Nova Peris warns Abbott on Racial Discrimination Act

THE Abbott government's push to change the Racial Discrimination Act has "sabotaged" efforts to recognise indigenous Australians in the Constitution, the nation's first female indigenous Senator has warned Tony Abbott.

Northern Territory Labor Senator Nova Peris this week wrote to Prime Minister Abbott urging him to pull the plug on the changes to the Act proposed by Attorney-General Senator George Brandis.

Those changes, which Sen Brandis said defended people's "right to be bigots", have sparked concern across Australia's indigenous community and ethnic and cultural groups.

The letter raised questions about the consistency between Mr Abbott's dedication to ensuring First Australians are recognised in the Australian Constitution, and the government's proposal to amend racial discrimination laws.

Sen Peris wrote that while she believed his personal commitment to the issue, she had come to the view constitutional recognition was "not possible" while his government pursued the RDA amendments.

"While the issues may be considered separate be some, they are not separate to Aboriginal people," she wrote.

"Both the RDA amendments themselves and the defence of them by your Attorney-General on the basis that 'people have the right to be bigots' have sabotaged meaningful discussions on constitutional recognition."

Sen Peris, who also deputy chairs a committee inquiry into constitutional recognition, said a consultation tour the committee was about to begin was "doomed to failure" if changes to the Act remained on the table.

A response was sought from Mr Abbott's office.


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