A controversial anti-mosque flyer distributed in Gungahlin has probably not breached the ACT’s Discrimination Act, but has prompted the Human Rights Commissioner to again call for stronger anti-discrimination laws in the territory in a report on the matter released today.
The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its ‘‘social impact’’ on the ‘‘Australian neighbours’’ in the northern Canberra region.
The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, ‘‘public interest’’ and the proposed size of the development.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, who was asked to investigate concerns the flyer constituted racist material, released her advice on the matter today.
Dr Watchirs said that while the flyer was ‘‘undoubtedly offensive’’, the ACT’s current discrimination laws had too high a test for racial vilification for the flyer to be considered in breach of the Discrimination Act.
‘‘It is unlikely that the flyer regarding a proposed development of a Mosque circulated in Gungahlin would breach s.66 of the ACT Discrimination Act because it is entirely concerned with religious issues, rather than race. It is also unclear if the flyer would satisfy the high test for vilification in the Discrimination Act, which has an ‘incitement’ requirement,’’ the advice said.
However, Dr Watchirs said complainants would likely have more success under Federal discrimination laws.
‘‘An ACT complainant of the Muslim faith who received this flyer may have more success in the Federal jurisdiction, with the advantage of a lower threshold to establish racial hatred, as well as relying on the Explanatory Statement which explicitly envisages that Muslim people represent a racial group.’’
In the advice, Dr Watchirs pointed towards a review of the ACT’s current discrimination laws, and recommended the Act be reformed to include better provisions for discrimination against religious groups.
“I would recommend that the ground of religious conviction be added to the current vilification protection in the Discrimination Act as a matter of priority, given the increasing incidents of this kind being reported in the media.”