Submission: Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023

We support the Government’s ambition to reduce hate speech, violence and threats against diversity in Australia. However, we hold concerns about the Bill in its present form.

The amendments to the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), in the Bill offer in part a symbolic solution to the risk posed by neo-Nazi and other extremist groups in Australia, and in part over-reach by over-generalised application. Criminalisation of harmful ideologies can only be part of the response – what is required is an appropriately resourced whole of government response to extremism and radicalisation. Whilst the criminal law may be the bluntest instrument at the disposal of the State, it is one of the least useful.

NSWCCL’s main concerns with the Bill are that it:

a. Does not strike an appropriate balance between freedom of speech and restrictions on promotion of violent extremist attitudes. Several provisions in the Bill are unnecessary and therefore unjustifiable impositions on important human rights, including freedom of speech and the implied freedom of political communication, and also freedom of religion;

b. Gives broad powers to police to exercise their discretion in determining what uses are ‘contrary to the public interest’. This is particularly concerning in the context of the Islamic State flag provisions, given the lack of nuanced understanding outside of the Muslim community about the text used in that flag and its religious significance;

c. Expands the scope of section 80.2C offences and increases the corresponding penalty, which is both unnecessary and enlivens a problematic regime, being the post-sentence detention orders regime, that is itself contrary to human rights and the rule of law; and

d. Removes sunset clauses from instruments which list current terrorist organisations. This is problematic because sunset clauses are an important means of ensuring that legislation (including delegated legislation) is subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. This is particularly important where the instrument affects human rights.

Read our submission here.