The Streisand-Brash debate – free speech and protest allowed

There was a debate on free speech in Auckland last night, and of course most of the attention was on Don Brash and a few people protesting against him.

I didn’t watch the debate, I had more important things to do, but it was covered by some in comments here: Brash up-platformed in university debate tonight

RNZ:  Protesters confront Don Brash during debate

Former National Party leader Don Brash was last night front and centre of the free speech debate that’s been been making headlines in New Zealand and around the world.

Dr Brash was nearly booed off stage at the University of Auckland debate, before counter-protesters persuaded him back by chanting his name.

Dr Brash was joined by the New Conservative Party’s deputy leader Elliot Ikiley in arguing that PC culture gone has too far, to the point where it is limiting freedom of speech.

However, Dr Brash only got a few seconds to argue the point before he was drowned out by protesters.

At one stage a scuffle broke out and it looked like he was not going to continue speaking, before a section of the crowd beckoned him back.

Eventually he did get a chance to address the crowd of more than 500, arguing that the protests were a demonstration that the culture in New Zealand is inhibiting free speech.

“Anything which is a bit beyond the pale you really can’t talk about frankly,” he told the lecture theatre. “Issues relating to religion, sexual orientation, family structure, the rights of people of different races, climate change – you name it – you’ve got to tiptoe through those issues in New Zealand today.”

In the end, debate chairman Chris Ryan left it to the audience to decide who won, with both teams getting loud applause and cheers from the crowd – as well as a fair few boos.

Brash and the protesters dominated the report, with no indication given about the merits of the arguments of all the debaters.

But possibly most significantly, the right to free speech was a winner, as was the right to conduct protests.

The Massey event that was cancelled and this debate have proven the Streisand Effect – “a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely” – has given Brash and the events far more publicity than they would have had if there were no bans or protests.

Fraught family issues and intimidating judges

Relationship breakups and family arrangements can be fraught with problems. Fathers in particular can be put in difficult positions, often feeling helpless in the legal system, with preference often given to mothers.

Some estranged fathers have been taking their frustrations too far.

NZH: Police protect judges at home from ‘intimidating’ Family Court protesters

Judges are being protected at their family homes by police as angry dads protest outside with placards and megaphones.

A group of fathers, many of whom are disgruntled at losing custody or visitation rights to their children, are gathering outside the homes of Family Court judges in Auckland, say multiple Herald sources.

It is understood the protests, which have largely taken place during weekends over the past few weeks, against about three judges have so far been peaceful with no reports of trespassing or property damage.

So they don’t seem to be breaking the law, but they are unlikely to sway judges with their protests.

Minister of Justice and Courts Andrew Little called the protests “very disturbing” and said there was no excuse for people taking their case to the front door of a judge.

“The reason for that sort of protest is to create some level of intimidation and that is entirely unacceptable.”

It does seem a bit disturbing, but fathers can get desperate in their attempts to maintain contact with their children. This is understandable – and far better than walking away from their parental responsibilities.

And they have succeeded in highlighting a problem faced by many fathers.

Perhaps having the law and the Courts stacked against them is also entirely unacceptable, and drawing attention to this is a valid if perhaps misguided reaction.

A third review into the Family Court had also been ordered by the Government, Little said.

A review panel and expert advisory group would talk to families who had been through the Family Court process, he said, while he had also asked specifically for a “human rights approach” to look at the views of both parents and the children.

More details of the review were expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Changes to the Family Court were introduced by the former National Government in March 2014, aimed at empowering families to resolve their matters outside court and without lawyers.

The reforms were also intended to help the Family Court focus on those cases which required immediate legal attention, such as those involving family violence.

Little said the review would evaluate whether the reforms had achieved their objectives.

In last month’s Ministry of Justice newsletter, Little also wrote: “Public confidence in the criminal system and family law has been eroded and a managerial approach has failed. We can do better, and we will do better.”

Swadling said there were “significant problems” introduced in 2014 when legal aid was removed and lawyers became unable to represent parties for some court processes.

“If protestors wish to be heard they would be best served by ensuring that they make submissions to the review panel rather than targeting particular individuals, especially judges who are unable, by convention, to defend themselves,” she said.

