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Moves to Repeal Sedition Ill-Advised and Rushed

media release
15 August 2007

Moves to Repeal Seditious Offences Ill-Advised and Rushed

Tomorrow the Justice and Electoral Select Committee will hear oral submissions on the Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill.

“The seditious offences are being overhauled with little consideration of their significance,” says Alex Penk, Maxim Institute’s Policy and Research Manager.

“While the current offences are too wide, we should be amending the law to narrow the offences rather than abolishing them altogether. The prohibition of sedition is an important pointer in our society to the importance of the institutions, such as Parliament, that protect order and enable justice to be upheld,” says Mr Penk.

“At their heart, the seditious offences are about acknowledging and preserving legitimate authority, and this is fundamental for our democracy. Inciting a violent attack against Parliament while the House is sitting is not simply an attack on a building or a meeting. It is in a very real sense an attack against the entire constitutional system. Institutions like Parliament represent the people and inciting violence against them therefore has implications for us all. Other offences do not protect this value, or are impractical, and therefore are not an adequate substitute,” says Mr Penk.

“Free speech is fundamental for democracy. The current seditious offences should be amended as they unreasonably limit freedom of speech—they have been used inappropriately in the past to shut down protest and political speech. Maxim Institute is proposing that the seditious offences be amended so that only words that deliberately incite violence against legitimate authority and which create a direct or immediate danger of this violence actually occurring, would be restricted,” says Mr Penk.

“The Bill is being pushed through very hastily, with little time allowed for submissions in spite of the importance and complexity of the issue. This does not inspire confidence that the issues are being fully and fairly considered,” says Mr Penk.

Maxim Institute made a written submission on this Bill (please find this attached) and is presenting an oral submission to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee in Wellington on Thursday 16 August 2007 at 11.30am.

ENDS

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