The impact of hate speech laws on public discourse in Australia: 1989-2009

Gelber, Katharine and McNamara, Luke (2012). The impact of hate speech laws on public discourse in Australia: 1989-2009. In: Australian Political Science Association Conference (APSA) 2012, Hobart, Australia, (). 24-26 September 2012.

Author Gelber, Katharine
McNamara, Luke
Title of paper The impact of hate speech laws on public discourse in Australia: 1989-2009
Conference name Australian Political Science Association Conference (APSA) 2012
Conference location Hobart, Australia
Conference dates 24-26 September 2012
Publication Year 2012
Sub-type Oral presentation
Language eng
Abstract/Summary This paper reports on the preliminary findings from a large research project (ARC DP1096721) into the impact of hate speech laws on public discourse in Australia. Gathering and triangulating data from a range of primary and secondary sources, including complaints data from anti-discrimination and human rights authorities, Tribunal decisions, media coverage of vilifying events, letters to the editors from national newspapers over the study period, data from relevant community organisations, and interviews conducted with members of targeted communities, this paper provides an overview of the study’s preliminary findings. These are that while the introduction of hate speech laws appears to have had a positive impact in the short term in terms of mediating the kinds of language-use that features in general public discourse, over time this impact has fragmented. At the elite level, official public discourse has altered – this is evidenced for example by the selection of letters by broadsheet newspaper editors, and the language use of community and sporting leaders. However, at the community level public discourse appears to have altered to a far lesser degree, and in ways that appear to be adaptive to the law’s constraints yet not appreciative of the law’s substantive purpose. These findings question presumptions in favour of the symbolic and educative effect of legal change, and suggest that other factors in political culture play a much stronger role than is appreciated by advocates of the legal regulation of hate speech.
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Session 1: Panel 1: Special Themed Panel 1: Politics and Law Network

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Political Science and International Studies Publications
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