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The Government is set to introduce harsher hate speech laws

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The Government plans to introduce harsher penalties for hate speech, as it drafts laws amid a rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
The Government plans to introduce harsher penalties for hate speech in draft laws.

The Government is planning to strengthen hate speech laws by criminalising insults based on gender, sexuality, race, and religion.

It comes amid increased reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

The Government put its hate speech laws on hold in February, but has now said it will introduce new legislation in Parliament later this year.

Context

The former Morrison Government attempted to pass a Religious Discrimination Act, which featured some protections from hate speech, before the 2022 election. However, it failed to pass.

After the election, the Albanese Government promised to introduce similar legislation.

However, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he would not pass the reforms without bipartisan support and parked the proposed legislation.

Since then, the Government has decided to split up the legislation into two parts. This involves the hate speech components and the religious discrimination laws.

Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan said the Opposition would work with the Government on the hate speech laws. He added antisemitism in Australia needed to be addressed.

Hate speech laws

The Government now plans to table legislation that would create criminal penalties for hate speech. That would be beyond the civil penalties that currently exist.

In a statement to TDA, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said: “We are committed to protecting the community from those who promote extremism, hatred or seek to incite violence.”

The drafting of the law is still underway, but it is expected to be tabled in August.

LGBTQ+, disability, ethnic group, and women’s advocates have been consulted by the Government on the proposed changes to the hate speech laws.

Shadow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash was shown the draft legislation in February, but the details haven’t been made public. She criticised the process as a “mess entirely of the Government’s making”.

Melbourne school

Pressure is building for the Government to strengthen hate speech laws in the wake of rising antisemitism and Islamophobia since the war in Gaza began.

Late last week, the front fence at a Jewish school in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs was vandalised with an antisemitic phrase.

Victoria Police are investigating who is behind the graffiti, saying it “takes reports of racial or religious-based crime extremely seriously”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there is “no place for this in Australia or anywhere else”.

Jewish Labor MP Josh Burns, whose seat is in Melbourne, urged the broader community and leaders to call out the “blatant antisemitism”.

Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson labelled the graffiti “sickening”. She added: “The ugly tide of antisemitic hate and incitement in our community must stop.”

Islamophobia

The Islamophobia Register Australia said the number of incidents reported to it “has continued to spike at an alarming rate”.

The Register highlighted a 39-fold rise in reported incidents on university campuses around the country compared to figures prior to 7 October.

The Register said it “is deeply concerned about this surge and its impact on Muslim students, staff, and faculty”.

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