Free Speech Union Conversion Therapy Submission Explained

The introduction of the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill (CPP Bill) to Parliament by Minister for Justice Kris Faafoi was a long-awaited win for many Kiwis in the Rainbow Community, and wider. For others though, it represented yet another ideological over-reach by the Government, legalising what is still disputed.

We accept that members and supporters of the Free Speech Union may hold different opinions on this Bill, and to us, that is OK. Even within our team, there were differing strongly held opinions. As a Union, we accept that we will not agree on everything, yet our commitment to stand for, support, and extend the freedom of speech for all Kiwis still applies.

With this belief in mind, and leaving aside the substantial elements of the purpose behind the CPP Bill, the Free Speech Union found it necessary to draw attention to aspects of the Bill which undermine free speech. As we state in our submission, “The wider goals of this Bill aren’t of concern to our organisation, and should the concerns we raise in this submission be addressed we would have no more to contribute to the matter.”

Our submission draws attention to three key concerns related to the ways in which the Bill undermines free speech:

  • The inconsistency in stating an intention of the Bill is to promote respectful and open discussions, yet it limits free speech;
  • The limitations on an individual’s freedom of speech and right to open dialogue, preventing consent from operating as an exemption;
  • The insufficient recognition of ‘applied theology’, and the freedom of religious expression and speech, which translates into action.

One of two listed purposes of the Bill is to ‘promote respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender.’ This is a laudable goal. Facilitating free speech by promoting and opening up discussions is the surest path forward to limit harm and abuse. Yet, despite this admirable intention, the substance of the Bill goes on to shut crucial conversations down. As such, amendments to the legislation must be made. Advice provided by Crown Law states that the bill causes a significant limitation on freedom of expression,’ and that there could be a ‘chilling effect on legitimate expressions of opinions’. We believe exemptions must be included, such as a parental exemption, which will limit this ‘chilling effect.’

Further, we believe that consent for therapy for adults should be an exemption under this Bill. It has long been recognised that the rights of minors are and should be limited by the law in order to protect their own moral and mental development and wellbeing. This includes the right to free expression, both in exercising this right and witnessing it from others. However, this Bill is not content with protecting children. It insultingly questions the maturity and capacity of adults to exercise their own autonomy and ability to engage with speech of their own choosing. This Bill is for the satisfaction of the busy-bodies, and nosey neighbours. It seeks to empower them with the tools to butt in and silence conversations they are not invited to. They will be able to complain to the Human Rights Commission despite not being an aggrieved party. Their pearl-clutching will have a chilling effect on honest and sincere conversations. This is unacceptable.

Finally, this Bill fails to recognise that there is no difference between ‘the expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression’ which is the exemption currently provided to religious communities, and the application of that religious principle or belief- this is the concept of applied theology. Broad commandments or prohibition do not simply exist as hypotheticals. As such, this so-called religious exemption isn’t worth the paper it is written on. A stricter allowance is needed to ensure that this Bill does not seriously infringe on Kiwis freedom of religious expression.

The work of the Free Speech Union is to ensure no question is off the table- no perspective excluded outright. With the particular intent of this Bill to one side, accepting that Kiwis will have a variety of views on the subject itself, we submitted on this Bill in order to ensure that it stands by New Zealander’s freedom of expression and speech. Simply put, a number of amendments are necessary to accomplish this, and we will continue to work to ensure they are included.

Podcast Vault: Dr David Cumin & Dane Giraud

📣 #FromThePodcastVault The Free Speech Union's Dr. David Cumin and Dane Giraud dig into the six proposals being offered up as the government's new hate speech laws. Our petition is still live. Sign @ 📣

Free Speech Union Academic Advisory Council Statement on the Listener Letter

The Free Speech Union unequivocally supports the free expression of seven distinguished New Zealand academics who recently authored a letter to The Listener, titled, In Defence of Science as well as the free expression of their critics.

We neither support nor oppose the argument in question, but instead defend the right to express honestly-held views, free of individual or institutional attempts to diminish or suppress them. In this regard the authors and some of their critics differ: Whereas the letter to The Listener comprised only a reasoned argument – whether or not it is deemed valid and sound – some critics have resorted to ad hominem attacks on the authors, in particular accusing them – both directly and by implication – of racism. We encourage critics to engage in a constructive, evidence-based way, rather than making allegations that seem intended to damage reputations or careers.

Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of New Zealand universities (under s 268(2)(d)(i)(E) of the Education and Training Act 2020), is that they perform “a role of critic and conscience of society.” This, in turn, requires universities to provide an environment in which academic staff can express ideas without fear of retribution or persecution – where they can question and test received wisdom and to state controversial or unpopular ideas [s 267(4)(a)]. It also creates an expectation that university authorities will tolerate a broad variety of views, and will defend staff from any pressure they may face as a consequence of expressing those views.

It is, therefore, deeply concerning that among the critics were Professor Dawn Freshwater, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland – where all of the authors of the letter are resident – and the Tertiary Education Union, to which many academics belong. The criticisms levelled by these organisations warrant especial comment.

In a public statement, Professor Freshwater affirmed the authors' right to express their views, but also implied they had disrespected mātauranga Māori, asserting that "mātauranga Māori [is] a distinctive and valuable knowledge system". There is nothing, however, in letter to The Listener that contradicts that assertion, and by making this a caveat to her affirmation of the authors right to free expression, Professor Freshwater risks impugning their reputations unfairly. In their letter, the authors argue that mātauranga Māori and science are epistemically distinct, and that "indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture ... and plays key roles in management and policy". A charitable reading of their letter would therefore suggest that the authors agree with Professor Freshwater that mātauranga Māori is valuable.

It is worth noting that The Science Learning Hub – Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao, an integral component of the New Zealand Government’s Science in Society Plan seems to agree with the authors, stating that "Mātauranga Māori is a knowledge base in its own right. It is Māori knowledge, including values and culture. It is different from modern science" (emphasis added).

Scholars within a university frequently disagree, and the role of university itself is to maintain the ground on which that disagreement can take place, in good faith and in a scholarly fashion. That means that the university, like the FSU, ought to take a neutral stance, to defend unequivocally the right and duty of its academics to make good-faith arguments, and to defend them from unfair attacks on their reputations. Instead, Professor Freshwater’s statement has made it more difficult for academics at her university to voice honestly-hold views on contentious topics in the future.

Dr Barry Hughes, also at the University of Auckland, wrote a letter on behalf of the TEU to the authors. Like Professor Freshwater, he opened by affirming that the authors are entitled to express their views, but informed them that “[TEU] members found your letter “offensive”, “racist”, and reflective of a patronising, neo-colonial mindset in which your undefined version of “science” is superior to – rather than complementary to – indigenous knowledge”. Dr Hughes went on to accuse the authors of being confused about what science is, of taking it to comprise “a set of indisputable facts about the world” and of “[presuming] that nothing is really known until it is known scientifically”. He concluded by asserting that “[the authors’] letter was damaging without being enlightening”. There is nothing in the letter to The Listener that, to our reading, justifies any of those acerbic accusations. It is outrageous for a representative of an organisation with a duty to protect academic freedom to make such baseless claims, and in such heated terms, in response to an argument put forward in good faith. Like Professor Freshwater’s statement, such a missive can only serve to make academics feel less safe to venture honestly-held views on contentious issues in the future and to render statements affirming free expression as lip-service only. We are not confident that the TEU would wholeheartedly fight for the free speech of members they disagree with should they need to.

It is lamentable that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland and the TEU have taken such strong stances against the letter to The Listener, rather than encouraging respectful debate. In this context their comments about free expression come across as hollow platitudes. The net effect of the comments will be to chill scholarly debate, not to promote it.

The Free Speech Union is committed to supporting all academics to freely engage in debate. If you would like to join us at the Free Speech Union, go to

Free Speech and the War over Sex and Gender

For the first Speakeasy webinar, we sat down with 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.

Kathleen draws 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.
To participate in future Speakeasy events join the Free Speech Union at

Interview with legend of the NZ Union movement Matt McCarten

Free Speech Union spokesperson Dane Giraud takes with stalwart unionist Matt McCarten on the importance of free speech in the labour movement, his perspective on this vital issue from the Left, and the dangers in the proposed changes.

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.

Read more

Briefing Paper: Summary of hate speech law proposals

If embed does not work, access the briefing paper by clicking here.

Unconvincing Excuses: What Will the Left Say When the Right Starts Cancelling Its Speakers?

