MPs race to sin bin

FREMANTLE federal Labor MP Josh Wilson has had his first stint in the sin bin after being ejected from parliament on Tuesday for heckling prime minister Malcolm Turnbull over changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Mr Wilson shared his one-hour time out with former Fremantle Herald editor and current Lyons MP Brian Mitchell, whose booming voice – refined through years of turning journalism interns to quivering jelly – has made him a regular target for Speaker Tony Smith.

• Josh Wilson in a more relaxed setting. File photo


The Turnbull government is planning to amend the act so it’s no longer an offence to “insult”, “humiliate” or “offend” people with race hate speech. Instead, it will have to be proven the offender “harassed” the victim.

The Opposition claims the changes are a watering down of the act which will expose more people to racist attacks

It’s trying to capitalise on internal disagreement within government ranks to present the changes as a win for the party’s hard right factions.

The debate was kicked off with a loaded question from immigration and multiculturalism shadow Tony Burke: “Is the prime minister aware that while speaking about the government’s watering down of protections against racist hate speech, One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts said he is very happy the government is starting to follow One Nation, and Liberal senator James Paterson said it would help win back One Nation votes.”

While reiterating his life-long commitment to multiculturalism, Mr Turnbull said the aim of the changes was to prevent authorities overstepping their mark and impinging on the rights of individuals.

He cited the Queensland University of Technology case where three students were accused of race hate after complaining about being evicted from a computer lab set aside for indigenous students. The case was kicked out of court and the Human Rights Commission was criticised for not alerting the students about the complaint until 14 months after it was lodged, then putting them through two years of costly and stressful litigation.

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