Hate speech laws: National, ACT still won't support Government's diluted proposals

The Government's new watered-down plan to overhaul hate speech legislation still wouldn't be supported by National, party justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

ACT leader David Seymour said on Saturday his party also wouldn't support the proposal, dashing Labour's hopes of getting consensus from across the political spectrum.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan unveiled a significantly diluted hate speech reform proposal on Newshub Nation on Saturday, which proposed just one change to the Human Rights Act - extending it to religious communities. 

But Goldsmith said the Government's new proposal still went too far.

"It is actually quite a significant reduction of free expression and free speech," he said of the proposal. "The phrase that the minister used, in consultation with us, was 'religious belief'. When you go to beliefs it's a much broader area and the human rights legislation that they're basing it on… includes 'insult' and 'ridicule' and, quite frankly, nobody wants to be insulted or ridiculed but that is actually an important part of expression.

"We do need to be able to ridicule ideas that we don't agree with and that's what happens in a free and open society," Goldsmith told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

He said the National Party would still be committed to focusing on the overall recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack.

"They did a lot of recommendations and the Government hasn't picked up all of them, at all. 

"We've supported them around firearms laws and a whole bunch of things, but we've always expressed our concern around the hate speech proposals because we are very concerned to maintain free expression."

The Government's plan to create new hate speech laws came as part of a response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch terror attack. They were supposed to be ready a lot earlier but were delayed because of confusion and "strong feedback", causing the Government to give them a rethink. 

Currently, under the Human Rights Act, it was illegal to publish or distribute threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to "excite hostility against" or "bring into contempt" to any group on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins. The proposed changes would extend that to cover religious beliefs.  

In a statement on Saturday, after Allan announced the proposals, Seymour said they still weren't "compatible with a free and open society and ACT will repeal them".

"Preventing freedom of expression on religious grounds is a significant restriction. It is important that we are allowed to call out examples of religious persecution without fear of being prosecuted. 

"Freedom of expression is one of the most important values our society has. We can only solve our most pressing problems in an open society in which free thought and open enquiry are encouraged."

Allan said on Saturday the new proposals intended to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable communities and the right to freedom of speech.

"These are small amendments that the Royal Commission have said will have a large benefit for our religious-based communities."

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. NZ On Air supports Newshub Nation.