by SHIBU THOMAS
The NSW government on Friday ordered a review into the state’s hate crime laws.
Chairperson of the NSW Law Reform Commission and former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court Tom Bathurst AC KC has been appointed to conduct the review into the effectiveness of section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900.
The NSW government said it decided to review section 93Z after community groups raised questions about its effectiveness. Section 93Z makes it a crime to publicly threaten or incite violence against a person on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex or HIV/AIDS status.
The maximum punishment for the offence is up to 100 penalty points and/or imprisonment for three years.
Hate Speech Law Under Review
In November 2023, the Minns government enacted changes to the provision and gave police the power to charge person/s for hate speech without seeking prior approval from the Director of Public Prosecutions. This followed incidents of hate speech and threats directed at the Jewish community.
Earlier this month the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said it would initiate legal action over alleged hateful anti-Semitic speeches by Sydney-based Islamic preachers Wissam Haddad, “Brother Ismail”, “Brother Mohammed” and Sheik Ahmed Zoud.
“There is no place in NSW for hate speech or incitement to violence. We live in a multicultural society, and it is vital that we have laws that protect people who come from communities all around the world and call NSW home,” Premier Minns said in a statement.
“The widespread loss of life and impacts of war in the Middle East is traumatic for many families and communities. The impacts are felt deeply by many. The NSW Government is deeply committed to ensuring that all communities are able to live peacefully without fear of violence, or threats of violence.”
The Premier said that the review to be conducted by one of the state’s top and widely respected legal experts would “provide the community with confidence that our laws are operating effectively.”
According to Acting Attorney-General Ron Hoenig, the review was “an important step in ensuring we are strengthening our legal frameworks and working to promote social cohesion.”
‘Community Should Be Consulted’
“NSW has many support services in place for people experiencing vilification including access to help from the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and NSW Police. But if there is more to be done, we will do it, because we are committed to protecting our harmonious, multicultural community,” said Hoenig.
The Law Society of NSW welcomed the review as a “positive first step” to broader reform.
“The local flow on effects from international conflicts, are creating a heated and contentious environment for public discourse,” Brett McGrath, President of the Law Society of NSW said in a statement.
“Threats and incitement of violence, including those which are racially motivated or directed to adherents of certain religions, are entirely unacceptable. Such conduct risks undermining the strong multicultural fabric that underpins the success of the state of New South Wales,” McGrath said.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties expressed hope that the review would involve community consultation. “The law should not criminalise legitimate free speech,” Anne Charlton, Executive Officer, NSW Council for Civil Liberties said.
“NSWCCL is concerned that NSW Police have been given the power to launch prosecutions under section 93Z. NSW Police have not overcome entrenched hostility to some vulnerable communities, as demonstrated by the recent report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ hate crimes,” added Charlton.