Pages tagged "Update"

  • Free Speech Union update, 16 September

    Our work across the country continues as we keep up the fight for free speech. Welcome to the latest update. 

    Philip Arps comes last place in election for Te Aratai College Board of Trustees 

    Philip Arps' decision to run for Board of Trustee at Te Aratai College has drawn a lot of interest over the past month, as he is widely considered to be a white supremacist. Associate Minister for Education, Jan Tinietti, even said that she was looking at whether a law change was necessary to stop individuals with 'ideologies of hate' from being able to run. But there's just one crucial question with that: who gets to decide what an 'ideology of hate' is? You? The next minister who takes your place? 

    Philp Arps

    At the Free Speech Union, our position on this issue is very clear. Hate the perspectives and speech of candidates as much as you want, it has to be the voters who decide who's unworthy of public office.

    There's a word for this: democracy. 

    Given Mr. Arps' questionable past and position on sensitive issues, we're not surprised the good parents of children at Te Aratai College chose not to elect him, but predictably just his candidacy has been pounced on by our would-be-censors, saying this shows the Government must do more to silence hateful individuals.

    Hate speech laws are the top priority for those who want to control the expression of speech like this. But as American journalist Jonathan Rauch claims 'Hate speech is bad, I agree, but what's bad about it is the hate, not the speech, and just silencing the speech is like dealing with global warming by breaking all the thermometers.' 

    Jonathan Rauch quote

    Whether hate speech laws, legislation that blocks 'ideology of hate' from seeking public office or any number of other disturbing attempts to silence open debate, many leaders in New Zealand have lost faith in the public's good sense. 

    Censorship is fundamentally anti-democratic. It ultimately silences the voices of the most vulnerable or powerless, that's why we need to fight it in every form. 

    Is it just me, or are police introducing hate speech laws on the fly? 

    In an example of incredible overreach, Police in Marlborough have tried to seize and criminalise a flag of the Black Power gang. The officer responsible, Sergeant Graham Single, claims 'People are finding it [the flag] upsetting, they are finding it offensive, and they are objecting to it being displayed. The fact they feel that nothing can be done to prevent the display of the flag plays on their wellbeing and mental health.'

    We're not going to claim standing up for gang members' free speech is a popular move, but there's a principle at play here. Once their speech can be undone because people find it offensive and object to it, who's next? 

    There is nothing in the patch that is inherently promoting crime or violence, this is simply an attempt at the suppression of an organisation’s right to speech and association, as protected under the Bill of Rights. 

    As we claimed in our media statement on this issue, that the patch is upsetting to some is no excuse for classifying it as objectionable and thankfully the Chief Censor’s office agreed. What was so chilling about the submission made by the police to the censor’s office was the use of the same weak talking-points frequently used by pro-censorship activists in order to violate the rights of the gang chapter. New Zealanders should view this as a seriously distressing development.  

    The ’N-word’ that features on the flag and patch is offensive to many. But representatives of the chapter have stated that their use of the term is about neutralising it and separating it of its historic power to do harm by making it their own. Surely a historically oppressed and victimsed people should reserve this right, just as a Member of Parliament attempted to reclaim the ‘C-word’ only a few years ago (here's looking at you Marama Davidson). The Police didn’t try to arrest the MP then. How dare anyone, let alone law-enforcement, seek to abuse the law now.  

    This case really shows how subjective our relationship with words are - how words carry different meanings to different people - and how policing them will always violate someone’s equality. Ultimately, this is just another attempted use of the law to censor and suppress an organisation, with the weak, nebulous justification of ‘offense'. 

    Media Complaint rules Stuff ran inaccurate and unbalanced article on Bethlehem College 

    I don't need to tell you that the role of the ‘Fourth Estate’ and accurate journalism is crucial for democracy to function well. But as we can clearly see, ‘activism journalism’ is rampant in our media today.

    That’s why we were glad to hear the Media Council
     had upheld a complaint against Stuff for inaccuracy and imbalance.
    The Stuff reporter responsible for this article, Annemarie Quill, failed to seek comment from Bethlehem College before publishing the article in June following accusations of ‘violence, death threats and verbal attacks’ against LGBT students.

    Stuff Journalist Annemarie QuillThis article was one of many that reported on attempts to silence Bethlehem College’s statement of values, where they noted that the school held a traditional view of marriage. Once Stuff was challenged about inaccuracies in the reporting, they said they would take the article down, but never did. 

    Why do we at the Free Speech Union care about a single complaint to the Media Council against Stuff? When the media begins to operate as ‘guardians of acceptable narratives, rather than those who simply present the objective facts of important stories, they being to operate as the priesthood of modern orthodoxies. Public discussion is impoverished through this bias.

    Ultimately, it's free speech that enables us to all contribute to important public discussions, but if we’re only being presented with one side, this isn’t possible. 

    Without free speech, there is no free press. Submission on media merger Bill  

    Last week, we submitted to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee on the Government's Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill, which will see Radio New Zealand (RNZ) and TVNZ merged into one media entity.

    Freedom of the press and free speech are not the same thing. But they are inextricably entwined. Without the right to express ourselves freely, the press has no freedom to present differing accounts of what is happening in our nation. Therefore, free speech founds this crucial freedom and without a free press, democracy itself can quickly find itself on the rocks.  

    Media Merger Submission

    As Duncan Greive has pointed out, by operating as a not-for profit this entity is ‘likely to dominate NZ media’. The basic fact of the matter is the absence of a profit motive means the new organisation could far too easily undermine competitive voices by operating below cost. This will reduce the spectrum of views presented in our media.

    Melissa Lee highlighted clearly when she spoke on this Bill in Parliament, there will also be implications for the diversity of perspectives available in this new media behemoth. One of the reasons for that is the organisation will not rely on advertising to the same extent as is currently required, meaning groups that pay to have their views exposed will no longer have that opportunity. 

    Even more troublingly, there's the question of 'approved content' and this merger operating as a media behemoth, crushing diverse perspectives. RNZ Chief Executive, Paul Thompson, has made reference to these 'accepted truths', claiming that the merger is driven ‘in part by… the spread of disinformation.’

    No organisation or society has ever been well-served by a sector claiming to have a monopoly on truth, be that the church, science, and certainly not the media. Without greater safeguards for free speech in the merger, we fear this is what will occur.  

    Keen for some great content? Why not check some of this out? 

    - Did you hear about VUWSA's (Victoria University of Wellington Student Association) decision to bar a mayoral candidate from participating in their mayoral candidate's debate, because of (insert cliche accusations)? Dane Giraud unpacks why handing over the moral hygiene to university students might not be the very best idea. 

