“The world is currently facing greater challenges than it has in decades, with a pandemic, a decline in democracy and geopolitical tensions on the rise. More than ever we need to unite New Zealand behind good ideas, and that takes honest conversations about the challenges we face,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This is the worst possible time for the New Zealand Government to crack down on free speech, but that’s exactly what its proposed hate speech laws would do.

“With the public largely distracted by COVID the Labour Government intends changing free speech laws in a way that has the potential to create terrible division and resentment in New Zealand for decades to come, and ACT intends to stop it.

“From this evening in Lower Hutt I’m embarking on a tour of 13 centres across the country to rally public support to maintain New Zealand’s traditions of free speech.

“The Government is cynically using the tragedy of 15 March 2019 in Christchurch as a vehicle for pushing these changes through, with a Bill that would change the incitement provisions in the Human Rights Act to be introduced to Parliament this year.

“I’m passionate about helping New Zealanders understand that the problem with hate speech laws is they’re inconsistent with the principles of the rule of law and due process.

“What constitutes hate speech is a matter of subjective political opinion. We know what burglary is, but one person’s hate speech could be another person’s strongly held but poorly expressed view.

“It is impossible to effectively codify and will therefore stifle debate and breed resentment.

“This is obvious from the subjective nature of what Justice Minister Kris Faafoi and the Human Rights Commission say the new law will do.

“The Minister says it will criminalise speech that is ‘abusive, threatening and incites hostility,’ while the commission says it will prohibit speech that is ‘threatening, abusive or insulting.’

“Where would the line be drawn? Citizens would be subject to ever-changing interpretations of what constitutes this redefined criminal act.

“The decision to prosecute will become selective and arbitrary. People won’t know they’ve committed a crime until they’ve been convicted.

“Democracy and the ability to have civil and honest conversations is already becoming imperilled, which is why this is the worst possible time to empower lynch mobs who choose to take offence at ideas they don’t support.

“I am the first person to say we could all do better at being respectful in the way we deal with each other, but redefining free speech as a criminal offence will have the opposite effect as it is inconsistent with the rule of law.”

David Seymour’s Free Speech Tour

14 April – Lower Hutt

15 April – Pukekohe

16 April – Whangarei

20 April – North Shore

21 April – Napier

22 April – Tauranga

27 April – Nelson

28 April – Queenstown

29 April – Wanaka

30 April – Invercargill

1 May – Balclutha

6 May – New Plymouth

7 May – Hamilton