Christchurch mosque attacks: What changes the Government will make after Royal Commission report

The Government has committed in principle to implementing all 44 recommendations from the Royal Commission’s inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks.

It has identified some changes it can implement relatively quickly but has conceded some will take more time.

One of the immediate actions Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has committed to is raising the terrorist’s use of YouTube for “information and inspiration”.

The Government today committed to a raft of initiatives in response to the recommendations, including a number of changes to New Zealand’s counter-terrorism laws, bring hate speech under the Crimes Act and establishing a new ministry.

Ardern said the report identified “no failures within any government agencies” that would have detected the individual’s planning and preparation but did identify “many lessons to be learnt and significant areas needing change”.

“Implementing some of the recommendations will require further consideration but we want to act quickly where we can.”

The Government, police and the New Zealand Intelligence Service have all apologised for various failings, including that there was an “inappropriate concentration of resources” on the threat of Islam extremism and failings in the firearms licensing system.

Today the Government announced a number of specific changes it will implement in response to the Royal Commission’s findings:

• Placing Minister Andrew Little in charge of co-ordinating the Government’s response to the report and implementation of its recommendations
• Establishing a Ministry for Ethnic Communities to support the work programme on social cohesion
• Establishing a new agency within police called Te Raranga, The Weave which will respond to alleged hate crimes
• Extending the Safer Communities Fund so communities at risk of hate crime can upgrade their security arrangements
• Creating and Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme in the public service
• Establishing a National Centre of Excellence to bring together academia, civil society and government to research radicalisation and violent extremism and social cohesion in New Zealand
• Amending the Terrorism Suppression Act to strengthen counter-terrorism legislation
• Creating an early intervention programme to develop wrap-around support for individuals who show early signs of radicalisation. This will be led by police
• Continuing to work on ascension to the Budapest Convention on cybercrime.

Each response is detailed below.

A multi-agency steering group has also been established and will report to the Government in the first quarter of next year to outline an “implementation road map” for the other changes needed to meet the other recommendations.

Ardern said Cabinet had determined Little would be responsible for coordinating the follow-through of the response because of his past experience as the Minister of Justice, the Security and Intelligence Agencies, and of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations as well as his seniority.

Ardern said she was also concerned about the role social media played in the terror attacks.

The report identified the terrorist was “not a frequent commenter on extreme right wing sites” and instead used YouTube for inspiration and information.

“This is a point I plan to make directly to the leadership of YouTube.”

Make hate crime a criminal offence

The report recommends moving hate crimes from section 131 of the Human Rights Act into the Crimes Act and make the offence:

– inciting racial or religious disharmony, based on an intent to stir up, maintain nor normalise hatred, through threatening, abusive or insulting communications with protected characteristics that include religious affiliation.

In response the Government has proposed in principle that these legislative changes be made after consultation with community groups and parties across Parliament:

• Redefining the criminal offence to provide a clearer standard of behaviour
• Shifting the criminal offence for incitement to the Crimes Act to reflect the seriousness of the behaviour
• Increasing the penalty for the criminal offence to align with crimes of similar seriousness
• Extending the incitement provisions to protect all groups listed under the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Crimes Act to sex, religious belief, age, sexual orientation and disability.
• Extending the civil provisions in line with international obligations by including prohibition of incitement to discrimination against a group.
• Amending the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Act to include a separate ground of “gender, including gender identity and gender expression” and to amend the ground of sex to explicitly include sex characteristics or intersex status.

Ardern said “we will take time to get this right”.

She acknowledged the public consultation for these changes could further marginalise affected communities and said she wanted New Zealand to “have this conversation that doesn’t cause further harm”.

Create a Ministry for Ethnic Communities

One of the recommendations to improve social cohesion is to create an agency focused on ethnic communities and multiculturalism that elevates the current Office of Ethnic Communities.

The new ministry will take the place of the previous agency and its aim is to increase the “standing and mana” of the agency, improve leadership within the public sector, better respond to needs of the communities and improve support.

