Criminal justice response not always most effective tool against terror
1 September 2023
Australia must seek out the most effective mechanisms to prevent the profound harm caused by hate speech and its potential to lead to acts of violent extremism, the Law Council of Australia counselled in its appearance today before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).
Providing evidence to the PJCIS’s Review of the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 the Law Council raised concerns with a number of measures contained in the legislation.
“While robust and fair legal responses, including criminal justice responses, are an important component of any national counter-terrorism strategy, they are often not the most effective tool to prevent such conduct in the first place,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Luke Murphy said.
“A number of measures contained in the current Bill have not been demonstrated to be effective, necessary or proportionate. For this reason, we have recommended strengthening the justification for the measures contained in this Bill. For instance, we recommend that both the impact on services and principles underpinning the justice system be assessed in considering the proportionality of these offences’ enactment.
“Our concern is that criminalisation will not fully address the nuanced causes of radicalisation and violent extremism nor respond fully to the discrimination faced by certain communities. Instead, we suggest consideration should be given to reforms directed to strengthening civil racial and religious vilification laws instead of criminal prohibition in relation to hate symbols and insignia.
“The threat of criminal sanction could make it less likely that early, community-based identification, intervention and rehabilitation of ‘at-risk’ individuals will occur. The Law Council maintains that criminalisation should not be conceived as the primary tool through which to prevent radicalisation and extremism from propagating, or to facilitate behavioural change by disaffected individuals.”
During its appearance, the Law Council also raised the potential for the legislation to create unintended consequences. It highlighted that the Bill in its current form may not provide strong enough protections for people with a genuine interest in history, media reporting, material legitimately associated with political dissent or struggle, or individuals who unwittingly view online material.
In addition, the Law Council called for existing sunsetting provisions relating to the listing of terrorist organisations be maintained.
A full copy of the Law Council’s submission to this inquiry is available here.
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