Jenny Leong MP, Member for Newtown spoke in behalf of the Greens in support of a bill to strengthen anti-discrimination laws in NSW. The bill creates an offence of inciting violence against a person or group of people on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or HIV or AIDS status.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (18:05): On behalf of The Greens I offer The Greens support for the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018. The bill inserts a new section 93Z into the Crimes Act 1900, which creates an offence of inciting violence against a person or group of people on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, or HIV or AIDS status. It is not a defence to the proposed offence if a person's assumptions or beliefs about the group of people was correct or incorrect when they committed the offence. The offence applies to public acts that include all forms of communication to the public, any conduct observable by the public, or public distribution of material. The act can be public even if it occurs on private land. The offences of serious vilification on the grounds of race, transgender status, sexuality, and HIV or AIDS status are proposed to be removed from the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.
The Greens support the bill because we support the strengthening of laws against vilification and violence, particularly against vulnerable people and minority groups. It is clear that threatening and inciting violence can have a genuine impact on people and their ability to participate freely as citizens and community members in society. The reality is that the bill removes the current requirement that the Attorney General grants consent for prosecutions and the necessarily political decision-making it would entail. Instead, the decision to prosecute will be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions who is far better placed to assess such matters. The increased penalties reflect the seriousness of the offending with a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units and/or three years imprisonment for an individual or 500 penalty units for a corporation. The offence is to be dealt with summarily unless the prosecutor or person charged elects otherwise.
Stakeholders, including the New South Wales Bar Association and the Law Society of New South Wales have indicated their support for the proposal. In his second reading speech, the Attorney General identified that to date no prosecutions have been brought under the provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act. While this is accurate, it does not necessarily mean that the existing laws have not served an important role. Those provisions set the bar for public activity and guide those who seek to target others and those seeking their own protection. It is important to note that acts of publicly threatening and inciting violence can have an impact on people's ability to participate freely in society. As a member of Parliament I have felt that my ability to act freely in my role in this place and as a member of the community has been challenged as a result people's comments and threats to me about my race.
The reality is that people genuinely live with threats of racism, violence or intimidation, which means that they cannot participate freely in society. A diverse community should be able to not only celebrate its differences but also recognise that it is up to others to provide protection to those who need it. It should not be incumbent on the individual who feels threatened by those who are inciting violence to stand up on their own behalf. It is crucial that bills such as this one send a clear message that members of this Parliament do not support or condone publicly threatening behaviour or people inciting violence because of one's race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
It is important to note the inclusion of persons who are a part of a group that may face publicly threatening or inciting behaviour as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, or because they have HIV or AIDS. Recently I participated in an inquiry that looked into violence against emergency services personnel, and I was disturbed by the lack of awareness of how HIV and AIDS can be transmitted and treated. It was clear that we have a long way to go before the community fully understands and that we must recognise the need to provide protection to those people.
It is important that we recognise that making amendments and treating those offences as crimes is not enough. We must make a genuine commitment to the idea that we do not support or condone forms of discrimination and crimes against people identify as being vulnerable. We must go further. The reality is that the bill provides protection to people for specific acts. The Greens are committed to seeing people's human rights protected more broadly so that people can live free from discrimination. I look forward to the day when we are standing in this Chamber talking not only about protecting people against those who publicly threaten them and incite violence but also when we are celebrating respecting people's human rights and the ability to live free from discrimination as a result of introducing a human rights Act for New South Wales.