Q+A: free speech versus hate speech

On NZ Q+A last night Labour MP Louisa Wall and Act MP David Seymour debate free speech versus hate speech.

Louisa Wall:

We need tighter laws because I believe hate does exist, and hate breeds racism. It also breeds sexism, misogyny, homophobia.

And from my experience we haven’t really looked at whether out current legislation is fit for purpose, and specifically section 61 of the Human Rights Act, which is what I took the old Nesbitt cartoons in 2013 to the Human Rights Commission. So that was about racial disharmony.

But in fact I think civil disharmony has now become an agenda item that we all are investigating.

David Seymour:

I find it detestable that people target each other based on their race or their gender or their sexuality, and I’ve got a track record for that, when the Labour Party went through the phone book and targeted people for having Chinese sounding names I was the first politician to stand up to that. When the New Zealand First Party said that Kanwaljit Bakshi and Melissa Lee should go home to their home countries I stood up to that.

My concern is that, free expression is one of the most important  parts of the human condition. We all experience the world differently, and we should be able to talk about that and express our thoughts and feelings.

Secondly, not only is it a very important human value, but it’s an important part of how we work through our troubles as a society, so if you look at the places in the world that have managed to actually fight bigotry and racism, it’s the places where we actually allow people to discuss their differences and work through them on the basis that sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will not hurt me.

1 News cover:  MPs David Seymour and Louisa Wall clash over Israel Folau case during hate speech debate

Mr Seymour called the Australian rugby player’s anti-gay Instagram post “so ridiculous” and Ms Wall hit back that it’s not ridiculous if you’re a young gay person coming out.

“You’ve had a series of really quite absurd cases where people have been spoken to by the police for things they said on Twitter. And yet as they’ve measured it, the amount of hateful rhetoric in the UK has increased there too,” Seymour said.

“So I’m just not convinced that these laws will work, and they can actually create cynicism.”

“Can I give you the example of Israel Folau. Now what the guy recently put on Instagram is that if you’re gay, when you die you will go to a fiery pit in the ground. I mean it’s so ridiculous. He’s been ridiculed…”

Ms Wall interrupted saying, “It’s not ridiculous if you’re a young gay person, David, who’s coming out. And he has done this three times. Last year when he said it there was nationwide and also Australian wide condemnation.”

Seymour: “Look, you know if he had had the Australian police show up at his door and say, ‘we’re going to arrest you, we’re going to discipline you’ or whatever, I think he would have actually instead of being ridiculed around the world as he was, quite rightly, I think he actually could have become a martyr.

“And that’s what’s happened to some extent in the UK. You can actually end up creating more resentment with these kinds of laws.”

Ms Wall said she believed tighter hate speech laws would have prevented the Christchurch attack, saying “we would have been able to call them out”.

“We need tighter laws because I believe hate does exist. And hate breeds racism. It also breeds sexism, misogyny, homophobia,” she said.

I think that Wall is right, hate speech can normalise attacks on groups of people, it can encourage and incite more hate speech.

But I don’t think it is possible to claim that tighter speech laws would have prevented the Christchurch massacres. They may have helped prevent the attacks, but they may have made no difference, and they may even have made an person like Tarrant more determined to attack.

The full debate:


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  1. David

     /  21st May 2019

    But who gets to decide what is hate speech. Seems perfectly amusing to insult a Catholic but not a Muslim, fine to body shame middle aged men but not women, no problems abusing and stereotyping middle aged white men but not young black women.
    People should be free to say exactly what they want about whatever they like and if its there desire to wander down the high street in a Hitler costume, we can then laugh at their absurdity and learn to rise above and be better for it rather than whimpering in the corner waiting for the government to turn up.
    Generally its people taking offence on behalf of other people who probably dont care all that much. There is rightly anti discrimination law and that should be enough.

    • lurcher1948

       /  21st May 2019

      So its true,David Seymour who said hes part Maori is the highest paid beneficiary in New Zealand continuing the stereotype

    • Duker

       /  21st May 2019

      Those examples arent ‘hate speech’
      It has to be more than ‘insults’ alone , yes those elements are there but it has to include threats of violence.

      • David

         /  21st May 2019

        Incitement is covered already under law its hate speech these fools want

    • “But who gets to decide what is hate speech”

      That is the big answered question, alongside how hate speech might be legally defined.

      • adamsmith1922

         /  21st May 2019

        I refer you to this, which I posted a few weeks back
        ‘Given the reaction to Christchurch and the calls by many for speech to be regulated and the propensity for politicians of all shades to draft bad legislation this video from Rowan Atkinson is very pertinent . Especially given that the possibility of using such legislation will encourage some to use it as a weapon of oppression,plus the probability of over zealous police enforcement.’

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  21st May 2019

          I have never heard David claim to be part-Maori. Lurch has a real bee in his bonnet about him, and it’s based upon fallacies and misinformation.

          I don’t believe that the massacre would have been prevented by anything. Mass shootings happened long before social media did.

          Louisa Wall ignored all the other people whom Israel F thinks are going to Hell; gays were only one group. He did make himself look ridiculous and by extension his team as he put this bigoted statement out with a photo of himself in footy gear.

          The Nesbitt cartoons were unfunny, but as the people in them were both Maori and Pakeha (something people overlook) they weren’t really racist, just stupid. People should have said nothing; they were not worth it.

  2. Gezza

     /  21st May 2019

    Let’s just hope we don’t end up with what amount to laws against blasphemy again. Believers in religions need help.

  3. adamsmith1922

     /  21st May 2019

    A major problem is that all too often hate speech is used by many on both the right and the left to shut down discussion and/or the dissemination of an opposing argument or a view they disagree with. it goes hand in hand with safe spaces, trigger warnings, micro-agression and the like; plus in my view such laws only serve to drive people to hide their views and indeed may reinforce their views thus inciting that which they seek to reduce/eliminate.

    I find Ms Wall’s arguments on this issue some what disturbing see https://adamsmith.wordpress.com/2019/04/26/louisa-wall-another-authoritarian-politician/

  4. David in aus

     /  21st May 2019

    Hate Speech laws, the secular version of Blasphemy laws. There is a new belief system in town.

  5. alloytoo

     /  21st May 2019

    Censorship doesn’t prevent hate speech, it just bans speech the “powers that be” don’t want.

  6. harryk

     /  21st May 2019

    Yusuf Kalla represented Indonesia at the Paris meet, the only SE Asian country to attend. As you may see from the quote below, their censorship ambitions are truly illiberal. Does Ardern really want to facilitate such broad censorship? No wonder the US didn’t wish to attend.

    ‘Rudiantara met Jeff Wu, Facebook’s Asia Pacific Representative, and received assurances that the social-networking giant would include a new feature called “geoblocking” on its pages, allowing users to flag negative content, Semuel said. He said negative content would include material considered to be pornographic, radical, terrorist, hateful speech as well as fake accounts and fake news. “There is special content that will not be accessible in Indonesia with the existence of this geoblocking feature,” Semuel said.’


  1. Q+A: free speech versus hate speech — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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