A victory for free speech

July 19th, 2012 at 8:07 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Anti-abortion group ProLife has been allowed to stay as a club within the Auckland University Students’ Association despite complaints the group was harassing vulnerable students on campus.

The association had received two complaints about pamphlets containing “misinformed” health information on abortions being distributed by the group, and of students feeling harassed.

The association held a meeting yesterday to decide whether the group should be disaffiliated.

There was heated debate during the meeting, which attracted about 300 people, and students eventually voted 225 to 117 to allow the club to stay within the association.

ProLife New Zealand spokeswoman Rachel Wong disputed the club had done anything wrong in the first place.

She said the association failed to communicate with the club after receiving an “anonymous” and “unsubstantiated” email complaint.

The Right to Know pamphlet carries the slogan: “Hands up if you’ve heard this before: Abortion is a safe, simple medical procedure.”

Wong said the pamphlets, distributed for two weeks in May, were not confrontational.

“For us, the main issue is freedom of speech. Clubs should be able to voice their opinions at uni and express their ideas.”

I’m very glad AUSA members voted against disaffiliating Prolife. A university campus especially should be tolerant of unpopular speech.

Some advice for Prolife though – having the right to do something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea to do it. Personally I think handing out pamphlets on the health risks of abortions to random female students is not a great idea. You have the right to do so, but I doubt that tactic helps your cause much.

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Is there freedom of speech at Auckland University?

July 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Prolife NZ has said:

Prolife New Zealand (PLNZ) is alarmed at the fact that Auckland student club, Prolife Auckland, is this week facing the possibility of disaffiliation simply for engaging in an act of freedom of expression at the Auckland University campus. …

In May this year Auckland University student club ProLife Auckland, in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner, distributed a one-page leaflet titled ‘Right to Know’.

The pamphlet advocated for the right of women to know the common health risks associated with abortion and the alternatives available to them, so that they can make truly informed decisions when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy. The campaign pamphlet was distributed by PLNZ clubs at universities across New Zealand and contained a link to a webpage with further information and resources.

On the basis of one single anonymous, unsubstantiated email allegation, claiming that the pamphlets contained ‘misleading health information’ and ‘lies about health procedures’, the AUSA called a Special General Meeting (SGM) to disaffiliate student club Prolife Auckland.

Not only was this allegation never properly investigated by the AUSA, and the AUSA deliberations regarding this matter conducted in secrecy, but Prolife Auckland were never even informed that an SGM had been called to disaffiliate them – they found this out by sheer chance a week after the decision had been made by the AUSA.

More importantly, the claims of ‘misleading health information’ still remain completely unproven, in fact the medical statements in the pamphlet are supported by reference footnotes to a number of reputable medical journals.

Since Prolife Auckland’s inception it has come up against unwarranted resistance and intimidation at the University of Auckland. This is in contrast to PLNZ’s other branches at Victoria, Canterbury and Massey University in Palmerston North, which have been permitted to peaceably contribute to the free exchange of ideas on campus without fear of reprisal – the cornerstone of academic freedom.

This attempt to ban ProLife Auckland and the complete disregard for natural justice in this case, only serves to further highlight the prejudice of an intolerant minority against the affiliation of pro-life clubs at the University of Auckland. Most alarmingly, it shows that certain members of the AUSA Executive are willing to deny students their human right to freedom of expression simply for peacefully expressing themselves on campus.

I am pro-choice, not pro-life (to use their term). If I was on campus and someone handed me a flyer informing me of the health risks of abortion, I would probably politely suggest they should procreate with themselves.

However I absolutely defend their right to not just hold their views, but to promote them. On a university campus especially, freedom of speech should be the paramount value.

AUSA should not be deciding if the pamphlets have “misleading health information” any more than they should decide if political party pamphlets are misleading. Would they disaffiliate (for example) Princes Street Labour if someone complained about one of their pamphlets. If material is misleading, there are a number of regulatory bodies that can be complained to. It is not a decision for a small group of student politicians.

I would comment to all AUSA members the words of Noam Chomsky:

“with regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards”

I hope that all those who disagree with the views of ProlifeNZ still defend their right to express their views and be able to operate on campus as an affiliated club.

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A petition to protect the Internet

July 12th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A group of like minded individuals and groups have launched a petition calling on the New Zealand Government to vote against extending the regulatory authority of the International Telecommunications Union to the Internet.

The petition is here, and it takes less than a minute to sign.

Vote against the ITU having regulatory authority over the Internet Petition | GoPetition

The background to the petition is:

Right from inception, the Internet has had no central ruling authority. But this December, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet. 

Countries such as Russia which are advocating the ITU have regulatory authority over the Internet have advocated restrictions over the Internet “where it is used to interfere in the internal affairs of a state”. This represents a dramatic threat to the openness of the Internet, where countries could regulate content not just within their own borders, but over the entire Internet.

Geographically isolated nations such as New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations have a significant economic and social interest in an open and well functioning internet. Accordingly, such changes to the ITU may harm our social and economic well being more than other nations.

The ITU has been a closed organisation for nearly 150 years – they represent the antithesis of the Internet community’s open and inclusive approach. Civil society, private sector, technical experts, and Internet users will only have limited input in the process. This would be a significant departure from the open, participatory, multistakeholder model that has made the internet a successful driver of social and economic growth.

If you support the continuing evolution of the multistakeholder internet, you are invited to read and sign this statement of principles.

We are calling on the NZ Government to specifically:

We request the New Zealand Government to vote against any amendments to the International Telecommunications Regulations, to be considered at the World Conference on International telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) which would give the ITU regulatory authority over the Internet, as it is not a truly open and transparent multistakeholder institution, but ultimately a body controlled by Governments.

We also request the New Zealand Government to take a pro-active stance in advocating to other states the benefits of retaining the current open and transparent multi-stakeholder governance of the Internet and to invest in proactive representation and promotion of the Internet as a vital, global platform for access to information and communication, and an enabler of economic and social opportunity.

Again, feel free to sign and promote the petition within your networks. This is an important issue.

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Canada repeals hate speech laws

June 11th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Montreal Gazette reports:

The Conservative government voted late Wednesday to repeal controversial sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act banning hate speech over the telephone or Internet.

 In a vote of 153 to 136, the majority Harper government supported a private member’s bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth that would scrap Section 13 of the human rights code, which deals with complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.”

This is a good thing, and the excesses of what happened in Canada should be top of mind if we consider any initiatives to “control” speech on the Internet here. People should face consequences for speech that causes actual harm such as economic or reputation loss (defamation), violence (Crimes Act) but trying too regulate political opinions – even extreme ones, is not good.

Storseth said the current human rights code allows too many frivolous cases to proceed against citizens, when the Criminal Code already covers hate speech that could generate harm against an individual or group.

Exactly – the focus should be on speech that generates actual harm.

Acts of hate speech are serious crimes that should be investigated by police officers, not civil servants, he said, and the cases should be handled by “real judges and real lawyers,” instead of a quasi-judicial body such as the human rights commission.

I’m not quite so sangine about the Police investigating. In the UK there have been some horrendous cases where school kids are prosecuted for using racially insensitive language.

New Democrat public-safety critic Randall Garrison said Wednesday that, due to the large number of hate crimes, the human-rights commission needs to have the power to combat the issue online and force individuals and groups to remove websites containing hateful speech.

I’m against this, even a ban on “hate speech” would see certain left blogs be banned :-)

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Keep the Internet open

May 29th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

An op-ed in the NY Times by father of the Internet Vint Cerf:

The Internet stands at a crossroads. Built from the bottom up, powered by the people, it has become a powerful economic engine and a positive social force. But its success has generated a worrying backlash. Around the world, repressive regimes are putting in place or proposing measures that restrict free expression and affect fundamental rights. The number of governments that censor Internet content has grown to 40 today from about four in 2002. And this number is still growing, threatening to take away the Internet as you and I have known it.

It is no longer only China and Iran.

Some of these steps are in reaction to the various harms that can be and are being propagated through the network. Like almost every major infrastructure, the Internet can be abused and its users harmed. We must, however, take great care that the cure for these ills does not do more harm than good. The benefits of the open and accessible Internet are nearly incalculable and their loss would wreak significant social and economic damage.

