Pages tagged "Safe Areas"

  • Safe Areas Bill a brazen attack on freedom of speech and right to protest

    The so-called Safe Areas Bill will have its second reading in Parliament tomorrow. It’s a brazen attack on freedom of speech and the right to protest, made more offensive by the fact that some of the MPs who support it cut their political teeth exercising that same right.

    The Bill, sponsored by Labour MP Louisa Wall and subject to a conscience vote, would allow the Minister of Health to designate 150-metre “safe areas” around abortion clinics from which protesters would be barred. It appears to be a unique protection accorded no other public buildings.

    Officially named the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill, the legislation threatens to curtail the right of anti-abortion activists to maintain even silent, passive vigils outside abortion clinics.

    It has been promoted on the pretext that vulnerable patients attending abortion clinics risk being intimidated, obstructed and harassed. Yet the Christchurch-based anti-abortion group Right to Life submitted Official Information Requests to 20 district health boards inquiring whether patients or staff had suffered any such harassment or intimidation during the two years from 2019 to 2021, and none reported any.

    So the need for “safe areas” has not been demonstrated and the Bill should be seen for what it is: an attempt to shut down legitimate protest against a practice that conservative Christians regard as profoundly wrong, but which is celebrated by the political Left as a defining triumph of feminism.

    The Bill passed its first reading last March by a margin of 100 to 15 with two abstentions, but that’s not necessarily an indication of how MPs will vote the second time around. ACT’s 10 MPs all voted in favour of the Bill then, but party leader David Seymour said he had concerns about freedom of expression and wanted the Bill properly examined by a select committee. 

    Only three Labour MPs – Anahila Kanongata’a Suisuiki, Jamie Strange and Rino Tirikatene – voted against it. All Green MPs supported it and National was split: 19 in favour and 12 against. Christopher Luxon, who has since become the party leader, was one of those opposed.

    Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins supported the Bill. Both were arrested for protest activity before they launched their political careers but later had their convictions overturned. They apparently see no inconsistency in denying others a right they once vigorously asserted for themselves. 

    The Bill will become law because of its overwhelming support from Labour and the Greens, but interest will centre on whether any MPs change their position now that the Bill has been through the select committee process. The vote will be a test of their commitment to the principles not just of free speech but of freedom of assembly and religion.

    Seymour wasn’t the only person concerned about the threat to free speech. Even David Parker, who as Attorney-General was statutorily obliged to report to the House on whether the Bill complied with the Bill of Rights Act (BORA), conceded that a clause which would have criminalised the act of “communicating” with abortion patients in a manner likely to cause distress was “overly broad” and appeared inconsistent with BORA.

    In its submission opposing the Bill the Free Speech Union agreed with that conclusion, but pointed out to the select committee that the legislation wasn’t necessary in the first place because protection against intimidation or threats is provided under existing law. The Summary Offences Act, for example, makes it an offence to direct insulting or threatening words at another person. There is also a legal prohibition against harassment – a word whose definition, the union said, would be expanded under Wall’s Bill.

    The union went on to say: “It is not the speech of the majority that requires vigilant protection. It is the speech of the few that must be jealously guarded.” The union cautioned that the traditional legal test of what is “reasonable” was in danger of becoming one of what was “comfortable”. 

    In a spirited defence of the right to dissent, it said: “We are flummoxed by the suggestion that in a democracy, where government is created by people of different interests and beliefs, some ideas are deemed too different or disagreeable to be allowed. This suggestion is antithetical to democracy.”

    The Bill that’s returning to the House tomorrow gives the impression of having been toned down, but it’s illusory. While the clause that failed the BORA test has gone, that doesn’t make the Bill any more palatable. Under the amended version, any person who “engages in protest about matters relating to the provision of abortion services” within a “safe areas” zone would be committing a criminal act. 

    It’s hard to imagine a more sweeping provision. The new section would give activist judges – who have proliferated in the 32 years since the passage of BORA, as the union noted in its submission – licence to convict people for doing nothing more menacing than silently praying on a public street anywhere within 150 metres of an abortion facility.  This can only have a chilling effect on the right to protest. 

    Regardless of their views on abortion, those who believe in free speech and the associated right to protest should take careful note of how MPs vote. National and ACT MPs, in particular, will be watched to see whether their votes align with their parties’ supposed commitment to freedom.

    Written by Karl du Fresne, reprinted by request from his personal blog.  

    Disclosure: The writer is opposed, in general terms, to abortion on demand but views that as irrelevant to the issue of free speech and freedom of assembly.

  • Free Speech Round Up: Mighty Ape | The n-word | JK Rowling coverage

    Thanks for standing with the Free Speech Union and our cause for free speech. Since our launch on Wednesday, hundreds of New Zealanders have joined our new union.

