How John Williams voted compared to someone who believes that the federal government should change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act so that the words "insult", "offend", "humiliate" are replaced with the word "harass"

Division John Williams Supporters vote Division outcome

21st Mar 2018, 4:20 PM – Senate Motions - International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - Condemn Turnbull Government

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The majority voted against this motion, which means it failed.

Motion text

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) 21 March 2018 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and

(ii) racial discrimination is still prevalent in Australia, and that it has significant impacts on community harmony, as well as people's health and wellbeing;

(b) condemns the Turnbull Government for:

(i) trying to water down the hate speech provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act,

(ii) engaging in a racist campaign against African communities in Victoria, and

(iii) seeking to prioritise white South African farmers in the humanitarian and migration program on the basis of their race; and

(c) recognises that political leaders have a responsibility to stand up for multiculturalism and against racial discrimination.

No No Not passed by a small majority

30th Mar 2017, 10:04 PM – Senate Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 - in Committee - Change 18C wording

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The majority voted against Government amendments introduced by Liberal Party Senator George Brandis. The amendments related to amending section 18C.

Senator Brandis explained that: "The purpose of this amendment is to clarify the meanings of the words 'intimidate' and 'harass' in section 18C as it would appear, assuming the bill is passed."

Read more on ABC News.

Motion text

(1) Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 25), after item 4, insert:

4A Before subsection 18C(3)

Insert:

(2C) For the purposes of subsection (1), if an act done by a person consists of:

(a) making a statement; or

(b) making a comment; or

(c) making a remark;

(whether orally, in a document or in any other way), then the making of the statement, comment or remark may be reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to harass another person, even if the statement, comment or remark is not made in the presence of the other person.

(2D) For the purposes of subsection (1), if an act done by a person consists of:

(a) making a statement; or

(b) making a comment; or

(c) making a remark;

(whether orally, in a document or in any other way), then the making of the statement, comment or remark may be reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to harass a group of people, even if the statement, comment or remark is not made in the presence of one or more members of that group.

What does this bill do?

The bill was introduced to:

  • amend section 18C, which prohibits offensive behaviour based on racial hatred, to replace the words ‘offend’, ‘insult’ and ‘humiliate’ with ‘harass’ (resulting in the formulation ‘harass or intimidate’); and
  • provide that an assessment of whether an act is reasonably likely to harass or intimidate a person or group of persons is made against the standard of a reasonable member of the Australian community.

But as you can see from this division, this change to the wording of section 18C is controversial and there is a lot of opposition to it.

According to the explanatory memorandum, the bill would also:

amend the complaints handling processes of the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (the AHRC Act) and ... make minor amendments to the AHRC Act sought by the Commission to enhance its operation and efficiency

Yes Yes Not passed by a small majority

30th Mar 2017, 8:45 PM – Senate Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 - Second Reading - Agree with bill's main idea

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The majority voted to agree with the main idea of the bill. In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read for the bill for a second time. This means that they can now discuss the bill in more detail.

What is the bill's main idea?

The bill was introduced to:

  • amend section 18C, which prohibits offensive behaviour based on racial hatred, to replace the words ‘offend’, ‘insult’ and ‘humiliate’ with ‘harass’ (resulting in the formulation ‘harass or intimidate’); and
  • provide that an assessment of whether an act is reasonably likely to harass or intimidate a person or group of persons is made against the standard of a reasonable member of the Australian community.

According to the explanatory memorandum, it would also:

amend the complaints handling processes of the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (the AHRC Act) and ... make minor amendments to the AHRC Act sought by the Commission to enhance its operation and efficiency

Yes Yes (strong) Passed by a small majority

How "voted very strongly for" is worked out

The MP's votes count towards a weighted average where the most important votes get 50 points, less important votes get 10 points, and less important votes for which the MP was absent get 2 points. In important votes the MP gets awarded the full 50 points for voting the same as the policy, 0 points for voting against the policy, and 25 points for not voting. In less important votes, the MP gets 10 points for voting with the policy, 0 points for voting against, and 1 (out of 2) if absent.

Then, the number gets converted to a simple english language phrase based on the range of values it's within.

No of votes Points Out of
Most important votes (50 points)      
MP voted with policy 1 50 50
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
MP absent 0 0 0
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 2 20 20
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 0 0 0
Total: 70 70

*Pressure of other work means MPs or Senators are not always available to vote – it does not always indicate they have abstained. Therefore, being absent on a less important vote makes a disproportionatly small difference.

Agreement score = MP's points / total points = 70 / 70 = 100%.

And then