NZ Election 2020: Labour wouldn't stop with just religion in hate speech crackdown

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has promised a crackdown on hate speech if two things happen: one, if she's re-elected Prime Minister and two, if she can avoid governing with New Zealand First.

The policy announcement wasn't planned, but after a visit to Christchurch's Al Noor mosque on Thursday, the Imam there called for the Government to step in on hate speech to prevent another attack like March 15.

Ardern returned to Al Noor mosque to finally unveil a memorial plaque, after the last two attempts were curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions. Survivors of the March 15 attacks and their families couldn't have been more thrilled to see her.

Taking the opportunity to push for change, the Imam Gamal Fouda expressed how he wanted to prevent another attack.

"Freedom of speech becomes hate speech," he said at the unveiling. "Hate turns into hate crime as we have seen at the 15th of March."

There's no specific hate speech law in New Zealand. The Human Rights Act covers it, but only on the grounds of colour, race or ethnicity - not religion. Fouda wants to see a new law differentiating between hate speech and free speech.

"I'd like to see a new law in New Zealand and I think New Zealand has seen a lot and we went through a lot. The blood of those people shouldn't be forgotten," he said.

Labour had promised change this term but failed, but on Thursday renewed its pledge to make it happen.

"We haven't been able to deliver that last term but my intention would be, if we're able to form Government, that we would," Ardern said.

"Religion hasn't been included in that, my view is that does need to change and that would be our plan if we were privileged enough to form Government again."

Labour is hoping to govern alone and knock out the New Zealand First hurdle.

"My challenge to the Prime Minister is you show us the detailed legislation that preserves free speech at the same time," said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. 

A clamp down on hate speech definitely wouldn't go ahead under National and ACT.

"I believe ultimately in freedom of speech with certain limitations that we've all accepted," said National leader Judith Collins.

"The last thing New Zealand needs is a Government department deciding what you can and can't say," said ACT leader David Seymour.

Labour is riding high on the campaign, with its leader mobbed wherever she goes.

Ardern is hoping to convert the hysteria to votes and be able to pass whatever Labour wants, unencumbered by those pesky support partners.

If it gets a chance to broaden our hate speech laws, Labour wouldn't stop with just religion.

Ardern said "yeah", when Newshub asked if sexual orientation, age or disability could be included.

With just 23 days until the election, the excitement is palpable, especially for the leaders feeling uber-flush with votes.