QLS will voice its concerns and suggestions on a Bill to introduce dedicated legislation to address vilification and hate crimes in Queensland, at a public hearing to be held in Brisbane today.
QLS Vice President Rebecca Fogerty and QLS Criminal Law Committee Deputy Chair Patrick Quinn will represent the peak professional body at the hearing, to be conducted by Queensland Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Safety Committee (LASC).
The Criminal Code (Serious Vilification and Hate Crimes) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced into Parliament by the then-Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman on 29 March this year, with the State Government vowing reforms that would deliver some of the strongest hate crime laws in Australia.
The Bill gives effect to four key recommendations made by the LASC in January 2022. This includes increased penalties for offences motivated by hatred or serious contempt, and amendments to the Criminal Code to ban the display of hate symbols. Criminals who commit crimes motivated by serious hate and prejudice against specific groups will also face tougher penalties.
QLS delivered its submission on the Bill to the LASC in May, along with 26 other professional and industry bodies and interested parties.
The response was compiled by the QLS Human Rights and Public Law and QLS Criminal Law committees, whose members have substantial expertise in this area.
In the submission, QLS pointed to its previous recommendation to the 2021 LASC inquiry that the Queensland Government ensure anti-vilification provisions cover a wider representation of community attributes.
While this recommendation was supported in principle by the Government, it is not included in the present Bill. QLS submitted that disability should be included under the proposed legislation as a protected attribute. It also called for age to be included, amid reports from its members that age-based discrimination has become more prevalent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
QLS supported the Bill’s proposal to remove the requirement for the Attorney-General or Director of Public Prosecutions to provide written consent for a prosecution for serious vilification under section 131A of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) (AD Act), with better guidance for police on these matters as a replacement safeguard.
However, QLS opposed the increased maximum penalty for this offence from six months to three years, and urged the Government to closely examine how effective and practical the higher penalty would be.
The submission backed the proposed introduction of the circumstance of ‘aggravation’ to certain offences around vilification and hate speech as recognising the experience of victims and acknowledging these crimes as serious and unacceptable.
The submission concludes that “QLS supports the aspects of the Bill which offer pragmatic solutions to previously identified barriers and enhance policing responses to hate crimes.
“However, there are aspects of the Bill which are concerning for the reasons outlined above including the creation of a new offence in relation to the public display of hate symbols.”
Ms Fogerty and Mr Quinn will address the hearing between 1.30 pm and 2pm. A public briefing will then be held on Thursday 1 June, with the report due on Friday 30 June.
View the full submission.
Watch the broadcast of the hearing live or view the archive broadcast via the website.