Free Speech Union Debate at Otago University.

FREEDOMS and SPEECH.               17/08/22

My Name is Lee Vandervis, one of 14 elected Dunedin City Councillors.

Today I am not speaking on behalf of the City or the DCC, but giving my personal view of freedoms in New Zealand, and how they have changed in recent years.

I have long been concerned about the erosion of freedoms by our Central Government,  but in the past have kept my focus on local issues to help protect Dunedin citizens.
Central governments, both National and Labour have long ignored Dunedin and invested elsewhere because there are no marginal seats here, not enough swinging voters to change from the solid Labour vote.

Much has been changing in Central Government that is now beginning to have major effects for Dunedin,  with increasing bureaucracy, constant increases in compliance legislation, and now serious erosion of our personal rights and freedoms.

For me Prime Minister Ardern’s self-crowning as the ‘single source of Truth’ with regards to Covid science was the last straw.

Mandela  “No single person, no body of opinion, no political doctrine, no religious doctrine, can claim a monopoly on Truth”.

And yet here we are in NZ, with what we long believed was a Democratic and open society with a free press, succumbing to censorship, hate-speech legislation, and increasing suppression of free speech.    

I am indebted to MP Michael Woodhouse for highlighting in the House, our own Prof Flynn’s book ‘A Book Too Risky To Publish’ : Free Speech And Universities.

 “The good society designates the university, above all, as its primary institution to pursue truth, with the added role of graduating students who have full autonomy and can seek the truth throughout their lives.

The good university offsets whatever harm it may do as a censor in four ways. First, accustoming students and staff to tolerate free debate however disturbing. Second, forcing them to face objections to their own beliefs that they would not normally hear (outside the university). Third, making them realize that you can have knowledge rather than mere opinion only if you can defend your beliefs against all plausible objections that can be put to them. Fourth, giving students the kind of knowledge and intellectual skills they need to be intelligently critical, not only of their own views but also the conventional views they are bombarded with by politicians and the media.

Flynn gives a detailed history of the suppression of free speech, and the importance of free speech in the development of science [Galileo], and human quality of life generally.

He details how suppression of free speech in the West used to be largely suppression by conservative forces, but that since around 1955 suppression has been largely coming from the far-left of the political spectrum, till today, as we see here currently, Freedom of Speech has become a centre right cause.

As Erich Fromm says, the powerless man’s only weapon is the truth. No matter who is in power, the best road to truth is to allow your critics to speak and try to refute what they say (or adjust your views if they are correct).

What does FREEDOM mean to you?

Is it to be ‘as free as a bird’, able to fly anywhere and chirp all it likes?

Many countries now have Constitutions that guarantee rights and freedoms, but here in New Zealand we have a less ironclad protection of freedoms called the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The chirping is Right #14, Freedom of expression, and the flying is Right #18 Freedom of movement.
Since 1990 these Fundamental Rights and Freedoms have been taken for granted, and warnings that we must constantly be vigilant about their maintenance have been ignored.   
In discussions of new Government Covid legislation I was surprised how few people knew that New Zealand has a Bill of Rights, and even fewer knew what was in it.

When I posted two topical Rights on my FaceBook page I was even more surprised at the 376 comments, most of them critical and some nasty.
FB an important safety valve where people can vent without serious consequences, in some cases under false names with immunity allowing the unpleasant habit of trolling.

Right #14 says “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”
I am exercising right 14 now, imparting information and some of my opinions.
It seems that many people feel so threatened that they do not want the right to freedom of speech, especially if it somebody else saying something they find offensive.
There is a strange social symptom of anxious or fearful people that makes them afraid of choice – To quote the DEVO chorus “Freedom of choice – is what we’ve got. Freedom from choice, is what we want.”

Freedom from our having choice is what our Government wants because it makes us more easily controllable, and the Government Elite less vulnerable. 

People also don’t want to hear opinions that make them feel uncomfortable, and our Government of Elites has fanned such fears in order to pass laws that limit the our Rights and make us easier to control. ‘Freedom of speech’ has been reduced by new Hate Speech laws justified by the appalling Christchurch Mosque massacre with the dubious claim that Hate Speech radicalises potential murders. Benjamin Franklin said that “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

He also said that “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”
Check the meanings of ‘Groupthink’ and ‘Codependence’.

Our Government which claims to promote equality and a classless society has first set up Elite classes of their own that have Freedoms which we are being denied.

The Ardern Government has used unprecedented billions to undermine our Bill of Rights and buy media compliance to convince us of the necessity of reducing our Freedoms ‘for the greater good’.
All Freedoms come with limits and the responsibility not to harm others.

Freedom is not the right to do as we please, but is the opportunity to do what is right. Our Government is not always doing what is right, but what increases Government power over us.

 Is it right that we are losing the right to Freedom of Expression?
My mother’s reassurance of ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ no longer applies, and if I have said something today that someone here finds hateful I can be now be charged with a criminal offense that attracts serious penalties.

Beware also politicians twittering on that what they are doing is for “the people, the people, the people”, when it is usually for ‘the money, the money, the money’ to be controlled by their Elites.

Governments everywhere are driven to expand their power and control over us economically, and use our money to further their expansion aims.

Our Bill of Rights is sometimes all that stands against Government’s wider-control, so we need to know our Rights and work to maintain them.

  So what can we do to try and regain the full Freedoms and Rights we had only a few years ago?
If you are not Free then you are a Slave…

As Ezra Pound said “A Slave is one who waits for someone to free him.”

We must not wait.
We can begin with ourselves, to decide that we really want Freedom of Speech, and that this and our other Freedoms are worth fighting for.
We need to act, often in many small ways, to resist unnecessary impositions, to question new compliance rules, to debate with others personally, and on social media if you can bear the insults.
Read the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and decide what are acceptable limits on Freedoms which prevent your Rights imposing on the Rights of others.
Search both mainstream and less-Government-subsidised media to learn what changes are being made to our Freedoms, find out who is making those changes and who is resisting them, take notes and vote accordingly.
Look up the term Sovereign Citizen, and decide if you believe that people are born free with rights — but that these natural rights are being constrained by corporations and governments who are artificial corporations.
How much do you really need Big Brother protection and intrusions of the State?
Recognise that extreme cynicism gets you nearest the Truth, and that there is no ‘single source of Truth’.
Know that ordinary people are often afraid to speak out and often have similar concerns to you.

Listen openly to others, avoid pre-packaged views, don’t just accept the Party Line or running with the crowd.

To be free as a bird we need to be centred in our own nature, to be confident in expressing ourselves and to let our spirits fly…

Thank you for this opportunity of letting me exercise Right #14 of the NZ Bill of Rights.

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