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Parliamentary committee to review vilification and hate crime laws

A Queensland parliamentary committee is to review current vilification and hate crime laws.

The parliamentary Legal Affairs and Safety Committee has been asked to determine if they are operating effectively, if they are consistent with community expectations, and suitable to deal with modern day challenges.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said yesterday the review would give Queenslanders the opportunity to have their say and voice their experiences with the heinous and reprehensible crimes of serious hate and vilification.

Ms Fentiman said the committee had been given the responsibility of a full and thorough review of existing laws to determine whether they were operating effectively and appropriate for modern societal challenges such as online traducement.

The review comes in the wake of last year’s Cohesive Communities Coalition report – ‘Serious vilification and hate crime: The need for legislative reform’ – which cited numerous instances and examples of racism, including attacks against the state’s Asian community triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak and the ensuing global pandemic.

The comments come after Queensland’s Leader of the House, Yvette D’Ath, referred the matter to the committee for review yesterday morning.

Ms Fentiman said: “We recognise and value the extraordinary contribution that individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds make to our communities, which is why we are committed to a strong and unified Queensland that is fair, harmonious and inclusive.

“Prior to the last state election, we made a commitment to refer the Cohesive Communities Coalition’s options paper, ‘Serious vilification and hate crime: The need for legislative reform’, to an appropriate parliamentary committee for review and consultation.

“The Cohesive Communities Coalition options paper raises a number of important concerns around the current laws and the experiences of people from diverse backgrounds across our state.”

The Coalition’s Co-Chair, Peter Forday, who is also Chair of Multicultural Australia, said he was delighted with the Government’s decision to review the state’s hate crime and vilification laws.

Multicultural Australia and Co-Chair of the Cohesive Communities Coalition welcomed the Queensland Government’s commitment to reviewing the state’s hate crime and vilification laws.

“Every Queenslander should feel that reporting hate incidents and crime is worth the effort, but that means our laws need to be there to provide the right protection,” Mr Forday said.

“We also think the way hate crimes are policed can … be improved through community scrutiny panels, and the introduction of victim protection orders and injunctions.

“This is a moment to define the type of community that Queenslanders want, now and into the future, for ourselves and our families, friends and neighbours.”

Ms Fentiman said the referral of the Coalition’s ‘options paper’ would empower the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee to allow Queenslanders the opportunity to have their say and voice their experiences.

“We want to ensure that all voices are heard and that any potential changes to the law are properly informed by the views and experiences of a diverse range of Queenslanders,” she said.

“The terms of reference ask the committee to consider serious vilification and hate crimes in a holistic way.

“This will enable the committee to consider the impacts of serious vilification and hate crime on a wide range of groups, including, women, people with a disability, older people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and the LGBTIQ+ community.

“The committee will review and investigate our existing laws, to determine whether they are operating effectively, consistent with community expectations and whether they are suitable to deal with modern challenges, such as online vilification.”

She said the committee would be tasked with ensuring that any recommendations struck a fair balance having regard to human rights protected under Queensland’s Human Rights Act 2019, such as freedom of expression, freedom of thought, the protection of families and children, as well as every person’s right to liberty and security.

“I look forward to receiving the committee’s report on this important issue in due course,” she said.

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