9 Jul 2018

Winston Peters would've let far-right activists speak

7:36 pm on 9 July 2018

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says he would have let two far-right Canadian activists speak in New Zealand.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux

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

Auckland mayor Phil Goff last week banned the far-right commentators - Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux - from speaking at any council venue.

The controversial speakers had planned an event at the Bruce Mason Centre on 3 August, but have since cancelled their trip to New Zealand.

At his weekly press conference, Mr Peters said, if asked, the Government would have allowed the pair to speak.

"Despite the fact that what they might have to say is the very antithesis of what nearly all of us believe here, we still believe in their freedom and the right for them to express it in free speech."

Mr Peters said free speech was one of the most fundamental freedoms.

"We should be very careful who we expel on that cause, because the downstream historical record on that has been just disastrous.

"We live in an age when all sorts of trolls are out there challenging people's right to have a different view to theirs - and it's not enhancing our society."

Mr Peters also questioned whether Mr Goff made the decision on his own or with the entire Auckland council.

National leader Simon Bridges made similar comments on RNZ's Morning Report on Monday morning, saying banning the speakers from New Zealand would be a step too far.

"I don't agree in any way with what these activists are saying," Mr Bridges said.

"[But] I think free speech matters and we need to jealously guard it."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson posted her support for Mr Goff's decision on social media over the weekend, saying "racist bigoted views aren't going to be catered for here".

She later said she faced death and rape threats after posting the comments online.

"Some quite vile disgusting death threats to me, my children... some rape threats and people just calling me the most disgusting names and abuse you could probably imagine."

Auckland Live - which runs the Bruce Mason Centre - last week tweeted the event had been cancelled because of "security concerns around the health and safety of the presenters, staff and patrons".

The decision came after Mr Goff earlier tweeted that council venues shouldn't be used to "stir up ethnic or religious tensions".

Both Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux are known for their polarising views on topics including feminism, gender, immigration and Islam.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs