Looks can be deceiving

Hate speech laws can sound noble at first. Who doesn't want to combat hatred? 

But looks can be deceiving. 

You'll know by now why we strongly (not to mention successfully) opposed the hate speech laws. We'll say it again and again: Bad ideas are beaten by good ideas. 

Censorship drives toxic ideas underground to fester, meaning they can crop up in unexpected and far more dramatic ways. 

I'd rather know when a 'hateful' message exists. As the member of a minority group myself, how can I combat hatred against my community if it is spoken in whispers behind closed doors?

Suppressing bad ideas doesn’t make them go away. As American journalist and author Jonathan Rauch says, the problem with hate speech is the hate, not the speech.

This is why I don't see the Government's legislation to ban gang patches any differently from the hate speech laws that were proposed in June 2021. 

Many of you have raised your concerns when we've spoken about this issue so far:

"How can you defend gangs?"
"But patches are for intimidation!"
"They don't deserve the same rights as us."

Remember, standing up for someone else's freedom of speech and expression does not mean you have to agree with them or like them. It doesn't mean your moral compass is slipping either. You're standing up for someone else's rights today so that yours will be defended tomorrow.

We must insist that the Government doesn't set a dangerous precedent. And if you think these new laws won’t suffer mission creep you wait until you get to the end of this email!

A problem with censorship

Yes, most people find gangs detestable. This topic triggers strong feelings for many. But we need to take a step back.

Where will the Government draw the line next? 

What happens when other symbols, slogans and phrases that are unpopular become banned?

If we don't like something, we have to find another way to oppose it than banning it, because such laws will quickly be used against us. 

Free speech for all or not at all

If the Government is okay with this breach of rights, then what's next?

We should all be concerned when the Government is prepared to suppress the expression of a particular group of people, because when will it be our turn? 

We need to crack down on the criminal activity of gangs and enforce the laws already in place. Stopping gangs from telling us who they are doesn't actually help us address what they do.

The Bill of Rights should not be breached as a solution to fix criminal activity. The Free Speech Union (then Coalition) was formed expressly to defend our Bill of Rights. We have a duty to defend it as does every supporter of free speech.

We've written a submission to the Justice Select Committee on the Government's legislation.

Our submission

We've recommended some constructive amendments to the legislation that we can all agree on without breaching the Bill of Rights. We've recommended that a sunset clause is added so that in six years, the Government and the public can review if this legislation has turned into a slippery slope or not. 

We've also recommended that the definition of 'gang' is tightened and that the Attorney-General must sign off on any further additions to the 'gang list'.

Below is a tweet from Labour opposition MP Shanan Halbert.

We all have an opinion on Destiny Church, and at the Free Speech Union, we do not support law-breaking actions such as some of the vandalism we have seen. But should they be treated like a gang? Could this law end up including them? And if Destiny, why not other churches, or certain disruptive environmental groups?

Censorship is a hungry beast. It is never content. Whenever a society opens the door to any censorship, it does so at our peril.

Still think we're just being dramatic? Or do you think these laws are tight enough to be beyond the risk of a slippery slope?

Attorney-General Judith Collins is a fan of being strict on gangs, and even she says that these laws are an unjust breach of human rights. 

The Government would be advised to listen to her.  

Dane Giraud

Dane Giraud
Council Member
Free Speech Union

PS. The Government's new legislation banning gang patches is a risk for us all. Read our submission to the Justice Select Committee here.

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  • Nadia Braddon-Parsons
    published this page in Blog 2024-04-03 16:38:30 +1300

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