It is never easy sorting out relationship and family disputes, and it is a real shame that children get caught in the middle of parental legal battles.

While the care of the children should be paramount, both parents should be given a fair go by the legal system. This seems to be one thing where the system is often stacked against men.

Disingenuous protest

Penny Bright has been in the news again lately, as the Auckland City Council forced sale of her house for unpaid rates seems more imminent (nearing the end result of a protest that has lasted many years).

Stuff: Auckland protester’s home to be sold following 11 years of unpaid rates

An Auckland activist’s home will be sold to recover more than $34,000 unpaid rates and penalties dating back more than 10 years, but she’s not moving.

A High Court judgement ruled Penny Bright’s Kingsland home would be sold by tender on April 24.

Bright had been in a bitter stand-off with Auckland Council for 11 years over unpaid rates after she stopped paying them in 2007.

She said she wouldn’t pay up until the council was more transparent about its spending.

“I’m making a stand and because I am a whistle blower I’m being singled out and targeted. I am not leaving this is my home. I always intended to pay back the rates, which I think has been lost in all of this. This could be simply resolved. The mayor and councillors need to instruct Auckland Council’s chief executive Stephen Town to open up the books.”

She isn’t in a great position to be making demands. It could have been simply resolved by paying rates due.

She must be one of the most frequent protesters in Auckland, and one could ask whether she picks her battles wisely or not.

She features again here in Bikelash, paralysis – and progress:

This is the new bike lane up the hill to West Lynn shops. Its completion was briefly delayed when Occupy Garnet Road leaders Lisa Prager and Penny Bright occupied a digger, with a ‘Save the Trees’ sign. This was odd, given that no trees were being removed. At all. Indeed, the new lane diverts around a couple of trees before heading up the hill along the top of the steep grass berms.

(I’m told the Occupiers’ new objection to the path is that it is bad for the environment because it’s made of asphalt.)

She is not the only one geing disingenuous about protesting.

It’s easy to dismiss this sort of protest as nutty – as long as their bills are paid.

Nation Front clash with anti-racism protesters

A permitted National Front protest at Parliament grounds today was met by a counter protest by anti-racists, including two Green MPs.

NationalFrontvAntiRacists

Stuff: National Front members chased away from Parliament

Hundreds of anti-racism protesters have chased National Front members from the grounds of Parliament.

The National Front had a permit to protest on the land wars memorial day but a counter-protest was organised.

Green MPs Golriz Ghahraman and Marama Davidson spoke at the rally.

Hundreds gathered for the Aukati Stop Racism rally, which chased various National Front members to Wellington’s railway station.

As more National Front members made their way to Parliament, the rally chanted “refugees welcome, racists not”.

A few scuffles started but police intervened, surrounding the National Front members to escort them away.

Man dies after protest at Parliament

The man who is reported to have set himself on fire in a protest in the grounds of parliament yesterday has died.

More on this when available.

Poisonous protests in Nelson

Poisonous politics seems to be a thing in Nelson.

Yesterday on Stuff: Three arrests as Brook Sanctuary poison drop in Nelson turns nasty

A controversial poison drop in Nelson has turned nasty, with three arrests and a helicopter’s fuel supply sabotaged.

Sabotaging a helicopter is very nasty, and potentially (human) life threatening.

Two helicopters and 75 people are involved in the first of three planned drops at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, near Nelson. They are spreading bait laced with brodifacoum, a common rodent poison that is toxic to humans and animals. The operation aims to eradicate all rodents from within a 14-kilometre pest-proof fence that was completed last year at the 691-hectare sanctuary, to allow for the reintroduction of native wildlife.

Wildlife sanctuaries tend to be quite popular and are viewed positively, as is eradicating introduced pests.

Today from Stuff: Pair rub poison in face of Nelson MP Nick Smith, threaten family

Nelson MP and Environment Minister Nick Smith says he has laid a complaint with police after rat poison was rubbed in his face and his family was threatened.

Smith said he was not harmed by the incident, which happened about 11am on Saturday at the Nelson Market.

“It was blue rat poison,” he said. “I went and had a shower afterwards.”

