Food for thoughtI disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. –Voltaire’s biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall

by Roger Childs

Karl du Fresne is not afraid to speak his mind and to the credit of the Fairfax press it publishes his views. This week he wrote about the desire of the government to tighten up the laws prohibiting hate speech. Among other things, he pondered :–

  • whether the current laws are perfectly adequate
  • how you define “hate speech”
  • who would decide what it is?

He also speculated on the possibility that tightening the laws could be the thin end of a wedge to undermine crucial freedoms in our democratic way of life.

Readers will remember that Don Brash was not allowed to speak at Massey University last year on the whim of the Vice Chancellor who gave “security problems” as her reason, but later conceded she had personal objections to the Doctor’s views.

Also in 2018, Nelson historian Bruce Moon was turned down by the Nelson City Council from talking on the Treaty of Waitangi at a civic facility. Both men did eventually speak to large crowds without incident.

A fundamental underpinning of our democracy is the right to express views freely, provided they don’t incite racial disharmony or hostility against minorities. So opinions that favour contentious issues such as banning 1080; abolishing the Maori seats; tightening abortion laws; bringing back the death penalty – need to be heard.

The democratic freedoms we enjoy today have been hard won, and a one-off slaughter in Christchurch by an Australian citizen should not result in unnecessary law tightening. By all means, ban sub-machine guns, but leave our right to free speech alone!