    - I was able to join Dr. Michael Johnstone and Dr. James Kierstead on the New Zealand Initiative Podcast to discuss the release of our University Ranking Report, and why free speech needs to be defended on university campuses most of all.  

    - Recently released on the Free Speech Union podcast, I sat down with three council candidates to discuss democracy in action in local government. This is not one to miss, with some spicier moments than expected.

    Each generation before us has been aware that free speech isn't free. Let's not take it for granted. If you stay in the fight with us, we'll keep standing for all of our freedom to speak openly, without fear.  

    Thank you for your support. 


    Jonathan Ayling

    Free Speech Union

    P.S. Voting papers for local council elections have been sent today, and Kiwis will begin voting next week. As promised, we'll be distributing a voting guide with responses from hundreds of candidates to show those who will stand for free speech. Keep an eye out for this when we send it early next week. 

    Free Speech Union (New Zealand) Incorporated · New Zealand
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    You can also keep up with Free Speech Union on Twitter or Facebook.
    Authorised by J. Ayling, Free Speech Union, Level 4, 117 Lambton Quay, Wellington.

  • Newsletter 14 Feb

    Free Speech Union (New Zealand) Incorporated


    Dear Supporter,

    It's great to get to start with some good news. 

    4,000+ Submissions to Netsafe on the 'Online Safety Code'

    We’re proud to report that more than 4,000 supporters submitted to Netsafe using our online submission tool. That’s important. Widespread participation in Netsafe’s consultation sends a strong message that Kiwis don’t want extra controls on their online speech. 

    Thank you graphic

    These outrageous proposals would enable censorship on a whole new level in the online space, but thanks to the Free Speech Union and supporters like you, twitter censorship

    Netsafe now knows Kiwis won’t tolerate the code. It has no option but to incorporate robust protections for free expression.  

    We've been speaking to Netsafe and it looks like they will be going back to the drawing board given the volume of submissions. We'll keep you updated...

    Investigation into local government codes of conduct

    We’ve been looking into local government codes of conduct for some time and have been approached by a number of councillors with stories of censorship and coercive use of codes. It’s become clear to us that the issues at play with codes of conduct warrant further scrutiny, so we’ve written to the Auditor-General to request an investigation into how they are operating. 

    letter to auditor general

    Restrictions on the speech of elected members are prevent them from being voices of their constituents in the corridors of power. We say Councillors are not spin doctors for their council or Mayor – to the contrary, opposition voices are essential for a well-functioning democracy. It's not just the right of the elected member to speak, but the right of voters to hear from them.

    It is often the mavericks and independents who find life being made difficult due to codes of conduct. Their contributions matter. But codes of conduct are creating an environment where the pressure is on councillors to say only what is approved by their chief executive or is otherwise uncontroversial.

    Rotorua Councillor Reynold Macpherson has just been removed from two council committees after refusing to apologise for code of conduct breaches. The New Zealand Herald reports: 

    "Macpherson says he does not regret his actions nor lack of apology as, in his view, he "told the truth" in the social media posts the code of conduct complaints centred on.”

    It's always concerning when code of conduct processes are used against elected members, but in this instance what concerns us is also the sanction imposed how does preventing a councillor from carrying out their role and democratic duty to represent constituents not undermine their electoral mandate? 

    reynold macpherson

    Government progresses conversion therapy bill and blocks amendments 

    Michael Woodhouse The Government's top priority on its first week back in Wellington was to progress the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. Like many other pieces of legislation, the aim of this Bill is laudable. Few would defend barbaric and tortuous 'practices', seeking to change an individual's sexual identity or orientation. If the Bill simply did what it says it would, we would have no business commenting on it. 

    Yet, this piece of legislation strays beyond overt practices and threatens to criminalise conversations and dialogue on important issues. On virtually no other issue do we prohibit two adult Kiwis from talking. We are concerned that is what this Bill will do. 

    As the Free Speech Union, we applaud the Members of Parliament who raised concerns at the impact this Bill would have on speech and tried to amend the legislation to tight the scope and keep it true to the stated goal. Hon. Michael Woohouse and Simon O'Connor both articulated clearly the potential limitations on speech. But the Government voted down every proposed amendment, including one which simply called for the Bill to be inspected in 5 years to make sure it was doing what it was designed for.

    Oral submission to the Justice Select Committee

    This Bill will be passed by Parliament next week. If you want to hear more about the speech-related concerns we raised, this is a recording of our written submission, and you can watch our oral submission as I presented to the Justice Select Committee. 

    Convoy 2022 takes to Parliament 

    Whatever your thoughts are on the 'Convoy 2022’, we all agree that everyone has the right to peacefully make their voice heard. 

    Of course, individual agitators and lawbreakers among the protest group need to be dealt with appropriately by law enforcement, but the Speaker’s call to close the lawn and trespass the protestors was uncalled for, obviously wrong and appears politically motivated. 

    It was also disappointing and troubling that Barry Soper was reportedly reprimanded by the Speaker for speaking to a protestor at Parliament — that is to say — for doing his job. This unacceptable incursion on press freedom just threatens to sow the seeds of division further and alienate people. 

    Protest is a core right for all Kiwis. It doesn’t mean you have a right to an audience, or that your cause is right. But when the Speaker of the House threatens media for speaking with and reporting on these events, the disdain for free speech is palpable.

    We also took issue with Grant Robertson's attempt to interfere with the Police, telling media:

    “Grant Robertson's illegal interference sets a disturbing precedent and puts the Police in an impossible position; Trevor Mallard's decision to pressure media into not reporting on the events risks confirming the protestor's greatest fears. As unpopular as they may be in and around Wellington, the current protesters are just as entitled to peacefully assemble and protest as any other New Zealanders.

    Free Speech Union Podcast

    It doesn't look like this protest is going to anywhere soon. We'll keep fighting for the rights of peaceful Kiwis to gather to use their free speech. I sat down with Dane Giraud and Ani O'Brien to discuss this complex issue. You can listen to our podcast discussion here.

    New Episode of the Free Speech Union podcast 🎤

    Also on the Free Speech Union podcast, our Council member Ani O’Brien sats down with Kate Cormack from Voice for Life New Zealand to flesh out activism, freedom of expression and why the Safe Zones Bill will have a chilling effect on free speech.

    Voice For Life is New Zealand’s oldest and largest pro-life organisation. Kate and Ani get into the impact of the proposed 'Safe Areas' Bill (which is about to be voted on again in Parliament following the Select Committee report) on her group's activism, the fraught process of making submissions, and why the Pro-Life movement could be the canary in the coalmine for the suppression of more protest movements.

    You can listen to the podcast here, or by searching for 'Free Speech Union' wherever good podcasts are found. 

