Proposed hate speech law changes 'a total cluster' - Judith Collins

Judith Collins says the proposed changes to hate speech laws are "a total cluster" and need to be scrapped 

The National leader told The AM Show on Wednesday the Government has "no idea what it's talking about".

The Government last week published a discussion document that outlined 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.

Collins says the proposal threatens democracy, and is the Government being "opportunistic".

"Democracy requires us to have debates without people feeling insulted being able to criminalise people who make them feel insulted.

"It's a total cluster, frankly and the Government needs to stop this now and back away."

Collins is not the only MP to come out swinging against the proposed changes - ACT leader David Seymour also criticised the law change saying it could take the country down the wrong path. 

"Outlawing insulting people based on political opinion belongs in North Korea, not New Zealand," he told Newshub.

Under the changes, a person would break the law if they intentionally stir up hatred by being threatening, abusive or even just insulting.

When asked if an insult is a high enough bar for hate speech,  Jacinda Ardern said: "Well of course, not on its own."

"There's a range of factors - incitement of violence is one of them." 

The proposed changes are the result of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque shooting which looked into how the attack occurred and the ways it could have been prevented. 

Its findings were released in December and one of the recommendations was that New Zealand should change its hate speech laws.

Ardern said the proposed hate speech law changes were heavily influenced by recommendations from the Commission into the March 15, 2019 Christchurch terror attacks. 

"The language around the provisions in the law come directly from the Royal Commission and you can see that because it is essentially the exact proposals they have made that are in the wording of the discussion document."

In line with the recommendations, six key proposals have been revealed with the intention of strengthening protections against speech inciting hatred or discrimination.

The term 'hate speech' isn't used in law, but the changes seek to clarify what's illegal as well as increasing the consequences for those who break the law. The proposals focus on speech inciting hatred in other people towards a group, rather than towards one individual. 

The Government on Friday released a discussion document outlining the six changes. The public will be able to give their feedback on them until August 6.