Not all censorship of the Internet is done for bad intentions. UK PM David Cameron said he wanted the ability to turn off Twitter as it may have been used by criminals during the London rioting. Now that may be with good intentions, but then Iran would be turning it off during the pro-democracy protests.

Against this background, a new front in the battle for the Internet is opening at the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations organization that counts 193 countries as its members. It is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet at a summit scheduled for December in Dubai.

This should be of great concern to everyone. The reason the Internet has had the success it has had, is because it grew under the open processes of the IETF and IAB, not the bureaucratic monstrosity known as the ITU.

Such a move holds potentially profound — and I believe potentially hazardous — implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users.

Quite simply, it must not be allowed to happen.

Each of the 193 members gets a vote, no matter its record on fundamental rights — and a simple majority suffices to effect change. 

Total up all the countries that are not true democracies, and you get close to a majority.

Last June, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated the goal of Russia and its allies as “establishing international control over the Internet” through the I.T.U. And in September 2011, China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan submitted a proposal for an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security” to the U.N. General Assembly, with the goal of establishing government-led “international norms and rules standardizing the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace.”

China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – what could go wrong.

Several authoritarian regimes reportedly would ban anonymity from the Web, which would make it easier to find and arrest dissidents. Others have suggested moving the privately run system that manages domain names and Internet addresses to the United Nations.

Governments could use the domain name system to force compliance with their censorship desires.

The decisions taken in Dubai in December have the potential to put government handcuffs on the Net. To prevent that — and keep the Internet open and free for the next generations — we need to prevent a fundamental shift in how the Internet is governed.

I hope the NZ Government takes this issue seriously and makes sure we advocate as strongly as we can that the ITU should have no role in Internet governance,, beyond its current mandate with telecommunication standards.

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The fragility of free speech

April 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in Manawatu Standard:

 It is trite to extol freedom of expression as being a right that is fundamental or the first freedom in any just society.

Such an essential right, free speech has surprisingly recent origins as a feature of our legal framework.

For many centuries, English law  from which much of our law is derived  provided that any person who disparaged the King could be hauled before a special court known as the Star Chamber.

The censorship powers of the Star Chamber grew and it eventually took for itself the right to approve all literature for publication.

In 1632, the court even issued an outright ban on all “news books” that lasted for six years.

Things got better:

The freedom to disparage the king was soon added to the corpus of rights considered to be the privilege of freeborn Englishmen and the licensing order was allowed to lapse in 1694.

With time, that freedom was transmitted throughout the British Isles and was carried over to British possessions in North America, Australia and, in 1840, New Zealand.

Then things got worse:

Canada has for several decades intrusively regulated speech on sensitive issues such as multiculturalism and religion.

The bodies doing the regulation are so-called “human rights tribunals” whose powers and procedures are actually not unlike the old Star Chamber.

There are very few procedural safeguards for defendants and the tribunals have in the past imposed lifetime speech bans and taken the totalitarian step of ordering forced apologies.

Australia may be headed down the same path. Last year, broadcaster Andrew Bolt was convicted of racial vilification for arguing that some people with tenuous links to Aboriginal culture were so identifying for political and pecuniary purposes.

The federal government has recently held a review which has suggested drastic tightening of government control of the media.

But the worse examples are the UK:

Freedom of expression has been most undermined, however, in Britain. There are literally thousands of examples of Her Majesty’s constabulary policing the manners of her subjects.

An 11-year-old was prosecuted for calling another boy a “Paki” and other unpleasant names.

A 14-year-old was arrested and fingerprinted for asking her teacher to put her with another group because the rest of her group spoke Urdu.

A 21-year-old was recently been sent to jail for tweeting a nasty comment about a black football player.

The British police, so reluctant to intervene in the midst of the rampant property destruction of last year’s riots, have seen fit to place undercover detectives in ethnic restaurants to arrest patrons who order “flied lice”.

A man was even arrested in the Isle of Wight for singing Kung Fu Fighting at a karaoke bar. …

So why is it so bad in the UK:

One wag put it thus: “In Britain everything is policed except crime.”

If only that were true. The fact is that under laws like section 5 of the UK Public Order Act 1986, it is a crime to use “insulting words”  and that’s the problem.

British MP Dominic Raab recently discovered that the police invoked section five 18,249 times in 2009 alone.

My response to a law banning use of insulting words is “get fucked”!

We often like to think of New Zealand as being an exceptional place and, in this regard, it seems we are.

There are few limitations on what you can say or write here.

If you slander or libel someone you may face civil liability for defamation and you may not incite crimes or publish obscenity, but our police will not call in at your doorstep to question your views on the issues of the day.

Long may it last, but we must remain vigilant. We saw the original Electoral Finance Bill which would have made it illegal to e-mail your view on a current issue without an authorisation statement. We see religions demand that it be an offence to insult them, and we see some call for “hate speech” laws. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, said John Philpot Curran, and he was right.

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Freedom of Speech in the UK

April 15th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

On March 8, British teenager Azhar Ahmed posted the following to his Facebook account:

People gassin about the deaths of soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed.. The women who have been raped.. The children who have been sliced up..! Your enemy’s were the Taliban not innocent harmless familys. All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE FOKKIN SCUM! gotta problem go cry at your soliders grave & wish him hell because that where he is going..

For posting this, he was arrested and charged with a “racially aggravated public order offence”. That charge was dropped when he appeared in court – perhaps because even the Yorkshire police could understand that “British soldiers” are not a racial group – and instead substituted with one of using a telecommunications network to send a grossly offensive message. He will face trial in July, and it is unclear what sentence he may face.

Now I agree that one should not face court charges for saying offensive things on the Internet. The threshold should be if you are promoting actual violence or crimes. So for example saying “I hate Jews” should not get you in court (it should get you on the front page of the newspaper though) but saying “We should kill the Jews” should get you in court. Saying “I wish all Jews were dead” doesn’t meet the criminal threshold though (in my opinion).

However it is a pity that Idiot/Savant did not also mention this story, which I blogged on. Also in the UK, a 21 year old student was actually jailed (not just charged) for 56 days for gloating when a black footballer collapsed on the field, saying he hoped he was dead, and also using racial abuse when people challenged him.

Now both these cases had defendents say pretty offensive stuff. I don’t think either should be in court. But does Idiot/Savant think it is okay to send people to jail for saying something racist, but wrong to charge people for saying all British soliders should die and go to hell?

My suspicion is that I/S is more a defender of offensive speech he politically agrees with, than of all offensive speech. If not, I welcome his views on the above case.

UPDATE: A few people have said I am being unfair to say that I suspect I/S is more a defender of speech he agrees with.  He has often defended the right of people like David Irving to be heard, so my comment was unfair and I retract it with apologies.

However I do think that considering how often he posts on this issue, his lack of comment on the UK jail sentence for a racist offensive tweet was unusual. As he did not condemn the jailing, I thought he might actually support “hate speech” laws as many on the left do (which motivated the post – to challenge him on this issue), but having checked he blogged in 2004 that he did not, so really the post was un-necessary.

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Enemies of the Internet

March 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Reporters without Borders has released its list of countries that are enemies of the Internet. I’ve added on the nature of the Government and/or Head of State:

  • Bahrain – monarchy
  • Belarus – presidential republic, president is former communist now statist
  • Burma – presidential republic, pro-military junta
  • China – Marxist-Leninist single-party state (officially)
  • Cuba – republic communist state
  • Iran – Islamic republic
  • North Korea – Juche (Marxist-Leninist) unitary single-party state,
  • Saudi Arabia – Islamic absolute monarchy
  • Syria – Baathist single party state, Arab Socialist Baath Party
  • Turkmenistan – presidential republic, single party state, former communist
  • Uzbekistan – presidential republic, former communist
  • Vietnam – Marxist/Leninist single-party state

My conclusions are that enemies of the Internet tend to be communists,  former communists, Islamists and absolute monarchs.

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It’s a Free/Unfree Thing

March 12th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A further article from the CIS paper – You Can’t Say That! Freedom of Speech and the Invisible Muzzle.