    If you're looking for some good reading this week, check out these two pieces: 

    - Sending a mean tweet about Captain Tom shouldn’t be a crime (The Spectator) 

    Freedom of speech was too hard-won to be cavalier now about censorship(The Guardian) 

    Thank you for your support. 


    Jonathan Ayling

    Free Speech Union

  • New Year’s Update

    Dear Support, 

    Happy New Year! It's not only been sunny summer weather that's heating up. The fight for free speech is on, and 2022 is going to be a big year.

    Public Service Advisor censored for using term 'male-bodied'

    In something you would almost think is out of George Orwell's 1984, a member of the Free Speech Union received a scathing and bullying letter from a very senior ministry official for having the audacity to refer to transgender women as 'male-bodied'.

    New Zealand Public Service

    This advisor, who works in a ministry and sits three tiers below the senior public servant, attended a presentation by LGBTQIA+ activist group InsideOUT and raised a question at the end with the presenter. 

    Public Service Censorship

    After the presentation, this advisor was understandably concerned when they received a letter from the Deputy Chief Executive of the organisation, claiming that they had been 'offended and shocked' along with others for using the term 'male-bodied'. That is despite the Human Rights Commission using the term in its description of transwomen. The advisor reached out to us to see if we thought these comments were appropriate, and to get help in defending their right to speech. 

    Last week, I sat down with the Deputy Chief Executive of the particular ministry, along with a senior ministry HR advisor, and the employee (member of the Free Speech Union).

    Unfortunately, the Deputy Chief Executive was intransigent, insisting that they had the right to control the language that is used in the ministry and that this didn't undermine free speech in any way.Somehow, in their mind, their stated desire to have a diverse workplace that celebrates different opinions is consistent with no one being allowed to offend anyone else. (It's interesting the Public Service Association never seems to come out on these issues. If you're in the public service and looking for a Union that has your back, you should join up with us.)

    This is how censorship occurs. This is what having speech controlled looks like. Rarely is it a blatant ban. It's just a threatening letter here, a slap on the wrist there, a disapproving comment or review from a superior.  

    He's our letter to the Ministery (read online here):

    Letter sent to Ministry in response to censorious letter

    Here at the Free Speech Union, we say that in no circumstance is it acceptable for a senior public servant to exercise their influence to bully staff to silence them or limit their speech. 

    There is a maxim in the public servance not to let 'politics get in the way of their job, or their job in the way of politics'.  This isn't one of those cases - political transgender / launguage issues have absolutely nothing to do with the functions of this particualr ministry.

    FSU Graphic

    Do you work in the public service, or in another environment where you've had a similar situation? Standing up in individual cases like this is crucial in our fight for free speech. We'd love to hear from you. 

    Local Councillor found guilty of Code of Conduct breach for comments on personal blog 

    The Tasman District Council has censored one of its own Councillors for comments that he made on a personal blog site regarding the Waimea Dam project and a potential budget blowout. A Code of Conduct complaint lodged against him has resulted in an investigation (at considerable expense to the ratepayer, we might note), which has seen a number of his comments redacted or removed.

    Waimea Dam

    We take a particular interest in free speech as it relates to democratic accountability, and have previously worked with local councillors around the country at representing their interests in Code of Conduct complaints. As we've previously said, Councillors are not bound by collective responsibility, and democratic accountability cannot occur unless there is healthy opposition and a contest of viewpoints. 

    It is possible that this investigation undermines the very reason elected members are there: to be representatives of ratepayers and not spin doctors for the Council.

    You can read our letter to the Council here.

    Letter to Tasman District Council

    This is the same Council who we understand instructed Councillors to not reply to constituents if asked about vaccine mandates and the need for a COVID Passport to access Council facilities, but to pass on such correspondence to the Council staff.

    In both of these cases, the Ministry advisor above and this local councillor, Codes of Conduct are the culprit. While organisations have to pretend to respect the rights of the workers, the Codes of Conduct put in place can trump these liberties.

    While clear Codes of Conduct that outline the expectations of an employer in a particular workplace are of course appropriate, they should not be used to deny basic freedoms, however inconvenient it is for the organisation. After all, democracy relies on elected officials being able to speak freely.

    Former Prime Minister Sir Bill English described Council Codes of Conduct as a threat to democracy 15 years ago but MPs didn't heed his warning. Today, these Codes are being used by council officials and mayors to silence dissenting councillors by outlawing criticism and undermining the democratic process. At the end of last year, we held a round table discussion with several local councillors from across the country who shared their stories of being gagged by Council Codes of Conduct. You can listen here.

    Roundtable on Codes of Conduct

    Christchurch City Council sends bill to protestors for costs

    Christchurch City Council

    When we say a 'human rights bill', usually we think of the legislation which protects our most fundamental liberties. But in Christchurch, it just means the money you have to pay after you've exercised your freedom.

    This week, the Christchurch City Council sent a bill of more than $14,000 to the Freedom and Rights Coalition for 'traffic management' fees for three gatherings that occured last year in Cranmer Square and elsewhere in the city. Another invoice will be sent to cover further costs for a protest early this month.  

    Derek Tait

    The rights to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest are cornerstones of free speech. Protest and mass public gatherings are critical tools for political discourse. Sending a bill to protesters for exercising their human rights creates a chilling effect and sets a worrying precedent. If successful it would set a dangerous precedent for Councils to shut down speech and protest unwelcome to the majority opinion.

    The Christchurch City Council has already shown that it is willing to try and overrule ratepayer's freedom of speech. Last year, we challenged them when they illegally blocked Speak Up For Women from using Council facilities to hold a meeting. This year, we're taking them to task again and calling on them to do the right thing, respect the rights of their ratepayers, and cancel these bills.  

    Letter to Christchurch City Council

    Despite facing a similar situation where the Freedom and Rights Coalition have gathered and marched in the Capital, Wellington City Council has said that it will not bill of fine the organisers. As a Council spokesperson noted, 'there is a long history of protest marches in Wellington relating to all sorts of grievances.' 

    Regardless of what the Freedom and Rights Coalition are saying, free speech is either for all or it's not at all. The entire essence of free speech is that you may disagree with what they say, yet agree with their right to say it. 

    Shaun Hendy and Siouxie Wiles complain about exposure to public abuse- after instigating public abuse 

    Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles By now, we should be used to the fact that those who oppose free speech are often those that are the first to cry out when their speech is threatened. As we have covered extensively over the past three months, Auckland University Professors Hendy and Wiles led a 'pile-on' against the authors of The Listener article which resulted in the Royal Society lauching an investigation into Professors Coopera and Nola. (You can listen to our podcast covering off all the details on this issue here.) 

    Yet, facing some public opposition themselves now, Hendy and Wiles have lodged a complaint with the Employment Tribunal, aruging that Auckland University hasn't protected them against "a small but venomous sector of the public" that has become increasingly "unhinged".

    Kiwis should be able to do their job free from threats to their lives and safety, Professor Shaun Hendy and Dr Siouxie Wiles are right to expect that they should not experience such behaviour as a result of their opinions, speech, or public work. 

    As New Zealand’s union for freedom of speech, we advocate for an academic environment in which academics like Hendy and Wiles do not find themselves in a situation of ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’, so to speak. (Interestingly, Wiles and Hendy don't seem to have the support you'd imagine they expect from the Tertiary Education Union. If you're an academic and looking for a Union that has your back, join up with us.)

    Reciprocal respect for the rights of others to express and defend their views ensures that when situations of threats and abuse arise, the entire community feels able to speak against it.

    Ani O'BrienBut it would be nice if, expecting others to respect their right to free speech, Hendy and Wiles avoided instigating any more public mobs against those they don't agree with. In this blog by Free Speech Union Council member, Ani O'Brien, she outlines that disagreement, even vehement disagreement, is not abuse nor ‘harassment, and where this difficult line should lie.

    While most of us are just trying to get ready for another big year, the fights are coming thick and fast for our team. On top of this, we're preparing for hate speech laws, name suppression review, and another year of going toe-to-toe with the woke mob.

    Jonathan, we can't do this without you. Free speech is facing more structural and philosophical opposition than it has for decades. Stand with us to champion our right to speak.  

    Donate to the Free Speech Union

    Supporters like you are what makes this fight possible. Thank you for standing with us. 


    Jonathan Ayling

    Free Speech Union

    P.S. Do you know of someone who would be interested in our work or who needs support for their speech? Feel free to forward this newsletter to them. They can signup to receive updates at, and can contact our team at [email protected] or message us on our facebook page.  


    Free Speech Union (New Zealand) Incorporated · New Zealand
    This email was sent to [email protected]. To stop receiving emails, click here.
    You can also keep up with Free Speech Union on Twitter or Facebook.
    Authorised by J Williams, Free Speech Coalition, Level 4, 117 Lambton Quay, Wellington.

  • End of Year in Review

    Dear Supporter,

    As the end of the year approaches, we thought it the right time to look back at our work to date – work that you have made possible with your support.

    Since launching the Free Speech Union in May, we’ve been laser-focused on defending and promoting free speech in New Zealand. The enemies of free speech hunt in packs – this union was formed so that defenders of free speech can band together too. 

    🗣️ Speak Up For Women vs Palmerston North City Council ⚖️

    The feminist group, Speak Up For Women opposed the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill (the bill that would allow people to change their sex on their birth certificate), saying it risked unintended consequences for women's sex-based rights. They were on a speaking tour to discuss the Bill and made bookings at council venues around the country for these events, including the Palmerston North City Library. The Library later told SUFW it was cancelling their event and would only host a debate where “all views” would be represented.

    We quickly went into bat for SUFW by organising a crowd funder and making an application for judicial review.

    In his decision, Justice Nation granted the sought injunctive relief: forcing the Palmerston North City Council to host the event. the Judge said the Council's decision involved a "significant failure to recognise SUFW's right to freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly." He also found that putting conditions on the event which insisted that SUFW could only present their views on the Bill if they were countered by speakers with an opposing view could not be considered a reasonable limitation on those rights.

    The Auckland Council got the message too. With Palmerston North's case as a backdrop, Auckland Council settled with SUFW and the Auckland event went ahead in the Council Chamber. Similarly, Dunedin City and Wellington City Councils backtracked and allowed the SUFW's bookings. The latter accepted SUFW's booking at the Michael Fowler Centre after sending lawyers to the Palmerston North's High Court hearing to see if they could get away with not allowing the Michael Fowler event. 🤦

    Leave to appeal to Supreme Court granted in Moncreiff-Spittle

    While the Court of Appeal judgement in the Moncrieff-Spittle case represented a substantial improvement on the High Court judgment, we think we can do better. The Court was given a perfect opportunity to deal head-on with the heckler's veto concept but they weirdly passed that ball into space: saying all the right things about the value of free speech, but not taking the last step to put the onus on authorities to prevent situations of the heckler's veto.

    We are appealing on grounds that the Court of Appeal did not give adequate weight to freedom of speech when concluding that Auckland Council (Auckland Regional Facilities)'s decision to cancel the 2018 event was reasonable and justified.

    The Supreme Court decided that the case is important enough to accept our application for leave to appeal. It is set down to be heard at the Supreme Court in Wellington on 22 February 2022. 

    Hate Speech Campaign 💬 🚫

    A primary focus of the Free Speech Union in 2021 has been preventing the introduction of hate speech laws. We're proud that more than 40,000 Kiwis signed our petition calling on the Government to can their hate speech proposals and more than three-quarters of submissions received by the Ministry of Justice on the hate speech proposals came from our supporters using the online submission tool.

    That's important. It means the Government can't claim public support for their dangerous 'hate speech' laws.

    And it is pleasing to see so many of the submissions were from members of minority communities. Contrary to claims by the likes of the Human Rights Commissioner, Kiwis are waking up to how free speech protects diversity and minority interests.

    It is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice have failed to answer clearly when asked what speech would and would not be criminalised under the proposals. If the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice can't easily explain what 'hate speech' is being criminalised, how is the average citizen supposed to know? 

    Vague intentions make bad law and overseas experience has shown that the introduction of such laws has resulted in law enforcement consistently missing the mark, and has created a structure allowing for legal harassment of the state against citizens, even if they are ultimately found not guilty. 

    There has however been some good news out of the United Kingdom this month with a landmark judgement from the Court of Appeal that the recording of non-crime hate incidents is an unlawful interference with freedom of expression. As the Court says, the knowledge that such matters are being recorded and stored in a police database is likely to have had a serious “chilling effect” on public debate.

    But the fight isn't over. It appears that rather than backing down, the Government will be releasing their hate speech legislation in the new year. Rest assured we are gearing up to fight it at every stage of the legislative process so watch this space! We’ll let you know how you can get involved in stopping these laws in the New Year.

    Raymond Richards vs Waikato University 🦕

    After the Tertiary Education Union refused to help, we stepped in to support a Waikato University lecturer’s fight for academic freedom. Dr Raymond Richards faced potential disciplinary action for his lectures about methods of critical thinking in history after he referred by way of example to “religious cranks” who said the earth was flat and that dinosaurs and Adam and Eve had met. 

