|No doubt you saw Andrew Little’s comments about forging ahead with hate speech legislation to get it passed before this year’s general election. He told Stuff.co.nz that “The review of our hate speech laws are in the final stages. I expect there will be an announcement in a matter of weeks.”
The Government is not only proceeding with non-essential legislation, but actually doing it at breakneck speed.
With COVID-19 events developing so quickly, we thought Mr Little would see sense and press pause on these reforms. But that’s not happening elsewhere. On Thursday, Mr Little slid through Parliament a new Bill to give some prisoners the right to vote. Despite the pandemic, Mr Little has given the Justice Select Committee just over two months to consider the bill. As David Seymour said: Two months isn’t enough time for a select committee to consider legislation under normal circumstances. We’re currently facing a public health emergency. This is the worst imaginable time to shorten public consultation on lawmaking. It amounts to making laws with no public consultation at all.
With Mr Little still saying he wants to pass these new laws this year, and that our current laws that dealt with hate speech are “woefully inadequate”. That’s why he’s fast-tracked a widespread review of New Zealand’s existing legislation and is deciding whether hate crime should be established as its own separate offence, as it is in the United Kingdom.
Pandemic or not, we must stay vigilant.
If Mr Little tries to pass hate speech law as he is about changes to the Electoral Act, free speech will be in real trouble.
While it will be close to impossible to fundraise during this time, we will be throwing everything we’ve got to ensure the Government is held to account, and the proposed laws get proper media and public scrutiny.
You can read our public comments here.
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Andrew Little has long been known for shooting his mouth off and making unwise statements; in 2016 he managed to get himself sued for defamation over it. One suspects schadenfreude on his part in wanting others to experience the same treatment. All his plans would do is create yet another legal morass that will clog up the courts, at Taxpayer expense, with useless litigation. His improper haste suggests he thinks his Party may not be in government after September. —Eds