NZ First “assault on free speech”

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark’s remarks in Parliament last week, and the support of those remarks by leader Winston Peters, have been described in a Herald editorial as an assault on free speech.

I agree. Trying to put someone down and telling them they should go back ‘to where they came from” is an insidious attempt to shut them up, an attempt to tell them thay have no right to speak or to be critical. This is especiallyh serious as it happened in Parliament, where it’s important MPs can speak openly for their parties and constituencies.

Editorial: ‘Korea’ slight an assault on free speech

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark’s suggestion in Parliament that National’s Melissa Lee should “go back to Korea” rather than criticise something in New Zealand has been called racist, which it was, but it was also oppressive of free speech, which in Parliament is even worse.

Mr Mark is denying the right of immigrants to criticise their adopted country, which is an attitude heard often enough in general conversation where it is deeply oppressive for immigrants who are sensitive to the fact that they are recent arrivals and would like to join the conversation.

It is an attitude that should never be heard in Parliament, where it is essential to democracy that representatives of all shades of opinion, interest and ethnicity are allowed to speak.

NZ First have attacked Asian immigration and Asian investment and attacked Asians generally for some time. But to attack a New Zealand MP and to try and shut them up because they are of Asian origin, in Parliament, is probably a new low.

On that basis, Mr Mark may say he should be free to express the view that immigrants who do not like something about New Zealand should go back where they came from rather than criticise this country.

But Parliament has numerous rules that restrict its members’ rights to speak in ways that abuse their rights or oppress the rights of others to be heard. This should be one of the them.

It was ethnic bullying.

It is hard enough to encourage immigrants to stand for Parliament, as any political party can attest, for exactly the reason Mr Mark has stated. Naturally they wonder whether they have a right as new citizens to join in our political debates. We need to stress they most certainly do have a right. They have chosen to become citizens of this country, they are a large and growing minority contributing to its economy and we need to hear their views. It is not healthy for any country to suppress the voice of any section of its population.

It is similar to if Mark had told a female MP to shut up and go back to their kitchen or a Maori MP to shut up and go back to their Marae.

For these reasons, Mr Mark ought to have apologised to Ms Lee and to Parliament as soon as he had reflected on what he had said. The fact that he still has not should be treated very seriously in view of its oppressive implications for free speech in the chamber.

It is possible Mr Mark has not reflected on his remark even yet.

Mark should reflect on a number of things he has said in Parliament said and on his behaviour in Parliament. He appears to be too arrogant to do so.

It is not too late for the House to take some sort of action when it resumes next week. The need for a directive on oppressive speech has become stronger now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has echoed the offence. When the country’s most experienced parliamentarian says, “If someone is complaining about the country they are in, they … can always go back home,” he is a disgrace to free and fair debate.

It’s not unusual for Peters to be a disgrace to free and fair debate. It’s very sad that NZ First now have a deputy who seems tol be prepared to be more disgraceful.

All of this arose because Ms Lee criticised shop trading hours in New Zealand as they used to be. Any member of Parliament who cannot acknowledge the right of another to be here, and take part in our politics, is not worth his seat.

As far as Peters goes that’s up to the voters in his electorate.

Mark is a list MP, so it is up to NZ First to decide on whether he  deserves his seat. That his leader has endorsed and repeated his insidious remarks means voters should seriously consider whether NZ First is worth having in Parliament. Unfortunately democracy means even racists and bigots and those who verbally assault immigrants and assault free speech can get elected.

Leave a comment


  1. kiwi guy

     /  10th November 2015

    “oppressive speech”


    It is free speech for the NZ First MP to tell a migrant to go back to where she came from if she doesn’t like it here AFTER she whined about NZ not being as good as her place of origin.

    You Multiculters really are showing your Totalitarian disposition now.

    • jamie

       /  10th November 2015

      Interesting picture, do you know who it depicts? Who in the picture do you thinks represents the multiculturalists”?

  2. unitedtribes2

     /  10th November 2015

    and I say if we have to rely on immigration for growth then I support asians than folks from some other parts. Guess that makes me as bad as Mark.

  3. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  10th November 2015

    @Kiwi guy

    Check out Melissa Lee’s speech. She didn’t whine about NZ not being as good as S.Korea. She merely pointed out that when she arrived in NZ she was surprised that the place shut down during Easter.

  4. You need to be careful here Pete. Ron Mark has every right to make stupid remarks in the House. He exposes himself for who he is.

