Who made libraries the 'inclusivity' police?

May was our biggest month yet. ūüí™

Between the Department of Internal Affairs abandoning the proposed online content regulator, the Victoria University panel discussion saga, the release of our new academic membership, the fight to ensure the Wellington council didn't censor views they deemed 'unsafe', our draft legislation becoming a Member's Bill, and our tour with Jonathan Rauch, we've gained more press coverage and public awareness than ever. 

Phewf. That's a lot of hard work. It's also a lot of free speech victories that are only made possible because of you.¬†ūüéČ

And the work isn't slowing down. 

Marlborough Council rejects booking: event 'not inclusive'

When attempting to book a meeting room through Marlborough District Libraries, Let Kids Be Kids was told they could not secure a booking because the event was allegedly not 'inclusive' (whatever that means).

This issue is bigger than the Council discriminating against Let Kids Be Kids. The fact their hire agreement leaves room for the Council's staff to pick and choose who they rent the publicly funded facilities to is wrong. 

Who decided local libraries could be the judge on¬†what is or isn‚Äôt ‚Äėinclusive‚Äô?¬†

The Bill of Rights Act, which binds public bodies, protects all Kiwis’ freedom of expression.

This is simply another example of the word 'inclusivity' being used in the name of excluding voices some deem unpopular.

We've told Marlborough District Council if they cannot justify this decision, and without prompt reversal, we'll consider legal action. 

As you'll know, we've already contributed significantly to case law in this area and see this case as no different from any other we've come up against. 

While the case law is clear on this issue, now more than ever, we believe legislation is needed to stop council venues from pushing their own agenda. That’s why we drafted the Protection of Freedom of Expression legislation, which was recently adopted as a Member’s Bill.

Funding into censorial research cut by two-thirds

Almost two years ago, we sounded the alarm over the establishment of the Centre to Counter Violent Extremism, which is directed by Prof. Joanna Kidman.

We're certainly not concerned by experts actually challenging violent extremism, but we knew that this would just be a 'safe ideological berth' for our would-be-censors.  

We were right.

This Government-funded work is meant to prevent content that is already illegal, but instead, it's gone towards countering misinformation on social media, the effect of 'hate' crimes, the role of gender in right-wing extremism, and the effects of anti-transgender extremism.

One project is even called 'Signs of the Wellington Occupation: Progression of a Protest'. See for yourself. 

Just look at some of the most recent projects they've funded:

Well, it's taken longer than we'd like, but the Government has finally realised this outfit doesn't do what it says on the tin. Out of the budget, we've discovered the Centre has had it's funding cut by two-thirds. 

Again, this work is labeled as combating illegal activity, but very quickly turned into a way to censor perspectives that others find uncomfortable, unpopular, or 'harmful' [insert your own definition for what you want that to mean]. 

The funding cut is a big win in our eyes. Hopefully (we have our doubts), it means they get back to the serious business of actually countering violence, not ideas they don't like. Unless it starts doing what it's meant to, the next step is to get rid of it altogether. 

Simply put, this wouldn't have happened without thousands of Kiwis joining us in calling out the hypocrisy at play.

That's another win for the champions of free speech that we think is worth celebrating.  

Watch the Victoria University panel discussion 

Many of you have asked for the recording of the recent free speech panel discussion at Victoria University. Well, here it is! 

Hear what our Chief Executive had to say at 37:25.

Did you catch our Education Partnership Manager Nick Hanne's review of the event?

Jonathan Ayling also recently covered the event on the Shape of Dialogue podcast. 

"What we have are base camps for indoctrination, not education.

If it's not a wake up call that our universities can no longer abide the presence of free speech advocates in their midst, I'm not sure what is."
- Jonathan Ayling

Auckland University's newly drafted free speech policy

Recently,¬†Auckland University released a draft policy on freedom of expression and academic freedom. This process started after the 'Listener 7'¬†sage, when some of our country's best academics were piled-on and bullied for the claim that 'MńĀtauranga MńĀori isn't the same thing as science.'¬†

But after two years of deliberation, the policy is disappointing. 

These sorts of policies can sound good at a first glance, but so often they're simply another tool that can and will be weaponised to silence particular perspectives. 

The policy fails to provide any kind of institutional neutrality - in fact, it provides for expression of position on many matters by the university, which means any academics who disagree will likely feel the need to self-censor.

For example, this, a policy on free expression, opens, not saying anything about free expression, but by acknowledging that the Treaty principles shape the University's culture and are central to their mission.

This leaves virtually no room for varying interpretations and views on the Treaty. 

It also says the University may refuse a guest speaker if they don’t meet particular scholarly standards. But, there is no indication as to who will make such a determination. 

Who decides what is and isn't of a scholarly standard? 

It would be far better if students were encouraged to engage and reason with views they disagree with, rather than avoiding them altogether. 

Recently, University of Auckland academic (and member of our academic council), Prof. Natasha Hamilton-Hart, spoke on Newstalk ZB about her concerns:

"If you want to see this policy as benign for free speech, you have to place a lot of trust in the university management...
It's a backward step, and it will kill the atmosphere when it comes to expressing contentious or unpopular views."
-Prof. Natasha Hamilton-Hart

Consultation is open to students and staff until the end of the month, so next week we'll release material to help them submit feedback to the University. If you are an academic at Auckland University, or a student, or are a family-member of a student, let us know. We need to work together to push back on this policy that will further stifle the conversation at this university.  

Hear from the founder of the Free Speech Union UK

Did you hear that the founder and director of the Free Speech Union UK is touring with us this month? 

If there's anyone else who knows what it's like fight for free speech, it's Toby Young. Come along to learn about international free speech issues and the vital work of other Free Speech Unions around the world. 

Come along to an evening with Toby Young in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, or Queenstown. 

We can't help but look at what's happening in Canada at the moment and say 'that would have been us'. As I read through the ins and outs of what their censorial law would mean for everyday people going about their lives, I catch myself thinking, 'It would be safest not to say anything at all.'

And that's the whole problem with censorship, whether it's enforced by law or not.

It creates self-censorship and therefore a narrowing of the topics we are able to discuss, a narrowing of the views we're allowed to hold, and a narrowing of our freedom. 

If it weren't for your consistent support, we'd all be watching our backs. 

Nadia Braddon-Parsons
Communications & Marketing Manager
Free Speech Union

PS. Watch Victoria University's panel discussion on free speech here. RSVP to an event with Toby Young near you. The free speech victories aren't without your help. 

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Nadia Braddon-Parsons
    published this page in Blog 2024-06-11 16:16:03 +1200

You might also like: