NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has welcomed the news that the State Government has finally acted on Labor’s call to strengthen laws against hate speech but has lamented how long it has taken to act.

Five years ago the Liberal-National government said it was a priority but had done nothing to change laws until today.

Its inaction had empowered racist groups to spread vile racist propaganda knowing that a prosecution was highly unlikely.

Labor introduced legislation into the Parliament in 2016 to make advocating threatening or inciting physical harm an offence under the Crimes Act 1990 but the Government voted it down in the Legislative Assembly 48 votes to 31. A subsequent bill was introduced earlier this year. Mr Foley promised to bring in new laws in the first 100 days of an incoming Labor government.

Mr Foley said action was necessary because the existing section 20 D of the Anti-Discrimination Act is weak, ineffective and has not led to a single successful prosecution in 30 years.

A Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice Inquiry into racial vilification laws recommended change back in 2013. Two years later the then Attorney General Gabrielle Upton admitted that the laws were ‘broken’ and said she would introduce legislation in the first half of 2016 but failed to do so.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“I welcome the news that finally this state will outlaw incitement to race-based violence.

“For too long some in the Liberal Party have confused freedom of speech with race hate. The law should make it very clear there is no room for words that incite violence against a person on the basis of their race, religion or sexuality.

“Tough new laws will send a signal to the likes to the extremist fringe that their brand of racism is no longer tolerated under the law.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch

“It has been five years in the waiting but I am pleased that the State Government is finally adopting our position.

“The community has waited far too long for this day and it is shameful that the government has been so inactive on this issue for so long.”