Consumer prices surged in the March quarter, beating market expectations, suggesting that interest rates may be going up soon, economists say.


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 1.6 per cent in the March quarter for an annual inflation rate of 3.3 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported on Wednesday.

The market forecast had been for a CPI of 1.2 per cent for the quarter for an annual pace of 3.0 per cent. ICAP senior economist Adam Carr said the ABS figures suggested that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) must act soon to put a lid on inflationary pressures.

The RBA adjusts the cash rate to keep inflation in a target band of two to three per cent over the medium term. “The RBA has to hike rates – they don’t have a choice,” Mr Carr said.

“The arguments for them to hike are compelling (and) the arguments for them to hold are non existent.

“I still think, because of the politics of the decision, they’ll potentially hold off until June but it’s very clear that inflation pressures have spiked higher.” Mr Carr said the higher than expected core inflation figure should not be interpreted as being due to the effect of flooding in Queensland.

“For people who want to blame this on the floods, they need to get their head out of the sand because that’s not the reality.

“The reality is food prices are rising around the world.

“The RBA has a job to do and they need to just do it, rather than focusing on this dribble that people are pumping out about depressed consumers and one-off flood impacts from CPI – that’s not a reality.”

Nomura chief economist Stephen Roberts said the price increases in the CPI were broad based. “Of 11 major CPI categories, seven of the 11 inflated by more than one per cent on a quarter-on-quarter basis,” he said.

“It was high on the underlying inflation rates so, if you get my way of thinking, the Reserve Bank will have to go sooner rather than later with another rate hike.”

Mr Roberts said he expected the headline rate to stay well above three per cent for the remainder of 2011 and into 2012, driven by Australia’s historically high terms of trade, the renewed mining boom and price rises elsewhere in the economy.

“There’s very strong fundamentals and there’s been underlying price pressures running through most services sectors,” he said. Macquarie Group senior economist Brian Redican said the more volatile components of the CPI were drove up overall inflation in the March quarter.

“We had higher fresh food prices as a result of the cyclone,” he said.

“We had a higher petrol price coming through, with oil prices jumping up. “We had the seasonal increases in education and health prices and even things like the reduction in term deposit rates by banks came through in the form of higher financial services prices.”

Mr Redican said inflation may cool off later in the year.

“As we get to the second half of the year, you get the reversal of those fresh food prices coming down and people would be surprised by how low inflation is at that time. “But that said, if the Reserve Bank does want to tighten policy, then this provides them a good excuse to do that.”

Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, footballer David Beckham and his pop star wife Victoria and “Mr Bean” actor Rowan Atkinson are among the glittering line-up for the service in London’s Westminster Abbey on Friday.


In a nod to William’s military background and status as second in line to the throne, there will also be a British veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the families of soldiers killed in that country and in Iraq. The seating plan revealed that William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and other senior royals will be the front row, with the Middleton family on the other side of the aisle. Kate’s mother Carole will sit directly opposite the queen. The Spencer family of William’s mother Diana, princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, will sit behind the Middletons. However, as expected there is no place for Sarah Ferguson, William’s aunt and the ex-wife of his uncle Prince Andrew, following a series of tabloid newspaper scandals. More than 40 foreign royals from countries as diverse as Brunei, Thailand, Morocco and Swaziland are among the “confirmed attendees”, said St James’s Palace, William’s official residence. There is an unexpected appearance by Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain after reports that the Gulf state’s rulers would withdraw to avoid embarrassment after a bloody crackdown on protesters there. But Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni cannot attend the wedding, Phnom Penh’s foreign ministry said, although it denied reports in Britain that he had ignored the invitation. A St James’s Palace spokesman said inviting other crowned heads of state was a long-held tradition but the Foreign Office’s advice was sought on issues. Since the wedding is not a formal state occasion, world leaders such as US President Barack Obama have not been invited. There are however several heads of government including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her New Zealand counterpart John Key, along with governors-general from 15 Commonwealth realms where the queen is still the monarch. Key figures from the British government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also attend. The wedding is expected to be watched by a worldwide television audience of around two billion people. Celebrities feature heavily on the guest list, and also include Guy Ritchie, the film director and ex-husband of Madonna. Elton John – who sang the hit “Candle in the Wind” at Diana’s funeral in the abbey – will be accompanied by his partner David Furnish. William met former England captain Beckham as part of England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Mario Testino, the official photographer for the engagement, will be there along with singer Joss Stone, who performed at a Diana tribute concert. Sports stars include Clive Woodward, the World Cup-winning former England rugby union coach; Gareth Thomas, the Wales rugby back; and the former England football midfielder Trevor Brooking. Former British prime minister John Major, who was appointed a guardian to Princes William and Harry after their mother died, will attend, as will Julia Samuel, chair of the Child Bereavement Charity. A number of William’s colleagues from his job as a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Royal Air Force will also be attending, along with members of charities he supports. There will also be space for Lance Corporal Martyn Compton, a British soldier who served with William, and who was so badly burned in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan in 2006 that he lost his ears and nose. William has also invited members of the families of two colleagues from the military officer training school at Sandhurst: Joanna Dyer, who was killed by a bomb in Iraq in 2007, and Major Alexis Roberts, killed four years ago in Afghanistan. Most of the invitees are family or private friends of William and his fiancee, and her guests reportedly include the butcher, the postman and the greengrocer from the rural English village of Bucklebury where she grew up. Inside Westminster Abbey itself, only the bride and groom’s nearest and dearest will be able to witness the ceremony close up. Most guests will be behind the choir screen, a partition in the abbey which restricts the view of the altar to those behind it. They will have to watch on video screens to see the moment when William and Kate exchange their vows.

