Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern under attack for defence of hate speech proposals

Jacinda Ardern has come under attack for her defence of expanded hate speech proposals, with ACT leader David Seymour describing the Prime Minister as "out of her depth". 

The Government last week published a discussion document which outlines plans to add religious groups and rainbow communities in beefed up hate speech legislation.  

The proposals also include a new criminal offence in the Crimes Act for inciting violence against listed groups, and a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi was interviewed by Newshub Nation at the weekend about the proposals and appeared unsure about what kind of scenarios would lead to prosecution under the proposed changes. 

Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien asked Faafoi if, for example, Millennials could be prosecuted for expressing hatred towards Baby Boomers over ballooning house prices, and Faafoi couldn't give a definitive answer. 

"If it's an opinion on a particular group then it depends on what you say. If your intent is to incite hatred against them then, potentially," Faafoi responded. 

Ardern defended Faafoi on Monday, telling the AM Show he was "pepper-potted with a bunch of examples and it's not for us to determine what a court may or may not do". 

Ardern described the examples put forward by Newshub Nation as "trivialisation" of what happened on March 15, 2019. 

"It's about inciting violence and abuse against a whole group of people. Some of the examples feel like a trivialisation of that," she told The AM Show. 

Ardern's comments have since come under scrutiny, with O'Brien pointing out in a rebuttal that it is "insulting and irresponsible to pit journalists - or anyone who questions or debates the legislation - as somehow being in opposition to the needs of the victims of March 15". 

Seymour, a staunch advocate for freedom of speech, has come out swinging against Ardern, saying she was "wrong" on several occasions in her interview on The AM Show. 

Seymour said it was wrong for Ardern to state the "reason we're having this debate" is because the Royal Commission of Inquiry suggested it, because the Government was planning to change hate speech laws before it was recommended in November. 

He also highlighted Ardern's statement that political opinion will not be included. 

"In the interview from the Nation, they implied that political opinion was included - it is not," Ardern said, despite the discussion document implying it could be.  

"A new provision would be added to the Crimes Act, which would create a new offence with four key elements," it says. "It would be a crime to: intentionally incite/stir up, maintain or normalise hatred against any group protected from discrimination by section 21 of the Human Rights Act."

Section 21 of the Human Rights Act includes political opinion. 

Seymour also said it was wrong of Ardern to say it's just a discussion document, when she signalled plans during the election campaign to beef up hate speech laws.  

"It's already made up its mind and is not acting in good faith," Seymour said of the Government. "If New Zealanders overwhelmingly reject her Government's hate speech laws, is she saying that she will shelve them?"

Free Speech Union spokesperson Dr David Cumin said Ardern's comments on The AM Show "do not match the proposals" issued by her Government. 

"Something doesn't add up. Either the politicians don't understand what they are doing, or they are misleading Kiwis."

National leader Judith Collins has promised to scrap the changes if elected next term. 

"I simply will not stand by while Jacinda Ardern puts her 'hate speech' laws through the spin cycle," she said on Monday.

"She knows very well that incitement to violence is already covered in law and to use it to create a feeling of necessity around the speech restrictions she is advocating for is pretty cynical.

"New Zealanders are entitled to a truthful accounting of the facts and that includes honesty around why Labour have chosen to enact speech restrictions when they wouldn't have stopped the Christchurch terrorist.

"I am calling on the Prime Minister to correct the record and clarify her comments on The AM Show this morning."

Ardern told The AM Show the alternative was to ignore the Royal Commission. 

"What would you rather? That we say to those religious groups who had that experience, 'sorry, no, these laws won't apply for you'?"