Do we really want to be like Scotland, Minister?

Unfortunately, the fight for free speech doesn’t stop for long. 

While we have been celebrating the decision by the Minister of Justice to finally can hate speech laws, he has confirmed that the Law Commission is going ahead with advice on ‘hate crimes’. 

Don't be mistaken— this is every bit as much a threat to our freedom of speech; and freedom of conscience, too.

Together, we were able to do what almost everyone said we’d never achieve: defeat a majority Government’s attempt to censor Kiwis.

We can make sure that the subjective term ‘hate’ isn’t used as a rod to beat the backs of those who hold ‘unapproved’ opinions, but we can’t do it alone. I’m writing to ask if you would stand with us again and join in the fight to defend freedom of speech. 

Hate crime: what does that even mean? 

To be clear, the Free Speech Union has no interest, whatsoever, in defending criminal actions. But it’s not the ‘crime’ part of this phrase that has us worried.

It’s that ever-subjective term ‘hate’. 

What this work could mean is that if two individuals commit the same crime, they could face different penalties because one is somehow a worse crime (remember, they were the exact same crimes), simply because the beliefs or speech behind the crime are unpopular. That makes it squarely a question of the rule of law, and also our right to believe freely, and express those beliefs freely. 

For the sake of argument, let’s say individuals vandalise two different parts of public property: like a rainbow crossing and a Treaty of Waitangi instillation of Te Papa.  

Do you really trust Police, the Courts, or our MPs to decide that painting a rainbow crossing is a ‘hate crime’, but destroying an installation is petty vandalism? 

Since when did we ask if someone broke the law for 'the right reason' or 'the wrong reason'?

Yes, some speech is hateful and some illegal activity is motivated by hate (as opposed to greed, for example). But do you want the Government deciding what is and isn't 'hateful' for you? Or would you rather they just enforce the laws that already exists, where the same goes for everyone? 

Of course, we already have laws in place for illegal actions. But again, 'hate' is an entirely subjective term, and it shouldn't make an illegal act 'even more' illegal. 

This is what I was trying to make clear in my interview on Q+A in the weekend. 

In a free society, we’re allowed to think and say what we like, but we do have restrictions on our actions. The rule of law holds us all to the same standards without deciding if the motives themselves are a crime or not. 

'Hate' crime laws will be a rod to beat the back of unpopular opinions.

And it’s clear that if we have 'hate' crime laws today, we’ll have 'hate' speech laws tomorrow.

That’s why we’ve written to the Minister of Justice and the President of the Law Commission, insisting he drop this work programme by the Law Commission (read our letter to Paul Goldsmith here).

Scotland: 'Hate' laws in action

Have you followed what's happening in Scotland?

It's worth considering that what they are experiencing could have easily been us, with the introduction of horrific censorship over the ability to speak freely.

Why didn't that happen here?

Well, I think it was because of you and me. 

From 1 April, a new 'hate' speech law came into effect in Scotland that is very similar to the unjustified limitations we faced when the Labour Government tried to do the same here. Incredibly, the maximum penalty for breaching the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 is a whopping 7 years. 

In the first 24 hours of the law being in place, there was a rate of 60 complaints made per hour. Thousands have been made in just one week. 

The rules are subjective. Police Scotland's own publicity even states that a hate crime is determined by personal perception. 

While the Minister of Justice's instruction to the Law Commission to stop work on the proposed hate speech laws is worthy of celebration, there are many still pushing for this, and they will use ‘hate' crime laws to carry this water for them. 

After all, if you can set up a supposedly objective standard for ‘hate’ crime, why can’t that same standard apply for ‘hate’ speech?  

Imagine if just one in one hundred of the complaints that have been laid in Scotland over the past week result in prosecutions for 'hate' speech; that's still many dozens of Scots having to defend their right to speak freely, probably at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars for each case.

It's well worth while if we each invest a little now to ensure we don't have to face a similar situation here in the future. 

I'm writing to ask if you would contribute $100 to our fight to keep Kiwis free to think and speak?

A continual push for hate speech laws 

Last week, chairperson for the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) described hate speech as 'verbal bullets'. 

If we demonise language in this way, we quickly find ourselves in an environment where we're all too scared to say anything. And when we can't use words, what do we resort to?  

Yes, words are powerful, and that's exactly why they should be protected. But words themselves are not violence; they shouldn't be equated in such a way.

We've written to FIANZ pushing back on their claims and acknowledging that more discussion is clearly needed on this topic. We've invited them to co-host an event to examine this further. 

Meanwhile, a research fellow at He Whenua Taurikura, the National Centre of Research Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, had an article on Newsroom claiming, "limitation [on speech] is justified for the benefits it presents to a free and fair society."

People have a lot of trust in the possible censorial forces, don't they? 

Public letter

But ironically, even though the spokesman of FIANZ admits that the situation in Scotland is 'a disaster', he says it's just because they 'didn't get the wording right'! 

Well, what wording would remove the subjectivity from 'hate', eh?! 

<< Sign our public letter now>>

We're calling on Paul Goldsmith to reject all advice to create a subject category of crime. Would you join us in signing it now?

The fight isn't over

 Together, you and I have a proven track record of the success that standing together can bring.

We have influenced culture. But you can see the fight isn't over.

Will you continue to stand with us? Without you joining us, what’s to stop us from being like Scotland in a few years?

We are so grateful for your partnership. Together, we'll keep the censors at bay and ensure that the next generation of Kiwis are champions of free speech. 



Jonathan Ayling
Chief Executive
Free Speech Union

P.S. Yesterday, on Breakfast, the Human Rights Commission was interviewed about a case they have helped take to the Court of Appeal regarding free speech. But no, they weren't arguing in favour of Kiwis' free speech.

The public outfit which is supposed to be dedicated to defending human rights was arguing against free speech. 

We don't have public funding- we rely on Kiwis stepping up to ensure someone is defending this fundamental freedom. Join us now in ensuring subjective 'hate' doesn't undermine our basic freedoms. 

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  • Nadia Braddon-Parsons
    published this page in News 2024-04-10 16:17:52 +1200

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