    Following a student raising a concern, the Head of the Social Sciences School summoned Dr Richards to a meeting. They did not reach an agreement but HR later wrote to him saying they “do not expect to have a repeat of these matters”. The Head of School also cancelled an in-class test of the students’ understanding of the methods of critical thinking.

    Our lawyers lept to the defence of free speech reminding the University of its responsibility to uphold academic freedom. They subsequently u-turned on their treatment of Dr Richards – a significant victory. 

    Richard Dawkins also tweeted a link to our press release:

    Defending the Listener Seven 🖋️‍🔬

    As you probably know by now, much of our efforts of late have focused on defending the academic freedom of seven distinguished professors who authored the now infamous The Listener letter, which took issue with a government working group’s proposal to incorporate Mātauranga Maori concepts as an equivalence of “western science” in the school science curriculum.

    This time, the Tertiary Education Union not only refused to defend the professors’ right to state controversial opinions, but it put out a statement describing the letter as “damaging”, and said, “members found it offensive, ill-advised and racist”.

    We have since been contacted by a number of academics appalled and outraged to have found out that their Union made a statement condemning The Listenerletter on behalf of members without any consultation. 

    After we released news of the Royal Society’s investigation to the media and launched a crowdfund to cover the professors legal fees, we leveraged our international connections in the hopes that drawing more attention to the issue internationally would make the Royal Society feel the heat. 

    With Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Jerry Coyne having weighed in, the Royal Society now knows that the eyes of the world’s science community will be watching when they announce the outcome of their investigation into Cooper and Nola.

    We will update you on the progress of the investigation when we can. But regardless of its outcome, the fact that they instigated this ridiculous witch hunt means they’ve already tarnished their reputation on the world stage. Organisations should be aware they can pay a heavy price when they join in on the pile-on to appease the mob.

    Meanwhile, Auckland University's Vice-Chancellor, Dawn Freshwater, seems to have had second thoughts now that the University's international reputation is on the line. After rushing to condemn the seven scientists on behalf of the University in July, saying their words "caused hurt and dismay" she has now announced that the University will host a symposium on the issue: 

    In his latest piece, Graham Adams suggests a public apology to the seven professors would show it was more than a PR stunt. 

    Local Government Codes of Conduct 🗳️

    Earlier this year we wrote to the South Wairarapa District Council urging them to remove an outdated anti-democratic clause from their Code of Conduct that stifled free speech.

    We are pleased to now see it reported in the media that the Council has adopted a new Code of Conduct that omits the troublesome provision which forbade criticism of council decisions and policy. 

    Similarly, we were pleased to have supported Otago Regional Councillor Michael Laws after a Code of Conduct complaint from the Chief Executive landed him under investigation after comments he made to the media. The complaint was ultimately not upheld, and we received feedback that the letter we sent to the Chief Executive was instrumental in the outcome of the investigation, and the complaint later being dropped. This just shows the way these complaints are lobbed about to intimidate councillors! 

    We foresee Codes of Conduct as being a major battleground for the Union in 2022. There is a worrying trend of Codes of Conduct within organisations being weaponised to undermine free speech. This is true across numerous sectors, not just local government, where vague provisions can be twisted to suit just about any purpose. 

    Member Advocacy ✊ 

    Of course, it hasn’t been all court cases and crowdfunds. We’ve helped a number of members in employment and other situations this year. As a Union, we need to put the interests of our members first, which means we don’t always inform the membership of every case we take up. 

    One example we can share is that the Union defended a member who was intimidated at their place of work by a senior Council employee. Their crime? Writing a submission to the Council on Maori wards that took an opposing view to the one held by the employee. 

    We laid a Code of Conduct complaint against the employee, pointing out that citizens have every right to participate in local democracy without being harassed and intimidated by Council staff for expressing their views. In exchange for not naming the Council or employee, the Union negotiated an apology and retraction from the employee.

    The member wrote us a kind note of thanks saying; 

    "I contacted the Free Speech Union looking for help after being intimated in my place of work as a result of my political views. Jordan and the team jumped into action and did more than I could have hoped to support my right to have an opinion. At every stage, I always felt in control of what the union was doing on my behalf. I now feel comfortable in my place of work knowing that even if a similar incident was to occur, the Free Speech Union would have my back and ensure there was a consequence to intimidating me because of my political opinion. I am so grateful that this amazing union exists"

    As you can see, it's been a tremendous year for the Free Speech Union but the fight is only getting started. Membership means you'll have a team in your corner if someone comes after you because of your speech. Whether it's with embattled professors, local councillors or activist groups, we have a track record of standing up for our member's speech  and winning. If you're not already a member, click here so we can hit the ground running in the New Year.

    Alternatively, you can make a confidential donation (without joining) using the link below. Your support will mean we can continue the fight into the New Year.

    Donate button

    BFD intelligence report: Free speech issue, or surveillance state? 👮

    Earlier this month we were alerted to the revelations Police intelligence staff have been monitoring Government critic and blogger Cameron Slater and his blog site "The BFD". Reasonable minds can differ on whether this is a civil liberty/surveillance state issue, or a purely free speech matter. We concluded that it is the former, also guided by the fact that as far as we can tell no laws or human rights have been broken (meaning there's no "cause of action" involved). Other than publicise the Police's misjudgement there is not a lot we can do.

    In a blog post published earlier this week, Mr Slater has taken strong objection to our lack of action. We've done our best to present both side of the debate on our website here

    On behalf of the whole team, wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2022. Thank you for your support. 

    Dane Giraud

    Dane Giraud
    Free Speech Union


  • Free Speech Union Update: 30 November, 2021

    Dear Supporter, 

    We all know we're entering the 'silly-season', but as you can see from this Free Speech Union update, it's not because we're getting close to Christmas. 

    Royal Society investigates Fellows for defending science 

    Prof. Garth Cooper

    Last week, we uncovered the investigation the Royal Society is conducting into two Fellows for their part in writing The Listener letter, which posited that mātauranga Māori is distinct from science. 

    A counter-letter was swiftly drafted and circulated by Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles — which claimed to “categorically” disagree with the professors’ views. I had the chance to sit down with Profs. Cooper and Clements to discuss the mischaracterisation of what they wrote, and the backlash they have endured. You can listen to the podcast here.

    We invited dozens of those who had signed the open letter to join us in this conversation to discuss their differences of opinion. Not one of them was willing to participate. 

    Likewise, when we asked to sit down with Sandra Grey, the head of the Tertiary Education Union to discuss the implications of investigations like this on academic freedom, she was entirely uninterested in engaging.  