Julia Gillard’s tour of Japan takes on a sombre note today when the PM visits one of the communities hardest hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.


Minami Sanriku was once a quaint fishing town but it’s been all but wiped off the map with up to half the town’s 20-thousand residents losing their lives.

Ms Gillard will view the devastation from a helicopter before landing to visit an evacuation centre to talk with locals who lost homes and loved ones.

She’ll be accompanied by Rob McNeil the leader of the Australian search and rescue team that helped Japanese authorities search for survivors in the Minami Sanriku wreckage.

Japanese may train with Aust troops: PM

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Japanese troops could be allowed to train in Australian defence units under a new vision for greater military co-operation by both countries.

The Prime Minister outlined her vision in The Weekend Australian newspaper in an interview in Tokyo on Friday, saying she’s open to exploring the idea of Japan’s soldiers gaining direct experience from their more combat-ready Australian peers, 66 years after World War Two.

Gillard sits down to dinner with Kylie

At a fundraising dinner in Tokyo overnight also attended by Aussie songbird Kylie Minogue the prime minister has announced three initiatives from Australia to help Japan recover from last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

Ms Minogue says she chose to continue with the Japanese leg of her world tour despite ongoing aftershocks and the Fukushima nuclear crisis but she didn’t perform at last night’s gala.

Julia Gillard’s announced a new program will help fund university students academics and professionals from those areas most affected by the disaster to spend some time in Australia.

Ms Gillard’s also announced an ongoing program of 10 Endeavour Scholarships a year for Japan.

The government will also begin a study for an exchange program to allow young Japanese people to teach Japanese in Australian schools.

The TFF was threatened with expulsion from the preliminary tournament if it did not apologise by March 31 for claims of bias by officials in a chaotic end to their campaign in this year’s Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea.


Snoussi told reporters on Monday he had met CAF president Issa Hayatou in Dakar this month and agreed a solution to the dispute between the two bodies.

Tunisia have agreed to withdraw their protest to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after CAF fined them $50,000 (33,736 pounds) and threatened to ban them from the next tournament if the TFF did not apologise for remarks made about officials after the 2-1 quarter-final loss to hosts Equatorial Guinea.

CAF said at the time it “instructed the Tunisian federation to send to CAF a letter of apology for the insinuations of bias and lack of ethics against CAF and its officials, or to present irrefutable evidence to substantiate the accusations”.

The north Africans were incensed when Mauritian referee Rajindraparsad Seechurn awarded the hosts a penalty in the dying minutes which allowed them to take the game to extra-time and ultimately triumph 2-1.

The Tunisian players attempted to physically assault the referee after the final whistle and members of both sides clashed in ugly scenes. Seechurn was banned for six months by CAF for his role in the incident.

There is already one case against CAF lodged with CAS.

Morocco were kicked out of the 2017 and 2019 competitions for their late withdrawal of hosting privileges for the 2015 edition due to fears over the spread of the Ebola virus.

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) was fined $1 million and ordered to pay 8.05 million euros ($9.12 million) in damages to the CAF and its partners. That case is still pending.

