Former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s proposal for more robust hate speech laws is a solution looking for a problem, according to ACT Leader David Seymour.
“On Q+A this evening, Clark admitted that protecting religious groups from hate speech wouldn’t have prevented the Christchurch terrorist attack.
“Her own Foundation’s report, released tonight, says ‘…it is difficult to establish a causal link between online hate speech and violence.’
“Why, then, do we need additional laws that would further undermine New Zealanders’ right to freedom of expression?
“New Zealand already has tools available to deal with speech that incites violence or offences which are targeted at particular groups.
“Adding new groups to our hate speech laws will create division and further criminalise speech.
“Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen Hobson’s Pledge the subject of a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, a One Law for All pamphlet denounced by the Justice Minister, and an anti-Islam pamphlet investigated by Police. This shows how easily hate speech laws could become weaponised.
“Besides, it isn’t obvious that religion should be treated in the same way as race. Race is an immutable characteristic, whereas religion is a set of ideas. We shouldn’t restrict debate about, and criticism of, religion.
“The idea that a government agency should make arbitrary judgements of what is and isn’t a reasonable opinion for people to express is counter to the Bill of Rights Act, which says: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.’
“If the Government broadens our hate speech laws, we will see more New Zealanders hauled before authorities for expressing their political views. That would be deeply divisive.”