27 Jul 2018

Heated debate continues as Southern-Molyneux event goes ahead

10:17 am on 27 July 2018

The controversial topic of far-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux's upcoming New Zealand event is causing a rift among groups before the duo even land in the country.

More than 100 people attended a free-speech rally in Auckland today.

More than 100 people attended a free-speech rally in Auckland on 14 July. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

The Canadian pair are known for their polarising views on topics including feminism, gender, immigration and Islam and were banned by the Auckland Council from speaking at venues it owns earlier this month.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said, in response to criticism on the ban, he was "not going to aid and abet people who spout racist nonsense by providing them with a venue."

Their promoter yesterday confirmed the duo have now secured a location after being granted work visas by Immigration New Zealand last week.

Auckland Peace Action spokesperson Valerie Morse accused the duo of hate speech and told Morning Report they were attempting to deny others their rights as human beings.

"Stefan Molyneux in his Australian talk essentially said we need to start talking about people's IQs and differences in human intelligence."

"So what we're talking about is people who want to use their so-called freedom of speech, to deny the rights of other people, even to exist as human beings"

She said she disagreed that their speeches could be labelled as free speech.

"Should freedom of speech actually just be a baton that's given to the powerful in our society to beat the powerless over the head and shoulders? Because actually I don't think that's what freedom of speech is about."

The duo's views were causing concerns among communities in New Zealand, including tangata whenua, people of colour, and Muslims, she said.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux Photo: Supplied / YouTube screen shot

"Hate speech has real-life implications for people's lives. Hate speech normalises hate in society, so about a week ago we hear President [Donald] Trump talking about the vermon infesting American society," Ms Morse said.

"These are the kinds of politics of racial hate and division that these two are bringing onto Aotearoa New Zealand."

The Free Speech Coalition crowdfunded $50,000 to launch court action in response to the pair being prevented from using the Bruce Mason Centre for their event.

However, the urgent legal action application was later withdrawn, while the bid for court action remains in process.

Free Speech Coalition member Stephen Franks told Morning Report he was not defending their views but the duo's right to speak.

"These are matters of debate... It's a right that's fundamental to our democracy," he said.

"We're not interested in what the mayor thinks, we want people to be able to hear and make up their own minds."

"We don't have a law that says 'I can block you because of what I think you might be thinking'."

New Zealand laws were clear about where the line was drawn between hate speech and free speech, he said.

"The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is very well-framed and it says if you incite, or insult, or threaten, or abuse with intent to create hostility then you commit an offence and the law," Mr Franks said.

"That is the value we're defending, we're saying there are boundaries but that is for the court not for a mayor using his power of control over public assets to say 'I don't like that speech it's divisive'.

"We desperately need to discuss divisive issues because a whole lot of people in this community feel that their views don't get heard at all."

However, citing alleged actions in Europe about blocking a migrant boat, Ms Morse said Ms Southern was not just speaking but acting on her views.

"What I'm suggesting is that these people are actually here to incite racial violence. Lauren Southern at her Australian engagement said 'together we can stop refugees from war-torn homeland from finding a safe place to live'."

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