Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Australian Parliament is Urged to Amend Laws on Racism, Divorce

May 5, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Australian Jewish community and Jewish women in particular were pleased by the legal reforms recommended to Parliament this week.

One change would automatically increase the penalty for criminal actions proven to have a racist element. Another would help women obtain a get, a religious divorce.

The suggested changes are contained in a 313-page “Report on Multiculturalism and the Law,” which the Australian Law Reform Commission submitted to Parliament after 30 months of research, public hearings and debate.

The law commission concluded, in over-whelming agreement with testimony presented by Jewish groups, that granting religious divorces should be part of the legal settlement process.

Josie Lacey, who convened the Women’s Issues Group in the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said that the commission’s proposal marks “a giant step forward.”

Despite appeals by animal rights groups to ban kosher ritual slaughtering, the commission made no comment on that subject.

Its report observed that racism and racial violence is so prevalent and far-reaching in Australia that a new criminal offense should be added to the statutes in the interests of “maintaining harmony and peaceful co-existence.”

Draft legislation recommended by the commission would automatically increase by 50 percent the penalty for a crime proven to have a racial element. But while incitement to racial hatred would be made unlawful, it would not be treated as a criminal offense.

Leslie Caplan, president of the Executive Council, said the Jewish community regrets “that only civil law remedies are anticipated, even for serious offenders.”

Recommended from JTA