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)

Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng has produced a stunning first-round upset at the China Open with a 5-4 win over Australian snooker star Neil Robertson.


Robertson won snooker’s Triple Crown – the World and UK Championship and the Masters – and also took this title in 2013 and was runner-up last year.

But despite leading 3-1 at the interval, with breaks of 56 and 63 in frame four, the world number three was pegged back by Poomjaeng.

The popular and eccentric Thai player made breaks of 40 and 30 in the first frame back, levelled the match in a scrappy sixth frame and led for the first time after a 74 in the next.

Robertson responded with a 74 of his own and led with a 44 in the decider, but Poomjaeng responded with 48 and won the frame and match on the final black.

Home favourite and reigning champion Ding Junhui had no such trouble in Beijing, beating Scotland’s Marcus Campbell 5-1.

Ding took the first frame after forcing Campbell into a dangerous pot attempt and finally got across the line in a messy second frame to lead 2-0 – despite an unlucky foul on the black extending the frame.

The third followed as a 66, Ding’s highest break of the match, brought him back from 47-0 down but Campbell finally got on the board in the frame before the interval.

The Scot, sporting a Union Jack bow-tie, was doing enough to prevent Ding reaching his fluent best but breaks of 41 in frame five and 58 and 50 in the next clinched victory.

Ali Carter was beaten 5-4 by Norway’s Kurt Maflin despite making three breaks over 60.

Carter led three times and was within a frame of victory at 4-2, but the key moment came when he made 66 in frame seven but Maflin came back to win it and went on to take the match.

Alan McManus was also beaten from 4-2 up by youngster Jack Lisowski.

Some typical strangling safety play got the Scot off to a good start and breaks of 54 and 80 took him to the verge of victory.

But Lisowski levelled with runs of 78 and 56 and then won the deciding frame as well.

The artwork.


 Yininmadyemi, which translates to “Thou Didst Let Fall,” depicts four standing bullets and three fallen shells that represent Indigenous soldiers who both survived and were sacrificed as part of their service in Australia’s military.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore hailed contemporary Indigenous artist Tony Albert for his tribute, which stands in front of the ANZAC memorial in Hyde Park and on an historical ritual contest ground on Gadigal country. 

“It is a powerful and a confronting work that does not shrink from the reality of war,” she said.

The artwork represents a long history of Indigenous diggers who have gone unrecognised for their service, something the Indigenous community has been pushing to change for a long time.

Unveiling of Indigenous #diggers tribute artwork @ Hyde Park. “Yininmadyemi.” #ANZAC @SBSNews pic.twitter广西桑拿,/Eanp31jN0a

— Rachael Hocking (@R_nungarrayi) March 30, 2015

In 2007, the Babana Men’s Group and the Coloured Diggers began campaigning for an artwork that told the truth about Indigenous Australian’s contribution in combat overseas.

“It came from a lot of the comments and wishes of the wider community. They felt the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders weren’t getting their proper recognition,” said Harry Allie, an Indigenous elder who was part of the Air Force and is a committee member of the Coloured Diggers Projects.

Governor of NSW David Hurley AC, DSC who attended the opening acknowledged that the homecoming of Indigenous military was often marred by racism or at best their service was ignored.

“For those [Indigenous soldiers] who returned home they found the same prejudice and discrimination as before they left with few rights, unemployment, low wages and poor living conditions.

“In short, while they were accepted in their war service, when they returned home they were not,” he said.

Tony Albert is no stranger to war stories – his family’s combined service spans more than 80 years.

He says a story from his grandfather’s experiences during WW2 provided personal inspiration for the bullet-and-shell sculpture.

Tony’s Aunt Trisha Albert told the experience of her father – Tony’s grandfather – Eddie Albert, when he was captured in Italy in April in 1944. 

“The Italian soldiers promptly ordered Eddie and the six men to stand outside,” she said. “Where to Eddie’s horror, three of the men were executed.”

Eddie and the remaining three were spared after they were identified as British soldiers. They were sent to Germany as prisoners of war.

The artwork, by Tony Albert, shows 3 standing bullets & 3 fallen shells. For those who survived, and those who didnt. pic.twitter广西桑拿,/R29BnVxUl4

— Rachael Hocking (@R_nungarrayi) March 30, 2015

Less noticeable but significant is the boomerang-shaped base the sculpture sits on.

