Election Report 2023

Concerns over Mātauranga Engagement Programme prohibiting the expression of dissenting views


28 September 2023

Concerns over Mātauranga Engagement Programme prohibiting the expression of dissenting views

The Free Speech Union is concerned that the University of Auckland is failing to uphold academic freedom values in its upcoming Mātauranga Engagement Programme, says Jonathan Ayling, the Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.  

“While the programme claims it’s an opportunity for discussion and testing assumptions, Jade Le Grice, the Associate Dean Māori states that “this is not a space for debating or invalidating the position of mātauranga in Science”. These are contradictory statements, and we see it as a breach of academic freedom.

“We fear the programme will simply be a monologue, rather than a dialogue, presenting orthodoxies which academics are expected to uphold unquestioningly. How is it possible for this event to foster learning and dialogue if it is only a presentation on one view or perspective?

“This does not align with the free speech values previously expressed by Dawn Freshwater, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, nor her promise in 2021 to host a symposium to discuss this topic. We’ve written to Freshwater asking her how it is acceptable to host an event that aims to discuss ideas without debate and dissent.

“Where can we have robust debates and hold differing views to our peers if not at a university? A university is not a place where only views within a narrow band of acceptability should be aired. Debates and a range of perspectives should be encouraged.”

Allegation of arrest for filming public protest

Te Whatu Ora must stand by employees’ rights to freedom of thought and speech


25 September 2023

Te Whatu Ora must stand by employees’ rights to freedom of thought and speech

The Free Speech Union insists that Te Whatu Ora stand by their employees’ rights of freedom of thought and speech after an incident last week.  

We were informed by one of their members who’d had a complaint laid against them due to opinions held on an anonymous Twitter account. The complaint was made to Te Whatu Ora after a member of the public made the connection between the medical professional and the anonymous account, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.   

“When Te Whatu Ora was contacted for comment by The Press, they said they’d be raising the concerns directly with the employee as part of their normal organisational processes.  

“Te Whatu Ora should refuse to comment on any staff member's private statements unrelated to their work. It is beyond the relationship between the employer and employee, and Te Whatu Ora should have merely noted that it has no business in approving or disapproving of an employee’s opinions on matters not going to the performance of their professional duties. As is noted in the media statement released by Te Whatu Ora on 20 September, there exists no connection between the employee’s tweets and their medical practice. 

“We have written to Andrew Slatter, Chief People Officer at Te Whatu Ora requesting he confirm the organisation’s justification for interfering with employees’ thoughts and speech outside of their jobs.  

Employees do not give up their rights when they undertake a particular profession. We will not stand by while professional bodies deny their employees’ freedom.”   


Press seek to publicly shame doctor. We must push back.


I don’t like to interrupt first thing Monday morning, but we've just become aware of a case where we think immediate and overwhelming attention could help turn the tide. It involves someone I’ve long followed on Twitter with the handle @MomoStJohn.

I followed Momo because of tweets that seemed reassuringly well-informed on issues raised by anti-vaxxers and others suspicious of conventional medicine. There were also many sensible comments and corrections in debates about the collapse of morale and service capacity in our health system. I’ve just learned that she is a senior practitioner and is employed by Te Whatu Ora.

Momo needs your help.

But helping to protect her from media and employer oppression could also help turn the tide in favour of other health sector people who want to be able to tell the truth without fear of cancellation.

For years, Momo has had an anonymous Twitter account where she could express thoughts on issues without causing what employers could claim was embarrassment, and to avoid trouble for colleagues. She needed to keep her identity confidential.  

Over years of seeing her tweets, I remember nothing offensive. Her opinions  seemed informed and interesting. Sometimes they were blunt (i.e expressed crisply) but Twitter is not a medium for pompous euphemisms.

From what we explain below, there may have been support for gender-critical feminism (perhaps the view that “what is a woman” has had a simple answer since forever) and probably some expression of the widespread medical professional revulsion at rationing medical care on the basis of race, instead of clinical need and usefulness. I recall nothing that any rational professional should be ashamed of.  

But last week, someone complained to Te Whatu Ora that Momo was saying things they disagreed with. I saw Momo’s announcement that she was closing her twitter account and then scores of followers tweeting best wishes and regret at the loss.

A journalist at Stuff, Jody O'Callahan 'with a focus on Maori affairs and diversity' found out who Momo was and sent this message: 

'Issues with your social media activity' should read: 'We've found 'wrongthink' on your anonymous account.' Then, two fake questions which are essentially dodgy allegations around statements assuming guilt.

The message is nothing more than 'We are going to publicly denounce you.'

The fake questions are framed to allow the branding of any careful and accurate answer as denialism, or equivocation, in the classic 'have you stopped beating your wife?' genre.

In response, Momo released a statement which read: 

What's the story here? 