HERE’S ONE for the “We told you so!” file. Ever since Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff, personally declared Stefan Molyneaux and Cheryl Southernpersonae non grata in his city, or, more accurately, in the venues controlled by his city, the Editor of The Daily Blog and I have been warning that such bans can, and will, be used by authoritarians of all stripes to suppress freedom of expression.

Daily Blog Editor, Martyn Bradbury, also warned that such a heavy-handed example of censorship by the Left would be seized upon by the Right and turned to the electoral advantage of its principal representatives – the National and Act parties. In this regard, he has been proved entirely correct. Act’s leader, David Seymour, in particular, has emerged as Parliament’s most effective standard-bearer for Free Speech – a cause formerly associated, almost exclusively, with the Left.

At the time of Goff’s ban, I waited impatiently for the New Zealand Civil Liberties Union to come out swinging on behalf of this most precious of civil liberties. When no such defence of free speech was mounted from that quarter, I felt morally obliged to throw in my lot with the Free Speech Coalition – the group of mostly conservative activists summoned into existence by Goff’s high-handed intervention. That “coalition” has now become the Free Speech Union, an incorporated society modelled on the British interest group of the same name.

Right on cue, just as the FSU had finished putting on its armour and was in the process of sharpening its sword, the Labour Government released its proposed legislative remedies for “hate speech”. Something tells me that the drums of a full-scale propaganda war will soon be beating on this issue. The government and its friends should be looking to their own harness. The fate of the Left seems likely to turn on the outcome of this looming ideological encounter.

And if the Left loses? If issues like Hate Speech and He Puapua carry the Right to a stunning victory? What should the Left expect then?

TDB Recommends

One possible version of the future was played out this week in the US state of Texas.

According to the left-wing American publication/website Mother Jones,  two radical historians, Chris Tomlinson and Bryan Burrough, were supposed to give a talk at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin about Forget the Alamo, a new book they co-authored with Jason Stanford.

Written in the same anti-colonialist spirit as our own proudly revisionist New Zealand history curriculum, their book “sets out to dispel the myths of the Republic of Texas’ founding”. [The Republic of Texas was founded in 1836 by land-hungry American settlers seeking to add another slave state to the USA, and to get around the highly inconvenient problem that in the newly independent Republic of Mexico, of which Tejas was still a province, slavery had been abolished.]

But, when news of this event reached the ears of the Republican state government of Texas, its representatives on the “Preservation Board” of the museum peremptorily cancelled the authors’ talk.

“I think we’ve been censored”, Tomlinson told the media. Texas’s Lieutenant-Governor, Dan Patrick, was only too happy to confirm the author’s suspicion. “As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it. Like efforts to move the Cenotaph, which I also stopped, this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place”, Patrick tweeted.

Now, if this story is ringing your memory bells, then so it should. In its shape, the Texas incident not only conforms neatly with the behaviour of Mayor Goff in response to the visit of Molyneaux and Southern, but also with that of the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University who “cancelled” Don Brash, and also with the local authorities that denied their venues to the trans-gender-sceptical group “Speak Up For Women”.

Were the New Zealand equivalents of Tomlinsin, Burroughs and Stanford to be denied access to Te Papa by a right-wing New Zealand Government, similarly citing the authors’ “fact-free” re-interpretation of New Zealand’s colonial history, their supporters would be outraged. They would not, however, find it easy to mount a credible objection. Their failure to speak up for freedom of expression in the cases of Molyneaux and Southern, Don Brash and SUFW, would undermine any objections they attempted to make, and expose them to charges of inconsistency, double-standards, and the most rank hypocrisy.

No doubt they would find reasons why “their” case was different. No doubt “progressive” speech must always be considered exempt from censorship. The right-wingers de-platformed by mayors, vice-chancellors and local authorities would all, I’m sure, be dismissed as “hate speech” criminals with no rights worthy of protection. What’s more, in the ears of their comrades such defences would sound entirely convincing.

Alas, in the ears of those who still believe in that classic defence of free speech (customarily attributed to Voltaire) “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” my guess is that the Left’s self-serving justifications will sound a lot more like excuses.

Unconvincing excuses.

Originally posted on 9th July 2021 


The essay that defeated New Zealand's army

We've been following the events of the NZ Army's decision to pull one of the winners of its essay competition from its "KEA" website. We approached NZDF earlier in the week and received the apologetic response (no, not apologizing for the de-platforming, but for publishing it in the first place! 🤦) on behalf of NZDF. We've copied it at the end of this post.

