Labor pushes for tougher hate laws

NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton with Vic Alhadeff (on left) and Jeremy Spinak.

THE NSW Labor Opposition has introduced legislation to stop hate speech in NSW, and accused the state government of sitting on its hands instead of fixing the state’s “broken” anti-vilification laws.

Labor’s bill – based on the recommendations of the government’s own December 2013 parliamentary inquiry into the racial vilification laws – proposes to allow hate speech to be investigated by police, to extend the period in which prosecutions can be laid up to 12 months, and to remove the need for the Attorney-General’s consent to prosecute.

It also calls for recklessness to be made a basis for prosecution, to include “imputed race” as a basis for prosecution, to move the offence of hate speech into the Crimes Act, and to lower the bar for prosecution if the offence occurs when a person promotes (rather than incites) hatred towards a person on racial, transgender, homosexual or HIV/AIDS grounds.

In October last year, NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton publicly admitted that Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which covers criminal offences of serious racial vilification, is not working and said she would introduce legislation by the first half of this year to fix it.

Asked this week if she will support the Labor bill, Upton told The AJN simply, “The government is currently considering Labor’s bill.”

Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch said the parliamentary inquiry’s recommendations were “sensible and reasonable” proposals, but the government has “simply sat on its hands”.

“In the absence of any real government activity, I have introduced a bill to reform this law. The government won’t act so the Opposition has to,” he said.

NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council Walt Secord called on the Baird government to support the legislation.

Stating that the bill’s amendments “would give genuine teeth” to the anti-race hate laws in NSW, he said, “There have been about 30 separate cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but there has not been a single prosecution in NSW for racial vilification or advocating violence against members of the community on the basis of their race, gender or sexual orientation.

“Clearly, the laws [need] to be improved.”

Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff congratulated the NSW Labor Opposition on the “important stand it has taken, and for proposing a substantive solution that reflects the seriousness of the issue”.

“The provisions of this bill are very much along the lines that the Board of Deputies has been proposing for the last 20 years,” he said.

“These proposed changes should be widely supported by all ethnic communities, uniting against hate speech.”

EVAN ZLATKIS