    You might agree with the authors of the letter about mātauranga Māori and science or you might not, but that's really not the point. Prof Cooper is Māori himself and has taught kaupapa Māori for decades — it is crazy that the academy is so ideologically captured that it would condone this pile-on. The fact that those who are orchestrating these bullying and censorious tactics have no interest in engaging in a discussion is very telling. As you'll often find, one side of the debate around free speech is almost always more tolerant than the other. 

    Coverage in Radio New Zealand, Newsroom, and Stuff, each present different perspectives, but what's clear is we're generating a conversation  and that's exactly what free speech is about! 

    Journalist Graham Adams interviewed Prof. Cooper and concluded:

    ... we have ended up in a situation where a very distinguished Māori-Pākehā scientist who has helped thousands of Māori in their careers over several decades is being investigated by the Royal Society for what can only be described as holding a heretical view about the distinction between science and mātauranga Māori.

    Who knew an eminent scientist expressing an honestly held opinion — that mātauranga Māori, while valuable as a form of knowledge, is not science — would end up dealing with an Inquisition in 21st century New Zealand?   

    In another piece Graeme Adams wrote for us, he outlines the remarkable achievements of the late Prof. Michael Corballis, who until his recent passing was also under investigation by the Royal Society.

    Prof. Michael Corballis

    Some have claimed that Prof. Corballis was the best chance Auckland University has ever had of acquiring a Nobel Prize as he was arguably the global authority on left-hemisphere/right-hemisphere issues in neuropsychology. "Yet — despite having awarded him the Rutherford Medal — a full fortnight after his death the society had still not written an obituary. Unfortunately, Corballis had lately been relegated to zero from hero. His crime was effectively one of heresy."

    Steven Pinker who celebrated the life of his former professor with a laudatory tweet, pulled no punches when he was asked about this issue while being interviewed by Kim Hill on RNZ over the weekend:  

    Silencing or punishing someone for an opinion runs counter to reason. … No one is infallible; no one is omniscient. The only way our species has been able to do anything worthwhile is by voicing opinions and allowing them to be criticised…

    If you’ve got a regime where merely voicing an opinion gets you silenced or punished then we’ve turned off the only mechanism we have of discovering knowledge. It is a way of locking ourselves into error…

    If we have a regime that can subject someone to an investigation based on an opinion, we know from history that’s the way totalitarian autocracies work and oppressive theocracies work.

    The Free Speech Union is committed to standing up for these distinguished professors, and their academic freedom.

    Because of donations from supporters just like you, we have been able to cover the legal costs of the investigation and will be continuing to support them however we can.  

    Getting the message out there

    If you pick up the NZ Herald today, be sure to check out our full-page advert highlighting what the Royal Society is doing.

    Full Page in the NZ Herald

    Click for larger image

    Hate speech petition presented with strong cross-party support 

    Tens-of-thousands of Kiwis signed our petition calling on the Government to can their proposed hate speech laws, and on Thursday we presented this petition to a group of MPs at Parliament. Members from the ACT Party, the Green Party, and the National Party all agreed that the changes the Government is suggesting are dangerous. 

    This proves the point we constantly make: free speech is not a Left-Right political issue. Free speech is about defending the basic foundation of Kiwis' democratic liberties. MPs who agree on virtually nothing else joined together with us calling on the Government to drop their anti-speech proposals. 

    Hate Speech Petition Presented to Parliament

    It is outrageous that the Government is proposing to impose harsher criminal sanctions for words than those that exist for a number of violent offences. 

    Even more so given that neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Justice have been able to say when asked what speech would or would not be prosecuted under the proposals. 

    This places an unacceptable and undemocratic burden on the police and the courts which will inevitably be left with the task of exploring the application of these laws.

    We've already seen a Police Officer in Auckland tell street preachers that "there's a difference between hate speech and free speech" and that they were "very close to the line" before any such laws have even passed. 

    There is no public mandate for these changes. Of the 18,000 responses which were made to the Ministry of Justice about the hate speech proposals, 15,000 of them specifically endorsed the Free Speech Union's submission. Yet, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the submissions were facilitated by the Free Speech Union, the Minister has repeatedly refused to meet with us to discuss our concerns and has apparently requested none of the other ministers we have asked to meet with sit down with us.

    We couldn't resist

    It just so happened that as we were presenting the petition, Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi walked by, and so we had an opportunity to invite him in person to receive the petition signed by tens of thousands of Kiwis...

    Unsurprisingly, he declined. 

    Minister of Justice declines to receive petition

    Hate Speech debate with Paul Hunt

    The Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, has been a strong proponent of the anti-speech laws the Government is proposing. Free Speech Union Member Daphna Whitmore was invited to debate him on this issue and did a stellar job.

    Hate Speech Debate with Paul Hunt and Daphna Whitmore

    In his conclusion, Hunt parahprased Isaiah Berlin and claimed "'Total liberty of the powerful, the gifted, is not compatible with the rights to a decent existence of the weak and less gifted.’ And that’s why we need a high-level threshold of hate speech. Otherwise, the liberty of wolves will lead to the death of lambs."

    This perfectly encapsulates the patronising and infantilising perspective that underpins the justification for anti-speech laws, and which ironically insults the ethnic, religious, and gender minorities of our country.

    As Daphna points out, anti-speech laws are a political project which the elite imposes top-down with threats of imprisonment. Why? Because they don't trust everyday Kiwis to respect others or tolerate differences. 

    >>> Watch the debate between Hunt and Whitmore here<<<

    Jonathan Rauch, who we were fortunate to have as our most recent SpeakEasy guest, tackles the argument of authorities purporting to speak on behalf of minorities head-on in his interview with Dr David Cumin available on our podcast.

    Victory in Michael Laws Case as Codes of Conduct threaten to undermine accountability

    As well as taking on the woke academy and paternalistic Government, we're also continuing to look into the way Codes of Conduct are being weaponised and used to silence our elected local representatives. 

    Cr. Laws

    We were very pleased to let you know that the complaint against Otago Regional Councillor Michael Laws covered in previous newsletters has notbeen unheld upon investigation.

    Reports we've received from within the Otago Regional Council have claimed that the letter we sent to the Chief Executive was instrumental in the investigation, and the complaint being dropped. This just shows the way these complaints are lobbed about to intimidate councillors. 

    Before the investigation was concluded, we sat down with Cr. Laws to discuss the case, and how common it is for these Codes to be used to attack elected representatives by bureaucrats. We doubt these Codes are lawful and are continuing work in examining their use to undermine democratic accountability.

    Council codes of conduct: Facebook Live – Thursday 7pm 

    FB Live Discussion on Council Codes of Conduct

    On Thursday night, at 7pm, Free Speech Union Council Member and lawyer Stephen Franks will be sitting down with 3 Councillors from around the country to hear their stories concerning the opposition they have faced from Code of Conduct complaints, and proposals they have to improve the system, and defend free speech. We'll be going live on our Facebook Page, so make sure you have liked our page to receive a notification when we go live. 

