When a place of worship is vandalised with hateful threats or a woman in hijab is harassed in a public place for being Muslim, those matters must be called hate crimes by police, media and the law. In most places in Australia, those matters won’t be treated as hate crimes but are called property damage, public nuisance, or an unfortunate incident that warrants no further action.
Hate crime laws are not a proven deterrent to the spread of hatred online or in the physical world, but they are still necessary to maintain community confidence in the legal system and social belonging and safety.
AMAN is supporting the introduction of effective hate crime laws in Australian states and territories. We have studied existing hate crime provisions in Australia, the UK, the US and Scotland to understand what has worked and hasn’t worked.
We made a detailed submission to a Queensland Parliamentary inquiry. We have argued for thresholds that work for the community. See more here.
Working as part of a community coalition of faith and cultural organisations in Queensland, we supported the development of hate crime laws which were introduced into the Queensland Parliament in March 2023. These laws are promising because:
- The Bill introduces a statutory circumstance of aggravation to a broad range of existing crimes. This means that police can charge a crime as a Hate Crime from the beginning, and the penalty will be higher. This will encourage police to investigate; and support better data and evidence collection during investigations. It will also mean that media can report incidents as Hate Crimes rather than threatening vandalism on a mosque being called ‘property damage’.
- Racist street harassment is covered, including public incitements of hatred by white nationalists and Nazis that disrupt people’s peaceful enjoyment of public places.
- The motive element requires a Hate Crime to be wholly or partly motivated by hatred or serious contempt. This means that if there is another personal motive, it won’t exclude the crime from being called a Hate Crime.
- Factors like the perpetrator’s mental illness, age and other factors can still be considered at sentencing, but it won’t detract from the crime still being called a Hate Crime.
- Public displays of hate symbols online and offline will be criminalised. The list of prohibited symbols will be made by regulation, making it easier to add to the list while still having human rights due diligence.
- Improvements to the existing criminal offence of serious vilification (inciting violence and harm against protected groups) will encourage greater use.