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Dodson plea to keep race hate-speech laws

AAP logoAAP 31/08/2016 Belinda Merhab

Indigenous leader Pat Dodson has made an impassioned plea in the Senate for the retention of race hate-speech laws as conservatives move to water them down.

Government backbenchers and crossbench senators led by conservative Liberal Cory Bernardi introduced a private bill on Wednesday to remove the words "offend" and "insult" from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

That's despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisting the government has no plans to amend the laws, arguing the government has "far more important" priorities to deal with.

Senator Dodson called on Mr Turnbull to be "unequivocal" in opposing the changes, urging him to "get his house in order".

He said he was puzzled at attempts to change the legislation that had been an important pillar of Australia's success as a multicultural nation.

"This law is of special importance to those of us who, because of our colour, our culture, our language, have been subject to racial slurs or racial violence and to discrimination when we have sought a place at a school, at a job, the local supermarket, to rent a house or to enter a cinema," the Labor senator told parliament.

Liberal backbencher Ian Macdonald, who backs the changes, said it was important Senator Dodson's speeches to the Senate were "factual".

He insisted every Australian abhorred racial discrimination - "a given in our country".

"Most people in Queensland whilst abhorring any form of discrimination ... are offended and insulted by the fact these words 'offend' and 'insult' are in 18C of the racial discrimination act," he said.

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