Racial vilification legislation

Legislative Council Hansard – 20 June 2018


The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (16:55): I am pleased to support the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018. I believe it is an important priority for this Parliament. I note—as previous Labor speakers have—that it reflects the attempts we made in 2016, as well as the evidence of similar attempts in theNotice Paper, to raise these issues and it is a pity that this has taken some time. I welcome the Government's actions in the bill's specifics and its general intent. I refer specifically to four changes in the bill that go to the heart of the new provisions, all of which are welcome, and the fact that these are being moved in the Crimes Act rather than in the Anti-Discrimination Act. I welcome the increase in penalties to a maximum of three years, and I welcome that prosecution can only be commenced with the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] rather than the Attorney General. The fourth change I specifically welcome is that police will be able to conduct these investigations directly. They are four specific elements of this legislation that are at the heart of the approach that has been taken.

I agree with the previous speakers, including Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, who have observed that they are happy to support this bill because it is about violence, and not necessarily an imposition on free speech. It is not about hurt feelings. We have to be very careful where we draw those lines. I am very comfortable with where the lines are drawn in this bill, putting violence and the incitement to violence squarely before this Parliament and enabling us to say we are opposed to that where it occurs. I briefly refer to some comments from the 2016 debates, because it was a pity that the then Attorney General, in opposing a similar bill, said this:

"The Government cannot support this bill without knowing where the people of New South Wales stand on it—"

The community campaign, which has been referred to already in this debate, and the 31 groups that support it makes it clear where the community stands on this issue. I was disappointed to see that but I welcome the fact that the current Attorney General has taken a different view. The contribution of the member for Epping in that debate was less helpful. I note his comment in the debate on the previous bill where he said:

"I stand here as an extremist—"

I will let that speak for itself but I will deal directly with two of his other comments.

He went on to state:

"The Leader of the Opposition seems to be suggesting that if members of the community are not being prosecuted by the Government there is a problem. It is almost has though he is willing people to be prosecuted."

That is not the case; it is not that we are seeking prosecutions. We simply believe that peace is best secured through vigilance and by this Parliament strongly indicating its values and the community's values. The third element of the speech of the member for Epping that I will address is his reliance on the British philosopher John Stuart Mill for his defence, and I was encouraged by that. He provided the following quote from Mill:

"Truth and the best long-term consequences are most likely to emerge when people are free to say anything short of advocating physical harm to others."

That was the philosophy used to oppose this bill or a very similar previous bill. That argument is precisely what we are dealing with now; that is, the prospect of people advocating physical harm to others. That is the exception that John Stuart Mill referred to and it is the exception we should act upon. The quote the member for Epping used in his contribution to that debate is the reason this legislation is unanimously supported.

Other speakers have referred to the Keep NSW Safe campaign, and I congratulate the campaigners on their untiring efforts. I also acknowledge Vic Alhadeff, who is in the gallery. It is a remarkable coalition that in part reflects his personal work in assembling it. Why was that campaign important and why is this legislation important? As was indicated by the previous speaker—and I support his comments—we are seeing the rise of online hate communities and of groups such as Reclaim Australia and Antipodean Resistance. I do not think we should single out these groups lightly or give them more publicity. However, it is important at the extreme to be clear about what we dealing with. I refer in particular to Antipodean Resistance. Information provided about the group was based on an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation briefing to Federal Parliament, some of which was then made public. It contained the following advice:

"Members of these groups are diverse and have differing agendas, including extreme white right-wing and extreme left-wing ideologies."

"A few small subsets of these groups are willing to use violence to further their own interests."

As members have stated, that group has been putting up posters around Sydney and Melbourne, tweeting photos of Nazi symbols and stating, "You must be White to join our organisation—no Blacks, Asians, Jews or mixed abominations." We must oppose those views.

Why was this campaign important and why is this legislation important? It is important now because of the social media age in which we live. It is a culture that prioritises outrage and shock and whatever is new. One of my fears is that even though we are moving into the information age often debates or online discussions happen without reference to history, without facts and without context. It is crucial that we stand for those things; we must be champions of history, the facts and the context. When these events and incitement happens involving our Chinese community, it is against centuries of violence against the Chinese diaspora, including in our part of the world. That includes recent violence in Papua New Guinea in 2009, in Honiara in the Solomon Islands in 2006, in Tonga in 2006 and, of course, in Indonesia and Malaysia in 1998, when as many as 1,500 people may have died.

This is the context for Muslim Australians. The member for Lakemba spoke about little kids going to primary school and walking past a "Suicide Bomber" sign on their school fence. We also must not forget the context for our Jewish communities between 1421 in Vienna and Linz, through Florence, Tuscany, Poland, and Lithuania 1494 and 1495, and in Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497, when city after European city expelled Jewish people. That is the context for the Jewish community in Australia when these attacks happen and when incitement occurs.

Those are facts and that is history, and it is hard to explain on Twitter. It does not fit into the outrage culture or the social media culture with their endless search for the latest shocking development. That is why these laws have always been important. It is also the reason this Parliament must act now to push back as that culture develops. That is precisely why I believe a sense of history and continuing vigilance are important. The campaign to support these changes has been important and it is why this legislation is crucial. I support the bill.