Crowd fund campaign launched to force Auckland Council to respect rights to free speech

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2018-07-09 02:50

MEDIA RELEASE:

A crowd funding campaign has been launched to raise money to bring judicial review proceedings against Phil Goff and Auckland Council for their banning of speakers Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern at Council-owned venues.

A 'Free Speech Coalition' will collect funds for the legal action, and return them if the fundraising target is not met. The Coalition has been advised that the cost of engaging lawyers and proceeding with urgent legal action will be approximately $50,000.

New Zealanders who value free speech can pledge money to this cause at www.freespeechcoalition.nz.

With a few emails over the weekend, a dozen donors have already pledged nearly $5,000. This positive response has given the Coalition the confidence to open the campaign to the general public.

A supporter of the Coalition, Melissa Derby, says, "Standing up for free speech means standing up for speech you and I may personally find repugnant. We do not endorse these particular speakers' views, but the general principle that people should be able to share, and be exposed to, controversial ideas."

"Banning a pair of populists that together have over a million Youtube subscribers sets an extraordinary low bar for state censorship.""

"Council facilities, paid for by the general public, should operate as common carriers for people of all political views. They should not discriminate based on the personal views of politicians, nor should their use be subject to the whims of those who would threaten violent protest."

Chris Trotter, who is also supporting the effort, says, "We accept the case for blocking genuine hate speech, such as incitements of violence or other illegal activity. But curbing free debate under threat of disruption is neither desirable nor acceptable in a free and democratic society. Truth is not afraid of trigger-words. Truth does not need a safe space. Truth is not a snowflake. Truth can take the heat and most certainly should not be forced to vacate the kitchen in the face of a couple of Alt-Right populists and a politically-correct Mayor."

Supporters of the group include:
Dr. Michael Bassett - Former Labour Party Minister
Dr. Don Brash - Former leader of the National and Act Parties, and former Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Ashley Church - Business Leader
Dr. David Cumin - Senior Lecturer University of Auckland
Melissa Derby - University of Canterbury Academic
Stephen Franks - Lawyer
Paul Moon - Historian and a Professor, Auckland University of Technology
Lindsay Perigo - Broadcaster
Rachel Poulain - Writer
Chris Trotter - Political Commentator
Jordan Williams - Lawyer

EDITOR'S NOTE:

Mayor Phil Goff has opened Auckland Council up to judicial review, as it is likely breaching the Bill of Rights Act (freedom of speech), and potentially the Human Rights Act (freedom from discrimination on the basis of political opinion). The Council is subject to both Acts.

This is an all or nothing campaign. If the $50,000 is not raised by 5pm Friday, then all funds will be returned to donors, and the Coalition will not proceed with further action.

The Coalition's intention is, firstly, to force Auckland Council to reopen the Bruce Mason Centre to these speakers by August 3, the date that had been scheduled for the event. Secondly, and most importantly, we aim to set a precedent demonstrating that government bodies will face firm legal consequences if they breach the rights to freedom of speech and freedom from political discrimination that are laid out in law.

Donations can be made at www.freespeechcoalition.nz, or to the following bank account:
Free Speech Coalition
01-0527-0680196-00

ENDS

Enquiries:
Melissa Derby
021 296 4606

Chris Trotter
021 144 7203


Media Release

Lindsay Perigo's picture

MEDIA RELEASE
Victory for Free Speech Coalition: Council concede Mayor Goff had no power to make speaker ban decision based on political views
MONDAY 25 JULY 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Free Speech Coalition has studied Auckland Council’s defence to the application for judicial review of the Mayor’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues. There is no attempt in the response papers to substantiate any politician’s right to decide who can and can’t be heard in Auckland’s ratepayer provided facilities.

"Free Speech has unequivocally won on the key issue," says Dr David Cumin, a Free Speech Coalition member. "The arrogant claim of power to block what the Mayor calls ‘repugnant’ speech (speech that might offend a person’s religious prejudices) gets no defence from the Council lawyers."

