Reason party leader and Member for Northern Metropolitan, Fiona Patten, has introduced new legislation to extend Victoria’s anti-vilification laws to cover hate speech based on gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.
Currently, Victoria only protects people from vilification on the grounds of race and religion but not other categories.
Patten said she was motivated to put the reform forward because of the rise of online trolling on social media – particularly of women in public roles.
“Hate speech lives and breeds in social media feeds and the comments sections of news articles. Women are shamed and bullied through the everyday mediums that we use to consume media and communicate,” Patten said, earlier today.
Patten gave the example of freelance sports writer Erin Riley, who has for years received daily online abuse, including rape and death threats.
“Trolls are out in force and they know they will not be held to account, and this Bill changes that,” Patten said.
“People need to take personal responsibility for their actions. These are real messages, sent and received by real people – with very real effects. That is why I’m proposing real penalties.”
“This bullying can lead to suicide. It causes physical, psychological and emotional harm. It affects people’s sense of self-worth and feelings of safety and belonging in the community.”
“This Bill draws a clear line as to the racist, homophobic and gendered hate speech that we will not tolerate in Victoria. It is time that we take personal responsibility for what we say online. Our laws have not kept up with technology and this Bill helps amend that.”
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. With this legislation, there will now be someone at the gate saying to trolls – ‘you shall not pass’.”
If Patten’s amendment is successful, only Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory will remain as jurisdictions without laws protecting LGBTQI people from vilification.