28 Jun 2021

Hate speech law proposals: Jacinda Ardern calls on opposition parties to work together

12:57 pm on 28 June 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she hopes opposition parties will engage in a meaningful debate over proposed changes to the country's hate speech laws.

image_crop:114292:full] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says bipartisan support is crucial for hate speech laws.

The government wants to introduce harsher penalties for hate speech including up to three years of jail time and fines up to $50,000, as part of its response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque attacks.

The National and ACT parties have come out against the plans, calling the changes "Orwellian" and "cancel culture on steroids".

Ardern told Morning Report the proposal was about strengthening what laws the country already had in place.

"We already have provisions to deal with what I describe - you know some call it hate speech - I'd call it extreme speech.

"The debate is whether or not in the aftermath of what we've experienced on March 15 we need to include the likes of religion, and that is something the Royal Commission did recommend we extend to.

"So I would reach out to those across all sides of the House and say, look, given we have been called on to do this, I'd very interested in what their view is and what they would see as being a way to make sure that we are bringing in those who were at the most extreme end of an experience."

The opposition parties argue putting political opinion into the legislation created concerns, and there needed to be clarity over who would decide what the threshold for that was.

Ardern said they were simply putting out for debate what should be included and what should not be.

"Because at the moment under our human rights legislation, it covers discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, on sexual orientation, on disability, we haven't included absolutely every provision.

"The question we've asked is - because keep in mind this is a discussion document - what groups should be included and what groups should not.

"I would much rather our opposition parties work with us to try and create legislation that responds to the extreme event [15 March] we had in New Zealand."

She said the government would not be the ones determining whether a person's speech crossed the political opinion threshold, but rather law enforcement.

She agreed that bipartisan support was crucial for a legislation like this.

"What I would just encourage is for them to debate what's infront of them and just acknowledge why we're doing this."

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