Yet another nurse under threat because of a Facebook comment

If each of the affronts to free speech that we fight were seen in isolation, they might not seem like a big deal. But, together, they add up to a much bigger problem.  

Each time we write to you, there are simply more examples of the erosion of free speech in New Zealand. But I think this first one will really get under your skin!

Nursing Council try to police private speech 👩‍⚕️

Sharvarn is a young mum based in Palmerston North. She contacted us after receiving an outrageous email from the Nursing Council.

Shar, as she prefers to go by, is a trained nurse and a member of a Palmerston North mums' Facebook group. She recently saw a post from someone who was being pressured into having an abortion. This young woman wanted to keep the baby, her boyfriend didn't, and she was asking for advice on what to do. 

Shar is pro-life, and commented saying that she thinks the young woman should continue the pregnancy. 

You may or may not agree with Shar's view or position. But that's beside the point. She was asked her view. She absolutely has the right to say it, regardless of what she trained as. 

Well, next thing she knew, another member of the Facebook group had looked at Shar's Facebook page, saw she was a nurse, and lodged a complaint with the Nursing Council, saying she should have been more impartial!

Ideally, the Nursing Council would respond simply by saying, 'That's none of our business!'. But, no. They have invited Sharvarn to respond to the information they received before they determine whether further investigation is required. 🤦‍♀️

Shar hasn't worked as a nurse for four years, so she's not even currently registered. The Nursing Council knows this. What right could they possibly think they have sticking their nose into what someone has commented on a Facebook group?

Even if Shar was currently registered and working as a nurse, she was commenting in her private capacity. Nurses don't give up their human rights when they graduate from university. 

Hannah, our Senior Legal Counsel, contacted the Nursing Council of New Zealand this week to remind them that it is not their responsibility to police the speech of Kiwis participating in discussions. If the Nursing Council fails to uphold the Bill of Rights Act, we won't hesitate to take action.

When our Chief Executive spoke with Shar, she said how worried she was that her comment may make it hard to re-register as a nurse again in the future. She was so grateful to know what her rights are, and to have someone in her corner.  

Local democracy under threat, again and again

In the past month we've been notified of four councils failing to uphold free speech. 

Just after the win with Marlborough District Council, we were told about a similar situation in New Plymouth. 

The New Zealand Women’s Rights Party made a booking at a Citizens Advice Bureau venue owned by the New Plymouth District Council. They were hosting Sal Grover, the gender-critical Australian business woman who is at the heart of an important court case in Australia over whether a women's only app can exclude transgender women. 

The booking was cancelled on the basis there had been public complaints (a sum total of two, as far as we can tell) that the event was misrepresented as being endorsed by the Citizens Advice Bureau. 

They claimed this, but the only mention of them was in the location on the Facebook event so that attendees knew where to go!

We believe this is just another example of an outfit that is publicly funded determining what the public does and doesn't get to hear. 

If members of the public disagree with the event, they know what to do: don't attend! Or they can go and peacefully protest. But no public event should be cancelled on the basis that it is unpopular to some. (Read more about this in my recent piece here.)

Ironically, this is on the homepage of Citizen Advice Bureau's website: 🤔

We've also reviewed Matamata-Piako District Council’s implementation of its new DEI statement that requires staff to learn about pronoun use in the workplace.

The common irony with DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) statements is that they often achieve the exact opposite. They are prescriptive and exclude people with particular views. And compelling the use of preferred pronouns is a freedom of speech and freedom of conscience issue. 

Your speech rights apply just as much to what you do say as to what you don't have to say. 

We've asked the Council to confirm that staff will not be required to use another person’s preferred pronoun and that their focus on diversity and inclusion will, in fact, allow for a diversity of views.  

Recently, we told you about results to a survey we conducted across local councils nationwide. Over 50% of councillors claimed Codes of Conduct are weaponised, and on a scale of 1 - 10, they ranked their ability to challenge council staff at a paltry 4.3.  

This all makes me really consider the effect this has on our nation. For our democracy to flourish, deliberation and debate have to be encouraged, not extinguished.

Cancellations and censorship end up affecting us all. 

COVID-19 inquiry expanded thanks to FSU supporters

Earlier this year we facilitated thousands of submissions urging the Royal Commission to expand their inquiry into the Government's response to COVID-19.

Over 4,000 submissions pushed for the inquiry to examine how the response affected social cohesion and, therefore, our speech rights. Well, it paid off.

The Government recently announced that the inquiry will be expanded. This is a reminder that when we use our voices collectively, action can happen. 

Positive amendments to Gang Insignia Bill made

You may remember us talking about our opposition to the Government's plans to ban gang patches.

You didn't have to support gangs to see that the proposed legislation would have set a dangerous precedent as it was vague and left room for subjective interpretation.

It was a slippery slope that eventually could have opened up to other slogans and icons. 

Well, yesterday, the Justice Committee released several amendments that begin to address our concerns. 

In our submission on the legislation, we raised numerous concerns, including that the definition of insignia being vague and excessively broad, the definition of ‘gang’ being ambiguous and vulnerable to abuse, and the absence of intent on the part of the insignia's wearer needed to be considered. 

The Select Committee has addressed these three concerns, by:

  • Amending the definition of ‘gang insignia’; ✅
  • Restricting the threshold for ‘gang’ activity to ‘serious criminal activity (convictions of category 3 offences or higher); ✅
  • Requiring a mental element of individuals knowingly displaying gang insignia in public. ✅

While the Select Committee has made significant improvements to the original proposed legislation, we still stand by the fact the Government needs to focus on the activity of gangs, not their wardrobe. Banning patches is a sticking plaster that has implications on us all.  

Our recent tour with Toby Young 

Hundreds came out around the country to hear from Toby Young, the Director of the Free Speech Union UK. He has a chance to speak to a range of media too- check them out: 

Jesse Mulligan on RNZ; Sean Plunket on The Platform; Andrew Urquhart on Rhema; Simon O'Connor on Speak Free; Chris Lynch from Christchurch's Newsroom; Dr Michael Johnston and Dr James Kierstead on the New Zealand Initiative podcast; Michael Goldwater on the Shape of Dialogue podcast; Damien Grant on the Different Matters podcast; and read Damien's piece on Stuff too! 

I continue to consider, if it weren't for your support of the Free Speech Union, all of those 'one-off' threats, cancellations and censorial attitudes would add up to seriously affect our freedoms. 

But because of you and the work you enable us to do, we're able to stand up for all Kiwis' right to have a say; and we're not slowing down. 

Through your financial support, and by joining your voice with ours (like signing our public letter on academic freedom, which thousands have already done this week), together we are having an impact.

Believe me, our opponents are noticing!

Thanks for making a difference.

Nadia Braddon-Parsons
Communications & Marketing Manager
Free Speech Union

P.S. You may have seen, yesterday was the last day Newshub broadcasted, after its owners announced it would be shutting down.

Jonathan sat down with Dr. Gavin Ellis, the former-editor of the The Herald and media academic, to discuss the importance of the 4th Estate and the future of media. Listen to the podcast now. 

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  • Louis Jensen
    followed this page 2024-07-07 21:24:42 +1200
  • Nadia Braddon-Parsons
    published this page in Blog 2024-07-05 23:36:07 +1200

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