NZ’s Orwellian groups

If I told you that the Ministry for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables was supporting a law that restricted each Kiwi family to only two pieces of fruit and one vegetable a week would you scratch your head? What about if I told you that a group that had been formed specifically to protect the rights of New Zealand pets was now promoting dog meat as a healthy alternative to beef?

It wouldn’t make sense now, would it? Here in New Zealand, two groups are doing the exact opposite of what they were set up to do.

The two organisations I am referring to are the Human Rights Commission which is supporting hate speech laws in a bid to restrict our precious right to freedom of speech and a ‘civil liberties’ group that wants to restrict our civil liberties.

Yes, really.

David Seymour faces backlash from civil liberties groups after he reignited the hate speech debate.
The ACT Party leader is proposing a Freedom to Speak Bill, which would prevent the state from punishing people for saying something that was offensive or insulting.

However his proposals are already raising concerns.
“I think it could be a dangerous approach because there’s a lot of speech out there which is very harmful for people, and when we look at laws around changing that we need to worry about the harm as well as the freedom of expression,” says Thomas Beagle, chairperson of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties.

I think that Thomas Beagle should rename his group the Council for Civil Constraints.

Seymour would like to repeal two parts of the Human Rights Act on racial disharmony aimed at preventing ‘abusive’ or ‘insulting’ speech.
He’s is [sic] also calling for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission, wants to amend the Summary Offences Act so it’s no longer a crime to behaving offensively in public, and change the Harmful Digital Communications Act so it only applies to under-18s.

Appearing on Newshub Nation on Saturday, Seymour said debate was important so “bad ideas” could be thrown out.
“In the long-term, state punishment of expression hasn’t protected people from harms at all. It’s the places where the state can punish you for your opinion that you’re in most danger,” he argued.

“Once you have mob rule and you allow the state to punish you for unpopular opinions, that is a dangerous place to go.

When asked by host Tova O’Brien if that means he’d be happy with Nazis performing ‘seig heil’ salutes on the grounds of Parliament or walking down the street using the N-word, Seymour said no.

[…] “I think those people are complete idiots. It is freedom of expression, but it will get exactly what it deserves – which is total contempt and ridicule from all of New Zealand society.”

But Beagle says that won’t work.
“The problem we’re seeing these days is that people are using speech to stop other people speaking, they’re using it to suppress certain groups,” he says.

Credit: SonovaMin

It is true that we are seeing people’s freedom of speech suppressed but it is not speech that is being used to silence them; it is their actions. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff deplatformed Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux by not honouring their paid-for booking of a public council venue. Auckland Peace Action suppressed a Kiwi audience’s right to watch a film by using a fake bomb to terrorise them.

Jacinda Ardern publicly approved of the deplatforming and the supression of another viewpoint by saying that she was proud of it and that Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern’s views were not welcome in New Zealand. She even went so far as to say that “New Zealand is hostile” to their views. The hundreds of disappointed people who had paid for tickets to listen to Southern and Molyneux disagreed. If  we are looking for a free speech champion, we will not find it in our prime minister.

Civil liberties groups do think there’s room for a wider debate around the issue but say that has to be aimed at improving freedom of expression rather than simply allowing people to say what they like.

You cannot improve freedom by restricting it. That is like saying that you will improve our access to sunlight by locking us indoors. David Seymour has his work cut out for him. He is up against two Orwellian groups.