Proposed hate speech laws a step too far

Reports of the Government’s proposed new hate speech laws go a step too far and risk sacrificing the freedoms New Zealanders enjoy, National’s Justice spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“The reforms are supposedly including protections to every ground listed in Section 21 of the Human Rights Act. That includes political belief.

“The definition of hate speech or incitement would include ‘the incitement of disharmony, based on an intent to stir up, maintain or normalise hatred, through threatening, abusive or insulting communications’.

“If these reforms pass, then insulting communications from a different political party could land you in jail.

“If we lose our liberal democracy we will end up with the type of New Zealand that the March 15 terrorist was trying to create.

“Freedom of speech in a democracy means having to tolerate the expression of diverse views, but there are some things like violent hate speech that are never acceptable.

“We need to be treading carefully when legislating against people’s thoughts. It shouldn’t be the Government’s role to dictate what people can and can’t say.

“Free speech works in both ways, you are entitled to your views and others are entitled to criticise those views.

“Legislation around hate speech can’t be rushed. We must do everything we can to suppress hate, but we can’t sacrifice our freedoms in doing so.”