    And all this raises the topic of “Who has the right to define the limits of Free Speech?” Personally I am not in favour of anyone having the right to be prescriptive in this area except for limiting speech that directly calls for violence.

    Saying to some if you don’t like it here go home, is an old line and you just ignore it.

    • Mefrostate

       /  10th November 2015

      I agree, but I don’t think anyone is trying to block Ron Mark’s right to say what he said. Rather everyone is simply pointing out how rubbish and racist his point was. If the conclusion is “Ron Mark you shouldn’t have said that because it’s a horrible thing to say and a pithy point” then I still don’t think that’s an assault on his free speech.

      • @Mefrostate ….. there is blocking and then their is shaming, which is blocking without regulation. Pete seems to be calling for Mark to be dropped [see his last paragraph] because he said something that has been labelled “racist” and an abuse of free speech. That is something to be very careful about, in my view

        My point is: Bar calling for violence, people should be free to say what they like, within the bounds of defamation law. People can then judge them on their utterances and with politicians vote accordingly..

  5. Mark has a right to say what he likes in Parliament.

    Melissa Lee has a right to speak on Parliament without being told to go back to where she came from

    Mark has a responsibility to acknowledge the error in what he said and apologise.

    NZ First can select their list how they like and voters can respond as they like.

    I see that neither Mark nor Peters are down to ask questions in QT today. There could be a valid reason or they could be gutless.

    • I disagree Pete – Mark has the right to say go home and be exposed as an idiot.

      Its a subtle difference but important.

      Demanding he apologise implies others have the right to define what he says. That sounds a lot like dictatorship to me.

      Judging by the way the Nat MP’s acting the next day in question time Ron Mark will cop it every time he stands in the House to speak… so his dumb remark will be highlighted endlessly.

      Don’t be surprised to hear “Go back to the Wairarapa Ron – trains leave just down the road” or similar every time he speaks…

      • I’m not demanding he apologises, I’m just saying that I think it would be appropriate so he should.

        And as you suggest of hr doesn’t then there’s likely to be greater consequences. His call.

      • tealeaves

         /  10th November 2015

        Will the punishment fit the crime?

  6. kittycatkin

     /  10th November 2015

    It’s as witless a remark as that puerile old ‘joke’ of Winston Peters about two Wongs not making a white. I wonder how many of the braying sycophants who fell off their seats laughing at it could have explained it. None, I imagine, as it doesn’t make any sense.

  7. I dissent, as always. Here’s a classic example of how issues become sidelined in largely irrelevant personal insult and base conflict. In this case, Ron Mark has shot himself in the foot, sidelining his own argument.
    I’m much more interested in Melissa Lee’s comment about the place shutting down during Easter. This is the real issue. Presumably by ‘shutting down’ she mean the shops close? This seems to be a source of great consternation for many people, apparently horrified or terrified by being deprived of a potential shopping experience, along with the contigent pleasure of working in shops, for one of only two or three days in the entire year. Good Heavens! (And I don’t mean that in a religious sense). Of course, ‘the shops closing’ and the whole place ‘shutting down’ is not the same thing at all. Not at all. One might argue that the shops closing actually opens up the whole place to leisure, travel, fun, sport and recreation, family time, rest and reflection and, dare I say it, even spiritual pursuits.
    While I suppose he has the right of free speech to do so, I don’t agree with Ron Mark racially insulting Melissa Lee. However, I can tell her one relevant thing here and now, 24 hour shopping ain’t gonna solve our economic problems. It will only create additional social problems to add to them.
    Mark could easily have just argued that we already have wildly extended shop trading hours in this country and don’t need any more ‘shopping time’. We don’t want to be more like Korea or any other crazed merchantile nation because we Kiwis value many things above and beyond conspicuous consumption, right?
    Yeah, right!
    Freedom of speech. Freedom to shop. Freedom to commit some poor student or low-waged, under-employed worker to toiling away their Easter for the pittance minimum wage and maybe some time-in-lieu. But it’s okay. Absolutely anything is acceptable, isn’t it, provided I have my “freedom”?

  8. Okay, very briefly. I’m new to blogging … believe it or not … new here and a bit of a hot head writer sometimes. Fired up after a great conversation with a friend tonight, I discovered this blog and posted my reply. Then I read “Good Commenting” only to find I’ve broken most of the guidelines. Sorry ’bout that. I’ll be more circumspect in future. Cheers.


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