This one is by Janet Albrechtsen, a columnist with the Australian.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

— Mark Twain

It’s tempting to assume that the PC-crowd is having us on. How else can we explain the Seattle school’s decision last year to rename Easter eggs as ‘Spring spheres,’ worrying that a chocolate egg might remind, or even worse, offend kids by alluding to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Sesame Street has been sanitised too: episodes made between 1969 and 1974 are screened with an adults-only warning. Enid Blyton has not been spared either. To appease the ‘don’t smack children’ lobby, Dame Slap is now Dame Snap. Feminists have been accommodated: Julian and Dick are now required to share household chores with the female characters. The gay lobby has not been forgotten either: the word ‘gay’ has been replaced with ‘happy.’ Bessie has been renamed Beth to avoid any connotations to slavery. Blyton’s golliwogs have been banished. And The Lion King has been decreed full of racist and homophobic messages. According to Carolyn Newberger of Harvard University, those good-for-nothing hyenas are urban blacks who speak in gay clichés.

Surely, they’re having us on with this PC stuff.

But, of course, we know they are not having us on. And they are not imbeciles. They are smart people who really mean it. Smart because the PC virus has infected so much of what we do, what we read, how we live, how we think.

It’s the thinking part that should trouble us the most.

Earlier this year, Alan Gribben, an English professor at Auburn University in Alabama, published a new edition of Mark Twain’s classics, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The word ‘nigger,’ which appears more than 200 times in the book, has been replaced with ‘slave.’ The professor worried that the word would offend too many students and turn them off from reading the book.

What the good professor doesn’t seem to know is that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn satirises Southern prejudices of the time. It is an anti-racist book. If you mess with the power of Twain’s words, you mess with the power of Twain’s message. If school children are to really think about American history and the Deep South, they need to read about ‘niggers.’ The history and the language are confronting.

Great literature unsettles us. It forces us to think about our reactions. If we’re offended, we think about why we’re offended.

By denying us the ability to think, political correctness is a heresy for those who are truly committed to liberalism. Political correctness tells people what to think. And it seeps into society, so often without us even paying attention to the subliminal message.

Because the purveyors of PC are not imbeciles but smart people armed with clever tricks, we need to pay attention.

The Left in Australia are claiming that those who raise questions about multiculturalism, immigration and the relationship between Islam and modernity have blood on our hands. I say ‘our hands’ because I have been named as someone who bears some responsibility for what happened in Oslo. Others complicit in the mass murder include Keith Windschuttle, Andrew Bolt, and Geoffrey Blainey.

Here, murder is used as a muzzle to close down free speech. And this is just the latest addition to what is a growing list of tactics to curb free speech, and even worse, to stifle genuine enquiry and independent thinking.

Here are some of their tricks.

The emotional hoax

The Left are armed with a range of emotionally charged tools to immediately close down discussion about immigration or border control. Call your opponents racists and point to xenophobia in the community. Opponents are not just wrong, they’re evil. Their views should not be aired in a civilised society.

John Howard copped this for years. When the Prime Minister Gillard called for an open debate about these issues last year, she was accused of whipping up the racists within Australia.

But remember this: the stifling political correctness that rejected an open debate about immigration in the early 1990s fuelled the emergence and popularity of Pauline Hanson.

 The victim game

The victim game has been fuelled by two recent developments. We now live in an age when ‘feelings’ are treated as a measurement of moral values, so you measure your feelings against the feelings of others to determine morality. Hence, we live in what author Monica Ali calls ‘the marketplace of outrage,’ where groups vie for victimhood status, each claiming their feelings have been hurt more than others.

Secondly, the focus on vulnerability is used to justify curbing Enlightenment values such as freedom of expression. The minority simply have to utter the word ‘phobia’ to silence all debate.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed a familiar opera of Muslim oppression.

Act I starts with something simple. Perhaps it’s a book called The Satanic Verses. Or a silly Danish cartoon. Or a film called Submission. Or a cheeky episode of South Park stating that Mohammad is the only guy free from ridicule.

Then the libretto comes: Muslims scream about hurt feelings. The drama builds in Act II: death threats are issued, flags and effigies are burnt, maybe even a few boycotts are imposed, and then we hear that great aria of all accusations—Islamophobia.

Act III is the most depressing. The West capitulates, preferring the path of least resistance to launching a staunch defence of freedom of expression.

Hence then US President George H. Bush declared both Salman Rushdie’s book and the fatwa against Rushdie as equally offensive.

Hence, 20 years later, newspapers across the globe chose not to publish the Danish cartoons and Western politicians muttered about protecting hurt feelings.

Hence, last year, Comedy Central, the channel that broadcasts South Park, inserted audio bleeps and large blocks of black that read CENSORED at the very mention or image of Mohammad to prevent more hurt feelings.

And as the clever guys at South Park lamented, ‘like, we lost.’

And we, too, may lose. If we don’t even recognise the tactics, let alone the consequences, we are left with a new norm of anticipatory surrender and self-censorship.

The legal route

The victim game works so well because it is augmented by laws: the apparatus of the state is used to censor free speech.

The prosecutions are mounting: politician Geert Wilders in Holland, writers Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in Canada. And in Australia, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is defending a claim by a group of Aborigines that he ‘offended, insulted and humiliated’ them in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The PC crowd is clever and they’re not having us on. They know that there are no useful legal tests about hurt feelings and inciting hate. They enact nice-sounding laws, build bureaucracies, and wait for them to blossom and bludgeon free speech. They have effectively co-opted Islamic style oppression to prohibit debate, be it about Islam or anything else they wish to fence off from free speech.

Death by silence

The other trick is to quietly exclude certain people from the national discourse. It is best summed up by the German word totschweigtaktik.

To be ‘totsched’ is to be subjected to death by silence—books, ideas, people that challenge the status quo are simply ignored.

Shelly Gare wrote about it in Quadrant last year. Those who are totsched find ‘their efforts left to expire soundlessly like a butterfly in a jar.’

It happened to Orwell when he wrote his 1938 classic Homage to Catalonia, which addressed Stalinist Russia’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War. The left-wing literati simply ignored it. By the time Orwell died in 1950, barely 1,500 copies had been sold.

The same death by silence was used to ignore Australian writers such as Chris Kenny, who challenged the secret women’s business behind the Hindmarsh Island affair. It was used when author Kate Jennings aimed her fire at the sisterhood, post-modernism, and women’s studies.

It’s used by those who tell us that climate change will destroy us all if we do not act immediately. The sceptics are being totsched. Opposing views? What opposing views?

 The bipartisanship racket

Governments have their own tactics. In recent times in Australia, those with poor ideas and even worse policies have resorted to what is best described as the bipartisanship racket to fence themselves off from criticism on a range of topics.

The former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for bipartisanship on Indigenous policies. It soon became clear that what he meant was supine obedience to his agenda. There could be no disagreement with the roll-back of the NT intervention. If you dared to disagree, you were immediately charged with politicising the issue. Imagine if these kinds of calls from those defending the status quo had managed to shut out the ideas of people like Noel Pearson.

The Rudd government tried the bipartisanship scam again with climate change and immigration. Each time the aim was the same: to place limits on free debate, to get opponents to rubber-stamp rather than question government policy.

No, the very last thing we want is bipartisanship when it is used so blatantly to stifle dissent and vest moral authority in one voice.

Consensus con

Another trick emerged from Canberra last year from the cloistered offices of the federal Treasury. Treasury boss Ken Henry demanded a supporting consensus from academic economists on major policy issues such as the emissions trading system and the equally ill-fated super profits tax on mining companies.

In one breath, Henry said that he supported the ‘contest of ideas’ and that there were ‘occasions on which economists might, at least for a period, put down their weapons and join a consensus.’

It sends shudders up your spine. A senior bureaucrat—who crafts a policy that, according to many, threatened to undermine Australia’s economy—demands obedience from economists. Henry lost that debate. And that’s the point of free debate. Ideas are not finessed through consensus or bipartisanship. Debate is the single most effective mechanism for disposing of bad ideas.

 Why vigilance?

The aim of political correctness is to tell people what to think and stop them from thinking for themselves. If we are serious about defending free speech, vigilance demands that we look out for the tricks and test the trickery against first principles. The alternative means more moral disorientation and a death wish for the West.

