– with contributions from Dr David Cumin
Three plaintiffs filed litigation against Phil Goff and the Council – challenging Auckland’s Mayor’s confirmation of the ban on two speakers from Council-owned venues because of their political views. This campaign is a matter of principle: no one wants our politicians to dictate who is ‘acceptable,’ who is not, and who people are allowed to hear from, at venues which all Auckland Ratepayers pay for.
In the Free Speech Coalition [FSC] affidavit to the Court, it’s made plain that some FSC members do not support the views of the particular speakers. Also outlined are a number of other speaking events at Council-owned facilities which some FSC members personally object to (and likely many ratepayers will), but the point is stressed that such views are not valid grounds for speakers to be banned or censored by the Council.
The FSC has been burning the midnight oil to stand up for freedom of speech. The FSC’s legal team of seven, plus additional helpers were in the office all weekend working on the case. This job has been made more difficult because Herr Goffler and the council’s lawyers seem to be getting ready to throw everything they have at the case. The FSC has limited funds and limited time. The council has the bottomless pockets of Auckland Ratepayers to dip into.
Despite the FSC offer to do so, the council made no attempt to seek common ground, or to narrow the issues so the court can focus on important matters of principle. Instead of replying to the FSC’s open letter, urging Councillors to avoid the expense and reconsider the Mayor’s decision, the council’s lawyers appear to be objecting to the FSC’s public funding of this public-interest litigation. The FSC is concerned that the council could be proposing some false notion that the public don’t have the right to be funding the FSC challenge, and have the matter struck out on those grounds.
The FSC has been advised that the council doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on and that the possible public-has-no-right tactic is the council distracting the court from the real issue while it consumes FSC’s modest resources. The council knows that these things will require the FSC lawyers to respond, thereby diverting the case from the critical matter of freedom of speech.
While Herr Goffler objects to Auckland Ratepayers contributing to the legal costs of the FSC, he has no conscience about using Auckland Ratepayers money to defend his council’s anti-free-speech actions.
The Human Rights Commission want to appear – but on which side?
At one of the hearings last week, the Human Rights Commission [HRC] said that it wants to ‘intervene’ in this case and has engaged their own QC to make submissions. Of course, the FSC hopes the HRC will be on the side of freedom of speech – a fundamental human right in liberal democracies. However, this is the same HRC that has been lobbying the Government to create ‘hate speech’ laws to criminalise ‘disharmonious’ speech. The HRC has not contacted the FSC, which is consequently concerned that it may not only soon be battling the might of Auckland Ratepayer-funded lawyers, but also a taxpayer-funded outfit!
While Mayor Goff doesn’t believe in free speech, his old Labour Party colleague gets it right
The Government has granted the speakers working visas to visit New Zealand. Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway issued a media release on Friday that included these comments:
“Immigration NZ’s decision in no way condones the views expressed by the pair, which are repugnant to this Government and run counter to the kind and tolerant values of the vast majority of New Zealanders . . . I understand that many people would prefer it if Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux never set foot in New Zealand. However, the Immigration Act and immigration instructions have clear criteria for the granting of a visa, including certain character requirements, all of which I have been advised the pair meet.
“Neither speaker has been convicted of a crime, nor banned from the United Kingdom or Australia as has been previously reported.”
Scandalmongering and/or erroneous reporting, eh? Or more ‘fake news’ media manipulation, perhaps?
Mr Lees-Galloway also told Radio NZ:
“The grounds on which someone can be excluded from New Zealand involve things like being involved in a terrorist organisation, being convicted of a crime or have clearly been involved in inciting violence.
“None of those applied to those two people.”
Precisely! That is what the law should consider. The Minister has upheld the rule of law and human rights and not buckled to the pressure of a vocal minority or made a politically expedient decision. He also has made it clear that he does not endorse the speakers’ views, calling them ‘repugnant’.
What happens next
On Monday 23 July at 3pm, the Mayor and council were to file in court and serve on the FSC, the council’s evidence in response. The day after, the FSC’s legal submissions are due.
The lawyers for the Mayor and council as well as the lawyers for the Human Rights Commission must file their legal submissions by 5pm Friday.
The Court hearing for the FSC application for orders overturning the Mayor’s decision is set down for hearing in the Auckland High Court at 10am Monday 30 July. The hearing is expected to be open to the public and all freedom of speech supporters are encouraged to come along.
A David and Goliath battle
The FSC has enough money to initiate this process and its lawyers are working at discounted rates. However, with everything the Council is throwing at the FSC, it is going to need all the help it can get to succeed against the an anti-free-speech Council. And probably an anti-free-speech Human Rights Commission, as well.
Perhaps you can help the cause by contacting like-minded New Zealanders, pointing them to this blog post and encouraging them to match any contribution you may have made to the Coalition’s fighting fund?
Donations can be made by clicking here, or via internet banking direct to the FSC’s bank account: 01-0527-0680196-000. (Note: some bank systems will only allow two zeros)
1Law4All hopes that the Free Speech Coalition will be as open and honest as Auckland council is not and keep the public updated with progress.
An old saying comes to mind: If you don’t stand for something, then you’ll fall for anything!