Multicultural minister under fire

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram New Assistant Multicultural Affairs Minister Zed Seselja says he’s softened his stance on changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, with Labor claiming his previous stance on changes to the legislation makes him an odd fit for the multicultural portfolio.Last year Senator Seselja supported a Family First bill that argued to remove the words “offend” and “insult” from section 18C of the Act, after the government in 2014 bowed to pressure from Greek and other ethnic community leaders to leave the legislation as is.“Under the Racial Discrimination Act we have a completely subjective test applying to anyone identifying with a particular ethnicity or nationality − a ‘hurt feelings’ test,” Senator Seselja said at the time.The government backed down on changing the legislation after more than 200 multicultural and ethnic communities across Australia expressed their concerns over the proposed changes.In 2014, in support of the changes, Attorney General George Brandis said people had “a right to be bigots”.Senator Seselja, who was appointed to the Coalition Cabinet this week as new assistant minister for social services and multicultural affairs, told reporters he would support the government’s policy.“Obviously the government has a position on it, so as part of the government I will pursue that,” he said.Meanwhile, Labor has expressed criticism of his appointment. ALP senator Katy Gallagher said Senator Seselja’s views were out of touch with the community.“It is extremely alarming that one of the few people who wants to water down these protections against racist hate speech has been appointed to this portfolio,” she said.Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek has also criticised the appointment, saying the ACT senator wished to amend the Racial Discrimination Act to allow the denigration of people on the basis of race.Senator Seselja, who is of Croatian heritage, said despite heightened debate this week over immigration policy, fuelled by comments from TV celebrity Sonia Kruger asking for a ban on Muslim immigration, he was optimistic about Australia’s future as a harmonious multicultural society.“Of course there are always some dark sentiments in our community, we know that no society is perfect − there are people on the fringes who either wish to do people harm or have views that most of us would find abhorrent, but I take a far more optimistic view of where we are as a nation,” he said.last_img read more