Nazi symbols, online trolls set to be outlawed in Queensland

The possession, distribution and display of hateful material, like Nazi symbols, may be outlawed in Queensland as the parliament considers changes to the state's vilification and hate crime laws.

And online trolling that targets people because of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, age or impairment is in the government's sights too.

The Palaszczuk Government has tasked the legal affairs parliamentary committee with the review after lobbying by the Cohesive Communities Coalition, which wants to outlaw hateful material and make racial or religious motivation an aggravating circumstance to existing offences.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman. Picture: Tara Croser.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman. Picture: Tara Croser.

The committee will consider an options paper drawn up by the coalition that raises problems with Queensland's current laws, including the absence of actual hate crime laws that lead to low reporting and compromised data on the scale of the problems, and the fact that the distribution of hateful material is not subject to criminal sanction.

The paper was a direct response to concerns in the community stemming from the horrific Christchurch massacre and a wave of racially-motivated incidents linked to the COVID pandemic directed at Asian and African communities.

The paper collates a range of confronting stories of physical violence, threats of violence, property damage, verbal harassment, discrimination and institutional racism.

They include a woman of Indian descent who was verbally abused and had rocks thrown at her by strangers while walking down a Brisbane street, a man who threatened to set a woman's hijab on fire with a cigarette lighter, a couple who targeted their neighbour's children with derogatory, racist names, filmed them, and dumped rubbish in their yard and a woman who was denied access to her own apartment building because "all Asians have it (COVID-19)".

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the review wanted to hear from women, people with a disability, older people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and the LGBTIQ+ community.

"We want to ensure that all voices are heard and that any potential changes to the law are properly informed by the views and experiences of a diverse range of Queenslanders," she said.

"The Committee will review and investigate our existing laws, to determine whether they are operating effectively, consistent with community expectations and whether they are suitable to deal with modern challenges, such as online vilification."

Multicultural Australia chair and Cohesive Communities Coalition co-chair Peter Forday said everyone should feel that reporting hate incidents were worth the effort, but that meant laws needed to provide the right protection.

He said the way hate crimes were policed could also improve, and raised the possibility of victim protection orders and injunctions to stop people continuing their harassment.

Originally published as Nazi symbols, online trolls set to be outlawed in Queensland