Countering ‘Hate Speech’ Laws in New Zealand (Aotearoa)

Controversial “hate-speech” laws continue to be promoted under the pretence of ‘the public good’

Let’s dig deeper into this agenda. You can also Download our Fact Sheet which explains all of this in more detail.

Controversial “hate-speech” laws continue to be promoted under the pretence of ‘the public good’. After all, who can disagree with the idea of banning “hate”?

But beneath the shiny veneer of good intentions lies one of the most dangerous attempts at a law change our country has faced in recent history.


After years of debate and 19,000 submissions to a recent Ministry of Justice consultation on six changes to expand hate speech laws proposed by the previous Labour Government, the Government finally released its draft hate speech law – proposing just ONE change to the Human Rights Act.

This was a major major backdown – and its due in part to your voice when we asked you to make a submission to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation.

Despite the country’s horror at the terrorist act in Christchurch and the grotesque ideology behind it, the government does not have the support of New Zealanders for a radical transformation and expansion of so-called ‘hate speech’ laws.

The current law is that it’s illegal to publish or distribute threatening, abusive, or insulting words likely to “excite hostility against” or “bring into contempt” (whatever that may mean) to any group on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins. The Labour Government wanted to expand these existing legal protections that have been in place since 1993 to also include any group on the grounds of religious belief. But if you think that hate speech laws will stop at religious beliefs, we’d encourage you to think again.

In 2001, the Labour Government released a discussion document and as I said earlier, it had six key proposals that intended to strengthen protections against speech inciting hatred or discrimination because they said they didn’t believe the law was clear enough, specifically highlighting that trans, gender diverse and intersex people needed to be protected from “discrimination”. They said the final proposal would make changes to clarify this by changing the word “sex” (currently understood as biological sex as would be naturally expected) – changed to include “sex characteristics or intersex status” and adding a new ground of “gender including gender expression and gender identity”.

The announcement on the draft law was made by the then Justice Minister Kiri Allan toward the end of 2021. Now note that it was made quietly – on a Saturday morning in November – on a programme that very few were probably watching – Newshub Nation. Friday nights and Saturday during the day are where a government makes announcements that they’re not keen on shouting from the roof top. 

There’s two really important things to note:

The Government says it’s primarily focusing on a key recommendation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch terror attack. But here’s the problem with that line. 

In its 2020 election manifesto, Labour pledged to “extend legal protections for groups that experience hate speech, including for reasons of religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation… ”.

There’s the full agenda. Similarly, the Greens have campaigned for several years on extending hate-speech laws on similar categories. 

And this leads to the 2nd thing to note – this backdown is not really a principled backdown. It is simply buying some time. 

The day before the Minister appeared on Newshub Nation, she contacted the Law Commission to basically, in my view, ask for better arguments to get the wider hate speech laws introduced – because remember that’s their agenda . The Minister wants a ‘deep dive’ – as she calls it into:

Legal responses to hate-motivated offending (which is sometimes called “hate crime”. But isn’t all crime a form of hate towards the victim?);
Legal responses to speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt for, people who share a common characteristic;
Protections in the Human Rights Act 1993 for
transgender people, non-binary people and people with diverse sex characteristics;

Let us remind you again… if you think that hate speech laws will stop at religious communities, we’d encourage you to think again. 

This current proposal is just step one. It’s designed to take the heat off this highly unpopular and controversial issue in an election year – but it will be back.

And don’t think that the Law Commission will be conservative on this issue. This is the same Law Commission that that issued a report on the abortion law which ignored the weight of submissions (almost 70%) which opposed removing abortion from the Crimes Act – the same Law Commission that recommended removing many of the previous restrictions and making abortions that much easier to access with less oversight. They recommended a very liberal law which we now have in NZ. One of the most liberal in the world, sadly.

So don’t put your trust in the Law Commission necessarily coming back with appropriate proposals on hate speech.

Historian and Professor, Dr Paul Moon from AUT spoke at our conference two years ago on the hate speech law proposal, so after this recent government backdown. we asked him about the implications of this religious belief change, and which religion or religions is it referring to?


Adding religion could potentially criminalise any and all criticism of religion or religious beliefs. This places religion above criticism. What really happens when hate speech law is enforced is that the role of the state is changed to decide which religions are valid and which are not. This has nothing to do with protecting any religion; it is the erosion of freedom and democracy. Hate speech law will simply increase the power of the state to decide what we should say or not say about the nature of truth because true religion deals in truth.

But why is only religion above criticism. Should it be? We don’t think so. We’re happy to defend our Christian faith. 

ACT leader David Seymour during the 1st Reading last December of the proposed law said; “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. What is currently happening in Iran is an example of this.”

You could probably add Afghanistan and a number of other countries where there is religious persecution going on with disturbing effect which we should call absolutely call out. 

In fact Seymour highlighted that the Royal Commission of Inquiry themselves admitted the problems with introducing hate speech laws:

“The difference between legally criminalised hate speech and the vigorous exercise of the right to express opinions is not easy to capture in legislative language. As well, the more far reaching a law creating hate speech offences, the greater the potential for inconsistency with the right to freedom of expression”

National MP Chris Penk said; “It’s inappropriate for this Parliament to be making laws that protect merely the sensibilities of those who have a religious belief or, again, a lack of religious belief. It wasn’t that long ago – in fact, it was the previous term of Parliament – in which this institution repealed the crime – yes, the crime – of blasphemous liable.”

