Crimes Amendment

(Bills - Second Reading Debate, 19 June 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

The Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018 introduces four serious offences into the Crimes Act for publicly threatening or inciting violence against someone or a group of persons on the grounds of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or HIV/AIDS diagnosis. These offences will replace the serious vilification offences currently in the Anti-Discrimination Act. Everyone has the right to live their life with dignity and peace and without harassment and vilification. For some people, just because they are, for example, Jewish, Muslim or gay, there is always a real threat of verbal abuse or vicious attacks from another member of the public. At best this can be upsetting and at worst someone's sense of safety can be at serious risk.

New South Wales introduced anti-vilification laws on the grounds of race in the Anti-Discrimination Act in 1989. My predecessor, Clover Moore, added homosexuality to those grounds in 1993 and introduced the offence of serious vilification. Transgender status was added in 1996. When Clover Moore introduced her bill, she provided the House with atrocious examples of homophobic violence. Gay bashing was still a common thing in 1993. Although things have improved, gay, lesbian, bi, transgender and intersex people still regularly face slurs and threats of violence because of who they are. Inciting violence against LGBTI people still occurs. During the marriage equality campaign, my electorate office phones were turned off for two weeks due to the sheer volume of abusive calls. These included death threats and accusations of spreading AIDS. I still have a pile of hate mail that included some of the most offensive material aimed at LGBTI people I have ever seen. Police were so concerned about the nature of threats that they came to my office to assess safety risks and investigated a number of threats of violence.

It has long been a concern that despite certain groups still being the target of intimidation and threats based on their race, religion or LGBTI status, no prosecutions for serious vilification have been made. This bill will make it easier to charge and prosecute perpetrators. I welcome new powers for NSW Police to investigate acts that aim to encourage violence against a group of people just for the colour of their skin, the god they worship or who they love. However, I do have reservations about the loss of the offence of serious vilification because the terms "hatred", "contempt" and "severe ridicule" have not been replaced and there is no reference to harm to property. I understand that the simpler and clearer definition of "threatening or inciting violence" will be easier to apply to real situations of public prejudice-based harassment and intimidation. It would be helpful for the Attorney General to address how forms of serious vilification and harm to property that were covered by serious vilification will be covered in the new regime as part of his reply.

The move to criminalise hate‑based threats is in line with community standards. But more needs to be done to prevent abuse, harassment and discrimination of certain groups of people, particularly LGBTI people. The Australian Human Rights Commission June 2015 Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Rights report found that LGBTI people continue to experience serious discrimination and human rights abuses. It recommended that all States review their anti-discrimination laws to become more inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Intersex, for example, is not included as a ground for the vilification offence in the Anti-Discrimination Act. It should be added, as should religion. A full review with public submissions would enable the Government to identify gaps. This bill is a good start and I commend it to the House.

 

To read the speeches of other Members on the subject, click HERE.