This week, the NSW government changed the hate speech laws and those around threats of violence. Following their growing concerns over the rising number of protests recently, the government enacted the new bill. It makes it easier to prosecute any offender after police charge them with public threatening or insighting violence against an individual or group based on race, religion, or other attributes.
Issues with previous hate speech laws
Over the last few years, government officials have grown concerned about the length of time it takes to refer these crimes to the Director of Public Prosecutions. By the time they can prosecute a criminal of this type, months go by. Hence, the government wants to tighten the laws around hate speech and threats to incite violence. They said the criminal provisions brought in five years ago are not resulting in successful prosecutions.
As a result, NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said he is removing a provision in Section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900. Daley confirmed that this removal will help speed up and streamline the prosecution of of violent threats. Specifically, the government are removing the requirement that the DDP must approve these prosecutions.
Section 93Z of the Crimes Act
In 2018, the government introduced Section 93Z of the Crimes Act. It states that it is illegal to "intentionally or recklessly threaten or incite violence" against another through a public act. Usually, the accused targets another because of their race, religious beliefs or affiliation, sexual orientation or other characteristics.
Under this section, penalties include three years imprisonment or an $11,000 fine. However, the government state that under this law there have been no lasting convictions.
Threat to freedom of speech?
Daley explained that there is a balancing act between the freedom of speech and protecting others against hate speech and the violence that sometimes follows it. However, the opposition stated that this law must not endanger freedom of speech.
NSW Police are currently still looking into a protest held on October 9th outside the Sydney Opera House. Police believe that one of the chants could be represented as a threat or incitement to kill against Jewish people.
On Sunday, the government also announced the start of a new law. This makes it illegal to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for or severe ridicule for another based on their religion, sex, race or other factor. However, these are not criminal matters. Instead, the public can make complaints to Anti-Discrimination NSW.