The law which criminalises ‘hate’ speech was put in place by the Australian Government to tackle the growing problem of violent extremism.
Now the ACT’s Opposition Leader, Tim Nicholls, has labelled the legislation “a total disaster”.
“It is a total disaster,” he said.
This is about punishing people who say things that are offensive.” “
This is not about banning speech.
This is about punishing people who say things that are offensive.”
Mr Nicholls has previously claimed that the ACT would have the toughest hate speech laws in the country.
The ACT’s hate speech law allows for the prosecution of people who utter or utter material that “is likely to incite or incite to acts of terrorism” and “is intended to cause offence”.
Mr Nicholls says that the laws “have nothing to do with the protection of free speech”.
Under the legislation, “substantial and sustained” evidence of an intention to commit an act of violence will be required to prove an intention “to cause offence” and the prosecution will be brought “if the court considers it is likely to be proved”.
This means that the legislation will “not only have the most restrictive laws in Australia, it will also have the least restrictive laws”.
The legislation has been criticised by a range of organisations including the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC), the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).
The NDRN also criticised the law for being “unreasonable”.
‘Hate speech’ is not a crime under the legislation Mr Nicholl said that “the government is not trying to protect free speech, it’s trying to criminalise speech”.
“It’s a total catastrophe,” he told the ABC’s The World This Weekend program.
Mr Nash said that he was concerned about the legislation’s impact on people who speak out against “political ideology, political views or any other form of intolerance”.
He said that, in the event of a person being convicted under the ACT legislation, they would be placed in prison for between 18 and 24 months.
Senator Nicholls said that the bill was an example of “anti-free speech laws” being “misused and abused”.
“[The bill] has no intention of protecting free speech,” he warned.
He also said that people could be prosecuted for “defamation”, “insulting” or “harassment” on the internet, which is an offence under the law.
Under this legislation, people who express or publish “controversial, inflammatory or derogatory comments” will face up to a $5,000 fine, which “will have a punitive effect”.
But Mr Nash said he was worried about the impact of the law on internet users.
“[This] is a great concern for anyone who is using the internet,” he explained.
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