    Why New Zealand needs a Free Speech Union

    Our Spokesman, Dr David Cumin joined Peter Williams on Magic Talk on the launch of the new Free Speech Union and why it's needed. Click here to have a listen.

    Remember that this effort is 100 percent powered by people like you. To join the Free Speech Union click here, or donate here.

    Mighty Ape pulls 'transphobic' books from sale after targeting by online mob

    On Monday the Free Speech Union wrote a public letter to online bookseller Mighty Ape asking its founder to reverse the decision to ban books on transgender issues.

    On Saturday Stuff reported on the new ban:

    Transgender Kiwis have accused retailers Paper Plus and Mighty Ape of selling “transphobic” books, which describe being transgender as a mental illness.

    The books in question are Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters by Abigail Shrier and When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson.

    Both books examine the notion of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), a term coined by an American professor in 2016 to describe an alleged epidemic of youth coming out as trans due to social contagion and mental illness.

    Cerian Rees was one of a number of people who sent emails to Paper Plus and Mighty Ape expressing concern over the books.

    Rees said the books spread lies and misinformation about transgender people, and could be used to justify bigotry or harassment towards the community.

    “One of the main lies pushed is the notion of ‘rapid onset dysphoria’, which is made up pseudoscience that anti-trans lobbies use to attack vulnerable youth.

    “I would hate to be a trans kid who came across these books on a shelf, or even worse, my parents buying one and letting it guide them on how to treat me,” Rees said. […]

    Waikato University psychology lecturer Dr Jaimie Veale said books like those promoted fear and hatred of transgender people.

    “This puts us at serious risk of worsening this stigma, discrimination, and violence. I haven’t read these books, but I can see with a title like ‘the transgender craze seducing our daughters’ that this sort of work is clearly designed to promote fear, hatred, and extremist anti-transgender views, at an already marginalised group,” Veale said.

    “I’m also aware that there are publications similar to these that promote potentially harmful conspiracy theories about trans people being a product of the medical community.”

    A spokesman for OutLine, a rainbow mental health organisation, said it was “disappointing” to see books like this advertised for sale. […]

    Mighty Ape said books on its site were automatically imported from Nielsen’s BookData database, which compiled books that had been published publicly.

    “While we do try to monitor this as much as we can, due to the sheer volume of books published each year, some material we would not typically be comfortable selling can slip through the cracks,” it said in a statement.

    “I have notified our books product manager, and both books have now been removed from our website. I sincerely apologise for any hurt or disappointment this may have caused.”

    At the time of publication, both books had been pulled from Mighty Ape.

    Mighty Ape's decision shows contempt towards New Zealanders and our ability to arrive at informed opinions.

    The point of non-fiction is to have an exchange of ideas that can extend our knowledge. The avenue for criticism should not be ignorant calls to ban but thought-provoking reviews and counterarguments. The right to examine ideas and critique them is the bedrock of an open, diverse, and tolerant society.

    Allowing veto by threat over which books we may be permitted to read is not acceptable, and is what one expects of an authoritarian anti-democratic regime, not from a major bookseller.

    As for the Waikato University lecturer quoted in support of the ban, she is literally judging a book by its cover. For an academic to claim a text ‘promotes fear and hatred of transgender people’ when she hasn’t even read the text, is pathetic.

    The full text of our public letter is available on our website.

    If our would-be censors can send emails of complaint, so can we!

    If you agree that booksellers shouldn't give in to the online mob, feel free to also send a note to Mighty Ape's founder by email.

    >> click here for a customisable template <<

    Should universities be scared of the N-word?

    A University of Waikato professor has apologised after saying the n-word during a lecture, as part of a discussion about the reclamation of offensive terms.

    According to the NZ Herald:

    The University of Waikato professor was teaching a lecture on representation and reclaiming terms when she said the racial slur out loud.

    The teacher says she believed some students might not know what word was being referred to unless it was uttered in full. She later apologised to two students who complained, as well as to the class.

    One of the students, who spoke to the Herald, said while she believed the apology to be sincere she was shocked anyone felt comfortable uttering the n-word in 2021, regardless of context.

    That student - who is Fijian - had been called the slur many times in her life, but had realised that despite her own skin colour she should not use the term "because I am not ancestrally linked to slavery in the Americas or the Caribbean".

    "It did offend me that she thought it was okay to say it, especially her being a white woman." […]

    The Fijian student and another student complained and the professor apologised to both individually. She also posted an apology to an online student forum.

    "I am deeply sorry for any hurt this may have caused. I had not wanted to assume that everyone in the class understood the term and so attempted to provide context but in retrospect, I realise I did this very poorly.

    "In trying to get the point across that it absolutely does matter 'who' uses 'reclaimed terms', I inadvertently deeply offended some. Again, please accept my most sincere apology."

    But he acknowledged the context in which the incident took place – a university lecture room, where robust debate was encouraged.