The principles are clear enough: free speech is not a Left/Right thing, as Mark Steyn said. It’s a free/unfree thing. You don’t get to cry in favour of free speech just to defend those with whom you agree. And free speech must include the right to offend. If we prosecute offensive opinions, we encourage ever more ridiculous claims to protection. We fuel that marketplace of outrage. And we end up shutting down the true genius of modern Western civilisation—the contest of ideas.

But, of course, free speech and the real value of debate depend on one more important principle: people genuinely listening to each other.

There are two more articles to come.

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Thuggery in Auckland

March 11th, 2012 at 1:26 pm by David Farrar

Brogan Powlesland blogs:

“Our most valuable asset is the right to protest.” – Matt McCarten

Yesterday, I found out what this actually means in the eyes of some unionist protesters. I have always believed in the right to protest, despite not always agree with what is being protested. Heck, most of the time I strongly disagree with the protest message, but so long as the protesters don’t directly harm anyone, I tend to be fine with it. At the March 10 Save Our Ports protest, organised by the Council of Trade Unions, I found that this feeling is not always mutual. 

I am reminded that there is no virtue in wanting to protect popular speech. The virtue is in defending the rights of free speech for people whose message you totally disagree with. Hence I have supported the right of holocaust denier David Irving to come to NZ, and speak.

So David (former AoC Auckland President) and I decided to take to the streets with placards, joining the march from the opposite side of the road that they were on. My placard read “Union Strikes, Efficiency up 25%” and David’s read “Who still has their jobs? Helen Kelly and Garry Parsloe”. I had made a decision from the start that this would be a silent protest, as I knew we would be shouted at and thought that we would have been just as bad as them if we shouted profanities back. 

As predicted, during the march we were screamed at, being called things such as “Fascist pigs”, “f**ken scumbags”, and “NAZIs”. Although I was expecting people to shout at us, I was not expecting that extreme verbal abuse. Those are names I would never use to describe anyone, simply because they are extremist and are offensive to both the person you’re shouting at, and the people who were victims to the NAZIs. I would think that the people who like to think they fight most for so called freedom would understand that.*Sigh* I guess not.

While distasteful, free speech even extends to the marchers screaming Nazi names at Brogan and David.

Into about fifteen minutes of marching, we were rushed by a bunch of protesters. One of the protesters knocked my arm and stole my placard, one punched David in the back of his head and stole his placard. They both ripped the placards and chucked the pieces onto the road, receiving cheers from many of the marchers. One of the protesters had been filming it, and came up to us, narrating his ‘film’ by continuously calling us “f**king fascists” and “fascist pigs”, telling us that we were going to be famous on Facebook. Within about 30 seconds, one of the police officers that had been on duty came running and that seemed to be the cue for the protesters to run back into the mob.

The irony is that it was the protesters who were being fascists, with their violent suppression of messages they disagreed with.

The police officer, instead of pursuing the people who had offended, came to ask us to leave. He had seen everything, but told us that there were too many protesters for them to protect our right to protest. At the time, I was quite shaken. I was in no mood or state of mind to argue with the officer, and so we left peacefully. Although David and I have protested and counter-protested before, this was the first time things had become physical, which is something we thought New Zealand was above. It seems we were wrong there too.

The Police Commissioner should instruct the Auckland Police that the next time this happens, the appropriate response is to call for more police officers to protect the rights of peaceful protest.

After the march on that part of the street was finished, David and I returned to pick up the remains of the placards. Although we knew we were not the cause of the litter, we still thought that we shouldn’t leave it lying around the road and footpath. During this time, thankfully, drivers were actually relatively friendly and respectful of what we were doing. A few protesters coming back from the Vector Arena were not though. We again were verbally abused with the same extremist labels. One protester in particular encouraged cars to run us over, and said if they didn’t, he would do it himself.

What a pity Brogan and David didn’t have a friend along with a video recorder. It would be very interesting to identify those who resort to violence to suppress speech they disagree with.

I recall an anti-EFA march in Wellington. A handful of (mainly) Young Labour activists did a counter-protest. When we got to Parliament we actually offered them a chance to speak to have their view heard. A stark contrast.

Hat Tip: Whale Oil

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Steyn on free speech

September 15th, 2011 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

A great op ed in the Australian by Mark Steyn:

TO be honest, I didn’t really think much about “freedom of speech” until I found myself the subject of three “hate speech” complaints in Canada in 2007.

I mean I was philosophically in favour of it, and I’d been consistently opposed to the Dominion’s ghastly “human rights” commissions and their equivalents elsewhere my entire adult life, and from time to time when an especially choice example of politically correct enforcement came up I’d whack it around for a column or two.

But I don’t think I really understood how advanced the Left’s assault on this core Western liberty actually was. In 2008, shortly before my writing was put on trial for “flagrant Islamophobia” in British Columbia, several National Review readers e-mailed from the US to query what the big deal was. C’mon, lighten up, what could some “human rights” pseudo-court do? And I replied that the statutory penalty under the British Columbia “Human Rights” Code was that Maclean’s, Canada’s biggest-selling news weekly, and by extension any other publication, would be forbidden henceforth to publish anything by me about Islam, Europe, terrorism, demography, welfare, multiculturalism, and various related subjects. And that this prohibition would last forever, and was deemed to have the force of a supreme-court decision. I would in effect be rendered unpublishable in the land of my birth.

This is why we must resist any so called hate speech laws in New Zealand. The threshold for intervention against speech should and must be very high – such as directly advocating violence.

Fourteen-year-old Codie Stott asked her teacher at Harrop Fold High School whether she could sit with another group to do her science project as in hers the other five pupils spoke Urdu and she didn’t understand what they were saying. The teacher called the police, who took her to the station, photographed her, fingerprinted her, took DNA samples, removed her jewelry and shoelaces, put her in a cell for three and a half hours, and questioned her on suspicion of committing a Section Five “racial public-order offence.” “An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark,” declared the headmaster, Antony Edkins. The school would “not stand for racism in any form.” In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said they took “hate crime” very seriously, and their treatment of Miss Stott was in line with “normal procedure.”

I thought this must be made up. But sadly it is true.

The head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal was interviewed on the BBC and expressed the view that homosexuality was “immoral,” was “not acceptable,” “spreads disease,” and “damaged the very foundations of society.” A gay group complained and Sir Iqbal was investigated by Scotland Yard’s “community safety unit” for “hate crimes” and “homophobia.”

Independently but simultaneously, the magazine of GALHA (the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association) called Islam a “barmy doctrine” growing “like a canker” and deeply “homophobic.” In return, the London Race Hate Crime Forum asked Scotland Yard to investigate GALHA for “Islamophobia.”

Got that? If a Muslim says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for homophobia; but if a gay says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for Islamophobia.

Two men say exactly the same thing and they’re investigated for different hate crimes.

I encourage people to ask candidates and parties where they stand on introducing hate crimes legislation in New Zealand. Don’t think there are not groups lobbying for them, because there are.

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Dom Post on free speech

September 5th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

But the new administration should think hard about another part of the convention. One protocol therein requires signatories to make the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material via computer systems a crime. It might also outlaw Holocaust denial and what some groups, deeming themselves to be persecuted, call “hate speech” online. The United States, the UK and Ireland have refused to sign that protocol. New Zealand should, too.

When states consciously choose to ban the traffic in ideas, they take a giant stride toward control of their populace. Freedom of speech – one of the pillars that buttress democracy – is its most potent when its practitioners advocate the unpopular, the unconventional, even the downright nasty.

Informed public debate, which of necessity includes ridicule and derision, is always the most effective antidote to racism, sexism, xenophobia … Banning criticism – as this protocol would do, at least in cyberspace – merely drives racists, sexists, xenophobes underground and gives them cause to claim martyrdom.

I blogged on this issue a couple of weeks ago. The answer to offensive speech is not to ban it, but to counter it.

It is timely to repeat a quote from Noam Chomsky:

If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.

One of the few Chomsky quotes I love.

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Holocaust denial should remain legal in NZ

August 24th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Posting racist or xenophobic messages on the internet and Holocaust denial could be illegal if New Zealand signs up to a international cyber-crime agreement.