Indigenous communities often gave boomerangs, the L-shaped weapon known for its ability to return after being thrown, as gifts to Australian soldiers. They symbolised a safe return. 

With Laura Murphy-Oates

Earlier this month, football’s world governing body FIFA ended more than four years of uncertainty over the timing of the World Cup in Qatar by announcing it would be played in November and December with the final on Dec.



One of the biggest challenges of hosting the tournament in the summer months, when temperatures at times exceed 40 degrees Celsius, was cooling down the stadiums but with the shift to the winter the organising committee is reassessing the situation.

“The temperatures are lower in the winter so the demand for cooling will be lower,” Dario Cadavid, technical assurance and integration manager at Qatar’s 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s very possible that during that time of the year that cooling isn’t required for the winter,” he added, without giving any details on the potential cost savings of using less energy if the cooling systems are not used.

Qatar always said a summer World Cup was viable thanks to revolutionary cooling technologies it is developing for stadiums, training areas and fan zones but there was still widespread concern for the health of players and fans.

However, Cadavid downplayed those concerns.

“In order to provide safety for the players we need to provide a temperature between 26 and 29 degrees… our target is 26 degrees,” he said.

Whether it is used at the finals or not research on cooling technologies is continuing because Qatar wants the 2022 stadiums to be available for local league games all year, said Cadavid who described this aspect of the bid as the “legacy” element.

There are fewer local matches scheduled each week in the summer than there will be at the World Cup and they require less planning so maintaining cool temperatures in the stadiums will require lower amounts of energy, according to Cadavid.

“…matches in the summer for the local leagues are less frequent than a tournament.. you have two matches per week so less demand for energy,” he said.


FIFA also decided to cut the length of the 2022 tournament from 32 to 28 days, meaning more games will be played per day and a country of Qatar’s size might thus need fewer stadiums.

The number of stadiums planned for the finals has not been announced but the revolutionary cooling system will be installed when each ground is constructed, Cadavid said.

“It’s more difficult to put in the systems after the stadiums are finished… it becomes more expensive and complex because the cooling system is integrated so that needs to happen now.”

While declining to detail the costs or energy required to bring temperatures down from 40C to 26C, Cadavid said the general expense of installing the “mechanical” aspects of a stadium with a cooling system was 20-30 percent of the total.

As part of Qatar’s original bid, he said the organising committee will provide all the energy used for cooling from sustainable resources including building a 100 megawatt solar power plant and installing solar panels in every stadium.

“This technology has been proven so it’s no longer a fantasy… we are working to make it more sustainable,” he said.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr; editing by Ken Ferris)

“Harry Kane will make full debut and play from the start and Wayne Rooney will captain the team,” Hodgson told reporters.


“It’s nice to see the two of them on the field together from the start. Harry certainly deserves his chance.”

Kane, joint top scorer in the Premier League with 19 goals, headed England’s fourth goal 80 seconds after replacing Rooney in the 4-0 win over Lithuania in Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifier.

Rooney, who has 102 England caps and is on the verge of breaking Bobby Charlton’s 45-year-old England scoring record of 49 goals, was delighted at the prospect of playing alongside Kane for the first time.

“It’s exciting that Harry Kane has done well in the Premier League. It’s fantastic. Hopefully he continues that form with England,” said Rooney, who has scored 47 international goals..

“It’s a big night for him with his first start for England. I’m sure he’ll be excited. He’ll go out and try and give his best and I’m excited to play with him and hopefully we can do well to try and help the team win.

“Our aim is to reach the Euros. Tomorrow will be a good test and we are looking forward to it.”

Hodgson declined to follow Italy coach Antonio Conte’s tactic in naming his final 11 on the eve of the match.

Instead, all he would say was: “It’s a friendly match and it’s a time to experiment with some of the players.

“We take the game very seriously and it’s a great opportunity for players who haven’t had the opportunity in some of the qualifiers to show that they really deserve their place in the squad.

“It’s an opportunity for players to impress both managers.”

England top Group E in their Euro 2016 qualifiers with 15 points from five matches while Italy are second on 11 points in Group H, two behind leaders Croatia.

(Writing by Pritha Sarkar in London, editing by Justin Palmer)

Spain’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Dutch at last year’s World Cup finals marked the end of La Roja’s glittering six-year run when they won back-to-back continental titles with a debut World Cup in between, beating Netherlands 1-0 in the final in Johannesburg.