    Last year, Auckland's Lynfield College said it would censor racial slurs from teaching materials, after a student filmed a teacher using the n-word while reading a passage from a book.

    The school told teachers they should no longer say a word that represented "condensed generations of pain".

    This is getting ridiculous. We are sorry students might be offended, but no words should be off-limits for discussion at a university. Context is everything and there’s absolutely no sign of bad faith here. Academics should not be forced to apologise because students find a topic offensive. If so, our universities are doomed.

    Credit where credit is due, even Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon now acknowledges context is important. In this instance, he refused to criticise the academic. Good.

    Wairarapa's JK Rowling ban getting international coverage (for all the wrong reasons)

    You’ll recall a few weeks ago we told you about the Harry Potter quiz being cancelled at a Wairarapa book festival, which was set to examine modern “cancel culture”, because of JK Rowling’s views on transgender issues.

    We told our friends at the UK Free Speech Union, who gave the story to the Times of London (subscription required).

    A literary festival in New Zealand has cancelled plans for a Harry Potter-themed event because of JK Rowling’s comments on gender issues.

    Peter Biggs, chairman of the Wairarapa book festival, reportedly decided to drop the annual children’s quiz after consultations with the LGBTQ community.

    Seven Harry Potter novels and a multibillion-pound film franchise helped make Rowling, 55, the most famous author in the world, but she has faced stern criticism since expressing her views on whether men who identify as women are the same as biological females. […]

    Toby Young, the founder of the Free Speech Union, which is due to open its first branch in New Zealand next week, said: “JK Rowling is one of Britain’s most influential and respectable contemporary writers.

    “This is why the decision by the Wairarapa book festival to cancel a children’s Harry Potter quiz because of comments JK Rowling made during an important debate on women’s-only spaces is chilling.

    “If the creator of our most successful export since James Bond can be declared persona non grata, anyone can.”

    Speaking of the UK group, a couple of items from their last update caught our eye as being just as relevant to New Zealand:

    Political speech should never be compelled

    Freedom to speak your mind is essential in a democracy, but free speech also means “the right not to be legally forced to engage in political speech”, arguesSpencer Case in Arc Digital. In universities, corporations and organisations of all types, people now feel compelled to sign petitions they don’t agree with, and, in some cases, sign loyalty oaths that are far more draconian than the ones people were forced to sign during the McCarthy era.

    The roots of cancel culture

    Historian Tom Holland argues that Christian ideals remain at the heart of modern culture war battles, while journalist Malcolm Gladwell says a failure to understand and offer forgiveness is at the heart of modern cancel culture: “Cancel culture is what happens when you have a generation of people who are not raised with a Christian ethic of forgiveness.” Christopher Schelin compares the phenomenon to “old-fashioned church discipline”. It’s certainly not new, writes Raymond Keene in the Article, comparing modern woke witch-hunts to purges carried out by the Romans and ancient Chinese.

    Wherever it comes from, cancel culture sucks, says Suzanne Harrington in the Irish Examiner. Musician Glenn Danzig warns that it will stop another “punk explosion”. He told NME, “There won’t be any new bands coming out like that. Now, they will immediately get cancelled.”

    Free Speech Union's submission on the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill

    Finally in this update, last week we submitted on the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill. If passed, the Bill would create a 150-metre perimeter outside healthcare services, in which no one could intimidate, interfere with or obstruct a person entering the clinic. You can read the transcript of the presentation I gave to the select committee here.

    Thank you for your support.

  • Free Speech Union's submission on the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill

    Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill – hearing of evidence (5 May 2021)

    This Member’s bill provides a regulation-making power to set up safe areas around specific abortion facilities on a case-by-case basis.

    Presented on behalf of the Free Speech Union by Dane Giraud. Text prepared by Dane Giraud & Patrick Corish.

    Tena Koutou,

    If there has been any frustration volunteering for the Free Speech Coalition it would be in the number of critics who suggest that to support a certain voice or message, we must in some way sympathize with the voice or message.

    This is an allegation no one with even a cursory understanding of the concept of FREE SPEECH could possibly make.

    When we defended the rights of touring YouTube provocateurs Stephan Molyneux and Lauren Southern - to hire and speak in an Auckland City Council building - we were defending the climate change activists, the feminists, the trans-activists – anyone who may see fit to hire a council building in the future.

    In the Free Speech game, we must always have an eye on the future.

    This is our core job: not to defend specific views, but to act as a buttress against the setting of worrying precedents that could be used to silence any view.

    Now, as tempting as it may be to consider this specific topic as separate, unique, and demanding special considerations - you do New Zealanders a grave disservice if you do so.  Like us, we urge you to consider the impact of this Bill on our collective tomorrow. And what this Bill does – with its brazen undermining of our right to freedom of expression – is risk the right of all New Zealanders to engage in that pillar of democracy...


