The double-edged sword of hate speech law

By Stefan Dimitrof

Reported by Ngahuia Wade and Tina Wickliffe

Richard Jacobs, a Tauranga man, was charged and prosecuted under current laws for his hate speech against Māori and was convicted and sentenced to 12 months of home detention.

But now the Greens have called on the new Minister of Justice to reform the legislation now.

“I say to the new minister, make every effort to legislate this at this side of the year, because the people are waiting for this law to be completed so that the people in New Zealand can be safe," Green MP Teanau Tuiono said.

'I'm a very useful Māori'

After the March 2019 terror attacks, the government announced a royal commission to investigate the causes of the terror attacks.

It made 44 recommendations aimed at preventing future attacks from happening.

Later in March 2021 the government sought public consultation on the law changes and the government received 19,000 submissions in opposition to the changes.

Earlier this year then-Justice Minister Kris Fa’afoi said the government was committed to passing the law of hate speech legislation before Christmas 2022.

Now, with Fa’afoi being replaced by Kiritapu Allan as the new justice minister and next year an election year, Tuiono hopes “this can get up and running this side of the year, then this law won't become a passed around like a rugby ball.”

“Look at my skin, I have brown skin - there is no doubt that so many Māori families have faced the sting of racism, so that is why we need to make an effort to enforce this law.”

'Racist hate speech'

Weeks ago, Act Party leader David Seymour, who opposes the law change, was ridiculed by fellow MP Willie Jackson calling him a "useless Māori".

Seymour responded that “I’m a very useful Māori.

“Well, Willie Jackson's comment was of course an example of racist hate speech.  If he had any respect for basic tikanga or basic humanity he would never had said that but he did.”

“If the government is going to introduce these laws maybe they should think about their own behaviour first.”