The incident came as the first of three planned drops of bait laced with brodifacoum got under way at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, near Nelson.

Smith said a man and a woman protesting over the operation threw poison at him.

“The situation became quite frightening when it escalated from verbal abuse and throwing rat poison at myself and volunteers to physical shoving and rubbing rat poison over my face and clothes,” he said.

It was at that point, police were called and the pair walked away “but continued threats to poison myself and my family”.

“I’m quite tolerant of peaceful protest but this has gone too far and I have lodged a formal complaint with police,” Smith said. “The incident was disappointing because people are generally respectful at the Nelson Market even when they disagree with Government policy or my views.”

“You get a bit of lip; that goes with the turf but this went too far,” he said.

Throwing poison and threatening MPs and their families is extreme protest that warrants severe penalties and deterrence.

Universal access to state housing?

There were protests outside the National Party’s northern regional convention in Auckland in the weekend, making a number of demands.

Newshub: Protesters square up to police outside National Party conference

Around 50 Auckland Action Against Poverty representatives squared up to police in Mt Wellington, demanding a living wage and universal access to state housing.

One of the protesters was reportedly arrested for trespassing after running past police and trying to enter the Waipuna Conference Centre.

Group spokeswoman Vanessa Cole told Fairfax the protest was timed with Mother’s Day to acknowledge sole mothers, who “face economic punishment from Work and Income”.

Cole said unemployed people and low-waged workers are facing “crisis”.

Universal access to state housing was also mentioned in other reports, but ODT (from NZME) have a different description in Protests at National Party conference:

Spokeswoman Vanessa Cole said the group was calling for three key systemic changes to alleviate poverty – the mass building of state housing, a living income for everyone, and the end of penalties against beneficiaries.

Here  they describe it as “the mass building of state housing”.

On their website Auckland Action Against Poverty (which features Sue Bradford) they say:

Solutions

We have many ideas about solutions to unemployment, poverty and a broken, punitive welfare system, including a government commitment to the creation of decent jobs for unemployed people, total reform of welfare, a major state housing programme and the eventual introduction of a progressive UBI (universal basic income).

AAAP calls on political parties, unions, church and community organisations to join us in 3 key demands:

  • Lift benefits to levels people can live on
  • Overturn National’s welfare reforms; treat people with respect & dignity, not intimidation & punishment
  • Require government to ensure that  everyone has access to secure, healthy & affordable housing.

‘Universal state housing’ isn’t mentioned as far as I can see on their website.

In a press release promoting the weekend’s protests: Mother’s Day protest to grill Bill

“On Mother’s Day it is important to speak out against the economic punishment of sole mothers who face hardship and discrimination under our welfare system,” says Vanessa Cole, spokesperson for AAAP.

“AAAP will be demanding the mass build of state housing, a livable income for all and the end of sanctions imposed on beneficiaries.

“People should not have to choose between basic necessities. All people should be entitled to state housing and a livable income.

Not quite ‘universal access’, but that states “all people should be entitled to state housing” as well as a “living income”.

It’s good to aspire to everyone having good housing and good incomes but that’s going much further than is ever likely to happen – or if the Greens get to  run Government is unlikely to be affordable for long.

Trump protest in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Trump protesters clash in Auckland

Opponents and pro-Trump supporters squared off during a protest in Aotea Square which saw an American flag burned and heated confrontations.

People opposing Trump’s election announced this morning that they would be staging a peaceful protest at 2:30pm, run by a group calling itself ‘Aotearoa Against Trump.’

The group describes itself as a ‘grassroots movement established in reaction to Trump’s election to facilitate education, discussion and ultimately, change of the system that has led us to this point.’

What next, the Greens to start an anti-Trump petition?

People want to express their opposition, for whatever reason, maybe just to vent, but protesting in New Zealand is fairly high on the futility scale.

Ah, I was joking about the petition but there have been a number of petitions against Trump at change.org over the past year, including a post-election petition:

Impeach Donald J. Trump

Donald Trump has won the 2016 presidential election. It is clear something is wrong if an openly homophobic, racist, xenophobic and sexist individual can become the most powerful man in the world.

Make it clear you do not want this man leading our free nation. Donald Trump as POTUS is a danger to the entire world.

