In a bile-filled rant, a Sydney preacher recently called for death to a group of Australians because of their ethnic identity. The law was unable to do anything about it. It was impotent, powerless to act.
Ismail al-Wahwah, spiritual leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, accused Jews of corrupting the world, describing them as "the most evil creature of Allah" and threatening "the ember of jihad against the Jews will continue to burn … an eye for an eye, blood for blood, destruction for destruction. Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews," he fulminated. "There is only one solution for this cancerous tumour: it must be uprooted and thrown back to where it came from."
Wahwah insists he was referring only to Israel; his words and numerous references to "Jews" unmask this claim.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies referred the incident to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, which forwarded it to the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police, who said they were powerless to prosecute.
There is a six-month time limit for commencing a criminal prosecution in such a case in NSW. That window closed last week. The police decided against prosecuting despite the DPP advising that a "likely breach" of the law had occurred. Police said they didn't have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction or the power to obtain that evidence.
If that is correct and the problem wasn't lack of will among political leaders and law enforcement agencies, then the law is in serious need of reform. Since Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act was enacted in 1989, the ADB has referred 11 - now 12 - cases to the DPP under it. Not one has been prosecuted, let alone convicted. A parliamentary inquiry into Section 20D made 15 recommendations for reform; none has been implemented.
Hizb ut-Tahrir calls for the overthrow of democracies and their replacement by religious dictatorships. It insists it does not advocate violence. That claim rings rather hollow.
The failure to prosecute Wahwah tells all 200 ethnic groups in NSW that the law is unable to protect any person of ethnic background. The ineffectiveness of the law gives licence to racial hatred and incitement to violence - with impunity.
We are all the poorer for this appalling outcome. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has for years called for reform of Section 20D and will continue to do so. The law needs to be changed - before anyone gets hurt.
As Army Chief David Morrison once noted, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
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