Since then, Spain have stuttered in qualifying for Euro 2016, dropping three points behind Group C leaders Slovakia after a 2-1 defeat away to the eastern Europeans in October, and have come in for some sharp criticism in the normally adoring Spanish media.

However, Del Bosque insisted Spain are on track to secure their place at next year’s tournament in France and indicated he was ready to change things around if needed.

“Before the criticism was always favourable and now there is a lot of emphasis on the negative,” he told a news conference previewing the game at the Amsterdam Arena.

“We have a very mature and fixed national team but we shouldn’t be satisfied with what has already been achieved,” added the 64-year-old. “We have to be rebels as well.”

Del Bosque said he was likely to field a completely different team on Tuesday to the one that ground out a 1-0 qualifying victory against Ukraine in Seville on Friday.

New faces such as Malaga forward Juanmi and Sevilla midfielder Vitolo are likely to make their debuts, he said, adding that he had no thoughts of revenge for the reverse to Netherlands in Salvador in June.

Spain’s Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla is likely to start on Tuesday and urged fans to give the new players time to bed in with the established internationals in the squad.

“Some important people have retired but those who are coming into the team are full of desire,” Cazorla told an earlier news conference.

“Maybe we need some time,” he added. “The players are united and believe in what they are doing. That is really what is important for us.”

After Tuesday’s outing, Spain are not in action again until June when they play away to Group C rivals Belarus.

They host Slovakia in September in a match that could decide who secures their place in France as group winners.

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)

Conte was in emotional mood as he returned to the Juventus stadium, where he won three Serie A titles in as many seasons as coach, for an Italy training session ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against England.


“I know it will not be easy but I am carrying on in my work,” Conte told reporters, who quit Juventus in July.

“Mennea said that to achieve big dreams, one must make great effort,” he added, citing the late Pietro Mennea, the Olympic champion whose 200 metres world record lasted more than 16 years.

Conte was criticised after Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio suffered a knee injury during an Italy training session on Friday.

John Elkann, the head of the holding company which controls FIAT and Juventus, said the Italy coach worked the players too hard during training camps.

Conte was also reported to have received death threats on the internet and some reports said he had considered quitting before Saturday’s 2-2 Euro qualifying draw away to Bulgaria.

“Let us work, we need it. We have not much time, we will do the maximum to qualify, I can promise a great job by all of us,” Conte said.

“Hard work ought to be the norm but it’s an exception,” he added. “I’m told that I work too hard and I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Italy have managed five wins and two draws under Conte, yet the coach has never been far from controversy.

In February, there were also suggestions he could resign after clubs failed to reach an agreement to release their players for a planned training camp.

“We are going through a significant change in generation and we need a little patience,” said Conte, who is faced with a rebuilding job.

“We are trying to build something good and we need to allow players to settle in the national team without being rejected at the first opportunity.

“It was a strong emotion to go through the gate of the Juventus Stadium, entering the dressing room and going on to the pitch,” he added. “There were three fantastic, extraordinary years, with many indelible and exciting memories.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

A young woman missing from Bali is believed to have travelled to Syria and radical teachings have been discovered in the tourist island’s mosques, police say.


Bali police on Monday announced the formation of a special new taskforce to focus on investigating, capturing and de-radicalising extremists.

Investigators have already discovered that a woman from Denpasar travelled to Syria in a group of 16 people who left Indonesia in early March, police spokesman Hery Wiyanto said.

The 23-year-old woman referred to as “SA” married a man from Solo, Central Java, referred to as “M” in 2013, and her Bali family hasn’t seen her since.

“Up to now they haven’t been found,” Mr Hery said. “Both left for Syria from East Java taking their one year old child.

“We have asked SA’s parents and they say they don’t know where their daughter went after she married.” Police have also found indications of radical teachings in Quran recital groups visiting Bali from Malang and Jember, East Java.

Officers were urging people to report groups with radical and antisocial characteristics.

Part of the taskforce’s role will also be to find and block Islamic State-related websites.

Indonesian authorities have estimated that more than 500 citizens could be fighting with IS in the Middle East.

They are well aware of the threat they pose, as returned jihadis were behind the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Turkey recently detained 16 Indonesians who were caught trying to cross into Syria and it’s believed a chlorine bomb that detonated in a Jakarta mall last month – with no casualties – was the work of fighters returned from Syria.

