By Dr Muriel Newman

Last month the Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi announced that the next step in the Government’s plan to introduce hate speech laws would be two public consultation processes – the first seeking feedback on their legislative proposals, and the second asking how to build a more cohesive society. 

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was interviewed by Duncan Garner on The AM Show on Monday about her plan to criminalise free speech, it was all too evident that she didn’t understand the law changes she is intending to impose.

Whether arrogance or ignorance, she was wrong with virtually all of her answers.

The PM claimed the hate speech law changes were being introduced because of recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch shootings: “The reason we are having this debate is that the Royal Commission said to the New Zealand Government you need to include religion”.

She is clearly trying to blame the law change on the Royal Commission. But the Royal Commission did not report back until November 2020, while Labour announced they intended to introduce hate speech laws back in March 2019.

During the interview, the Prime Minister categorically denied that under their law change proposals political opinion could become a ‘protected’ category alongside race and religion.

But she is wrong. The Cabinet paper that outlined the proposed law changes recommended: “Extend legal protections to all groups listed under the prohibited grounds of discrimination in section 21 of the Act”, where section 21 of the Human Rights Act identifies 13 protected grounds – race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, sex, marital status, ethical belief, disability, age, employment status, family status, sexual orientation and ‘political opinion’. 

The wording in the discussion document ensures all 13 protected grounds – including ‘political opinion’ – are included: “Under this proposal, more groups would be protected by the law if hatred was incited against them due to a characteristic that they have. This may include some or all of the other grounds in the Human Rights Act.”

In other words, contrary to the Prime Minister’s claim, ‘political opinion’ has not been ruled out.

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You wonder how her government’s plan for racial separatism based on what will effectively be a caste system helps to create a “cohesive society”. —Eds