    What is protest? According to one dictionary definition - "A usually organized public demonstration of disapproval". I'd posit all progressive movements, and movements for social change, have featured some form of public protest. We protest to put pressure on power. We do it to draw attention to minority issues the media cannot or will not cover. And we do it to try to convince others of the validity of our cause and to find allies. We must be committed to peaceful protest - and in that, we are not immune from laws against harassment, intimidation, wilful damage, etc. But this does not mean that protests are a timid affair.

    Protest is more often robust, employing powerful rhetoric, imagery, and provocative sloganeering. A protester is seeking 'cut-through and to appeal to the conscience via the emotions, and most of us have accepted that there will be protest movements led by fellow citizens that will attack our value systems and sensibilities. Protests are meant to upset and even seriously disturb us. What this bill seeks to do is to deny the democratic right and violate the equality of a single protest movement through safe zones that would render protest ineffective by taking away the all-important proximity to a certain key location. Potential protesters will be scared of, by the highly subjective language used in the bill, which will make them unsure of exactly where the line between legal and illegal sits. 

    And all for one issue.

    If the bill is required in this case, why can't it be applied to the anti-Israel movement?

    In anti-Israel protests you are guaranteed to see swastikas in mock Israeli flags – the sign of a regime that slaughtered 6,000,000 Jews attributed to Jews themselves as a way of making some sort of demented comparison. Protesters on Queen Street have been seen wearing Hezbollah T-shirts, a group whose leaders espouse genocidal rhetoric against the Jewish people.  Distressing images of dead children are paraded around alongside chants calling for the end of the Jewish state, the end of Jewish autonomy and safety. How is the average Jew who passes these grotesque displays likely to be made to feel?

    So, consider banning such protests outside their places of worship? Why not embassies, then? Or any gathering Jews or Israelis could be attending? Such protests are objectively distressing to Jewish people, but these activists should still have the right to express their political opinions, however unsettling because removing the rights of this movement could be used to justify removing the rights of any movement. We have existing harassment laws to punish any protesters who cross the line, and this should be sufficient to moderate the conduct outside abortion clinics also. 

    The distress that one feels in receiving a message, a protest, or an appeal is a personal affair. As I have said, protests may very well disturb and distress. Most worthwhile communications about ethics will cause distress. Because we are dealing with right and wrong, the oughts and ought nots. Disagreement can be emotionally taxing. But as adults in society, these conversations are some of the most rewarding to have.

    We tolerate speech that leads to children being tormented at the thought of a climate apocalypse. This is clearly a distressing issue to many of our young. But it is an important issue, some climate advocates would no doubt say, and the force of rhetoric is vital to communicating the immediacy of the threat. Pro-lifers feel the same. Why deny their right to communicate a message at the last point where they feel they could make a difference? Why deny them that right when we have movements that actively seek to psychologically scar children that you and I know will never be policed? As is so often the case, when the state plays censor we see this type of absurd bias, which amounts to a violation of equality.

    There is another concerning dimension to this current trend of censorship - that of certain factions clearly viewing illiberal policy as a way to limit the influence on other adult citizens, of views they don't agree with.

    As a hypothetical, what if one potential mother was to be convinced by some of the messaging they saw on the way inside a clinic and chose – of their own free volition - not to then follow through with the procedure? I wonder, would that be seen as a positive or a negative by the authors of this Bill? Because this is an outcome the Bill actively seems to want to control. We focus on the messengers a lot in these debates, but what about a person's right to receive information? Yes, even information they thought they didn't want. Limiting exposure to perfectly legal counter-messaging should never, ever be an activity of the state. 

    We can protect the women visiting these clinics with existing laws. You know it. I know it. That should really be the end of it. We can protect them. Laws exist now that address intimidation and harassment. But this bill goes beyond offering further remedies against such behavior. It seeks to outlaw communication in general. Good-faith communication. Communication that goes to the heart of a moral matter. The Bill does say that the only communication outlawed would be that which an ordinary reasonable person would consider distressing.

    But in honesty, that could be all communication that deals with an emotionally charged phenomenon like abortion. Again, matters of an ethical nature are distressing. They wouldn’t be discussions worth having otherwise.

    If this bill is successful, this won't be the last of it. In a short space of time, the harrowing imagery and rhetoric of the climate change movement could be delimited using a comparable law by climate-denying zealots. The anti-Israel movement too. Anti-war movements in general. The excuse will be that there is a precedent for limiting protest deemed to be too unsettling for the sensibilities of select members of the public. Any wound on protest movements is a wound on our democracy. And this Bill will certainly inflict a wound on subsequent protest movements. We would urge that you think beyond the topic, and to the all-but-certain ramifications, and to use this bill as a reminder that people did not vote you in to undermine their basic democratic rights. The Free Speech Coalition, respectfully ask that you vote this bill down.

    Nga Mihi

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