The thug’s veto

The heckler’s veto (also known as the thug’s veto)

Yesterday we learned that Auckland Mayor?Phil Goff lost against the Free Speech Coalition but that the battle for free speech must continue because Auckland Council have succeeded in closing down free speech another way.

Screenshot: Whaleoil

Phil Goff claimed in his tweets that he had “banned” Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux?when, in fact, he had no say in the decision and?he had no right to ban anyone. Auckland Council has conceded that Mayor Phil Goff had no power to make a speaker-ban decision based on their political views.

The Free Speech Coalition studied the Auckland Council?s defence to the application for judicial review of the mayor?s claim to ban Molyneux and Southern from council-owned venues and saw that there was no attempt in the response papers to substantiate any politician?s right to decide who can and can?t be heard in Auckland?s ratepayer-provided facilities. Quote.

“Free Speech has unequivocally won on the key issue,” says Dr David Cumin, a Free Speech Coalition member. “The arrogant claim of power to block what the Mayor calls ?repugnant? speech (speech that might offend a person?s religious prejudices) gets no defence from the Council lawyers.End quote.

The council’s response conceded the following points:

  • The decision was not made by Mayor Phil Goff
  • Mayor Phil Goff had no right to intervene or make a decision about the speakers
  • The decision was made by Regional Facilities Auckland
  • Regional Facilities Auckland would have refused to act on the Mayor?s instructions if he had given them
  • Mayor Phil Goff has no influence over the decision-makers;
  • Regional Facilities Auckland do not and will not discriminate on grounds of political preference or concern that offence might be caused
  • The speakers were denied the venue because of security concerns
  • The decison-makers feared what protesters might do
  • Regional Facilities Auckland do not believe that they should do anything to mitigate the threats to ensure safety and were content to allow a Heckler’s veto to shut down the event on the basis of potential safety risks.

The Heckler’s veto, which has been renamed the Thug’s veto by Free Speech Coalition member David Cumin, has now become the focus of the battle to protect free speech in New Zealand. The coalition needs to show that Auckland Council has a duty to stand up to the Thug’s veto.

Regional Facilities Auckland have made the claim that they do not and will not discriminate on grounds of political preference or concern that offence might be caused, yet they have discriminated on the grounds of potential violence and security concerns.

This effectively means that any events or speakers that are threatened by an activist group like Auckland Peace Action or that is complained about by the “very, very angry” representative of the Muslim community Hazim Arafeh, the president of FIANZ, will be unable to go ahead.

The Thug’s veto must be challenged and defeated because otherwise the only events Aucklanders (and, in the end, New Zealanders) will be able to attend will be events that Hazim Arafeh and Valerie Morse find acceptable.

If we do not legally defeat Regional Facilities Auckland’s justification that it is acceptable to use the thug’s/heckler’s veto as an excuse to shut down an event these two will be New Zealand’s new overlords. Do we really want these two making?decisions on who can and cannot speak?

We have established that Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is not allowed to ban people so why can these two, Hazim Arafeh and Valerie Morse, use their organisations or communities to intimidate and threaten Auckland Council to get their own way?

Hazim Arafeh and Valerie Morse and the groups they represent have intimidated Auckland Council into banning Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux

We now face an unacceptable reality that officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech are now able to manufacture ‘safety concerns’ to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act with the help of thugs and hecklers.

David Cumin has said that all fair-minded New Zealanders will?be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the thug’s veto in this case. He said, “It may have been against a council whose mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.End of quote.

Cumin believes that Free Speech Coalition supporters?will want the coalition to ensure that a court tells councils to ensure that the Thug?s veto does not rule in their cities. It will be the key issue in the substantive proceedings later this year if the coalition decides to continue the legal battle.

Cumin continued: “Both sides should now agree that the question is whether unexamined safety fears can trump fundamental values of free expression. We should agree that defining a?duty to?overcome the thug?s veto is vitally important.” End of quote.

Melissa Derby, another spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, said “The mayor was wrong in the decision he made and we?ve ensured no legal precedent was set that makes it okay for an elected official to decide what we can or can?t hear. That is precisely what we wanted to achieve.” End of quote.