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Goff welcomes hate speech inquiry

Hon Phil Goff Minister of Justice

6 August 2004

Goff welcomes hate speech inquiry

Justice Minister Phil Goff today welcomed a bipartisan initiative from the Government Administration Select Committee to hold an inquiry into hate speech.

"Parliament's responsibility is to balance freedom of speech as a fundamental right in a democratic society with the protection of individuals from direct harm which may be the consequence of inciting hatred against them," Mr Goff said.

"Hate speech generally attacks individuals on the basis of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

"The point of the inquiry cannot be to stop expression of hateful opinion, even if we utterly reject that opinion.

"Legislation is an ineffectual and inappropriate way to try to change opinion. It is when expression of that opinion risks leading directly to harm to the group against which it is directed that the law has a role to play.

"The challenge before the Select Committee is to determine where the line should be drawn between expression of opinion which is legitimate, and that opinion inciting hatred or harm against others, which is not legitimate.

"Currently the Human Rights Act 1993 deals with inciting racial disharmony. I hope the committee, and public submissions to it, will address how that legislation has worked in practice, and whether changes are needed.

"The committee and the public might also address the arguments over whether this law should be extended to cover inciting hatred against people on the grounds of their religion, gender or sexual orientation.

"This could include examination of what other countries similar to our own have done in this area.

"Public discussion and debate will be useful in informing government as to what change, if any, might be desirable," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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