Justice Minister confirms ACT's fears on hate speech

Fri, 28 Jun, 2019

“The Justice Minister’s admission this morning that he wants to follow the United Kingdom and strengthen our hate speech laws confirms ACT’s fears about the Government’s review of the law”, ACT Leader David Seymour says.

“Andrew Little suggested in a Stuff op-ed today that he wants to add new ‘protected categories’ to the Human Rights Act, strengthen its enforcement, and follow the UK’s lead on hate speech laws.

“All of this confirms what ACT has been saying since March: the Government wants criminalise opinions it deems offensive.

“Little’s admission that our hate speech law is seldom used shows he has two options: give it teeth or get rid of it.

“No person has been prosecuted under the ‘racial disharmony’ provisions of the Human Rights Act since 1979. Section 61 is ineffectual as it is, so the Government wants to strengthen it.

“In other words, we would end up with a true hate speech law. If the Government is half serious about doing what it has foreshadowed, we would find ourselves in a similar position to the UK. In that country, people are being detained for tweeting unpopular opinions.

“ACT believes a strengthened Human Rights Act would be dangerous, and we should therefore get rid of it completely.

“ACT’s Freedom to Speak Bill would repeal parts of the Human Rights Act and the Summary Offences Act which make it unlawful to make ‘insulting’ or ‘offensive’ statements. It would also specify that the Harmful Digital Communications Act applies only to victims under the age of 18. Online bullying of children is a real problem, but we should not allow the law to be used by adults to silence people they disagree with, as we have seen recently.

“Under the Freedom to Speak Bill, it would remain an offence to threaten or incite violence.

“Freedom of speech is a vital value. Being able to express a view of the world is uniquely human. Freely exchanging opinions gets us closer to the truth and allows us to make social progress. No government should be allowed to restrict a freedom of such fundamental importance.”