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Jan 15, 2013

NSW Premier; boost hate laws to get convictions

 New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell (left) has announced an inquiry into the effectiveness of that state’s anti discrimination laws with a view to ‘strengthening’ them and make them more ‘effective’.  Barry has a problem with them over his perception that they do not meet community expectations.

The problem seems to be that there have been no criminal prosecutions of people exercising their right of free speech in the state. Federal laws in this area have been vastly more successful owing to looser definitions of criminal speech and a lower burden of proof for the prosecution, and are likely to have this further watered down by requiring the defendant to prove innocence.
NSW currently requires ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ in order to jail someone for talking: 
The inquiry was ordered by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, who is concerned there have been no successful criminal prosecutions in the history of the NSW laws and that they have fallen out of step with community expectations.  The move is likely to inflame the debate over freedom of speech, amid warnings that broadening the laws could be dangerous and unacceptable. … 
… The parliamentary inquiry will focus on Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which deals with the criminal offence of ''serious racial vilification'' and requires proof ''beyond a reasonable doubt'' for a prosecution. 
Penalties of up to $5500 and six months' jail apply to anyone found guilty of inciting ''hatred'', ''serious contempt'' or ''severe ridicule'' of a person or group by threatening physical harm to them or their property or inciting others to do so on the basis of their race. 
The vilification laws have been in place in NSW since 1989. According to figures supplied by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, 27 complaints have been referred by the board for criminal prosecution since 1998 the period for which records are available. But none were prosecuted as the Director of Public Prosecutions did not feel the burden of proof required by the legislation would have been achieved. 
A spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said it was ''questionable'' whether this section of the act ''constitutes a realistic test or is in line with community expectations''. 
"The Premier has therefore asked the [parliamentary law and justice] committee to report on whether section 20D is effective and if not, provide recommendations that will improve its efficacy with regard to the continued importance of freedom of speech,'' he said. …
Ever since the beginning of the libertarian movement in Australia, the government and opposition have been referred to as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledummer’.   The reason for this is that for the last forty years there has been little discernable difference between the Liberal Party and Labor, which this action highlights.
Federal Labor is revising anti discrimination laws to make it an offence to hurt someone’s feelings with reverse onus of proof, making it virtually impossible for an accused person to defend an action.  O’Farrell as a Liberal is mirroring this by attempting to water down the rights of defendants.  
Under the old system of “Rule of Law” there was always a requirement that to obtain a conviction proof that the defendant had committed a crime had to be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.  With the advent of political and ideological crime, prosecutors have railed against the need to prove that a crime was committed and that the defendant was responsible.
O’Farrell seems to think that a lot of people behind bars is the measure of an effective government.

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