Justice Minister Simon Power and Police Minister Judith Collins yesterday announced a three-year plan to crack down on international organised crime. One proposal involves the Government signing the Council of Europe Cyber Crime Convention, also known as the Budapest Convention.

A protocol of the convention requires nations to make “the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems” a crime. It also makes denial or justification of the Holocaust and other verified genocides illegal.

Almost 30 nations have ratified the convention. However, a number – including US, Ireland and Britain – have refused to sign the protocol.

And we should not sign either.

I detest Holocaust deniers. They are inevitably racists and liars. However the response to their lies should be the truth, not censorship.

I can understand that in countries like Austria and Germany, they have unique factors for why they need to criminalise holocaust denial. But in New Zealand, we should should not ban any speech unless it rises to the level of actually inciting violence.

And the same goes for the proposed requirement to make “the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems” a crime. As tempting as it would be to get the NZ First website banned, that is wrong. NZ First have the right to promote racist policies, and Labour have the right to promote xenophobic policies on foreign investment. Neither should have to worry about doing so being a crime.

I hope the Government makes clear that any signing of the convention, will not include agreeing to the additional protocol.

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The right to protest

May 12th, 2011 at 4:13 pm by David Farrar

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

Hone Harawira says “redneck” racism is to blame for the last-minute cancellation of a lecture he was to give in Auckland today.

The Mana Party leader was due to speak about the foreshore and seabed at  Auckland University Law School.

“All of the rednecks at the university decided to create such a ruckus that the Law School cancelled it. In 2011 we’re still being pushed around,” Harawira said. …

Asked why this was an example of racism, Harawira said there were only Pakeha involved in the protest planned at Auckland University.

“A lot of people think that racism is dead and buried but clearly it’s not. I’m a Maori MP and I should have the right to talk to Maori law students.” …

Law student Charlotte Summers said the Faculty of Law cancelled the lecture on the basis of “there may be a breach of the peace”.  

She said the Young Nationals organisation  was behind the protest.

“How is it fair that the Young Nats decide to be disruptive, threaten to be disruptive, and then an entire event is cancelled because of their choices and what they threaten to do?”

“There is a time and a place for protest – an academic lecture is not that time nor place.”

However, the Young Nationals denied any involvement in the protest.

President Daniel Fielding said although some Young National members were planning to attend the protest, it was a cross section of students involved.

Oh poor little Hone. Who knew he had such a thin skin. The man who had led dozens of protests, whose family have often assaulted people at protests, can’t handle a few students protesting against him.

And of course it is racism, if one protests against Hone. What else could it be. Couldn’t possible be related to him comparing people to Hitler, and highlighting how Osma’a family saw him as a freedom fighter.

But don’t you love the reaction of the law school, and the quoted law student. They cancelled the lecture because people may have protested.

This is in the same week that the Supreme Court upheld the right of someone to burn the NZ flag on ANZAC Day (a decision which I actually agree with). So it is okay to burn the NZ flag on ANZAC day, but it is wrong and racist to protest against Hone Harawira.

The Facebook page about the protest is here. Having had a brief look I don’t see any suggestion they were going to go into the lecture and shout Hone down. They were going to protest outside, and they specifically said that if any go inside, “we will give Hone a chance to speak, we will listen and we will ask constructive questions while expressing our displeaure in his racial hatred and gutter politics”.

Isn’t there anything more hypocritical that a veteran protester who whines about how awful it is when people protest against him.

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Gisborne Police venerate George Orwell

July 30th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police Minister Judith Collins has urged Gisborne police and media to sit down and work out a solution to a dispute in over local law enforcement’s decision to stop giving reporters details of crimes in the area.

Media groups have criticised a move to restrict information on crime available to journalists and the public in Gisborne,

But police boss Inspector Sam Aberahama says the move is intended to make the community feel safer.

So Inspector Plod think his job is to make the community feel safer by concealing news on crime from the news media and the public.

Can I make the radical suggestion that the community would feel safer if the Police prevented crime from occurring, rather than merely preventing the reporting of said crime.

UPDATE: I am informed the original story didn’t cover the salient fact of exactly what change the Police have made. They are still releasing news to the media, they just no longer have a journalist attend their daily staff briefing – a practice that was unique to Gisborne. While I still think the comments of the Inspector are stupid and deserve clobbering, I do think it is reasonable to not have media present at staff meetings.

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Editorials 30 June 2010

June 30th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald focuses on Fiji:

The second was the introduction of a grandly titled Media Industry Development Decree. It means, among other things, that the Fiji Times, the country’s oldest and largest newspaper, has three months to remove Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd as its owner or face closure.

If the first development borders on farce, the second should remove any lingering illusions about the regime’s view of democratic niceties. The decree effectively eliminates freedom of expression in Fiji.

Aside from the restriction on foreign ownership, a tribunal has been established to ensure nothing is printed or broadcast against the “national interest or public order”.

In essence, Fijians will no longer know what their rulers are up to. Special attention is being paid to the Fiji Times because, according to the Attorney-General, it has been “the purveyor of negativity, at least for the past three years”.

The move against the media is part of an ongoing removal of Fijians’ rights. This has included the abrogation of the constitution, the squashing of dissent and the dishonouring of pledges for a return to democracy.

There is sadly no evidence that there will be a return to democracy. I can’t see a scenario where the Commodore will give up power and let Fijians actually decide on their Government.

This step should also occasion a rethink by New Zealanders who spend their holidays in Fiji. Tim Pankhurst, of the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee has suggested a boycott.

He has a point. Tourists might like to say that Fijian businesses and jobs should not be penalised for the sins of the regime. But they are undermining their own country’s diplomatic efforts.

Fiji’s tourism-driven economy attracts 60 per cent of its patronage from New Zealand and Australia. No official boycott can be imposed, nor should it be.

But a rethink by would-be tourists would apply further pressure. And if, ultimately, it is up to the Fijian people to send Commodore Bainimarama back to the barracks, tourists temporarily moving away from Fiji for other Pacific destinations would hammer home a message about the pariah status of their rulers.

Rather than out all the onus on consumers, the media could play their part. Rather than just write editorials, APN and Fairfax could refuse to accept advertising for Fiji tourism. That would be a sign of solidarity with their colleagues in Fiji, and show real commitment rather than just words.

The Press lashes FIFA:

Football prides itself on being the “beautiful game”, but the current World Cup in South Africa has been marred by too many ugly refereeing decisions.

One of the most egregious occurred this week when England’s Frank Lampard was not awarded a goal against Germany despite the ball clearly crossing the goal line after hitting the crossbar.

This must serve as a wake-up call for Fifa boss Sepp Blatter and his top officials to get their heads out of the sand and harness the electronic technology successfully used by so many other sports.

It is a no brainer.

The Dom Post looks at smoking in prisons:

But surely an outright ban goes too far? How about halfway measures first, such as a prison smoking-room, or a ban on smoking in cells? If she is wedded to a total ban, what are known as “cessation assistance” programmes – already available to anyone, including the incarcerated, who want to quit – must be funded appropriately. …

As usual with any broadbrush proposal, the devil will be in the detail. But that detail should acknowledge union unease. The minister has already attended the funeral of one prison guard this year – a political show that bore an uncanny resemblance to former prime minister Helen Clark’s infamous appearance at the Folole Muliaga funeral in 2007. Ms Collins does not want the option of attending another.

What an incredibly stupid comparison, in terms of funerals. Jason Palmer was employed by the Government and died doing his job, and as a result of his job. I don’t know anyone who thinks a Minister should not attend the funeral of law & order professionals who get killed by criminals. In fact it is almost disrespectful not to go.

What that has in common with the circus generated around the Muliaga’s I don’t know.

The ODT also looks at smoking:

With this background, it may have surprised some readers to learn that the inmates of our prisons are permitted to smoke, including in their cells, unlike in Canada, some British prisons, and those in some Australian states, where the practice is banned.

The intention of the Minister of Corrections to ban smoking in our jails from July next year is certainly easily justified on health grounds alone, and the overseas precedent suggests the fears being raised here by vested interests are largely groundless. …

Objectors have raised two main issues: the right of prisoners to smoke in what is effectively their “own home”; and the potential for violent reaction from prisoners required to cease smoking.