    Donate to the FSU

    The attacks on free speech simply remind us again and again why a collaborative effort is needed to defend this core liberty. We are only able to operate because of members and supporters like you. 

    Join the FSU

    Thank you for making this work possible. 


    Jonathan Ayling

    Free Speech Union

  • Free Speech Union is fighting for Academic Freedom

    Dear Supporter,

    There is a worrying trend in universities and research institutions attempting to muzzle the very people whose job it is to ask questions. Some subjects are simply now off-limits. Academic freedom is under attack.

    I'm emailing with disturbing news regarding the New Zealand Royal Society, which is on the cusp of giving in to the censors and expelling two scientists for signing a letter defending science.

    The Royal Society has just launched a disciplinary investigation against a group of academics. I'm emailing to ask for your help defend the academics and stand up for academic freedom.

    The Royal Society is prosecuting complaints against scientists for defending science!

    The Free Speech Union can reveal that two academic fellows are being investigated for being among those to put their name to a letter In Defence of Science which was published earlier this year in The Listener.

    Matauranga Maori Listener Article

    The full text of the letter is copied at the end of this email

    For context, the seven professors who co-signed the letter were responding to an NCEA working group that proposed that mātauranga Māori should have “parity” with “the other bodies of knowledge credentialed by NCEA (particularly Western / Pākeha epistemologies)” in the school science curriculum.

    The key argument of the letter was that “...Indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices and plays key roles in management and policy. However, in the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself…”.

    They further opined: “Science is universal, not especially Western European. It has origins in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Greece and later India, with significant contributions in mathematics, astronomy and physics from mediaeval Islam before developing in Europe and later the US, with a strong presence across Asia”.

    The group who signed the letter faced swift backlash online, lead by Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles:


    Dr Barry Hughes of the Tertiary Education Union also wrote a letter to the authors on behalf of the Union. He opened by affirming that the authors were 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”.

    Similarly, rather than defend the right of academics to attempt to grapple with difficult questions, Auckland University's Vice-Chancellor put out a statement stating that asking the question of “whether mātauranga Māori can be called science has caused considerable hurt and dismay among our staff, students and alumni”.

    She too also implied the academics 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 this. 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". So, clearly, the letter actually supports the view that mātauranga Māori is valuable.

    Notably, none of the criticisms levelled at the authors attempted to grapple with the author's key contention: that mātauranga Māori is simply distinct from science.

    While the debate may rage as to whether the author's assertions are correct, there should be no doubt that the debate must be allowed to take place. That's why we have offered to help the academics, and crowdfund to defend them with an academic freedom fighting fund.

    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. 

    Similarly, proclaiming "hurt and dismay" and pointing to "major problems with some colleagues" does not help the rest of us understand why mātauranga Māori should be considered science. 

    To shut down debate of this kind is to undermine the purpose of the academy: to wrestle with what we know, and try and extend it.

    >>> Donate now to defend academic freedom <<<

    Ironically, the Royal Society was set up for the very purpose of advancing and promoting science, technology, and the humanities in New Zealand. Now it's trying to expel scientists for defending science. We have to help the scientists to fight back.

    It is ironic that The Royal Society is trying to purge from the acadmy the authors of the letter.

    The investigation of The Listener co-signees sends a chilling message to other academics: state contentious views at your own peril.

    If the complaint is upheld, it will only serve to make academics feel less safe to venture honestly-held views on contentious issues in the future. This cannot be allowed to stand. 

    The process of the human pursuit of knowledge depends on free speech, including of those who may hold views contrary to the mainstream. The Royal Society are abandoning its own heritage and the proud traditions of academic freedom which historically has been the defining mechanism allowing scientific knowledge to develop.

    When academics can no longer ask questions or make certain arguments, without the fear of personal and professional reprisals, academic freedom is in peril. We must stand with those who are punished and have their reputations denigrated for having the audacity to venture honestly-held views on contentious issues.

    The Free Speech Union is starting a fighting fund for Academic Freedom. The academics have been called ‘racist’ and smeared by fellow scientists and are now having to engage lawyers to defend their opinions on science from an institution that should, instead, be encouraging debate and promoting science. This fight is a fight for the right of anyone to peacefully and reasonably voice their opinion. 

    Times like this make us question the real value we put on our liberties and freedoms. We are not willing to let the Royal Society, or anyone, bully and censor academics doing their job without reminding them that we still have free speech in this country.

    Let's keep it that way. 

    Donate button

    Thank you to all of those who make these effort's possible. Our work relies on your support.

    Dr David Cumin

    David sig
    Dr David Cumin
    Free Speech Union

    The Listener Letter 

    In defence of science

    A recent report from a Government NCEA working group on proposed changes to the Māori school curriculum aims “to esure parity for mātauranga Māori with the other bodies of knowledge credentialed by NCEA (particularly Western/Pakeha epistemologies)”. It includes the following description as part of a new course: “It promotes discussion and analysis of the ways in which science has been used to support the dominance of Eurocentric views (among which, its use as a a rationale for colonisation of Māori and the suppression of Māori knowledge); and the notion that science is a Western European invention and itself evidence of European dominance over Māori and other indigenous peoples.”

    This perpetuates disturbing misunderstandings of science emerging at all levels of education and in science funding. These encourage mistrust of science. Science is universal, not especially Western European. It has origins in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Greece and later India, with significant contributions in mathematics, astronomy and physics from mediaeval Islam, before developing in Europe and later the US, with a strong presence acoss Asia.

    Science itself does not colonise. It has been used to aid colonisation, as have literature and art. However, science also provides immense good, as well as greatly enhanced understanding of the world. Science is helping us battle worldwide crises such as Covid, global warming, carbon pollution, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. Such science is informed by the united efforts of many nations and cultures. We increasingly depend on science, perhaps for our very survival. The future of our world, and our species, cannot affort mistrust in science.

    Indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices, and plays key roles in management and policy. However, in the discovery of empirical, universal truths, it falls far short of what we can define as science itself.

    To accept it as the equivalent of science is to patronise and fail indigenous populations; better to ensure that everyone participates in the world’s scientific enterprises. Indigenous knowledge may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways, but it is not science.

