Queensland’s vilification law is under review, following complaints from concerned multicultural community groups.
The law is contained in the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, and a Parliamentary inquiry will consider if it is operating effectively.
Specifically, if the legislation is suitable to deal with modern challenges, such as online vilification.
Queensland’s vilification law under review
The inquiry came about as a result of pressure from community groups wanting tougher penalties for hate crimes.
Johnson Chen (top right) from the Queensland Chinese Forum told SBS News that the Asian community has experienced an increase in racism because of COVID-19.
“The virus has placed the whole community in jeopardy,” he said.
“We have people come up and shout at us, physically assault, verbally abuse us, saying ‘f**k China’.
“It has a very long-lasting impact on the community”.
Abiba Andriah (top centre) of the African Communities Council referred to The Courier-Mail’s decision to publish photos of women who travelled from Melbourne to Queensland in breach of border restrictions.
The newspaper labelled the women “Enemies of the State”.
“A lot of people started being mistreated because it looked like all Africans had COVID,” she said.
“It made me angry, because they weren’t the only ones that lied on their declaration forms.”
Another incident involved vandals defacing a mosque in Holland Park with Nazi symbols and slogans following the Christchurch attack.
Not fit for purpose
Thirty years on, advocates say Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act is no longer fit for purpose.
Section 131a of the Act sets penalties of up to six months prison or a $10,000 fine.
But any legal action needs the approval of the Attorney-General or Director of Public Prosecutions.
In the past two decades, there have only been three convictions.
Australian Muslim Advocacy Network’s Rita Jabri-Markwel (top left) said making changes for the better will be “pretty simple”.
“We already have base criminal offences in Queensland for public nuisance, assault, wilful property damage,” she said.
“And what we’re asking to add is the aggravation element to those base offences that would recognise that it was a hate crime.”
Jabri-Markwell said police had lower awareness of Section 131a because it is not in the Criminal Code.
“It has a very low penalty and as a result, police tend to go for other offences with higher penalties,” she said.
“Also, there’s a big block for police because they can’t secure online evidence unless an offence has a maximum penalty of at least three years prison.
“We want the penalty increased to three years and the removal of barriers like approval from the attorney-general or director of public prosecutions.”
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the Parliamentary Committee will consider vilification and hate crimes in a holistic way.
“The Committee will consider the impacts of serious vilification and hate crime on a wide range of groups,” she said.
“This includes women, people with a disability, older people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and the LGBTIQ+ community.”
Public submissions have now closed, however, the Committee is holding public hearings this Thursday and Friday.
The final report is due in January 2022.
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