– Supreme Court says pamphlet breaks hate speech laws
– Judge rules that Tasmanian laws against hate speech and offensive language do not unduly impinge freedom of religion and speech, and are constitutional
In a landmark decision released this morning, a Tasmanian Supreme Court justice, Michael Brett, rejected an appeal by Launceston man, James Durston, accused of anti-LGBTI hate speech.
Justice Brett also found that those sections of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act that prohibit incitement to hatred and offensive language do not unduly impinge on freedom of religion or free speech and are valid under the Australian Constitution.
Robert Williams, the Hobart man who lodged the original anti-discrimination complaint against Mr Durston, said the decision showed Tasmania is leading the way on social inclusion.
“This decision reinforces my pride in being Tasmanian because Tasmania is leading the nation when it comes to protecting citizens from hate speech.”
“The protection offered by our laws and our courts promotes inclusion, mature political debate, and respect between all citizens regardless of who we are.”
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said the decision shows Tasmanian law strikes the right balance between upholding free speech and preventing hate speech.
“Today’s decision is very important because it puts the bed the long-term question, raised in almost all previous Tasmanian hate speech cases, about whether the state’s hate-speech laws breach freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and whether they are constitutional.”
“Justice Brett has put forward a careful, rigorous and unassailable argument that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are not unfettered rights, and that the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act strikes the right balance between these rights and right of citizens to live free from hate and vilification.”
“I urge state and federal governments heed this decision and back away from any attempts to water down laws that have helped make Tasmania a more inclusive and cohesive society.”
The hate-speech provisions of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act under which Mr Williams’ claim was made (Section 19, incitement to hatred; section 17, offensive conduct), are the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive, and several attempts have been made to weaken them.
Last year the Tasmanian Government sought to water down these sections by allowing hate speech in the name of religion. That move was blocked in the Upper House.
A concurrent move by some Upper House members to water down Section 17 in the name of free speech also failed.
There is also concern that the Federal Government may seek to override these sections under the “religious freedom” legislation being flagged by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
Today’s decision was the latest installment of a drawn out case which began in 2013 when Mr Williams lodged an anti-discrimination claim against Mr Durston for distributing anti-LGBTI pamphlets.
The claim was upheld by the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal in 2015 and appealed to the Supreme Court by Mr Durston. For a report on the Tribunal’s decision go to…
For a copy of Justice Brett’s decision go to http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/tas/TASSC//2018/48.html