Your humble Free Speech Union is republishing the article so you can judge for yourself.  If the NZ's armed forces won't defend our human rights, we need to! We hope you'll support us - and invite members of our armed forces to exercise their rights and sign up as a supporter.

New Zealand Chief of Army Writing Competition Winner of the New Zealand Defence Force Private Writing Category May 2021.

Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat

By Mr N. Dell

I write this essay fully aware of the backlash and, at times, real world consequences afforded to the authors of similar documents in the current socio-political climate. Nevertheless, I would invoke the NZ Army ethos ‘3CI’ – particularly ‘Courage’ and ‘Integrity’ – in defence of the opinion I will express herein. The open discussion of any issue must be possible without fear of repercussions on both sides of the debate if the best outcome is ever to be reached. That is the fundamental value of free speech that permits the free enquiry, self-reflection, self-criticism and peer review that underpin our scientific and academic edifices and, in fact, our entire civilisation.

I will argue that the NZ Army cannot reconcile a more diverse and inclusive workforce with the maintenance of a warrior ethos and war-fighting culture or at least, it should not try. Further it should redirect as little energy as possible toward creating a more ‘inclusive’ culture in the way that this kind of language is understood in the politically-charged parlance of the present day. On the contrary, I will argue that, if anything, the Army should instead endeavour to become more exclusive.

I was only made aware of this writing competition by my chain of command today, the final day for submissions, so my essay will not contain any academic citations or supporting material but will instead be my own opinion based on my own observations and experience. This opinion may be unpopular, especially with that vocal minority in the civilian world who have become so enamoured with so-called ‘Woke’ culture. However, I suspect that many of the arguments I put forward will resonate with the quiet majority, especially in the military.

The Right Kind of Diversity:

In the present discourse ‘diversity’ is generally read as diversity of race, gender and sexual orientation – that is diversity based on ‘identity’ (I will demarcate this conception of ‘Diversity’ henceforth with a capital ‘D’). Ironically, I believe the Army has actually done a good job in terms of racial inclusivity with Maori over-represented, relative to the population (according to a quick Google search). During basic training we are taught that the cultural foundation of the Army is built upon a proud tradition of Maori warrior culture being interwoven with regimental British military doctrine. This is further expressed in the iconography and ceremony of the Army with Haka performed alongside traditional British-style military drill, as one example. This synergy of cultures is one of the unique features of the NZ Army that I am sure has contributed to its reputation for ‘punching above its weight’ in theatres of war across the globe.

This may seem like a ‘slam-dunk’ against my argument. However, increasing focus on these identity-based notions of Diversity only sews greater division and dischord in society and would, I fear, within the Army too. This is not meant to diminish the value of the fusion of cultures, the merits of which I just laid out. Rather, I argue that a deliberate effort to engineer diversity will do more harm than good. In fact, to focus on identity goes against the well-known Army maxim of colour-blindness: ‘we are all green’.

The trend over the past five to six years to increasingly focus on race, gender and sexual orientation feels like a return to a pre-social revolution era where these arbitrary features of a person were given so much more weight than they deserve. Their return to the spotlight has been undeniably corrosive to society and the political sphere, which appears to have grown to encompass everything. Instead, the kinds of diversity that should matter to an organisation like the Army are diversity of opinion, experience, attitude, class and background. Again, in my experience, the Army already excels in this area. 

The Threat from ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’:

The ‘Woke’ culture that has led to the popular preoccupation with Diversity and inclusion is antithetical to the Army’s ethos and values. It is built on the notion that feelings are more important than facts. It asserts that everyone is the same while promoting the merits of Diversity. It shuns notions of excellence and meritocracy. It diminishes personal responsibility and erodes resilience, even rejecting the notion that resilience is a virtue. Social media has been the vector for this intellectual contagion and evidence has even surfaced that this has been cynically aided and abetted by belligerent foreign governments with the explicit goal of weakening western democracy. We must not capitulate to our enemies’ efforts.

The primary threat of any effort to be more ‘Diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ is opportunity cost. Put simply, every resource that we divert toward programmes aimed at improving Diversity and Inclusion is a resource that is not available to be used for the Army’s only responsibility: to protect New Zealand. Whether that is in preparing for wars or fighting them (or civil defence).  Every man-hour that is spent on ‘cultural awareness training’ or similar programmes is a man-hour that is not spent training for combat or monitoring our enemies. How are they spending their man-hours?