The first claim is groundless.

Prisoners are, in effect, tenants.

The State, as landlord, can and does impose conditions of use.

Additionally, prisoners who do not smoke – and prison guards – are entitled to not be confined in conditions where their own health may be damaged by second-hand smoke.

The department has anticipated prisoner reaction by giving a year’s notice of the measure, and by its intention to offer a cessation programme, including nicotine replacements, for those who seek such help.

That approach is not unreasonable.

Meanwhile 65% of people in Labour’s poll say they back the ban, so I expect we will see them come out backing it shortly.

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Sense from Goff

June 22nd, 2010 at 2:59 pm by David Farrar

Some common sense from Phil Goff on the China protest issue:

Labour leader Phil Goff said there mistakes on both sides.

“The Chinese security guard had no right to seize the flag from Russel Norman. There is an absolute right of peaceful protest in this country that we must uphold.”

And I agree. They had a right to stop Norman from advancing any closer, but they had no right to try and hide his flag. They were clearly wrong to do so.

But Mr Goff said Dr Norman could have acted with more restraint.

“Did Russel Norman behave with the dignity you might have expected of an MP? I think he might have learned from (former Greens leader) Rod Donald’s lesson of standing back, giving a bit of space, making the point, but not being confrontational.”

Exactly. He was advancing on the Vice-President and got very very close to him. If he had done what Rod Donald did, then the fracas would never have happened. The suspicion is that maybe he did it deliberately.

Mr Goff said there needed to be a clear protocol allowing peaceful protest but at the same time giving space and dignity to visitors.

Yep. If MPs wish to protest on the forecourt they have every right to. But they don’t have the right to impede the right of overseas leaders from entering buildings, or to be so close to them they represent a threat to their dignity (such as having a flag thrown over them) – NZ in fact has an obligation under Article 29 of the Vienna Convention:

The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.

This is why John Key apologised – not for the protest by Norman, but the failure in security that allowed him to get within spitting or throwing distance.

He said there was some confusion which could have been avoided on Friday.

“A quiet word beforehand between Russel Norman and the diplomatic police could have set a situation where a protest could have been made without the incident occurring.”

Exactly. Bravo to Phil Goff for taking a fair approach on this.

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Editorials 22 June 2010

June 22nd, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald hails the All Whites:

Hats off to Ryan Nelsen, the captain of the New Zealand soccer team.

Not only for the way he marshalled his side as the All Whites claimed a hugely significant 1-1 World Cup draw against Italy, the reigning world champion, but for his straight talking after the match.

Sport is replete with players who utter only polite noises. Nelsen told it like it was. Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres, who awarded the softest of penalties to the Italians, had had “stars in his eyes” and his partiality had ruined the game.

“If he’s the best that Fifa offer up then, gee whizz, I would hate to see the worst,” Nelsen said. …

Paraguay appears to be the best team in the All Whites’ pool. While many other countries have struggled, it had confirmed its standing as the second-best qualifier from South America.

If New Zealand is to advance to the knockout stage, probably nothing less than a victory will suffice. The odds will, once again, strongly favour its opponent. But who would now bet against the All Whites?

I’ll be in Australia for that game, and making sure there is no doubt the All Whites are not an Australasian team!

The Press defends the right to protest:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman’s decision to protest at Parliament during the visit of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping was eminently predictable.

His party has long supported the free Tibet movement and highlighted China’s shocking human rights record. Just as his predecessor as the Greens’ male co-leader, the late Rod Donald, did in 2005 during the visit of another Chinese dignitary, Norman waved a Tibetan flag as Xi’s delegation arrived at Parliament. Norman did go further than Donald, who mounted a silent protest, by also calling out for democracy. But the attitude of New Zealand authorities in these two cases was quite different.

That is because Rod Donald did not advance on the VIP.

In 2005, police and security staff respected the right of Donald to protest and rejected calls from Chinese security guards to remove him. But no action was taken last Friday by New Zealand authorities when Norman had his flag taken from him by Chinese security personnel and a scuffle broke out. Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully later lambasted Norman, saying the Green MP had abused Parliamentary privilege and his actions were calculated to give offence.

McCully was half right. Norman’s protest was a stunt aimed at provoking the Chinese and to attract publicity for the Greens and the Tibetan cause, about which China is hugely sensitive. But McCully is totally wrong to accuse Norman of abusing his position. Unlike members of the public, whose protests at Parliament are carefully controlled, Norman is an MP who has the freedom of the building and its grounds.

Not total freedom. An MP can’t enter the offices of other parties without permission for example.

He was perfectly entitled to exercise his right to freedom of speech where he did. And if his position was perceived as a threat to the personal security, rather than just the sensitivities of the visitors, it is up to New Zealand authorities to take action.

I agree. The NZ authorities should have kept Norman from getting so close to the Vice-President. If he had remained at the foot of the steps of Parliament, I would have expected him to be protected. But he rushed up to the Beehive entrance, right up against the Chinese security guards.

The Chinese security guards were wrong to try and interfere with his flag, but he was also wrong to advance so close. He should have negotiated a position to stand at where he could be clearly seen and heard (if desired) but not within spitting distance of the Vice-President.

The Chinese officials who took the flag and scuffled with Norman probably had limited understanding of Norman’s rights as an MP. New Zealand security personnel still should have stepped in to protect him.

They did.

New Zealand does have a close and valued relationship with China. This has been shown by the recent free-trade deal with it and by the emphasis placed by New Zealand on its participation in the Shanghai Expo.

But these economic ties must not obscure the fact that there are differences between us and one of these is New Zealand’s strong commitment to human rights, including freedom of speech and the right to protest peacefully.

Instead of berating those who, like Norman, exercise these rights, New Zealand ministers should have firmly reminded the Chinese that in this country, unlike their own nation, these rights are sacrosanct and must be respected by foreign guests.

As John Key has pointed out there was a continual protest outside the hotel where the VP was staying, and no one interfered with their right to do so. It’s because those protesters stayed at a distance where they could not be considered a danger.

The Dom Post talks money and morality:

Yesterday The Dominion Post reported that a Napier church had taken at least $20,000 in donations from Whetu Abraham, a rest home resident. Those caring for him had tried to stop the donations, and rest home manager Lucy Dever believes what the Oasis Elim Church has done is unethical, immoral and un-Christian.

Mr Abraham says he gave the money because of his faith, and because of his simple understanding that “you help them, they help you”.

Church pastor Bruce Collingwood says the money was given willingly by Mr Abraham “out of his own heart”, and he was comfortable about taking it after he and Mr Abraham had talked about Mr Abraham’s financial and medical situation.

Others, including the church’s national body, are not.

The relationship between churches and money has been fraught ever since Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple. …

There is no doubt the money Mr Abraham gave will help the Oasis Elim Church, but churches depend on their moral authority as much as their bank balances. For many, accepting large sums from a sick man who had little to begin with diminishes that authority to near bankruptcy.

And the ODT also praises the All Whites:

Yesterday, much of the nation discovered the round ball belongs to a sport that delivers heroes every bit as outsized as the oval one.

A good portion of the labour force turned up for work emotionally drained, sleep-deprived and running on adrenalin, having just witnessed the best performance – and result – from a New Zealand football side.

The heroics and hyperbole of the 1-1 draw with Slovakia were cast aside as the All Whites took on the might of Italy and held those fancied, fleet-footed, blue-shirted millionaires to a 1-1 draw. …

There is no bigger tournament in world sport than the Fifa World Cup.

To qualify is a mission in itself, full of its own pulsating dramas – witness the fateful decider with Bahrain at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium earlier this year, the Rory Fallon header for goal, the Paston penalty save.

The eyes of the world are upon this tournament as they are no other, even arguably, the Olympics, and in their spectacular form-upending results to date, the All Whites will have had those eyes turning in this direction …

In the lead-up to the tournament, website sbnation.com predicted the All Whites had “as much chance of advancing out of group stage as a paraplegic pig thrown into a tiger pit has of walking out of there unscathed”.

That quote should be read out to the team just before the Paraguay match.

