Australia is the world’s most beautiful country. Our identity is strengthened by our cultural diversity, as it demonstrates our kind, generous and accepting nature. No matter where our ancestries originate from, what skin colour we are or our religious beliefs, we all come together as Australians in respect and understanding, which has allowed our open, multicultural society to flourish.
As our National Anthem states, ‘For those who've come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share’.
We, the Australian people, call on the Federal Government to commit to a referendum, which if supported by the people, would remove Sections 25 and 51 (26) in their entirety.
Section 25 states that For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of the race resident in that State shall not be counted.
As renowned Professor of Law George Williams points out, this was reflected in practice by the States who for decades after Federation refused to allow Aboriginals to vote.
Section 51 states that The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
(xxvi) The people of any race, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws
On this point, Professor Williams says that the idea in 1901 behind this Section was that ‘laws were needed to discriminate against certain races, such as by limiting their choice of occupation or where they could live so as to limit their contact with whites. As stated by the nation's first prime minister, Edmund Barton, the power was necessary to ''regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races who are in the Commonwealth”.
It is clear that these two Sections are not only discriminatory, but run completely contrary to our values as Australians.
This would be more than just a symbolic act. Our Constitution is the most important document in the Australian political system, as it sets out our rights as citizens and also the areas of responsibility for our elected governments.
Such an improvement to our Constitution would send a clear and positive message about Australia to the world, that we are pro-actively making efforts to end discrimination and promote harmony and social cohesion, which will also enhance our international reputation.
Racism is not simply a minor issue in Australia. As Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke pointed out, 85% of respondents in a survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission believed that racism is still a major issue in Australia.
In addition to the admirable and long overdue efforts to recognise our First Australian brothers and sisters, the Indigenous people of Australia, into the Australian Constitution, we need to make it clear that this would be strengthened by removing the racist elements within the Constitution.
We have the chance to make our Constitution truly reflective of our national identity in the 21st century and beyond. It will be a significant step as we continue to build a modern, fair and inclusive Australia that in particular, recognises the integral role that the Indigenous people of Australia will continue to play in shaping our future.
Let’s stand united against racism!
Speech by Dr Helen Szoke: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/media/speeches/race/2012/20120216_Racism_exists.html
Article by Professor George Williams:
The People of Australia report: http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/multicultural/pdf_doc/people-of-australia-multicultural-policy-booklet.pdf