It was frighteningly authoritarian when the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, decreed by tweet on Friday words to the effect that he would make sure people with political opinions he disagreed with would never be permitted to use the many council-owned, large venues available for commercial hire in Auckland.
It’s frightening because freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination by the government based on your political opinions are fundamental human rights, not granted by government, but by God. Government’s role is merely to guard these natural laws. It is certainly not to lead in their violation.
The Mayor’s dictum was issued less than a month from the date for which I and my business partner had a contract with the Bruce Mason Centre to bring libertarian/conservative speakers, best-selling authors and YouTube sensations, Lauren Southern & Stefan Molyneux, and their mainstream, right-of-centre ideas to Auckland.
Specifically Goff wrote, “@AklCouncil 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.
Let me be very clear, the right to free speech does not mean the right to be provided with an @AklCouncil platform for that speech.”
And today the NZ Herald published comment by one of its arguably more facile feature writers and columnists that reserving the right to exclude people from the private, ticketed events for bad behaviour or security concerns was equivalent to government discrimination against unapproved opinions.
He adds a string of tired pejorative labels to his invective to substitute for his remarkable lack of factual or logical insight, and trots out fake news about them being banned from Australia. Old mate neglected to read literally yesterday’s news, that the Australian work visas were granted after suspiciously unusual delays in that bureaucracy.
The voluminous torrents of character assassination straight out of extreme leftist playbook, Alinksy’s “Rules for Radicals”, aside, Goff is most importantly and self-evidently wrong about the repugnancy of “views that divide instead of unite”. The one party, authoritarian state of China is run with one view. With eery similarity to the Mayor’s style of leadership, China labels people who rock the boat or challenge the status quo as a “trouble-maker” or bad for the “social harmony”.
Ironically, Phil’s view is one that divides rather than unites. Will he ban himself from using Council venues? Integrity and consistency demands he must, because the responses to his Trumpesque tweets have been very divided, if not popularly condemning of his views on the appropriateness of authoritarianism. So where’s the unity, Phil? Is it in the “social harmony” you’re trying to enforce?
Where was it when he allowed pro-Hezbollah people to demonstrate on a council site last month? Where was it when Fidel Castro was patting him on the back? Where was it when he met and literally held hands with infamous terrorist leader Yasser Arafat? So much for the hard line against anyone accused of “stirring up ethnic or religious tensions”. He’s even been accused of flying the Viet Cong (communist) flag from the Auckland cenotaph back in the day. No one violated his free speech rights when he threw paint and spat at veterans returning from Vietnam.
He insists, “The right to free speech does not mean the right to be provided with an @AklCouncil platform for that speech.”
Yes it does. It absolutely does. So does the New Zealand Human Rights Act which protects against discrimination based on political views.
Now if he’d said free speech doesn’t mean the right for Auckland Council to pay the speakers a fee for expressing views you disagree with, I’d agree. Just like Yasmin Abdel Magied can say what she wants, even if I disagree, but taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund her bile on the ABC.
And though the venue is owned by the residents of Auckland, the operation is commercial, and the contract required an eye-watering fee for the privilege. No one was subsidising the use of the facility.
And here’s where the NZ Herald’s commentator is oblivious to the facts. Open invitation has been made by the speakers for dissenters to come along, listen, and challenge their views in the Q&A portion of the evening. He also misses the fact that the venue is available to hire for anyone to have their right of reply – zero censorship. I won’t stand in their road. I fully support everyone having the same rights to free speech as the speakers he savaged with his uncensored right of free speech. That doesn’t absolve patrons of the responsibility of personal civility.
Likewise, no one should be made to feel comfortable to engage in incitement to violence, intimidation or harassment of patrons. The city and its law enforcement should protect its residents’ rights to peaceful assembly, and their attention should be entirely focused on those threatening and promising to cause trouble, not those giving a public lecture and showing a documentary in a purpose-built, commercial venue.
I, my partner in Axiomatic.Events, and the speakers we’re promoting also fully endorse the right to peacefully protest our events. Get a permit, follow police directions, don’t trespass private property or obstruct the public thoroughfare and peacefully express yourselves to your heart’s content.
It’s wonderful how we can all get along in a civil society, protecting the fundamental freedoms of a tolerant, inclusive and liberal democracy.
I am a partner in Axiomatic events, the promoter of the Stefan Molyneux & Lauren Southern LIVE tour of Australia & New Zealand.