The ministry will be hosted by the Department of Internal Affairs and will come into effect from July 1, 2021.

The minister responsible will be Priyanca Radhakrishnan who said the ministry would lay the foundations for a “better future and a fairer more equitable New Zealand”.

Ardern said she would play a role in supporting Radhakrishnan the report made clear the need for leadership in this area.

Establish an Ethnic Communities' Graduate Programme

The programme will offer graduates from ethnic communities work experience in the public sector because they are currently underrepresented in leadership roles.

This initiative is in response to the recommendation to encourage the Public Service Commissioner to continue focusing on significantly increasing diversity in the public sector.

The programme will have an initial focus on recruiting into intelligence agencies and the Ministries of Justice, Social Development, and Education.

Wraparound support for the 51 Shuhada and others affected

The report recommended a co-ordinated approach across various public agencies so survivors, affected whanau and others could access ongoing support with a single point of contact.

It also said the Government should investigate creating a Collective Impact Network and Board to enable all those affected by the attacks and involved in the response to agree to a specific work programme.

In response to these recommendations, the Government has committed to establishing the Board which will work with the Ministry of Social Development and build on the current specialised support it offers. It’s estimated about 300 individuals and their families will benefit.

Strengthening counter-terrorism laws

The report’s 18th recommendation was to review all legislation relating to New Zealand’s counter-terrorism effort.

In response, the Government conducted a targeted review and will progress the following amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 and Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019:
• make amendments to clarify the definition of a “terrorist act”
• create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act
• create a new for international travel with the intention to carry out terrorist activities
• expanding the criminal offence of financing terrorism, to include broader forms of material support
• extending the eligibility for a control order to include individuals who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence of they continue to present a real risk of engaging in terrorism-related activities.

Accede to the Budapest Convention

Also in response to recommendation 18, the Government will finalise its ascension into the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime which is an international treaty to align different nations’ laws.

Establish a National Centre of Excellence

In response to the recommendation to establish a programme to fund independent and New Zealand-specific research on the causes of – and measures to prevent – violent extremism and terrorism, the Government will establish a National Centre of Excellence.

The centre will “bring together academia, civil society and government” to research the prevention of radicalisation and the promotion of social cohesion which will inform policies and public discussion.

Trial support for young people needing to control their emotions

Recommendation number 36 is to “invest in opportunities for young New Zealanders to learn about their role, rights and responsibilities and on the value of ethnic and religious diversity, inclusivity, conflict resolution, civic literacy and self-regulation”.

In response, a one year trial will be rolled out to 2500 children in about 70 early learning services to support their development of skills like self-regulations.

There was no information included in how this programme would be targeted.

Establishing a police response unit to hate crime

The Royal Commission identified police needed to better record and respond to hate crime so the Government will establish a programme called Te Raranga, The Weave for frontline police.

The programme aims to deliver a service “that is more responsive to victims”.

The Government said the programme would do this by tailoring police’s response to hate crimes and hate incidents and providing culturally appropriate responses and training.

As well, it would improve datasets and increase engagement with communities.

Police Minister Poto Williams said Te Raranga would be victim-centric.

Strengthen the Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission will get more funding so it can develop a “team of highly skilled individuals” which can provide mediation and facilitate conversations for people who have been hurt by harmful behaviour but the legal threshold might not have been met.

It is not yet clear how much its funding will increase by.

Early intervention in terrorism and violent extremism

The Government said the report identified a range of risk factors that could contribute to the development of extremist ideologies and behaviour.

In response it will implement a Multi-Agency Coordination and Intervention Programme to disengage people from this behaviour and mind-set by addressing risk factors, increasing protection and promoting social activities.

“The intention of this programme is to work with the individuals displaying concerning behaviour and direct their behaviour away from violent extremism and violent acts of hate by providing wrap around services and support.”

The programme will be led by the police.

Extending the Safer Communities Fund

The Fund was established in 2019 to provide communities which felt threatened by a potential attack with additional security and $7 million has already been handed out.

The Government said it would continue this funding for another year.

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