By signing this petition you are taking your stance and requesting the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump – to remove his position as President of the United States of America.

Stand with us!

This petition will be delivered to:

  • U.S. Congress
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • President Barack Obama

Searching change.org for Donald Trump returns 3,754 results! So far none of them appear to have been successful.

 

A protest about everything

Opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement have widened their scope (unless they had just narrowed it when targeting the TPPA) and are now planning a protest against, it seems, just about everything.

It’s Our Future: Day of Action across Aotearoa: 10 September 2016

Join with activists in your community to plan a day of action against corporate control, and to take back democracy in Aotearoa.

This is a heads up for a Day of Action in communities across Aotearoa on 10th September: ‘Fight Corporate Control: Reclaim Aotearoa’

Multinational corporations are being given rights and advantages over citizens and the local economy in many different ways. We need to join with others to connect the dots between the struggles against corporate control.

We will join together, across allied networks and movements, to fight against…

The ‘fight against’ list:

  • governments pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and other pro-corporate treaties;
  • multinational tax evasion and tax havens;
  • fossil fuels, deep sea oil drilling and geo-engineering;
  • undermining te Tiriti;
  • political corruption and undermining of sovereignty;
  • privatisation and casualisation of labour;
  • GE and toxic chemicals;
  • militarisation and mass surveillance;
  • and the takeover NZ homes, freshwater, land and other natural resources.

But wait, there’s more.

The Day of Action is a protest, but also an affirmation of reclaiming democracy. We will highlight and celebrate the positive alternatives in communities in Aotearoa – through organics, permaculture, community gardens; local renewable energy, EVs, divestment from fossil fuels; campaigns for better public transport and cycling; UBI, community finance, time banking; refugee support groups; etc.

So if you are grumpy about just about anything and want to change the country and the world – and probably if you are a Green supporter – you will probably be welcome to wave a placard of your choice.

WeProtest

 

What to do with an unspent $1m?

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull say he is committed to keeping rates within a self imposed 3% limit – about three times the inflation rate and after increasing rates in previous years.

ODT reports:

…it was signalled that $700,000 worth of extra costs discovered by council staff would make it tougher for the council to stick within the 3% limit.

But then:

Council group chief financial officer Grant McKenzie said the $1 million allocated in last year’s annual plan towards installing lights at University Oval…

…would make it easier to get rates lower? No, this is Dunedin.

…could be spent on one-off projects in the 2016-17 year, after the project was dropped.

What?

Mayor Dave Cull said having access to the funds was welcome and would allow the council to fund items the community indicated it wanted.

What about members of the community want escalating rates brought under control?

The spend mentality is one problem. So is Cull’s claim “the community indicated it wanted”? How does Cull know what “the community” want?

During feedback, submitters were positive about all areas of additional spending consulted on, Mr Cull said.

Did they choose more spending over reducing rates increases?

How many submitters? Some on the council have a habit of claiming that an active minority somehow represents everyone.

Like this today from Councillor Jinty McTavish:

It’s great to see Dunedinites calling for ANZ to follow the Council’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.

But ‘Dunedinites’ didn’t all feel the same way about the protest.

Stuff reports: Protesters blasted by passersby for blocking elderly customers from entering ANZ bank in Dunedin

More than 120 climate change protesters blocked entry to three ANZ bank branches in George Street.

Spokeswoman Niamh O’Flynn, of 350 Aotearoa, said the protest was targeting ANZ because the bank invested in, and supported, businesses that caused climate change through their activities.

Protest in a democracy. But obstructing people from going about their business isn’t as flash.

ANZProtestDunedin

Does councillor McTavish think that is good Dunedinite behaviour?

One passerby berated the protesters who refused to budge for an elderly woman wanting to use the bank.

“Come on you . . . . let the old lady in,” he said.

“Get out of the bloody way. You are doing your cause no good.”

Customer Jennifer Lee said she needed to use the bank, “and I had no choice but to take off my shoes and climb over them”.

Perhaps they are some of the same submitters who urge the council to spend more of other people’s money.

I asked Jinty how many Dunedinites thought obstructing other Dunedinites was great but she hasn’t responded yet.