State govt reviewing report into 20D

legislation Former NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian.

COMMUNITY groups have reaffirmed their commitment to bringing about reform to the state’s race-hate legislation, vowing “we will not stop until change is made”.

The pledge comes after the state government received a report last week from former NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian, detailing his months of consultation with community groups over Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.

In 2015, the government acknowledged that no one has been successfully prosecuted under Section 20D since it was inserted in the Act in 1989, and that the Act is “not working as intended”.

Earlier this year, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the government is committed to obtaining the views from the community on this issue, and Kerkyasharian was tasked with undertaking a wide-ranging consultation with community groups across NSW.

“There was concern that people need to be protected from the consequences of vilification, that was very clear,” Kerkyasharian told The AJN this week.

Speakman said, “I will study the report carefully, but I am keen to resolve the section 20D issue as quickly as possible.”

The Keep NSW Safe coalition, which comprises 31 leading groups, is arguing that Section 20D is “weak”, and “does not effectively reach those who set out to promote racist violence”.

It is calling for a section to be inserted into the NSW Crimes Act which says it will be regarded as a crime if you intentionally or recklessly promote violence against a person or group of people based on race, colour or ethnic origin; religious belief; homosexuality; HIV/AIDS; transgender identity or if the people are members of the Australian Defence Force, law enforcement or intelligence agency or various other categories.

It is also calling for the penalty to be increased from six months to seven years.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak said: “The government is moving in the right direction and we now look forward to an exposure draft being presented very soon. 

“We need proper and meaningful protections against those who would promote or advocate violence on the basis of race.” 

EVAN ZLATKIS