NSW Council for Civil Liberties notes the review of s93Z of the Crimes Act to be conducted by the Honourable Tom Bathurst KC AC. NSWCCL hopes that the review will involve extensive community consultation and looks forward to being involved in that consultation.
New South Wales has strong “hate speech” laws that already criminalises speech that either intentionally or recklessly, threatens or incites violence against someone based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics. These laws should be seen in the context of both Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination laws which provide civil remedies in many circumstances. Resort to criminal law should always be a last resort. The law should not criminalize legitimate free speech.
NSWCCL is concerned that NSW Police have been given power to launch prosecutions under s 93Z. NSW Police have not overcome entrenched hostility to some vulnerable communities, as demonstrated by the recent report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ hate crimes.
If the legal threshold for criminal prosecutions is lowered, it will not make faith communities any safer from a perceived risk of violence or the risk of actual violence occurring. Lowering the threshold could substantially alter the fabric of our democracy.
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties has long been supportive of remedies for racial vilification. Extending these remedies to situations involving religious vilification involves sensitive considerations concerning the right to free speech, and we note that the Commonwealth government is expected to release proposals in the coming months. The Council supports educative and human rights based models that deal with community tensions rather than the blunt instrument of criminal law which give the police power to target vulnerable people in discriminatory ways.