Just recently, the Labour government repealed the anti-blasphemy law with then-Justice Minister Andrew Little saying the law was “medieval, archaic and unjust“, He also said; “This obsolete provision has no place in a modern society which protects freedom of expression. The continued existence of this offence on the statute books was out of place with New Zealand’s position as a bastion of human rights, including recognising freedom of expression and religious tolerance for all faiths.” 

This all sounds confusing and contradictory, doesn’t it. 

And that should concern you.

Here’s something you probably don’t need to be reminded of. Some passages from the Bible for example are seen as insulting. After all, who wants to be told they are a sinner? Yet the claim that “We are all sinners in need of forgiveness” is central to the Christian faith and has never been motivated by “hate”, quite the contrary.

Traditional beliefs about human sexuality and identity, which have been held by the majority of humankind across diverse cultures for thousands of years, are only recently construed as “hateful” by the LGBT community.

But underlying all of this is that One of the most disturbing realities of criminalising “hateful” speech is that there is simply no agreement on the definition of what constitutes “hate” speech. Without a clear definition, how will you know when or if you have broken the law?

You may recall in 2019 with Duncan Garner on The AM Show, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern identified the “threshold” between reasonable criticism and hate speech as, When you see it you know it.”

In other words, you may not know until afterwards that you’ve broken the law. Depending on who gets upset. Who decides what are “insulting words” likely to “excite hostility” or “bring into contempt? Who decides “harm”? The government? The media? Social media outcry?

And of course there is the new form of hate speech in the form of “disinformation”. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. 

The Disinformation Project for example studies misinformation and disinformation in New Zealand. They released a report last year which said:

“The most recent Covid-19 outbreak and the vaccine are highly visible, potent symbols used to push various far-right and conservative ideologies around issues such as… ‘free speech’; faith (Christian evangelical or Pentecostal); abortion; euthanasia; cannabis law reform; families and family structure; LGBTQIA+ rights, including conversion therapy; immigration; race; and gender.”

Then the head of the Disinformation Project appeared on a government funded programme on TVNZ called “Web of Chaos” where there was an explanation of how certain people – gullible people – become conspiracy theorists and purveyors of disinformation – which has striking consequences for social cohesion and democracy. – apparently according to the producers of this programme

Check out the list – and apologies to any mothers who may be watching. Apparently you are the problem. 

WATCH HERE (specifically at 7’40” onwards)

A beautiful fair skinned blond or red head child with braiding and flowers, just – step – back.

In a recent UN speech which garnered significant international criticism and some commentators believe that the negative reaction to this speech may have been part of the reason for the government’s partial backdown on hate speech laws, Jacinda Ardern linked the phrase “disinformation” with weapons, the face of war and hateful rhetoric.

As you can see, there is a clear underlying narrative and ideology in all of this. Advocates for hate speech laws clearly disagree with a morally conservative or traditional worldview. A Christian worldview. They’re made that very obvious. Will these conservative views labelled as disinformation and misinformation be considered hate speech under this proposed law? 

The finger is generally pointed at conservatives for so-called ‘online hate’. 

Here’s a question. Will a biblical worldview such as Israel Folau’s or even Family First’s be protected under this new law proposed. Remember that we were deregistered because of our views on marriage and traditional family. Can we now be restored to charitable status and Israel Folau can play rugby league in Australia and NZ and post bible verses again? I think you probably know the answers to those questions.

In a free and open society, distasteful opinions are met with open inquiry, civil dialogue and debate. If I don’t like what you say, even if I find it offensive, I meet your ideas with my own in an attempt to discover something approaching the truth.

The real effect of hate speech laws is that they will develop a culture of fear and self-censorship for the purpose of political intimidation and control. Thoughts and ideas which are undesirable to special-interest groups will be able to be silenced simply by framing them as ‘hateful’. Such groups will claim to believe in free speech, just as long as it’s speech THEY approve of.

Why are only some groups protected and not others? The proposed laws want to protect certain groups. Aren’t all humans hurt by hate, regardless of their group membership.

Belonging to a group should not afford special protections that result in the removal of the rights of others to disagree with them. 

Let’s be clear – this does not excuse physical threats or incitement to violence. We should all oppose that. 

As the Free Speech Union rightly points out, we should simply make “incitement to violence” as illegal. And incitement to violence against any and all groups. Why highlight some groups for special protection. Let’s protect all groups. Let’s protect all New Zealanders. 

And remember – Our speech is already limited. There are many things we are not free to speak about.  

Examples includes laws on: libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, nondisclosure agreements, perjury and more.

These restrictions on your freedom of speech are widely accepted as part of a civil society. Likewise, threatening and abusive speech is also already banned because the consequences of harm can be directly linked to the speech in question.

Belonging to a group should not afford special protections that result in the removal of the rights of others to disagree with them.

Political activists and special interest groups will miss the important distinction between hate-speech, and merely speech they hate, and end up using such laws as tools of political intimidation to punish opponents and shut down debate in the marketplace of ideas.

Hate speech laws must be rejected for the sake of a fair, open and democratic society.

So what can you do?

Push back on this issue – before you can’t.

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