HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.45 pm]: I rise tonight because I want to speak to the issues raised by the government’s response to a question I asked in Parliament last week about the prevalence of hate crime in this state. I am concerned that the minister’s response to my question demonstrated that the government does not have a very good grasp on what hate crime is, or even on its prevalence in this state. The minister advised that the Western Australia Police Force collects data only on racist harassment and incitement to racial hatred. Clearly, that is not enough. It is too narrow a definition and I have grave concerns about that. Although I acknowledge that Western Australia is the only state to have a sentencing-based approach to racist hate crime, we need to remember that hate crime encompasses more than race. Hate crimes can of course be motivated by prejudice based on a person’s race but also on the basis of religion, sexual orientation or gender identity or, potentially, disability. Hate crimes are also known as bias crime due to the nature of the motivations for these crimes.
Failing to collect this data is quite problematic. If we do not know the nature and scale of the problem, it makes it very difficult to figure out what sort of action we need to undertake to address it. I know that one of the key criticisms following the Christchurch massacre has been the New Zealand government’s failure to keep a comprehensive record of hate crimes despite multiple requests from local and international agencies to do so in more than a decade. I will say that here in Western Australia we also are not paying enough attention to hate crimes within our community, noting that the United Kingdom and the United States have a far more comprehensive approach to collecting that data. In particular, the UK already has hate crime laws. It also couples these laws with public education, data recording, analysis and community engagement.
I note also that since Donald Trump has been the President of the United States, both UK and US data indicate that the rate of hate crimes has skyrocketed, so it is important to keep this data so that we can note when certain trends are occurring. In WA and Australia more broadly, we do not have any idea whether there has been any sort of spike in the rate of hate crimes because we do not have that reliable data. Not having clear definitions or a comprehensive strategy also means that police are less likely to be able to consistently identify when hate crimes have occurred. This is a problem also.
Although the Christchurch massacre is a tragic and devastating reminder, hate crime, of course, is not new and we need to remember that it does not relate to only religious affiliation. We know that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex community has long been subject to hate crimes. We heard some harrowing accounts of this last year during the debate on the Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement Bill. Some of the older men I spoke to had lived in New South Wales during the 1970s and 1980s. They referred to a culture of gay bashings and murders that occurred all too frequently at that time. I note that last year the New South Wales Parliament initiated an inquiry into gay and transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010. The inquiry was established in response to a report that documented gay and transgender prejudice killings that occurred during that time frame. As members would expect, the report’s detailed accounts and findings are harrowing reading. The authors reinforced that hate-related crime continues to have a disproportionate impact on LGBTIQ people and that members of the community still under-report the number of assaults that occur against them. A collective minority stress is a part of the legacy of these crimes.
The report’s recommendations include the importance of understanding and minimising bias in response to LGBTIQ hate crimes, including resourcing for measures that detect prejudice in crimes; and the need to secure ongoing efforts in violence prevention, including collaborative evidence-based prevention programs and innovative intelligence gathering between the LGBTIQ community and the police.
Sadly, it remains widely acknowledged that many LGBTIQ people are still subject to hate crimes and remain fearful of reporting these crimes to the police for fear of further prosecution. They have good reason because it seems that a legacy of this prejudice still operates within the police force. I think that is demonstrated by a lack of recognition of the need to remove the many barriers that LGBTIQ people experience when seeking help from the police. That is precisely why programs such as the gay and lesbian liaison officers program are very important. I was very disappointed by the answer today from the Minister for Police to my question without notice 337 in which I asked whether there was any suggestion that we would introduce the gay and lesbian liaison officer program—known as GLLO—in Western Australia, as has been done in other states. The response I got was that there was no interest in looking at this at all. I think that is a problem. We need to look at implementing that sort of strategy, as has been done in other states. That is part of how we can make sure that we are creating a culture of eliminating hate crime and identifying when hate crimes occur against the LGBTIQ community. In the current environment, the LGBTIQ community has a very real concern that the Western Australia Police Force’s lack of rapport with and service provision to them could make them more vulnerable at a time when they feel at an increased risk of far-right terrorism and hate crime attacks.
We clearly need to do more in Western Australia to stem the tide of hate crime in our community. We need to start with a comprehensive and mutually agreed definition and we have to extend it beyond race. We need to put data collection systems in place, which we do not have now. We need clear pathways to ensure that this information is used to inform intelligence and program responses in a similar way that suspected elder abuse is identified. We need to work alongside those communities that are most vulnerable to hate crimes. It is important to recognise that specific programs are required to encourage these communities to report crime and seek help. We live in very difficult times—times in which violent extremism is playing more of a role. That means we have an obligation, particularly in this place, to ensure that vulnerable members of our community are getting our protection. I am concerned that we do not even know the half of what is going on at the moment.