John Roughan on free speech


Mayor Phil Goff has decreed, “Auckland Council venues shouldn’t be used to stir up ethnic or religious tensions. Views that divide rather than unite are repugnant and I have made my views on this very clear. Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux will not be speaking at any council venues.”

Goodness. The Bruce Mason has accommodated a number of events down the years that not everyone on the Shore would have welcomed, including, surprisingly often, the Labour Party’s annual conference.

Ethnic and religious tensions are only some of the subjects that divide public opinion. Are Auckland Council venues to be also closed to the anti-vaccination people, anti-flouridationists, advocates of euthanasia? They pose a more immediate risk to our public health and human life in my view, but I wouldn’t want them banned.

A town hall is supposed to be every community’s open forum. When televised election debates are styled “town hall meetings” it means they are at least pretending to be free and open to unscripted views of all sorts. In the last days of our 2014 election campaign the venerable Auckland Town Hall was the venue for Kim Dotcom’s ill-fated final rally, featuring an American left-wing journalist and leakers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

That was about as repugnant to many Auckland ratepayers as any event I can recall. Yet I heard nobody say they should not have been allowed to use the Town Hall and nobody suggested that by making it available, the Auckland Council endorsed what Dotcom and his guests were saying. This country is not afraid of .

If I wanted to hold a public meeting whose aim was to criticise the Scientology religion, I’m pretty sure I’d be allowed to book any facility I want.

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