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Queensland has a hate problem - tougher laws needed to fix it

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Tougher laws and penalties are needed to combat racial abuse and hate crimes in Queensland, a new report says.

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A Queensland parliamentary committee has concluded more needs to be done to counter “on-line and off-line hatred”, saying police data does not accurately reflect serious vilification in the state.

The Legal Affairs and Safety Committee says a “deterrent sanction” is needed, and has made 17 recommendations including broadening the state’s criminal and civil laws to reform the state’s 31-year-old Anti-Discrimination Act (ADA).

“The committee is appalled by the online and offline hatred inflicted on certain members of our society,” committee chair Peter Russo said in the report.

“(But) Queensland does not have a piece of legislation dedicated to serious vilification and hate crimes.

“It is clear from the evidence received in the course of this inquiry that people are still experiencing the devastating effects of vilification and hate crimes, and more needs to be done to address these insidious problems in our society.”

The report said only eight offences were recorded by Queensland Police from 2015 to 2020 under the ADA.

However the inquiry found hate crimes were prevalent in Queensland after receiving harrowing accounts.

Islamic College of Brisbane CEO Ali Kadri told the inquiry he believed victims felt it was “pointless” to report serious vilification because “nothing was done” no matter how shocking the incident.

“(There was) graffiti outside the Holland Park Mosque where somebody painted a swastika and wrote the name of the terrorist who killed 52 people in Christchurch, with ‘Saint’ at the beginning,” he told the inquiry.

“(And) at the Islamic College of Brisbane …a pig’s head with a swastika drawn on it was left at the school – this was right before the children were to come into the school.”

The inquiry called for reforms to address a discrepancy between reported offences and prosecutions in Queensland under the ADA.

Queensland Police told the inquiry that there had been 1,386 reported hate or vilification offences from 2015 to 2020 but only five people had been charged and three were convicted.

Reforms recommended were banning the display of hate symbols such as the swastika, lowering the threshold for what amounts to incitement, removing a requirement for the Crown Law officer’s written consent to start criminal proceedings and expanding the range of attributes protected under the act.

The report wants the ADA section that deals with serious hate crimes to be relocated into the criminal code and the definition of ‘public act’ in the state’s anti-vilification civil and criminal laws to better target on-line abuse.

It says the Queensland government should work with federal and other states and territories to better police on-line vilification.

The committee wants laws to be broadened to help police secure evidence of online abuse with a warrant.

They also want police reports to be updated to record hate crimes, and the government to encourage trusted community organisations to report vilification.

Other changes include establishing a hate crime scrutiny panel involving police and community advocates and for the government to look at programs to support organisations to help report vilification as well as fund legal services so they can initiate racial abuse matters.

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