An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman says they have yet to receive information from Bali police on their latest findings.



I felt the need to come here to France with my two daughters, Georgina and Philippa, and son-in-law, Michael, to represent the rest of our family back in Australia.

I have a need to see the crash site myself and pay my respects to my sister and my nephew.

My family suffers this loss terribly.

My brother-in-law and niece are too devastated to travel here today.

(Carol’s husband) Dave’s siblings have rallied around him at home to provide much needed support.

My two brothers are back in Australia still in denial.

We have decided to treat this as an accident at this stage and thus deny the perpetrator his wishes.

I now know the true meaning of the words “grief stricken”.

My sister, Carol, loving wife of Dave for 34 years and devoted mother of Alex and Greig.

She was the linchpin of the entire family. My life-long travelling companion and my mate of 63 years.

She was a unique and compassionate person, who always welcomed and accepted others, no matter their background.

Fortunately, her son inherited these same beautiful values, and was always thinking of others.

My nephew Greig was my Godson and my daughter’s special soul mate for their whole lives.

I would like to thank all those involved in getting us to France so quickly.

I would like to make special thanks to the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Foreign Affairs for their assistance, and to the captains and crews of the Lufthansa and Qantas flights.

The airline crews have been especially sincere and supportive in our journey over here.

Carol and Greig’s death has left a hole in our family that will probably never be filled.

In closing I would like to read something from Greig’s partner: “Life has taught us a tough lesson, the lesson being – enjoy every bit of what we have for we don’t know when it is going to be taken away from us.”

Senator Dean Smith has called on the Opposition to allow a conscience vote on free speech as calls to repeal parts of the Racial Discrimination Act gain momentum.


The Western Australian Liberal, best known for being the party’s first openly gay politician, also criticised Labor members for staying silent on what he described as a “racist” campaign by its NSW branch.

Speaking at a Freedom of Speech symposium hosted by classical liberal think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), Senator Smith dismissed claims of “radicalism” over his push to repeal the Racial Discrimination Act.

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“We don’t need the government to legislate to make us tolerant,” he said.

“I challenge the Labor Party to give their parliamentarians a conscience vote on free speech.”

Senator Smith also criticised his own government after proposed amendments to Section 18C of the Act were axed in August following widespread public backlash.

The proposed amendments – involving the removal of the words “insult”, “offend” and “humiliate” – also face threats from within the federal government with Liberal MPs threatening to cross the floor.

Senator Smith said he accepted that the priorities of the Abbott Government had changed, but he disagreed with the move.

‘It criminalises the holding of an opinion and that is wrong’

“I’ll never be convinced that it was the right decision at the time,” he said.

Senator Smith has publicly supported Bob Day’s push to water down the bill. He co-sponsored the Family First Senator’s private member’s bill alongside Cory Bernardi, while Queensland senator Ian Macdonald and West Australian senator Chris Back have also supported the bill.

Senator Smith said that ground in the Senate was “starting to shift” in regards to repealing parts of the Act, despite confirming speculation that the government was trying to stop its Senators from voting for the bill.

He said that Prime Minister Tony Abbott had said upper house members were free to vote how they felt on private member’s bills, but conceded that his leniency was “yet to be tested”.

“I suspect we would get seven or eight [Senators] after the budget,” he said.

Senator Smith described the bill as a “minimal proposal”, which would fix what he saw as the primary issue with the Act.

“It criminalises the holding of an opinion and that is wrong,” he said.

“… It doesn’t do anything to combat racism it merely serves to hide it, to conceal it. Racists and bigots should be free to air their ugly views, so they can be shown for what they are.”

‘It seems now that free speech is once again a battleground’

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson also stood by his calls to repeal parts of the Racial Discrimination Act, stating that the argument against reform was “simply absurd”.

Speaking at the CIS symposium, Mr Wilson argued that recent events such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks should have been a trigger for the government to revive the amendments.

“It remains a very serious disappointment that the federal government botched effort to reform this law last year,” he said.

“The federal government simply inadequately prepared the case for change.”

Mr Wilson also criticised government moves to crack down on hate speech, saying that criminalising it would be “as terrifying as Hizb ut-Tahrir themselves”.

He said such groups should be monitored rather than censored, as their views will remain constant.

“They are a group we should keep an eye on,” he said.

“Pushing them underground won’t help.”