The government has declared its intention to make hate speech a Crimes Act offence and to increase the penalties for inciting hatred or discrimination.
It has announced a public consultation on proposed changes to the Human Rights Act 1993
“… to strengthen protections against speech that incites hatred and discrimination; and seeking New Zealanders’ views about how they would make New Zealand more socially cohesive”.
Writer George Orwell would have relished the language applied by Beehive spin doctors to describing the objective. The government is launching a “social cohesion programme to address incitement of hatred and discrimination”.
We imagine this is not intended to discourage or eliminate discrimination of the sort that bestows favours or privileges when the government promotes an “us” and “them” society through the increasing development of Crown-Maori partnerships.
Treating Maori and non-Maori separately is reflected in a raft of policies, as evidenced (for example) in the latest announcement on the Infrastructure Acceleration Fund.
Final decisions had yet to be made on how the full Housing Acceleration Fund would be used, Housing Minister Megan Woods said this week, but $350 million has been ring-fenced for a Māori Infrastructure Fund.
So where is a fund that has been ring-fenced for other ethnicities?
The government and its supporters will insist this is “positive” discrimination which makes it an acceptable arrangement – a necessary one, even – under the Treaty of Waitangi, although it seems to be at odds with today’s announcement of a significant programme of work to create a safer, more inclusive society.
The programme is part of the response to recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques and builds on existing initiatives by government “to strengthen social cohesion”.
The Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment, Priyanca Radhakrishnan said:
“Our diversity extends across ethnicity, culture, gender identities and expressions, religion, values and beliefs, ages, disabilities, sexual orientation, and the structure of our families.
“We are stronger as a nation because of this diversity but to maximise that strength, we need to create a society where our diverse communities are able to access opportunities, and express differences of opinion in a way that is safe.”
The Treaty of Waitangi – a three-clause document capable of being interpreted to justify whatever a government says it wants to do when Maori are affected – looms large in considerations.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said:
“The context for creating a socially cohesive society in Aotearoa New Zealand is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Te Ao Māori perspectives and the Māori-Crown relationship.”
He acknowledged that protecting our right to freedom of expression but balancing it with protections against ‘hate speech’
“…is something that requires careful consideration and a wide range of input.”
Public submissions are open from 25 June to 6 August 2021.
Among other announcements, the government has recognised it was somewhat miserly with the help it initially offered in the aftermath of the Canterbury flood. It has dipped into its money box and come up with $4 million to support flood-affected farmers.
Oh – and let the record show that Phil Twyford has delivered two speeches related not to his arms control portfolio but to his trade responsibilities.
Latest from the Beehive
The Government is launching a significant programme of work to strengthen social cohesion in New Zealand and create a safer, more inclusive society.
Today it is announcing public consultation on the latest programme of work on proposed changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 to strengthen protections against speech that incites hatred and discrimination; and seeking New Zealanders’ views about how they would make Aotearoa New Zealand more socially cohesive.
The Ministry of Justice is seeking public feedback on proposed changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 that aim to strengthen protections against speech that incites hatred and discrimination.
The Ministry of Social Development will lead a programme talking to the public about whether there are changes people would like to see to make Aotearoa New Zealand more socially cohesive, and what success might look like.
Public submissions for both work programmes are open from 25 June to 6 August 2021.
Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.