If there is any story to follow O’Callaghan’s fake questions, they must depend on one or more of the following:

(1) The idea that it is “unsafe” to allow doctors to practice if they still believe in the science they learned and rely on, which denies that men can become women if they want; or

(2) It may be safe to allow doctors to practice while not believing in the new ruling dogma on gender as long as they never express their doubts about the new faith publicly; or

(3) That someone who believes that racism in rationing healthcare is wrong will be dangerous to patients who would ‘benefit’ from getting a race pass to the front of the queue; or

(4) There is nevertheless some technique or way for a doctor who believes that racism in health care is wrong to “ensure” that their opposition to racism won’t “sway how” [they] treat [their] patients.”

All the likely interpretations of the fake questions make them disgracefully silly for the journalist 'asking' them.

In reality, the story is a story only for those believe it is OK for employers to use their power to stop doctors working if they don’t believe, or at least pretend to believe, in the recently imposed Wellington official faiths in race preferences and non-binary gender. 

This is a very dangerous takeover of state powers. It treats the idea of the tolerant secular state, which drove the NZ Bill of Rights Act protections of freedom of opinion and freedom of speech, as quaint anachronisms – to be ignored. .

Ms Callaghan and her enablers in Stuff need to answer some questions themselves – genuine ones this time.

Are doctors not allowed to have opinions themselves? What opinions are forbidden? What if until recently discrimination was considered wrong? At what stage should people with newly-'sinful' views be considered to have become dangerous? Who will decide? Have you asked the patients – what if they still want doctors who have the courage to resist ideolo]gical bullies? Have you asked if the trans and Maori you pretend to care about should get a choice? As a journalist are you worried if it becomes routine for people to hide their views – because your questions seem to rely on an assumption that things could be fine if the 'sinful' thoughts had been harbored unsaid.”  

There are scores more pertinent questions to put to Ms. Callaghan and Stuff.

Have you another line of views and jobs that can’t be mixed? Where is your evidence that the views you are trying to smoke out, are associated with risks? How will you ensure that your views wont sway and bias the “news” you supply to the people who rely on Stuff to be informed? Are you perpetuating mistrust among those of us who seek objective and factual reporting?"

We just want to give you your opportunity to have a say.”

You will be able to think of many more.

Now is the time to smoke out the journalists who want to doxx doctors who don't share their totalitarian ideological faith. Please send Ms Callaghan and Stuff your questions. We have written directly with some.

Stuff should not be allowed to get away with doxxing medical staff for 'wrongthink'? Our professionally conducted annual survey of academic freedom shows the pervasive fear now in our Universities; that a career-ending mistake could come from incautious expression of doubt in the current Wellington orthodoxy.

Let’s fight this spread into medicine. Actions like this are why Kiwis self-censor and feel unfree to speak (or think) for themselves. We need to stand up for the right of this medical practitioner to hold opinions others don't like, and push back. 

What you can do: 

Contact Jody O'Callaghan at [email protected]. If you're on Twitter, her handle is: @miss_jodyo 

Kamala Hayman is also the editor of The Press, which is the Stuff outlet O'Callaghan works for. You can copy her in too: [email protected]. Her Twitter handle is: @kamala_hayman

Remind them that in a free country people like Momo in the caring professions have every right to hold opinions others disagree with, and to express them publicly. Hit jobs like this are the reason many feel like they need to hide behind anonymous accounts on Twitter to say anything at all. Do we wonder why only 42% of Kiwis trust mainstream media?

The Free Speech Union entirely endorses the crucial role of the 4th Estate and the freedom of the press. Media are supposed to perform a vital function to enable free speech and democracy. Yet, actions like those being attempted by O'Callaghan and Stuff are the opposite of this. They now use this freedom to seek out people with diverse thoughts and target them for not holding the approved line. 

I hope you will join us today in pushing back against this nonsense. 

Stephen Franks

Stephen Franks
Council Member 

Free Speech Union


Alleged compelled speech of students at Mellons Bay Primary School

Public letter demands Minister of Immigration grant Posie Parker undisrupted re-entry into NZ


15 September 2023 


Public letter demands Minister of Immigration grant Posie Parker undisrupted re-entry into NZ

Calls by censorial activists insisting Andrew Little block Posie Parker's re-entry into New Zealand are authoritarian. In response, the Free Speech Union has released a public letter demanding that free speech and non-discrimination rights be protected and that the Minister of Immigration allow her undisrupted entry back into New Zealand, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

"Stopping an individual from entering the country because some activists oppose her views is the definition of political discrimination. Shouting down an opinion and threatening those who hold it is the antithesis to the tolerant and diverse society we aspire to. We cannot let the howl of the mob dictate who gets to exercise their lawful speech rights in New Zealand.

“Did the activists not learn from the huge platform they created for Parker last time? Censorship does not work. A liberal democracy does not deny someone access to our country simply on the grounds of their opinions. 

“Counter-speech and protest are basic rights in free speech, and we call on all who oppose Parker’s views to express themselves openly and without fear. Stand up for what matters to you. But don’t stop someone from being able to share in the first place." 

Parker is due to arrive in New Zealand next week to attend a judicial hearing for the person who assaulted her at the Let Women Speak rally in Auckland in March. 

The Free Speech Union’s public letter can be found at fsu.nz/allow_posie_parker_entry_into_new_zealand.