The hate speech laws in NSW are set for a revision to address concerns about the rising threats of violence amid ongoing tensions related to the Gaza conflict. The current legislation, which criminalizes public threats or incitement of violence based on factors such as race, religion, or sexual orientation, is deemed ineffective in deterring such behavior, according to the state government.
On Tuesday, the Labor party introduced a bill to parliament aiming to eliminate a procedural hurdle in the criminal sanctions. Currently, the Director of Public Prosecutions must approve a case before it can proceed. The proposed changes seek to empower NSW Police to independently prosecute the offense without requiring additional approval. Individuals found guilty of this crime could face a maximum penalty of up to three years imprisonment and an $11,000 fine.
The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties opposed the changes when they were announced last week, advocating for education initiatives that deal with community tensions rather than the "blunt instrument of criminal law".
Council president Lydia Shelly said lowering the legal threshold for prosecutions will not make faith communities any safer from violence.
"Dragging people before the courts will not make communities safer," she said.
"Instead, lowering the threshold will potentially have a chilling effect on public discourse."
The bill will be debated in parliament next week.
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