NSW religious vilification reforms ‘too broad and need further amendment’

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre acknowledges the need to protect people of minority faiths in NSW against vilification but believes the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Bill 2023, introduced this morning by Attorney General Michael Daley, is too broad.

‘The scope of these proposed reforms is broader than most other Australian jurisdictions, including Victoria and Queensland,’ PIAC Director of Policy and Advocacy Alastair Lawrie said.

‘We are concerned these amendments seek to cover all religious belief, affiliation and activity, but none of these terms are defined. We are also concerned that protected religious activity is not restricted to activities that are lawful.’

The proposals in the Bill are inconsistent with the existing Crimes Act 1900 s93Z offence of prohibition on publicly threatening or inciting violence, and the then-Labor Opposition’s 2021 Bill to prohibit religious vilification, introduced by Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch.

‘These laws will limit freedom of speech, so need to be carefully drafted. Both s93Z of the Crimes Act, and the previous Lynch Religious Vilification Bill, adopted a clear and targeted definition of the attribute to be protected, namely “holding or not holding a religious belief or view”‘, Lawrie added.

‘We call on the Government to amend the Bill introduced today to be consistent with existing protections in the NSW Crimes Act and the previous Lynch Bill.’

‘PIAC will also be advocating for amendments to ensure that religious vilification provisions only protect people – both individuals and groups of individuals – rather than organisations.’

‘The introduction of prohibitions on religious vilification, while important, also highlights the need for the entire NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to be reviewed, and re-written. Other groups in our community also deserve respect and improved protection against discrimination and vilification.’

‘The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act remains the worst in the country, and we look forward to the Government following through on its promise to refer it to the NSW Law Reform Commission and acting on the Commission’s recommendations.’

Media Contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Danielle Buhagiar: 0478 739 280

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