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More on China incident

June 21st, 2010 at 11:10 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key telephoned the most senior minister in the visiting Chinese delegation to apologise for the scuffle during the arrival of Vice-President Xi Jingping at Parliament.

I can understand why the PM felt it was necessary – because the screaming yelling protester was not just a member of the public, but a leader of a parliamentary party.

But having said that, I don’t think it was appropriate for the PM to apologise. He is not responsible for Norman, and by doing so may confuse the difference between the Government and the Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has also called for a full report on the incident from his ministry and he would like to see a protocol developed between the Speaker and protesting MPs for future visits.

This I think is a very good idea. The right to protest must be protected, but this doesn’t mean you allow protesters to get within a couple of metres of visiting VIPs – even if an MP.

If Norman had not been advancing on the Vice-President, this incident probably would not have happened. As a contrast Chris Trotter remembers Rod Donald:

My abiding memory of this remarkable man – my friend – Rod Donald, will be of him standing alone at the foot of the parliamentary steps, his face a mixture of sadness and defiance, holding up the forbidden Tibetan flag. It was a noble protest – and all the more effective for being conducted not by some raggle-taggle band of New Age anarchists, but by a senior Member of Parliament and party leader, dressed proudly and patriotically in his best, New Zealand-made, suit.

No advancing on the Vice-President, no shouting, no scruffling. That is the way to do it if you want to be an MP making a protest.

I am no fan of China’s repression. I think there should be protests when their VIPs visit. If the Greens had organised a Free Tibet protest outside Parliament, I might have even gone along to it.

Now having said that, it is clear that engagement with China is the only sane course of action. Refusing to trade or talk to them would be stupid. The trick is getting the balance of engagement and protest right.  And broadly you expect the Government to engage and civil society to protest. There is a time when Governments also protest – but that tends to be in response to specific events.

UPDATE: Colin Espiner blogs:

I know it’s fashionable to hate the Chinese, and everyone wants a free Tibet.

So much so you’d think they were handing them out in Weetbix packets.

But while I’ll probably get into trouble with the Left for saying this, I’m sorry, but Green Party co-leader Russel Norman was an embarrassment to himself, Parliament, and New Zealand with his protest against the Chinese vice-president’s visit last week. …

When I heard that Norman’s flag had been “trampled” I thought that was a bit on the nose, too, so I took a look at the video.

Strange how none of the many cameras there – both still and TV – managed to capture the so-called attack, or the flag trampling.

What they did capture, though, was an MP behaving in a way that no self-respecting member of Parliament with any dignity should behave.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support Russel Norman’s right to have his say. This is a free country, unlike China.

But sometimes, I think the RIGHT to free speech and EXERCISING it are confused.

For example, I can walk down the street and tell someone I don’t know that they’re fat. I have that right. But to do so would be impolite and irresponsible.

One of the deals of having freedom is the responsibility that comes with it over how you use it.

A point well made.

If Russel Norman was a private citizen he’d be banned from the steps of Parliament as a protester. He’d be behind the gates further down, where he could yell and scream to his heart’s content.

But he’s not a private citizen. He’s a member of Parliament. An employee and a representative of the people.

That meant Norman got to go right up to the Chinese VP, yell in his face, and wave a flag at him.

Unless the video I saw has been doctored, I saw Norman lunging at the VP and then yelling “give me my flag back” after one of his security guards grabbed it.

Colin makes the same point I have made – it was a long way removed from what Rod Donald did.

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Editorials 26 April 2010

April 26th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald looks at Pharmac:

The drawing up of free-trade agreements is always an exercise in compromise. Sometimes, unpalatable concessions have to be made with an eye on the bigger picture. …

At the forefront of American concerns will be two issues – the strength of our dairying industry and the role played by Pharmac, the Government’s drug-buying agency.

The US farming lobby will want little conceded, while American pharmaceutical companies want Pharmac’s role drastically reduced.

The drug companies say an end to New Zealand’s anti-competitive drug-funding system would give its people quicker access to new and expensive medicines.

US drug companies can introduce these new and expensive medicines at any time. Whether or not they gain a subsidy from the state is another issue.

Trade Minister Tim Groser has described Pharmac as “an outstandingly successful public institution”, which has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The estimated savings in a five-year period are enough to have built the Starship hospital.

Mr Groser has also said that, as the principal economic adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, he had negotiated with the US on Pharmac 10 years ago and had seen no need to make concessions.

That is reassuring. But the issue will doubtless be raised again, as New Zealand covets a free-trade agreement with the US. Hard choices will have to be made.

The Government has already bowed to pressure and allowed some slippage in Pharmac’s integrity. With the taxpayer uppermost in its mind, it should hesitate before venturing further down that path.

I agree Pharmac is of great value to New Zealand. The gains from a free trade deal would have to be significant for us to agree to changes to Pharmac.

The Press remembers ANZAC Day:

The history of Anzac Day remembrance has been shaped by memory and ideals – memories and ideals that have changed over the decades since the landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

The commemoration therefore has reflected the great alterations that New Zealand has undergone in those 95 years.

Yesterday’s services saw the men and women of World War II and will continue to see many of them in future years. But their number is dwindling and thoughts thus turn to the Anzac Days of the future. …

Voices last week were raised, predicting a decline in turnout over the coming decades, but that is unlikely to eventuate. The respect for what our fighting men and women achieved and the honour they brought us is now deeply and uncontroversially embedded in the nation’s psyche.

The Press pages on New Zealand’s military history, which we printed in the lead-up to Anzac Day, are but one example of this. They were prized by readers, and schools have taken them in large numbers. A hunger exists for hearing again the old tales of valour and service.

The men and women who performed those deeds will not be forgotten and Anzac Day will live on in their honour.

While on TV, once again I found Maori TV did best.

The Dominion Post looks at Fiji’s proposed media restrictions:

The primary function of Fiji’s proposed new media regulator is “to encourage, promote and facilitate the development of media organisations and services”. It sounds reasonable.

There is just one problem. In order to perform its duties the Media Industry Development Authority is being given the power to fine and lock up journalists, editors and publishers, censor news reports, search premises, seize documents, and shut down news organisations.

Coating a dictator’s iron fist with a veneer of legality does not soften the blow.

The commodore is labouring under a misapprehension. The misapprehension is that he is the big man in the Pacific.

He is not. He is a tinpot dictator who has gained power at the point of a gun and is destroying his country’s economy and prospects and the institutions, already weakened by three previous coups, that underpin good government.

The news media is one of them. Journalists, editors and publishers will bear the immediate brunt of the latest restrictions, but the real losers are the Fijian people, who have already lost the right to learn what is happening because of “emergency” regulations put in place last year.

Free speech is a fundamental pillar of democracy. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” said Thomas Jefferson, the author of the American Declaration of Independence.

Another great Jefferson quote.

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Southpark Censorship

April 25th, 2010 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Once again Comedy Central has censored Southpark. Four years ago they banned the show from being able to show from showing a harmless depiction of Muhammad (was just him giving someone a fish) in their Cartoon Wars episodes.

The episodes were about appeasing people who threaten violence is wrong, but it didn’t work. This time in episode 201 Comedy Central have even refused to allow the name of Muhammad, after the Southpark creators cunningly discussed him onside a bear costume.

This has nothing to do with religious tolerance. Comedy Central have allowed the show to show Jesus Christ defecating on an American flag. Their decisions are purely appeasement in the face of threatened violence from extremists. The sad thing is they don’t realise that what they do, encourages the extremists. It shows threatening violence wins.

In similar news, Reuters reports:

A Dutch court has acquitted a Muslim group of inciting hatred with a cartoon that questions the Holocaust, in the latest case to provoke debate about freedom of speech in the Netherlands.

The Arab European League (AEL), which published the cartoon on its website, was cleared of insulting Jews because it was not aiming to dispute the Holocaust but to highlight perceived double standards in free speech.

And that is the right ruling,

The AEL cartoon shows two men, beneath an ‘Auschwitz’ sign and beside several bodies, saying the victims might not have been Jewish but the target was six million – the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The AEL said the cartoon was part of a campaign it launched in 2006 to show “the double morals of the West during the Danish cartoon affair.” The image came with a disclaimer on the website saying the AEL did not support the views of the cartoon.