    Kendall Clements
    Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland 

    Garth Cooper, FRSNZ
    Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland

    Michael Corabllis, FRSNZ
    Emeritus Professor, School of Psychology, Universituy of Auckland

    Douglas Elliffe
    Professor, School of Psychology, University of Auckland

    Robert Nola, FRSNZ 
    Emeritus Professor, School of Philosphy, Universituy of Auckland

    Elizabeth Rata
    Professor, Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland

    John Werry
    Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland


    Donate to our Academic Freedom Fund

  • Free Speech Union Newsletter

    Dear Supporter,

    Welcome to this week's free speech update.

    NZME receives over 1000 emails re Speak Up For Women advertisements

    More than a thousand of our supporters took the time to write to NZME regarding their U-turn on running advertisements featuring the definition of the word ‘woman’.

    Speak Up For Women ODT Advert
    Of course, private media institutions aren’t legally required to uphold freedom of expression like public venues, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our voices as consumers to implore them to uphold free speech values when they exercise so much practical power over the free exchange of ideas in our society. We are continuing to speak to the Herald about this incident to ensure that they maintain free speech as New Zealand's largest newspaper. 

    To those who helped – thanks again.

    Victory: South Wairarapa District Council U-turns on anti-speech Code of Conduct

    We've been spending some time getting our heads around codes of conduct that allow majorities on our elected councils to silence minority or opposition voices.

    Last week RNZ reported that South Wairarapa District Council’s (SWDC) Code of Conduct contains a clause prohibiting elected members from criticising council decisions, councillor colleagues, or even council policy.

    The Code of Conduct states: "Elected members are entitled to make public statements expressing their opinion on matters before the council ... such statements may not criticise the conduct of the council, other elected members or officers of the council, nor should they undermine any existing policy or decision of the council."

    Democracy depends on robust discussion. It is very difficult to hold those in power to account if criticising them is a code of ethics breach... In fact, in our opinion, the attempted gagging/restriction on councillors is unlawful.

    Letter to SWDC
    We reminded them that Councillors are elected to be the voices of the people in the corridors of power – not spin doctors for the Council.The voting public have a right to know how decisions are made in their community, not simply what decisions are ultimately made.

    I'm pleased to tell you that the Council has accepted our arguments - with the CEO writing back to us reaffirming the Council's commitment to freedom of expression and informing us that the Council is looking to have the clause removed before the end of the year.

    Oral Submission to Justice Select Committee on Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

    Last week, I submitted to the Justice Select Committee on the free speech concerns we have about the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. There are strongly held opinions on both sides of this debate and the Union doesn't take stances on the substance of issues such as this. Our concern is the way this law could limit open discussion and suppress the sharing of genuine opinions. 

    Oral Submission to Justice Select Committee

    This is a complex area, one where other countries have gone ahead of us. We hosted a panel of Australian experts who commented on the laws which have passed across the Tasman, and heard their perspectives on this Bill.

    More than 100,000 Kiwis submitted on this Bill, almost three times as many as any other piece of legislation. From a free speech perspective, this is fantastic news, where a variety of opinions on this subject have been shared and heard. 

    Nadine Strossen conversation is now available 

    Last week, our very own Stephen Franks sat down with Nadine Strossen, prominent academic and former president of the ACLU, for our second members-only SpeakEasy. Nadine addressed the current threats to New Zealanders' freedom of expression, including the proposed hate speech laws, and spoke more broadly on the importance of free speech as a bedrock of other civil liberties.

    Nadine Strossen SpeakEasy Graphic

    For those who missed out, you can now catch the full interview on our podcast, or alternatively, head over to our Facebook page to watch the video recording in full. The "SpeakEasy" Q&A from our members has been edited out, as per our usual approach to these private conversations.

    To participate in future SpeakEasys, you need to be a member of the Free Speech Union. Membership of the Free Speech Union costs only $50 for one year and entitles you to attend these exclusive events which include the opportunity to put your questions to our expert guests directly.

    Is name suppression for criminals and the accused a free speech issue?

    Our next Facebook Live event will be on Monday at 7pm with three prominent lawyers, Stephen Franks, Graeme Edgeler, and Daniel Kalderimis on name suppression and its relationship with free speech. Make sure you hit "like" on our Facebook page to get the notification.

    Let Free Speech Sunlight Disinfect Covid Misinformation

    Gisborne Herald

    Last week I penned an op-ed on the issue of Covid-19 misinformation and free speech. I explore the question of how to distinguish between misinformation and free speech, including how measures to censor bad information are often counter-productive and may do more harm than good; especially as eradicating bad information (particularly on social media) is vastly more difficult than eradicating a virus – and boy do we know we know how hard that is!

    🗣 New Podcast Episodes 🎤

    This week on the Free Speech Union podcast, our spokesperson Rachel Poulain speaks with University of Auckland economist Prof. Ananish Chaudhuri about the importance of free speech and the troubling lack of criticism from the media and the Opposition, to the mounting examples of Government overreach we've seen throughout the pandemic response. A thought-provoking interview with a world-renowned mind! His Book 'Nudged into Lockdown? Behavioural economics, Uncertainty and Covid-19' is out soon, but you can listen to the podcast now

    I also had the chance to sit down with Simon Bridges to talk about free speech, culture wars and his new memoir National Identity.

    Podcast with Ananish Chaudhuri and Rachel Poulian

    Alternatively, you can search for us on Spotify, Apple, or wherever good podcasts are found by entering 'Free Speech Union'. Make sure you're staying up to date with the rest of our work and other content we are releasing by liking our Facebook page. 

    Thank you for your support.


    Jonathan Ayling

    Free Speech Union

  • “Non-violence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another.” — Mahatma Gandhi

    Two years ago in Christchurch, New Zealand was subjected to an horrific act of extreme violence, in the name of ideology.

    Yesterday, another terrorist attack was carried out, this time in Auckland.

    Both of these despicable acts of terrorism on New Zealand soil were committed by cowards.

    Both targeted innocent people who were simply going about their lives. Both used weapons instead of words. Both used violence and terror in an attempt to further their extreme agendas.

    Violence in the name of ideology is the polar opposite of free speech. It is the ultimate attempt to silence those who do not share your worldview.

    Differences of political and religious opinion must be navigated with reason and dialogue. Never through violence. Never through fear.

    Those who refuse to resolve ideological differences with words are the ones who turn to violence. Those who refuse to respectfully engage in civil dialogue with those they disagree with are the ones who become hateful extremists in the first place.

    Freedom of speech — the fundamental human right to peacefully express one’s opinion — is an inherently non-violent principle. This is why we seek to protect it.

    The blame for each of these horrendous attacks is solely on the terrorists. They alone are responsible for their actions. The Muslim community of Aotearoa — still grieving and healing from March 15 — is no more represented by this extremist individual than our Australian community were represented by the Christchurch shooter.

    Our deepest sympathies are with the victims of this attack and their whānau, and all those affected by it.

  • 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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