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Tom Bathurst (NSW Law Reform Commission)

Reform of New South Wales’ hate-speech laws is closer after former state chief justice Tom Bathurst released draft options to strengthen the legislation, with religious and political leaders saying change couldn’t come soon enough. Source: The Australian.

The options paper from Mr Bathurst and the Law Reform Commission is a significant step in strengthening the provisions enclosed in section 93Z and provides a glimpse of how that could look.

Released in June, the paper was provided to religious bodies, who have until Friday to respond, before Mr Bathurst delivers his report to NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley, likely in July.

Hindu Council of Australia vice-president Surinder Jain said 93Z needed to be amended to allow for prosecutions against those who “spread hate and anti-Semitism”.

“Legislation must act as a deterrent against those calling for harm to Jewish people or any other Australian community,” he said; free speech was a “fundamental right” but hate speech was not.

Section 93Z outlaws “recklessly inciting violence (by a public act)” on the grounds of, among others, “race or religion”.

The options include expanding “public act” to “public place”, or replacing “incite” with terms like “promote” or “glorify”.

The latter is significant given direct incitement is difficult to prove, with a narrow and high threshold, although Mr Bathurst suggested a different amendment could instead address issues like the scope itself.

Mr Bathurst said retaining 93Z’s “recklessness” would encourage people to think about the consequences of “inflammatory remarks”, after some argued for its omission.

Introducing “hatred” into the code seemed unlikely, given concerns of “overreach”.

Rule of Law Institute of Australia vice-president Chris Merritt said it appeared the review was leaning towards “broadening incitement” to potentially incorporate indirect instances.

Mr Merritt said direct incitement was captured by 93Z but not broader, or “glorifying”, language that had similar effect.


Reform of NSW’s hate-speech laws draws near (By Alexi Demetriadi, The Australian)