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Tauranga MP voices hate speech law concerns

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Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has spoken of his belief that freedom of speech is a fundamental right in light of the Government’s release for public consultation on its long-awaited plan for the laws governing hate speech.

Hate speech will become a criminal offence and anyone convicted could face harsher punishment, under proposed legislative changes.

The plan is part of the government's work to strengthen social cohesion, in response to the Royal Commission of inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says abusive or threatening speech that incites can divide communities.

"Building social cohesion, inclusion and valuing diversity can also be a powerful means of countering the actions of those who seek to spread or entrench discrimination and hatred."

Protecting free speech and protecting people from hate speech will require careful consideration and a wide range of input, Faafoi says.

Whilst Bridges says the National Party would need to see the law in writing before taking a conclusive position they oppose the criminalizing of speech except in cases of incitement to violence, something he says is already provided for in New Zealand law.

“We are not ruling out supporting sensible changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 like perhaps updating the groups covered by anti-discrimination law, but we would need to see the law in writing before taking a conclusive position,” says the National Party’s Justice spokesperson.

“In any case, Minister Faafoi’s proposed Hate Speech law changes seek to change a lot more.

“The Prime Minister has already begun mischaracterising the proposed law changes by framing them as simply adding ‘religion’ as a protected group in light of the Royal Commission. I encourage all New Zealanders to read the six proposals for themselves because these laws reach much further than that.

The government is considering creating a new, clearer hate speech offence in the Crimes Act, removing it from the Human Rights Act.

That would mean anyone who "intentionally stirs up, maintains or normalises hatred against a protected group" by being "threatening, abusive or insulting, including by inciting violence" would break the law.

The punishment for hate speech offences could also increase - from up to three months' imprisonment or a fine of up to $7000, to up to three years' imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000.

The groups protected from hate speech could also grow - the government is considering changing the language and widening the incitement provisions in the Human Rights Act.

It has not yet decided which groups will be added. That is expected to happen following public consultation.

It is currently only an offence to use speech that will "excite hostility" or "bring into contempt" a person or group on the grounds of their colour, race or ethnicity. Gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability aren't protected grounds.

“The National Party encourages open debate and discussion as this leads to people being better informed and able to form their own opinions,” says Bridges.

“Democracy relies on the ability of people to speak freely and in turn others are, of course, free to disagree.

“Protecting free speech does not mean that there isn’t speech that I find abhorrent. We are all offended by a variety of things. However, it would be complete overreach to criminalise people, throw them in jail for up to three years, because they caused offence.”

The government is proposing several changes to the civil provision of the Human Rights Act, including making it illegal to incite others to discriminate against a protected group.

It also wants to amend the Human Rights Act to ensure trans, gender-diverse and intersex people are protected from discrimination.

The Ministry of Social Development will simultaneously consult with the public about what can be done to make New Zealand more socially cohesive.

Public submissions open today and close on August 6. The government's discussion document includes steps on how to submissions.

- Additional reporting/RNZ

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response to Robin Bell.

Posted on 29-06-2021 17:28 | By morepork

I have never labelled you (or anyone else here) as anything, and I don’t descend to ad hominem attacks when debating. You and I have disagreed on numerous occasions but it has generally been civilized. I respect your right to an opinion, whether I agree with it or not. You say that: "The need of some to listen to vitriolic, inciteful rhetoric has to be controlled," but that is unrealistic. It CAN’T be controlled by legislation. The best we can do is teach people to DEAL with it. There will ALWAYS be people who voice unpleasant and hateful opinions. You won’t change minds by passing Laws against it and it has already failed overseas. The bottom line is that WORDS are physically harmless while ACTIONS are not. You CAN (and should) legislate ACTIONS, but speaking your mind should NEVER be a criminal offence, in a FREE Society.

There are far too many

Posted on 27-06-2021 08:39 | By earlybird

angry people out there who are ready and willing to spew out their nasty comments, so I personally welcome this new law. Long overdue for people to just calm down a bit.

