Friday, 16 April 2021

Minister Must Say If He's Parked Hate Speech Laws


“Introducing hate speech laws, as described in a Cabinet paper reported by Newsroom, would take human rights and our ability to problem solve as a country backwards,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“After saying the laws are not currently a priority on Tuesday, the Justice Minister must now say if the ideas in this Cabinet paper will ever see the light of day.

“Freedom of expression is protected in the Bill of Rights Act, but many people already feel unable to express themselves for fear of pile-ons, cancellation, and de-platforming. The worst thing the State could do at this time is join the pile on by passing hate speech laws.

"Reports are that speech will go into the Crimes Act, with a three year penalty. Normally going to jail for your beliefs is something we associate with evil regimes, not the Ardern Government, but here we are. The Minister needs to say if this is serious or not.

“Some, including those sympathetic to the laws, will say that there is little chance of a prosecution under hate speech laws. Whether they are right or wrong, these hate speech laws should not progress. If they are right there’s no point, if they’re wrong, people are going to be jailed for having an unpopular opinion.

“The proposal reported today is that  ‘the incitement of disharmony, based on an intent to stir up, maintain or normalise hatred, through threatening, abusive or insulting communications. This should include calls for violence against groups.’

“The word ‘insulting’ was removed from the UK Public Order Act in 2013, after mass public protest. It was the worst example of a theme, highly subjective criteria for serious penalties including imprisonment.

“The rule of law requires that people can understand the law, and know what the penalties for breaching it might be. It is written down so that it applies equally to everyone. The proposal in the Cabinet paper is so subjective that it is incompatible with the rule of law. People can’t know if they’re guilty to the point of conviction, because the criteria are not only subjective but politically charged. Whether you’re guilty of hate speech depends on what you believe.

“The inclusion of gender identity is a major mistake. There are legitimate issues of debate surrounding gender identity. The Human Rights Commission has recently defined lesbians as people of either biological sex who are attracted to women. Many lesbians are livid at this. Should this be debatable, or would any questioning be construed as an insult likely to maintain hatred?

“The criteria described in the Cabinet paper were described in a July 9 letter from Kris Faafoi to me. My response is here.

“Tonight I will be in Whangarei for the third of my 14-stop Free Speech Tour. It is crucial that New Zealanders are united behind freedom of speech.”