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Labour promise tougher hate speech laws if re-elected

Labour want to get through hate speech legislation if re-elected, after coming up to roadblocks within Government.  

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The party attempted to make change in 2019 and were blocked by NZ First. Source: 1 NEWS

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was asked about Labour's intentions after Al Noor Mosque imam Gamal Fouda today said an aspect to achieving justice after the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attack was for New Zealand to "lead the world in enacting clear legislation that draws a clear line between the freedom of speech and hate speech". 

He said the attack, that killed 51 people, was a clear example of where hate speech formed into hate crime. 

A review on hate speech was sparked after the attack, but the Government could not find consensus on making changes. 

Today, Ardern said if re-elected, Labour would plan to include religion under legislation that deals with hate speech and discrimination.

"We haven't been able to progress change in this area but that's something we're committing to as the Labour Party," she said. 

"In a modern New Zealand, everyone would agree no one should be discriminated for their religion. 

"It makes sense that we add this to the suite of other things we say it is just not OK to discriminate people over."

When asked today why NZ First stopped legislation progressing on hate speech, leader Winston Peters said, "it hadn't been drafted". 

"The concept was worthy of consideration until you get down to the detail of the drafting and you clashed in with the freedom speech and you've got to have balance," Peters said.

"At no point did (Andrew Little) produce any statute model that would give both objectives a chance to succeed.

"You need to see the detail, words matter. If it's out to stop people's freedom, if it's out to stop people having a different point of view, then they should be stopped from doing that."

In response, Little told 1 NEWS that someone "who has been around as long as Winston Peters should know that legislation cannot be drafted until Cabinet has agreed the underlying policy".

"I was not able to get agreement on the underlying policy and so there never was an opportunity to present a draft law change.

"I remain committed to seeing better protection from harmful abuse of minority communities, and will continue to pursue this area should I return as Minister of Justice after the election."

Ardern said it was important that hate speech incidents were recorded.

When asked if changes would include adding sexual orientation, age and disability to any proposed changes, Ardern said religion was not the only area that had been identified. 

"That is something that we believe needs to be resolved too."

ACT leader David Seymour came out swinging shortly after, saying Labour's plan was "a deeply concerning development that will undermine our fundamental right to freedom of expression". 

"Hate speech laws are divisive and dangerous, turning debate into a popularity contest where the majority can silence unpopular views using the power of the state," he said. 

"Freedom of expression is one of the most important values our society has."

Ardern said she believed New Zealanders rejected the idea "that anyone should be discriminated for who they are, their religion, their cultural or ethnic background".

"It's just not OK and so I would have thought we'd have wide support for that."

In April last year, then-National leader Simon Bridges said he was "cautious because freedom of speech is a bedrock value for us".

"It does mean a diversity of views, people disagreeing with each other, people sometimes saying really offensive things, actually. And I think you've got to be really careful before you interfere with it."