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Rocks Can Turn to Sand and be Washed Away but Words Last Forever: A Policy Recommendation for New Zealand's Vilification Legislation

Free speech and free expression are values that are highly prized in western society. The mention of removing or altering that right creates great debate. In 2004 a Select Committee was set up to inquire into what New Zealand's stance on Hate Speech should be. The submissions to that committee made it clear that free expression was a highly held right in New Zealand. While the submitters were overwhelming opposed to any legislation, it was clear that many had no understanding of what hate speech was, and why people would want to restrict it. The select Committee needed to provide the public with more information about what was intended and what the international situation is. If nothing else this thesis should provide that comprehensive background information to ground any further debate. This thesis makes a policy recommendation for the New Zealand Government. The policy that is examined and contrasted with international experiences is that of hate speech legislation. What should New Zealand do in regards to hate speech? The general debate is examined and the free expression versus legislation debate is analysed to provide a comprehensive background to the topic. The reasons why free expression is important to society and democracy are examined. Alongside free expression, the harms of hate speech are also analysed in order to demonstrate what harm occurs and if such harms should be legislated against. The international situation is contrasted with the New Zealand experience. The legislation of the United States, Canada and Australia, is analysed in order to compare and contrast with New Zealand's legislation. These three countries are closely aligned with New Zealand in terms of language, politics and culture. These countries provide equivalent characteristics and are therefore the most useful for comparison. The United States is especially important as it has no hate speech legislation and provides a valuable baseline from which the effects of legislation can be compared against. The New Zealand situation is then examined to point out its strengths and weaknesses. Where there are weaknesses this thesis recommends changes that could be made in varying political circumstances. Hate speech and free speech issues are not largely discussed in New Zealand literature and scholarly work. This thesis follows some work that has been previously done on the topic in New Zealand. The bulk of the work written about hate speech and free speech issues has been completed internationally and needs to be adjusted to fit the New Zealand situation. This recommendation has gone some way to doing that. An area of particular interest in this paper is the categories of people that deserve protection. Historically just 'race' has been provided protection from hate speech in New Zealand and this thesis examines why. Central to this investigation is why other categories are not protected.
Type of thesis
Jones, C. D. (2007). Rocks Can Turn to Sand and be Washed Away but Words Last Forever: A Policy Recommendation for New Zealand’s Vilification Legislation (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2350
The University of Waikato
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