NSW hate speech laws to be toughened to stop violent threats online or in the street
After years of widespread community campaigning, the New South Wales Government will move to strengthen the state’s “ineffective” hate speech laws.
Under the proposed legislation introduced to Parliament today, individuals who incite violence against a community or person based on their race could face up to three years in prison and an $11,000 fine.
The bill, if passed, will create a new offence in the Crimes Act of “publicly threatening or inciting violence” on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex or HIV/AIDS status.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman said current provisions in the Anti-Discrimination Act have been ineffective in prosecuting people accused of encouraging violence and have not led to a successful prosecution in 30 years.
“We are very serious with these laws and we will throw the book at anyone who breaches them,” he said.
Mr Speakman said there had been a reluctance to use the existing laws because of “procedural hurdles” and the “convoluted wording” of the legislation.
He said the new laws would apply to speech on social media and “anything that is available to the public whether it is transmitted electronically or physically in the street”.
“Free speech does not include the right to incite or threaten violence based on peoples’ characteristics,” he said.
“This has nothing to do with saying things that are controversial, with robust debate, with intense criticism of other groups, this is about stopping violence.
The legislation will abolish offences in the Anti-Discrimination Act that currently carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
‘It makes us all a whole lot safer’
Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who introduced a similar bill to Parliament earlier this year, welcomed the announcement.
“For too long some in the Liberal Party have confused freedom of speech with race hate,” he said.
“Tough new laws will send a signal to the likes to the extremist fringe that their brand of racism is no longer tolerated under the law.”
Keep NSW Safe spokesperson Vic Alhadeff has campaigned for tougher hate-speech laws for three years.
He said the changes would “plug a gap” in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
“This Government has drawn a very important line in the sand and they have made it very clear that incitement to violence is against the law,” he said.
Mr Alhadeff said moving the offence within the Crimes Act makes an “unequivocal” statement.
“It quite frankly makes us all a whole lot safer,” he said.