The second key area where Diversity and Inclusion could harm our effectiveness is in recruitment. Recruiting based on a concerted effort to increase Diversity necessarily comes at the expense of recruiting the best candidates. If the current policy of (presumably) recruiting the best candidates for their roles does not produce the desired Diversity outcomes, then the conflict is self-evident. 

While these considerations are at the discretion of private companies and individuals in the civilian world, there is no room for them in the military where performance is, by definition, a matter of life and death. As the Defence Force we have sworn an oath to defend New Zealand and compromising our ability to do so, to any degree, is a violation of that responsibility. We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by the relative peace which we enjoy and succumb to the luxury of being able to concern ourselves with these issues. A peace which was bought with blood by those men and officers that went before us. In fact, it is our duty not to. 

Where the Army should be more inclusive:

Despite what I have written so far, there are some areas where I believe that the Army could be more inclusive so as to better uphold its duty to the nation. The first is to relax or eliminate some of the somewhat arbitrary ‘defects’ that disqualify a prospective recruit from joining, in spite of the net balance of qualities that that candidate may bring to the Army. For example, certain medical or mental health conditions or even histories may be automatically disqualifying. Especially as medical technology and understanding improves, it would seem that many of these conditions may no longer effect a soldier or officer’s ability to perform their duties and could go the way of ‘flat feet’.

Though the role of the Army has never changed, many of the roles within the Army are changing. Especially with the advent of cyber warfare and increased reliance on technology in general. Thus, the soldier of the future is not only the fighting soldier – for whom strength and endurance of body and will are paramount – but also the computer technician. There is also a role for civilians employed by the Army to play in this. As roles continue to expand and evolve, a different culture will evolve alongside them. This must be a culture that is hospitable to the kinds of people that will be needed to fill roles behind computer terminals rather than behind guns. However, the still-present maxim of ‘soldier first’ necessitates that everyone who wears the beret must also be prepared and able to fight the enemy in the traditional sense. Therefore, the standards must never be lowered to accommodate inclusion, ‘the lives of the people to your left and right’ depend on it. The Army will never be for everyone and that is not a bad thing. 

 Where the Army could be more exclusive:

As the use of technology increasingly comes to dominate the battlefield, required numbers of personnel may decline. A commensurate improvement in the quality of those personnel may be desirable. Rather than being more inclusive, standards should be raised to maintain effectiveness with this smaller force. Budgetary constraints may also play a role as capital replaces labour. Personnel capable of operating the technology being deployed will be required and it could be an opportunity to double down on the small, elite nature of the NZ Army.  Special operations forces have consistently shown that a small number of highly trained, highly motivated and well-equipped soldiers can have a disproportionate impact on the battlefield. Additionally, with fewer numbers, higher pay could be offered to attract ‘higher quality’ recruits. This could make the Army a career that young New Zealanders aspire to, rather than resort to.


I appreciate that if this piece were to win the writing competition, the optics may not be as desirable as one expressing the opposing viewpoint. I also understand that attracting recruits, public opinion and therefore, potentially, funding may depend on those optics. These considerations may in themselves necessitate the adoption of Diversity and Inclusion policies. However, I challenge the NZ Army to draw on its ‘3CI’ values and to continue to have the courage to do the thankless work of defending a nation that often may not appreciate the security it provides. To allow itself to become embroiled in these ‘culture wars’ would be an embarrassment, especially to the older generation of veterans and to the memory of those who paid the ultimate price. The Army should stick to fighting real wars.


Response to our request for comment and explanation of the take-down:

Please attribute the following statement to the Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell.

Soon after announcing the winners of the Chief of Army’s Writing Competition, I asked that this essay be taken down from the KEA website. I made this decision when it became clear that publishing it was being seen as endorsement of the views contained within it, which could not be further from the truth.

The New Zealand Army is one that strives to be inclusive and values diversity. The views that were expressed in the essay are not compatible with the Army’s values and the culture we are building, and I unreservedly apologise to anyone who saw publication of the essay as endorsement of the views that were contained within it.

There were two entries in the Private Soldiers’ category. All entries are considered by a panel and a recommendation was made to me for which essay should be awarded winner in each category. The final decision however, was mine.  I made that decision solely because I believed it the better written of the submissions received within that category, exclusive of the subject matter.  I accept the error in that determination.