Australia to make sending racist SMS an offence

June 21st, 2009 - 7:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Kevin Rudd Melbourne, June 21 (IANS) The Australian government, alarmed at the damage done to the country’s reputation after a series of attacks on Indian students, is mulling a change in law that would make sending an SMS inciting racial attacks an offence, media reports said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has set up a special task force, headed by national security adviser Duncan Lewis, to consider a review of counter-terrorism legislation and making an SMS encouraging someone to attack overseas students because of their race or nationality a federal offence.

The Age newspaper reports that the change in law will target those who incite violence rather than the perpetrators of physical violence.

Media coverage of the assaults in India generated angry responses which have threatened the lucrative international student sector, as well as Australia’s ambitions to deepen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

There are about 100,000 Indian students in Australia who, some estimates say, contribute AU $3.5 billion a year to the economy.

The spate of vicious attacks also sparked protests in Melbourne and Sydney, some of which turned violent.

Authorities believe Indian students were targeted for opportunistic reasons because they tend to work at evening jobs and take public transport late at night.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland told parliament Wednesday that the government was examining the possibility of amending an existing law of inciting violence against people for their race, religion or ethnicity to include “inciting violence against an individual on the basis of that individual’s race, religion, ethnicity or nationality”.

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