Pages tagged "Local Government"

  • Letter to Public Service Commissioner on Local Government Review moderation


    If not showing see here – Letter to Public Service Commissioner

  • Rotorua Lakes Council Votes To Silence Submitters With Censorious Submissions Policy

    9 February 2023


    Rotorua Lakes Council Votes To Silence Submitters With Censorious Submissions Policy

    The Rotorua Lakes Council voted yesterday, without public consultation, to progress a policy to “remove from consideration” public submissions if they are deemed “offensive”, “discriminatory” or “irrelevant”. This represents a clear violation of the speech rights of submitters to this Council, and a breach of the Bill of Rights Act says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    ‘When this policy was presented to the Councillors yesterday, it was initially sold as abridging language such as swear words, or clearly vexatious submissions. Yet the true effect of the policy was immediately betrayed with discussion on it capturing “hate speech”.

    ‘Empty gestures were made about protecting freedom of speech. Yet, as the policy was described as “running a filter over things” it is clearly aimed at suppressing submissions the Council simply does want to hear. The debate on the policy was truly disappointing, revealing the contempt some of the Councillors had for the public submissions process, one Councillor remarking “you sit there and go "how did this get through."

    ‘Particularly insulting (and ironic) is the fact that the policy was put to Council without any consultation with either the public, or even elected representatives. Concerns were raised about the perception of this policy and the reputational risk it poses to the Council. Such concerns are entirely justified.

    'Kiwis have the right to be heard by their representatives and to raise concerns with their elected representatives on matters of policy. Representatives have an obligation to hear these concerns, even when the representatives believe the views expressed, or the manner in which they are expressed, are offensive or derogatory.

    'This policy, where certain submissions are screened and disregarded due to such content, is inconsistent with the role of local government representatives. We are preparing legal filings against the Council in this issue.'

  • Local Government Council's Candidates Report

    If not loading see here – Candidates Report

  • Council Candidates Report Released By Free Speech Union Outlining Which Local Candidates Stand For Free Speech

    19 September 2022


    Council Candidates Report Released By Free Speech Union Outlining Which Local Candidates Stand For Free Speech

    A report collating hundreds of responses from local council candidates in each district across the country has been released by the Free Speech Union. This report will be a significant tool for the tens of thousands of supporters of the Free Speech Union, as they begin voting for candidates who will defend this basic freedom, says Jonathan Ayling, Spokesperson for the Union.

    "Kiwis deserve to know whether their political representatives will respect or harm their right to speak and believe. In the spirit of free speech, we have let the candidates speak for themselves on a number of key free speech issues, both nationally and in local government, alongside presenting our stance on these issues.

    "In making this report, the Free Speech Union sent a questionnaire to all candidates with emails published on council websites. We have also included in some regions cases of some candidates’ involvement on issues of free speech.

    "We asked each candidate 8 questions that outline whether they are free speech champions or the next cohort of censors shutting down local residents' speech. In the introduction to the report, we unpack why we asked these questions, and why they indicate where these candidates stand on this important freedom.

    "We believe strongly in the right for politicians to hold and express their views openly. But to succeed in protecting and extending this basic freedom, we need to show them that they won't get away with shutting down the speech of others.

  • Truly Tolerant Campaigning Guidelines

    Last week, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), in association with Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, released their Inclusive Campaigning Guidelines— a series of recommendations on how local government candidates are expected to conduct themselves during upcoming local elections.

    On its surface, it would appear to carry good intentions, promoting principles such as inclusion, diversity and respectful debate. However, under closer scrutiny the façade crumbles and the guidelines reveal themselves for what they really are: an attempt to suppress debate around crucial issues.

    The Free Speech Union doesn’t doubt that this year’s local elections could prove divisive; many transformational policies have been put on the table. But the idea any controversy can be mitigated by censorship would be laughable if it didn’t point to an alarming trend that can only undermine democracy.

    In a message that kicks off the guidelines, LGNZ chief executive Susan Freeman-Green is open that her goal is to “shift what’s acceptable” in local government debate, as if it is those in power who should set the agenda, not voters. Who gifted Freeman-Green this right, exactly?

    As soon as power stops taking their lead from the people, we no longer have a democracy.

    The author’s partisan motives are barely veiled too. The guidelines call out the framing of debates around Māori wards and Three Waters as “racist and derogatory”. We would agree that there has been some unfortunate commentary, but in a recent interview Foon asserted that opposition to Māori wards and co-governance was “saying Māori shouldn’t be participating in anything, that they should be subservient” and that “Māori should not be participating in the decision-making of Aotearoa”. This is to classify all opposition to the policies as racist, which is not only untrue, it is counterproductive.

    In the same interview Foon added “any candidates that actually in my view fall out of line — they will be held to account”. Does this mean that any candidate who disagrees with Foon on these policy questions could soon be forced to weather a smear campaign?

    In response to these actions which undermine democracy, we have put together our own set of guidelines which we are calling the Truly Tolerant Campaigning Guidelines, in the hope candidates are encouraged to be themselves on the campaign trial, and to show leadership rather than running for cover from even the most divisive debates.

  • Free Speech Union Releases Local Council Election Guidelines For Tolerant Debate

    19 September 2022


    Free Speech Union Releases Local Council Election Guidelines For Tolerant Debate

    In response to the release of Inclusive Campaigning Guidelines by LGNZ and the Race Relations Commissioner, the Free Speech Union has created its own Truly Tolerant Campaign Guidelines to push back against attempts to control the debate and agenda of this year’s local government elections, says Jonathan Ayling, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union.

    “The Free Speech Union believes strongly that political candidates must have the freedom to express their ideas and policies as they see fit, and that the only arbiters of the acceptability of their speech are voters at the ballot box. It is vitally important that candidates can show their true selves.

    “In their guidelines, LGNZ Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene makes clear her goal of “shifting what’s acceptable”, a task that should be reserved for voters, not bureaucrats. Likewise, in an interview subsequent to releasing the Guidelines, Meng Foon implied that anyone opposing policies related to co-governance and Māori wards was racist. These examples show Freeman-Greene and Foon are putting their fingers on the scale of democracy by policing how local government candidates should engage with New Zealanders and debate these issues

    “The Truly Tolerant Campaigning Guidelines reflect our attitude to democracy and the freedom of candidates to express themselves freely. Our guidelines assert such principles as proposed government policy never being a “no-go zone”, and encouraging political candidates to engage even with those whom they find unsavoury.

    “We agree with LGNZ and Meng Foon that respect is important in political debate and that when discussing issues, the focus should be on the ideas and not the characteristics of those proposing them. What we won't enforce, however, are our own opinions of what “respectability” means.

    "We have provided Council candidates across the country with these guidelines, and a questionnaire on their positions related to free speech. We will use this to create a report for the 75,000 Free Speech Union supporters around the country to use when voting.

    “In these elections, we call upon candidates and voters to take a stand for free speech as a principle critical to the healthy functioning of our democracy. Candidates deserve to show their true selves and voters deserve to know them. We achieve this through open dialogue and free speech.”

  • Letter to Controller and Auditor General

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