Except the AEL have been proven wrong about the double morals. No one has been killed, or even threatened over their Holocaust cartoon. There have been no burning of flags or storming of embassies.

The mad President of Iran tried to make a similar claim a few years ago by hosting a Holocaust cartoon competition. To his great dismay dozens of Jewish cartoonists submitted entries, rather than protest against it.

The best response to censorship is this:

After Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris wanted to counter the fear. She has declared May 20th “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

“As a cartoonist I just felt so much passion about what had happened I wanted to kind of counter Comedy Central’s message they sent about feeling afraid,” Norris said.

Norris has asked other artists to submit drawings of any religious figure to be posted as part of Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH) on May 20th.

On her website Norris explains this is not meant to disrespect any religion, but rather meant to protect people’s right to express themselves.

The best way to stop the Islamic extremists threatening violence unless you censor, is if the response to their threats is to triple and quadruple the number of outlets who show the cartoon.

It should be a point of principle for every media outlet in the free world, to show such images, to show that threats will not work.

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Editorials 19 April 2010

April 19th, 2010 at 11:14 am by David Farrar

The Herald focuses on media freedom in Fiji:

Two developments in Suva provide renewed evidence of the regime’s distaste for democracy in any real meaning of the word. They must surely have dismissed any thoughts among transtasman officials and politicians of achieving change by appeasement.

This is the unfortunate thing, with the timing. I think NZ, and Australia, were edging towards a more constructive relationship. But this draft decreee pushes them in the other direction.

First, Fiji’s just-published draft of a Media Industry Development Decree would virtually eliminate freedom of expression in the country. It is a remarkable document, one which would make Zimbabwe proud and Singapore blush.

I am one of those who believe taking away a voice is worse than taking away a vote.

The decree protecting the regime from prosecution is a more abstract threat to democracy – a coup leader’s fantasy that surely, once this sorry interregnum is over, will be declared null and void by a legitimate court – with the case against him then reported by a free press. That time can come, though, only if New Zealand and Australia continue to hold hard to democratic principle and the regime is subjected to the greatest sanction, the decision of the Fijian people to call time on their dictator.

This is why I don’t think the Commodore will even surrender power. He has no exit plan which guarantees him immunity from prosecution.

The Dom Post looks at trade with the US:

The US has much to gain from improved access to Asian markets for its goods but it is an unsentimental dealmaker, which swaps its free trade principles for self-interest when it sits down at the negotiating table.

The new ambassador to Washington, Mike Moore, has work to do. So does Mr Key, who is hoping for a formal invitation to the White House later this year and the heft that will give him with US business and farming organisations.

And the ODT talks apples:

The Australian apple market is not huge and estimates for New Zealand exports range around $15 million to $20 million per annum, small but significant.

On the other hand Australian apple consumption is much lower than New Zealand’s and better prices and more competition could be what is needed to stimulate demand.

It can be a win-win,

Australia is in this instance, however, a blatant hypocrite.

It battles for free trade in agriculture while putting up several specific agricultural barriers to protect its own, including against New Zealand apples.

Yes, and if they refuse to act on this issue, will risk undermining their credibility as the WTO can then approve trade sanctions against them.

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Fiji set to clamp down on a free media

April 9th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Most people are familiar with the saying two steps forward and one step back to describe a situation of slow progress.

That has been my hope for Fiji, that with a set date for elections in 2014, there would be some progress. But alas, the situation is looking more like one step forward and two steps back.

The Fijian Government has released a draft decree of proposed media censorship. It would make Fiji even more repressive in terms of media freedom.

NZPA report:

The regime of self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama yesterday issued a new media decree which Newspaper Publishers’ Association chief executive and New Zealand Media Freedom Committee secretary Tim Pankhurst described as “highly oppressive”. …

“It not only targets editors and their journalists. Any members of the public brave enough to express dissenting views are also in line for crippling fines, ill treatment and jail.”

Media outlets could be fined up to F$500,000 (about NZ$344,000) and individual journalists up to F$100,000 (NZ$69,000) and be jailed for up to five years if they failed to comply with the decree’s dictates.

Offences included such “crimes” as criticising the government and even failing to run bylines, Mr Pankhurst said. Foreign media ownership was also restricted.

The foreign media restrictions are an attempt to close down the Fiji Times. The Commodore hates them especially as they refuse to describe him as the Prime Minister, unless he actually wins an election to that post.

Some aspects from the media decree:

  • The Minister of Information personally appoints, and can sack at any time, the Director of the Media Industry Development Authority
  • One of the tasks of the MIDA is to ban any material which creates “communal discord”
  • MIDA will require all media organisations to be registered with them
  • Breaches of MIDA rules will carry a potential penalty of $500,000 for an organisation and $100,000 plus five years in jail for individuals.
  • MIDA has police like powers to search and seize documents from media organisations
  • Bans foreign ownership of over 10% in a media organisation, which will close down the Fiji Times.
  • Sets up a Tribunal with the Chair appointed by the Attorney-General to hear complaints, and which must act within “guidelines’ given by the Minister
  • The Minister can by order prohibit any broadcast or publication that may give rise to disorder, and can demand copies in advance
  • The decree explicitly forbids any Court hearing a challenge to not just the legality of this decree, but any decisions made by the Authority, Tribunal or Minister under this decree
  • The media code bans “hypnotism” and “demonstrating exorcism”!

Cafe Pacific has a good analysis of the decree.

Coup 4,5 report:

This is very broad so it will be interesting to see what kind of stories come under this criteria. Censors are already stopping the publication of stories which make the interim government look bad; eg water and power cuts and bad road conditions leading to pot holes.

This clause really means any stories which the interim regime doesn’t like because it exposes them or shows that they’re not doing a good job, is not in their interest and offends them as it creates communal discord.

The communal disorder clause is what will allow the Government to ban anything which criticises the Government, or if it gets published to imprison the journalist for up to five years.

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Australia to block Wikipedia parody

March 18th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The SMH reports:

The Australian Human Rights Commission has threatened legal action against a widely read but controversial US-based website over an article that it says encourages racial hatred against Aborigines.

But online rights group Electronic Frontiers Australia said trying to stamp out the deplorable content would only create the “Streisand” effect, whereby an attempt to censor online content only brings more attention to it.

In a letter to Joseph Evers, the owner of Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED) – a more shocking version of Wikipedia that contains racist and other offensive articles dubbed as “satire” – the Commission said it had received 20 complaints from Aborigines over the “Aboriginal” page on the site. …

On the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s blacklist of “refused classification” websites, which was leaked in March last year, encyclopediadramatica.com was included. This means the entire site will likely be blocked under the government’s forthcoming internet filtering plan.

This is why I don’t like filters.  It is outrageous that the Australian Government will block such a site.

Don’t get me wrong – the site is highly highly offensive to many people. It is a rather puerile site (rather than a smart satire site) that just abuses everybody and everyone in the most insulting way it can. But being offensive is not a reason to be banned or blocked.

I cite again the words of Noam Chomsky, who said there is little virtue in defending popular speech – it is defending unpopular and even offensive speech that is courageous.

When we allow the state to start deciding what parts of the Internet we are allowed to see, that is a bad thing.

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The Atheist Bus Campaign

March 2nd, 2010 at 10:39 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A New Zealand minister has given his support to an atheist campaign asking people to question the existence of God.

Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland, says NZ Bus’s decision last month to stop the display of paid adverts showing atheistic slogans is regrettable.

“Many in the Christian community welcome a debate about issues of the existence of God and, also, I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of in that debate,” he said.

The NZ Atheist Bus Campaign has raised nearly $23,000 from public donations for the ads that read: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Rev Richard Randerson has also said NZ Bus should not have censored the signs.

“Free speech should be the norm, censorship the exception. I don’t see it as a negative thing at all. I think it brings God into public debate.”

He said bus advertising was used to promote a whole range of products from clothing to alcohol.

“How refreshing it is to see advertising that is not asking us to buy anything, aspire to be slim, or sell us a lifestyle we can’t afford.

A good point.

My view is in two parts. The first is that NZ Bus has the absolute right to decline adverts they do not want to display on their property.

The second is that I think they have made the wrong call, and incidentally deprived their shareholders of some revenue for no gain.

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