Free Speech Update: Dictionary definition of "woman" = hate speech | Army defeated by essay | Speakeasy invite |

Dear Supporter,

This update is a little longer than usual – the team has been busy with both the 'hate speech' campaign and the new attacks by New Zealand's would-be censors. As you'll see below, even the NZ Army has gone woke – censoring an essay competition winner that, well, argued that being able to fight as an army is as important as diversity. We're also inviting you to our first "Speakeasy" event on Thursday 22 July.

Two more wins for free speech re Speak Up for Women

Wellington Council forced to backtrack

Speak Up for Women will hold a public meeting in Wellington tonight at the Michael Fowler Centre. The Council had sent lawyers to the High Court proceedings we supported in Auckland to see if they could get away with cancelling the event. Given the resoundingly strong judgement in our Court of Appeal judgement, and the subsequent High Court judgement in Speak Up for Women’s favour, Wellington City Council had no choice to back down.

But that didn't stop Hutt City Mayor Cambell from sticking his oar in. Despite the High Court Judge stating that Speak Up for Women "cannot rationally be described as a hate group", here is what Mr Barry said on Facebook soon after the announcement of the Wellington event:

Campbell Barry

The comment reads “If this group needs a venue in the Hutt, I’ve got some nice new waste bins they can use?”

Of course elected members are perfectly entitled to free speech too, as they are entitled to their personal views. But in their dispense of public facilities, they are required to maintain viewpoint neutrality. The Mayor should not be using their official platforms (Council halls/facilities) to take sides on issues – or mocking a group of feminists because he disagrees with their political views.

As well as being discriminatory, the comment is in clear contradiction to the Court judgement we received last month that Councils cannot discriminate based on politics when making public facilities available. This comment flies in the face of the law, and is a gross breach of Mr Barry’s duties to uphold it.

Your humble Free Speech Union laid a code of conduct complaint against Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry last week. You can read the complaint here.

Our pressure has forced the Mayor to apologise

Our complaint had the desired impact. Yesterday's NZ Herald reported on the Mayor's apology and picked up my comments on behalf of the FSU:

NZ Herald

Dictionaries under attack?

Definition of "woman" = hate speech?

After the wins against councils, we hoped this issue might quieten down - but on Tuesday we got the news that a billboard in central Wellington has been pulled down because (you couldn't make this up!) the dictionary definition of "women" is, apparently,  "trans-exclusionary" and therefore may be "hate speech".

Here's the Billboard Speak Up for Women put up on Monday:

SUFW Billboard

An online campaign (mostly on Twitter) targeting the Council and billboard company soon followed...

TwitAnd while walking to work on Tuesday, we realised that the billboard company had capitulated:


1News has picked up the story: 'Anti-trans' billboard removed from Wellington's CBD

If a billboard with literally just the dictionary definition of "women" can be successfully accused of being 'hate speech' and therefore removed, what hope is there that the Government's criminalisation of hate speech laws won't be misused?

What better example of why our work to defeat the Government's proposals is so important, and why we are asking Kiwis to donate to this important campaign to defend free speech?

Naturally, we are talking to SUFW about their legal and political options. Maybe a friendly Wellington property owner will put their hand up to erect our own billboard in response? 😉


Our first Speakeasy event: Free speech and the war over sex and gender

Given recent events, we are delighted to announce our first Speakeasy webinar. Join us on July 22 at 7pm via Zoom for an evening of frank, informed conversation about free speech, why it matters and how it’s threatened today. 


We'll be in conversation with our special guest, Kathleen Stock, author and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Kathleen has been aggressively targeted by the outrage mob for her insistence that the relationship between sex and gender can never be “beyond debate”. She has become a figurehead for the pushback against the censorious approach of organisations like "Stonewall", in which everyday language and ordinary people’s understanding of what men and women are have been declared offensive, bigoted or discriminatory.  

Material GirlsKathleen will draw on the analysis set out in her new book, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, to take us through the reasons why this issue has become so controversial, not just amongst activists and intellectuals but across our institutions and our political and cultural life, leading to the extraordinary denunciation of JK Rowling and others. Throughout, Kathleen has exemplified the spirit of good faith debate and has actively defended the free speech of others. Last year she was awarded an OBE in recognition of her contribution to higher education.

The event is exclusive to FSU members, members of Speak Up for Women, and those who helped crowdfund the recent free speech litigation against councils for trying to de-platform the group. If you’re a member or financial supporter, please register here.

Update on our Hate Speech campaign - 25,000 kiwis on board ✍️

More than 25,000 Kiwis have signed up to our "Save Free Speech" campaign against the Government's proposed hate speech laws – a great start. If you've not already, help get us to 30,000 and beyond by clicking here and sharing the petition on Facebook.

We've nearly finished our formal submission and are currently building an online tool to make it easy for you to formally submit on the proposals. We'll email you the tool early next week.

Briefing Paper on Government hate speech proposals

Our volunteers are also reaching out to affected communities we think could be (or should be!) concerned about the legislation. We've put together a short briefing paper on what the proposals are (click here to read online). 

Briefing paper cover

Lee Williams: Should banks be pulling services for political views?

We've had a number of enquiries over recent weeks about events involving controversial YouTuber Lee Williams (no relation) – who first came to our attention after media reported on apparent "white supremacist statements" and a campaign by the Twitter "community" to have Mr Williams sacked and more.

In short, we are very concerned with Westpac's apparent decision to pull banking services on the basis of Mr Williams' political postings. It's one thing to lose your job for making political (or offensive, depending on your viewpoint) YouTube videos. It's quite another to lose the ability to bank. 

In defending free speech, we are often required to defend views we don't agree with. That's the essential test of whether you're a champion for free speech or not. I shared my own views on Mr Williams material in this blog post, but ultimately my personal views are immaterial to the defence of free speech.

If activists have the power to close their political opponents' bank accounts and prevent them from supporting themselves, this is a development that will have disastrous consequences for this country. After mounting this successful "campaign", who will they have their sights on tomorrow?

I've written a blog piece about the issue, and written to Westpac. You can read both here.

The essay that defeated the NZ Army?

Last week an essay titled ‘Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat’ was selected as best written in a Defence Force essay writing competition. It was duly published on the Defence Force’s website before it mysteriously disappeared and was replaced with a note from the Chief of Army Major General John Boswell apologising for its publication.

This is getting ridiculous. Our society was built on a commitment to free and fearless debate — a value that countless troops have laid their lives down for. The Defence Force should be steadfast in its defence of this sacred tradition, not seek to undermine it!

We decided to republish the full essay on our website. Have a read and judge for yourself whether you think it should have been taken down and apologised for.

If the NZ's armed forces won't defend our human rights, we need to! Thank you for your continued support.


Jordan Williams
General Secretary
Free Speech Union


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  • Jordan Williams
    published this page in Blog 2023-11-17 10:17:04 +1300

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