Don’t we have laws about this already?
Under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, there is no criminal offence for vilification unless it involves threatening to harm a person or their property, or inciting others to threaten harm to a person or their property. Those cases can be reported to police, and if convicted of this offence then people face a potential six month imprisonment.
In almost twenty years, only a very limited number of prosecutions for vilification have ever taken place in Queensland.
In addition, the current offence doesn’t cover the majority of harassment experienced by targeted communities. More information is available on our #BetterLaws4SafeQld page
How widespread is racially and ethnically motivated harassment in Queensland?
Low levels of reporting make it difficult to gauge how widespread the problem of hate crime and serious vilification is in Queensland, but community surveys do provide some indication of the far-reaching nature and impact of these behaviours.
The Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion surveys, for example, provide a longitudinal study of the attitudes and experiences of Australians in a variety of areas. While the study does not look at hate crime specifically, their 12 surveys from 2007-2018 have asked respondents whether they have experienced discrimination based on ‘skin colour, ethnic origin or religion:
Reported experience of discrimination increased from 9% in 2007 to a peak of 19% in 2013; this level dropped over the next two surveys, but rose again in 2016 and 2017. It is at 19% in 2018 and 2019. The average for the first six surveys (2007-13) was 13%, for the last six surveys (2014-19) a much higher 18%.
Community research (shown in our options paper) shows it is widespread, but there is very low confidence in reporting to police due to the fear that nothing will be done.
The lack of usable hate crime laws in Queensland also means we have poor police data on this problem.
Won’t this limit freedom of speech?
The right to freedom of expression is protected in Queensland and is recognised in the Human Rights Act 2019.
However, rights are not absolute. They can be, and are, subject to reasonable limitations, and must be balanced with the rights of other people. Hate speech is one example of this. It may qualify as expression, but it can be lawfully limited.
The changes to the law which we are proposing are designed to stop clearly abusive behaviour that denies people their sense of safety, dignity and belonging in the community as they go about their daily lives. It aims to deal with harassment, verbal abuse, physical intimidation, threats, vandalism and assault motivated by hate.
What if I see or experience hate speech?
If you witness someone being targeted for racial or religious abuse, there are things you can do to help support them.
The Queensland Human Rights Commission has a fact sheet and a video with tips on what to do.
There’s also information and tips for responding to these types of behaviours which were produced as part of the Racism. It Stops With Me campaign by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and others by the #DoMoreProject.
If you’ve witnessed or experienced racist abuse or harassment you can also report it to the Queensland Human Rights Commission. Reporting it doesn’t result in any action being taken but it does allow us to better capture the breadth of the issues facing the community.
If you were the target of this type of abuse or harassment you might also think about making a complaint, either to police or to the Queensland Human Rights Commission. You can call the Commission to discuss your options on 1300 130 670, or visit your nearest police station.