Morepork, thank you

Posted on 26-06-2021 17:58 | By R. Bell

for the kind words, a rarity on here. I agree it is political, but only on the part of yourself and most other commenters. I have been labeled a left wing extremist in spite of the fact that in the last three elections I voted National twice and Labour once, funny that. The problem here is not political it is social. The need of some to listen to vitriolic, inciteful rhetoric has to be controlled, it is in societies best interest regardless of those who see it as an attack on their freedom, which of course it’s not. I for one don’t allow insult in but we are talking about very young impressionable people, who may go on to commit terrorism such as we saw in Christchurch. Perhaps instead of constant criticism of the government, use a little common sense.

@Robin Bell

Posted on 26-06-2021 16:01 | By morepork

Surprisingly perhaps, I completely agree with your post regarding the importance of Free Speech and the fact that causing insult should not be a criminal offence. They say it is impossible to insult an honest man; he knows whether what is said is lies and dismisses it, and if it is true, then it needs to be addressed. I take your point about cowards acting in the shadows, on rhetoric that they are too stupid to recognize as falsehood or to promote their own agenda. (It becomes a worry when GOVERNMENT are guilty of this...) BUT, you don’t solve this with legislation. You solve it by making sure that ANY criminal ACTIONs (NOT words...) are jumped on hard, and the words are refuted just as vehemently as they were presented in the many channels available. It has gone too far and "Political Correctness" is exactly that: Political.

Hate speech...

Posted on 26-06-2021 15:48 | By morepork

... is a nonsense. It happened because people are no longer taught to think straight, evaluate, and decide for themselves whether they agree with something or they don’t; Instead they "go with the flow" and anyone who disagrees is shouted down or labelled as Hate Speech. Issues are not presented for fair consideration and debate, and the entire fabric of the Democratic right to an opinion is being quietly and secretively dismantled to the advantage of Political interest. There are already adequate laws against slander, libel, and criminal incitement. Our forefathers fought and died so we could have the right to speak our minds in a Free society. NOBODY can be damaged by what someone SAYS, unless they ALLOW themselves to be. Don’t like it? Then refute it and have YOUR say. The Kiwi way is a Fair Go and a Fair Say. We don’t need Nanny.

No Speech Law

Posted on 26-06-2021 14:44 | By

This “law” is nothing more than an attempt by the government to silence people it doesn’t agree with. It’s bad enough now without such laws with the hounding of people through social media. Just look at what happened to Ollie Robinson during the first cricket test against New Zealand earlier this month. Hounded out of the England team by a baying lynch mob of woke lefties. Now on leave from his country cricket club due to mental health issues. Can you imagine this lynch mob with laws in place to support their summary executions?

speech

Posted on 26-06-2021 11:45 | By dumbkof2

if you have a view that dosnt please the trendies and lefties you will go to jail

Crisis

Posted on 26-06-2021 11:13 | By

There is no doubt whatsoever we are facing a democratic crisis in NZ as this socialist government runs roughshod over our entire lives. Irrespective of the majority Labour had at the election it doesn’t constitute a mandate for such wholesale change. 2 years until the next National government and I cringe at what damage she will inflict on us in the interim.

Stand back and look

Posted on 26-06-2021 09:52 | By

George Orwell would be so proud. We’re being told how to live our lives by a left wing government. How many times have we been told what we can and can’t do and what we should and shouldn’t do...? How many items are going to be banned because someone else thinks that they’re bad for you or that it’s going to save the planet...? How many industries are going to be TOLD how to run their business...?How many long standing democratic systems are going to be scrapped because the general public aren’t educated enough to be trusted...?

It doesn't work

Posted on 26-06-2021 09:01 | By

Trying to suppress legitimate opinions and debate and calling anything "hate speech" if it doesn’t fit with the left wing world view simply doesn’t work. Anders Breivik springs to mind.

Long overdue.

Posted on 26-06-2021 08:48 | By R. Bell

The freedom to speak our minds with impunity is fundamental to democracy. Since the development of the internet and media freedom for people to hide behind pseudonyms, insult and deliberate incitement has become epidemic. Causing offence is not the issue as Simon well knows, the danger lies in the action and reaction to blatant lies and insult, perpetrated by largely gutless people who don’t have the strength to stand in public forum. Hate speech has become a business for many. Time to end it and send it back to the gutter.

Not Good

Posted on 25-06-2021 21:17 | By Told you

This is a very worrying as it curtails freedom of speech and makes you hesitate to broach a subject that may be controversial.