NSW Attorney-General introduces laws to criminalise incitement to violence

NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard
Tuesday, 5 June 2018 Legislative Assembly- PROOF Page 29

LAW AND ORDER

Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH (Coogee) (15:14:0): My question is addressed to the Attorney General. What is the New South Wales Government doing to protect communities from incitement to violence?

Mr MARK SPEAKMAN (Cronulla—Attorney General) (15:14): I thank the member for Coogee for this question and congratulate him on his championing of the vibrant and diverse communities that make up his electorate. There is no more important job for government than keeping communities safe, and this Government has delivered on that job in spades…………..

The Government has introduced into the Crimes Act a new offence of assault causing death, and an aggravated version of that offence where it is committed when the offender is intoxicated. The Government has introduced a major package of criminal justice reforms to the high-risk offenders framework, sentencing and parole, which passed through the Parliament in October last year.

The list goes on and on, and today the Government has added to that list. Government members have listened and acted. The Government has listened to the many groups who were consulted on this new offence. The Government has listened to those groups who have let the Government know their real fears that threats and incitements to violence create in their communities. The Government has listened to the Keep NSW Safe coalition, consisting of 31 community groups and leaders. I particularly congratulate the spokesman for that group, Mr Vic Alhadeff, for his unfailing advocacy and service to the community on this issue.

Ms Gladys Berejiklian: He is in the gallery.

Mr MARK SPEAKMAN: Good on you, Vic. The Government listened to those who have spoken through the 2013 Legislative Council Sanding Committee on Law and Justice report, “Racial vilification law in NSW”. The Government listened to the stakeholders consulted by Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian for his 2017 “Report on consultation on serious vilification laws in NSW”. I thank Dr Kerkyasharian for his contribution. The Government has listed and has acted. Today the Government is protecting our diverse and vibrant communities like those in Coogee by introducing the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018 to this House. If passed, this bill will protect individuals and groups in our communities from those who would incite or threaten violence against them.

The bill will insert into the Crimes Act a new offence of publicly threatening or inciting violence on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex or HIV/AIDS status. The new offence will be punishable by up to three years imprisonment and an $11,000 fine or, in the case of a corporation, a $55,000 fine. It will replace other serious vilification offences presently in the Anti-Discrimination Act. The incitement of violence towards people because of who they are or what they believe is simply unacceptable. After this legislation passes, jail time will be a real option for individuals who threaten our community safety in this way.

This legislation repeals four old, ineffective serious vilification offences in the Anti-Discrimination Act. It replaces them with one offence in the Crimes Act, with a punishment six times greater than under the existing Act. The bill resets our laws. It dismantles the significant barriers to prosecuting the appalling and sometimes vile actions of those who would incite violence. Freedom of speech is the bedrock of our liberal democracy, but so too is freedom from fear. The Government draws the line at those who publicly threaten or incite violence against other people. [Extension of time] No-one in our community—whatever their race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, or intersex or HIV/AIDS status—should be in fear of someone else inciting or threatening violence against them. No-one should be in any doubt that this Government puts community safety first and will throw the book at anyone who threatens or incites violence like that. This Government will not tolerate that sort of behaviour. This Government is committed to protecting our diverse and vibrant communities like those in Coogee for the benefit of all New South Wales residents.