Update from the Free Speech Coalition

Dear Supporter,

Auckland Council?s defence to the Free Speech Coalition?s review of the Mayor?s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues gives us a huge win: the Mayor was lying in his tweets that he ?banned? the speakers, in fact, he had no say?and?he didn?t have the right to.

Free Speech has unequivocally won on the key issue: 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.

We pushed back against Phil Goff and won! Politicians cannot pick and choose who can use council facilities.

Screenshot: Whaleoil

While the Mayor is on Twitter saying our claim is withdrawn, only the urgent application, (which sought an order forcing the council to allow these particular speakers), has been withdrawn because council Response concedes:

  • Mayor Goff did not make the decision;
  • He had no right to intervene or make the decision;
  • Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) made the decision;
  • RFA would not have acted on the Mayor?s instructions if he had given them;
  • The Mayor did not influence the decision-makers;
  • RFA do not and will not discriminate among users on grounds of political preference or concern about causing offence;
  • The decision was instead based on security concerns;
  • Ultimately it was due to fear of what protesters could do;
  • RFA thought that safety was paramount so they did not believe they needed to do more to mitigate the threats or otherwise ensure the Thug?s Veto did not prevail.

With the council indicating so clearly that it can?t support the Mayor?s claims, the Free Speech Coalition has won. New Zealanders have put together their $20s and $50s and $100s, and we?ve called the politician’s bluff. We?ve told him we get to decide who we can listen to ? not a Mayor spouting slogans about people he?s never met.

The coalition was never about supporting the particular speakers, it was about principle, which now the council has conceded.
But this particular event is just too hard.

We are advised that the compressed timetable for legal action such as ours means that it will not be possible to present and test sufficient evidence before the court on the security/safety aspect of the event. Unless the Police volunteer that they can handle anything unlawful the protesters might threaten, it is unlikely the Court would order that the particular event go ahead at such short notice.

Therefore, the speakers will not be coming to New Zealand unless they can find a privately-owned venue which is able to be secured.

The focus will now be on the remaining question relating to the council’s duty to stand up to the ‘Thugs’ Veto’.

All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs? Veto in this case.
Should we continue?

We still think this case has implications throughout New Zealand. Will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture ?safety concerns? to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?

The court needs to tell councils to ensure the Thugs? Veto does not rule in their cities. But that is an issue for a later day and will be the key issue in the substantive proceedings later in the year if we decide to press on.

While it may be fair to tar Auckland Councillors with cowardice in failing to reassert control of Mayor Goff, it is not fair to blame the RFA officers. They have stated their adherence to the non-partisan principles we have been defending. We welcome this significant victory.

The question now, and we hope the council agrees, is whether unexamined safety fears can trump fundamental values of free expression. Defining a duty to overcome the Thug?s Veto is vitally important ? that should now be the main issue in the eventual substantive hearing.

In the meantime, we have exposed the Mayor?s arrogance in falsely believing he has the power to veto speakers based on their views, and we have prevented him from setting a dangerous precedent of doing so. This is a major victory.

Thank you for your support,

Dr David Cumin
Free Speech Coalition