I am more alarmed today by the proposed hate speech laws than I was on Friday when they released.
Simply because it is now clear that key government figures don’t understand their own laws – meaning they don’t understand what they’re about to do.
This morning in a TV interview, the Prime Minister made several inaccurate statements about what the law is going to do.
First, she said this new law isn’t changing much. We already have a law that punishes people if they incite violence against people of certain nationalities and ethnicities, and all they’re doing is expanding that to include religion and so on.
“We're expanding the group, it's not about lowering the threshold.”
Wrong. Not true at all. This is substantially lowering the bar
Under the current law people only get prosecuted if they incite violence. Under the proposed law people will get prosecuted for insulting protected groups.
It’s in the discussion document, it says: “"The law would change so that a person who intentionally incites, stirs up, maintains or normalises hatred against any specific group of people … would break the law if they did so by being threatening, abusive or insulting”.
Insulting is a very, very low bar.
Secondly, the Prime Minister said ‘political opinion’ won’t fall under the protection of this law
“In the interview from the Nation, they implied political opinion was included, it is not"
Wrong. That is not true. Her government’s own discussion document says political opinion may be included.
Now, you will have heard the Justice Minister Kris Faafoi fumbling round on our show on Friday on this. The same thing happened on Newshub on Saturday.
He couldn’t give specifics, he couldn’t answer questions, and what answers he was forced to give were alarming: he admitted millennials who stir hatred against boomers might go to jail.
I can’t believe Faafoi and the PM would deliberately try to mislead us with inaccuracies so we don’t get alarmed at what these laws will do.
So more likely, neither of them understand what they’re proposing to do, which means they don’t know how bad this law is.
They should take a look, because many of us who have looked are not comfortable.
Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.
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