Peters, Bridges support free speech

Both acting Prime Minister Winston Peters and national leader Simon Bridges have spoken in favour of free speech after Auckland mayor Phil Goff banned Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from speaking at an Auckland City Council owned venue. Southern and Molyneux subsequently cancelled their New Zealand visit.

Concerns were initially raised by Auckland peace action – Auckland ‘alt-right’ event cancelled due to ‘health and safety’.

“Auckland Peace Action (APA) called on the Government to not allow the speakers entry to New Zealand.” The group also threatened to disrupt the event, saying: “If they come here, we will confront them on the streets. If they come, we will blockade entry to their speaking venue”.

Goff:

Views that divide rather than unite are repugnant and I have made my views on this very clear. Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux will not be speaking at any council venues.

1 News: Winston Peters would have let far-right commentators talk at venue on ‘basis of free speech’

During a press conference today, Peters said if it were up to him he would have let the Canadian pair talk, after Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he would not let any Auckland Council venue to be used by them.

The Acting Prime Minister said “despite the fact that what they might have to say is a very antithesis of what nearly all of us believe here, we still believe in their freedom and their right to express it in free speech.”

He said if it had been up to him, “we’d have allowed them to come on the basis of free speech”.

“We should be very careful who we expel on that cause because the downstream historically record on that has been just disastrous,” Mr Peters said.

Good to hear him saying this.

He also questioned whether the mayor had made the decision alone or with council approval.

Fair question…

Auckland Live, who run the Bruce Mason Centre where they were to speak, tweeted the cancellation was due to “security concerns around the health and safety of the presenters, staff and patrons”.

This came after Mr Goff tweeted the pair would not be speaking at Auckland Council venues last Friday.

…that will probably go unanswered by Goff.

Simon Bridges backs free speech for far-right writers banned from Auckland Council venues

National leader Simon Bridges says two Canadian far-right writers should be able to come to New Zealand and speak, even if people disagree with their views.

Bridges told TVNZ’s Breakfast show today he strongly disagreed with the pair’s views but freedom of speech was important.

“I disagree strongly with what these activists are saying but I think it’s a dangerous thing to say ‘because we don’t like what you’re saying we won’t let you in’.

“I can see how [Goff] made his decision but I wouldn’t have banned them from coming to New Zealand. We should allow people we strongly disagree with to come. We’re a mature, liberal democracy.”

With some of the comments made over the cancelled visit of Southern and Molyneux, and a lot political commentary and debate, I would question how mature our democracy is.

In contrast Green co-leader Marama Davidson backed Goff’s decision:

Good to use our freedom of speech to say your racist bigoted views aren’t going to be catered for here. Thanks Phil. These two can get out.

It wasn’t ‘freedom of speech’ that Goff used, it was abuse of mayoral power to suppress free speech at a council owned venue.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman‏ also backed the Goff/Auckland Council ‘public safety’ excuse for not allowing the Canadians to use the North Shore venue.

I haven’t seen anything from Auckland Live or Ghahraman‏  that backs up their concerns about public safety.

Penny Bright responded to Ghahraman‏ on Twitter:

I have a proven track record in defence of freedom of expression (particularly under former Auckland City Council at Town Hall and the former Ak City Council Building). I don’t accept Mayor Phil Goff has the lawful right to decide who has access to Ak Council venues.

Rogan Mortimer has started a petition Protect Lauren Southern Event but it has just 145 ‘signatures’ in four days.

Juana Atkins also has a petition: Defend Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux’s right to freedom of speech in New Zealand.

This petition is to send a strong message that we will not allow people who are scared of criticism of their ideas to silence their critics and to prevent those who want to listen to them from attending the events of their choice.

When we book tickets we expect the venue to not be cowed by bullying groups who are NOT their customers into cancelling the event.

That includes a stupid photo of Southern holding two firearms – it has more signatures (currently 1204), presumably promoted on Whale Oil, but that won’t make many free speech waves.

It’s always funny to see people from Whale Oil promoting free speech when it suits them, given their history of banning many people trying to speak freely there.

Another petition, this one opposing free speech: Stop Lauren Southern from entering New Zealand

We, the undersigned concerned residents of New Zealand petition the Minister Of Immigration of New Zealand to stop Laurence Southern from entering New Zealand.

Laurence Southern is a Canadian born far right political activist. She has blasphemous views on Islam where she has used terms like “‘Allah is gay God”. She also has very strong anti-cultural / multi-racialism views. NZ is a very multi racial country with a rich mixed cultural heritage.  According to section 61 of NZ Humans Rights Act, this is hate speech. Her visit to NZ and public appearances are conducive for upheaval in the tolerant multiracial New Zealand.

By allowing Lauren into the country can easily stir religious and cultural sensitivities. This can manifest itself chaos and disharmony within our peaceful community and country.

UK have banned Lauren Southern and we request that the New Zealand Government do likewise.

Currently 2,696 signatures.

And yesterday a fund raising campaign was launched to force Auckland Council to respect free speech

A crowd funding campaign has been launched to raise money to bring judicial review proceedings against Phil Goff and Auckland Council for their banning of speakers Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern at Council-owned venues.

New Zealanders who value free speech can pledge money to this cause at http://www.freespeechcoalition.nz.

Supporters of the group include:
Dr. Michael Bassett – Former Labour Party Minister
Dr. Don Brash – Former leader of the National and Act Parties, and former Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Ashley Church – Business Leader
Dr. David Cumin – Senior Lecturer University of Auckland
Melissa Derby – University of Canterbury Academic
Stephen Franks – Lawyer
Paul Moon – Historian and a Professor, Auckland University of Technology
Lindsay Perigo – Broadcaster
Rachel Poulain – Writer
Chris Trotter – Political Commentator
Jordan Williams – Lawyer

Mayor Phil Goff has opened Auckland Council up to judicial review, as it is likely breaching the Bill of Rights Act (freedom of speech), and potentially the Human Rights Act (freedom from discrimination on the basis of political opinion). The Council is subject to both Acts.

This is an all or nothing campaign. If the $50,000 is not raised by 5pm Friday, then all funds will be returned to donors, and the Coalition will not proceed with further action.

The Coalition’s intention is, firstly, to force Auckland Council to reopen the Bruce Mason Centre to these speakers by August 3, the date that had been scheduled for the event. Secondly, and most importantly, we aim to set a precedent demonstrating that government bodies will face firm legal consequences if they breach the rights to freedom of speech and freedom from political discrimination that are laid out in law.

The visit has already been cancelled – that happened quite quickly – so I think this is fairly futile.

However there does seem to be an important debate here – free speech versus ‘protecting’ people from hearing things they disagree with.

I note that attendance at the proposed event with Southern and Molyneux was not compulsory.