report it has clearly taken to its task and responded thoroughly, making clear recommendations at least on the part of its brief relating to the AHRC, where the PJCHR has recommended that it becomes an oversight committee for the AHRC so that it could have public meetings twice a year to ". . . examine the Commission’s activities, including complaints handling, over the preceding six month period."
On the matters relating to the RD Act section 18C and 18D there was less clarity perhaps also mirroring the lack of agreement on the PJCHR itself - a lack of agreement not just along party lines, but as is reported by The Conversation, even within the conservative side of politics itself so much so that:
Essentially, the PJCHR did not report back with any firm preferences in its recommendations, providing mostly a list of options that might or might not be applied, as follows:
Generally, the future of RD Act sections 18C and 18D remains an open question with most waiting to see how the PJHRC's report will translate into legislation if it does in fact do that. After all, the greatest division over the future of the RD Act sections 18C and 18D still seems to be within the one conservative side of politics, who's leader, the Prime Minister, is faced with also having to consider as The Conversation says, that:-
The RD Act section 18C and 18D issue was not one that the Prime Minister sought out and the PJHRC's Report may have been seen as a transparent way to resolve things - it just does not appear to have turned out that way.
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