Free speech shouldn't be up for debate

Sun, 28 Apr, 2019

New Zealanders’ fundamental right to freedom of expression shouldn’t be up for debate as suggested by the Justice Minister today, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

Andrew Little wrote in the Herald that New Zealand needed a national discussion about new laws to deal with hateful speech but failed to specify what these new restrictions might look like.

“Fundamental rights like freedom of expression should not be up for debate or decided by a majority.

“New Zealanders want the right to freely express themselves as protected by the Bill of Rights Act, not a conversation about how that right might be further undermined.

“Little and Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt have alluded to anomalies thrown up by the Human Rights Act and Harmful Digital Communications Act.

“Some group characteristics aren’t protected, and the legal thresholds contained in each are different.

“But rather than adding to the law, these anomalies could be resolved by scrapping speech restrictions in those Acts.

“Interestingly, after calling himself a ‘free speech nutter’ in 2017, Little is now promoting new restrictions on speech. What does he really believe about freedom of expression?

“If we must have a conversation about free speech, the Justice Minister would do well to be transparent about his personal views and his plans for the law.”