The Council Response concedes:
Mayor Goff did not make the decision;
He had no right to intervene or make the decision;
Regional Facilities Auckland made the decision;
RFA would not have acted on the Mayor’s instructions if he had given them;
He did not influence the decision-makers;
RFA do not and will not discriminate among users on grounds of political preference or concern about causing offence;
The decision was instead based on security concerns;
Ultimately it was due to fear of what protesters could do;
RFA thought that safety was paramount so they did not believe they needed to do more to mitigate the threats or otherwise ensure the Thug’s Veto did not prevail.
"With the Council indicating so clearly that it can’t support the Mayor’s claims, the Free Speech Coalition has won," says Dr Cumin. "New Zealanders have put together their $20s and $50s and $100s, and they’ve called the politician's bluff. They’ve told him they get to decide who they can listen to – not a Mayor spouting slogans about people he’s never met."

"The Free Speech Coalition’s main purpose for next Monday’s urgent application hearing has therefore gone. As such the request for urgent orders and a hearing, has been withdrawn. Focus will now be on the remaining question relating to the Council's duty to stand up to the 'Thugs' Veto'."

"The Coalition was never about supporting the particular speakers, it was about principle, which now the Council has conceded."

"The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?"

"All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand."

"We think Free Speech Coalition supporters will want us to ensure that a court tells Councils to ensure the Thug’s Veto does not rule in their cities. But that is an issue for a later day, and will be the key issue in the substantive proceedings later in the year, if we decide to press on."

"Auckland Council’s incompetence on this occasion would make it hard for the Court to order that the particular event go ahead, at least at the planned time and venue. We are advised that the compressed urgent timetable and rules about interim applications such as ours mean that it will not be possible to get sufficient evidence before the Court on security/safety issues, and test it."

"Unless the Police volunteer that they can handle anything unlawful the protesters might threaten, a court would be wary of unmanageable interference with the event and its attendees."

"The promoters are responsible people. They see the greater risk created by the Mayor’s incitement. Celebrities without any direct knowledge have been falling over each other to distance themselves from the manufactured bogeymen they were prompted to hate, by the Mayor."

"While it may be fair to tar Auckland Councillors with cowardice in failing to reassert control of Mayor Goff, it is not fair to blame the RFA officers. They have stated their adherence to the non-partisan principles the Free Speech Coalition defends. We welcome this significant victory."

"Both sides should now agree that the question is whether unexamined safety fears can trump fundamental values of free expression. We should agree that defining a duty to overcome the Thug’s Veto is vitally important. That should now be the main issue in the eventual substantive hearing."

Melissa Derby, another spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, says "The Mayor was wrong in the decision he made and we’ve ensured no legal precedent was set that makes it okay for an elected official to decide what we can or can’t hear. That is precisely what we wanted to achieve."

ENDS

Enquiries:
Dr David Cumin
021 369 282

Jordan Williams
021 762 542

Stephen Franks
027 492 1983

Media Release

Lindsay Perigo's picture

MEDIA RELEASE

Auckland Council flag concerns with fact that the Free Speech Coalition is "give a little" funded
SUNDAY 22 JULY 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Free Speech Coalition is calling on Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to clarify his position on the fact that the Free Speech Coalition-led legal challenge to his and the Council’s decision to deplatform Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern is being funded by mum and dad New Zealanders, after lawyers acting for Mr Goff and the Council flagged that they may try to strike out the proceedings on the basis that the court challenge is ‘litigation funded’ (i.e. crowdfunded).

“Courts have laid down rules for disclosing some parts of commercial litigation funding arrangements as they want to know if the funder’s prospect of profit might result in an abuse of the court process,” says Jordan Williams, a lawyer and one of the initial members of the Coalition. “Courts want to know if it will distort the plaintiff’s decisions, for example by unreasonably preventing settlement.”

“But New Zealand courts have never applied that approach to public interest legal action. Auckland Council knows that the people chipping in to get the court’s protection for free speech have no profit motive. None of them can benefit personally. All their benefit is altruistic; to protect against politicians misusing their power and control of public assets to stifle speech they don’t want their voters to hear. This is about principle.”

“The funding issue, while academically interesting, is an expensive distraction from the important freedom of expression issues at the heart of this case. So why are Mr Goff and the Council throwing this up as a red herring?”

“By flagging a possible challenge to the way in which the applicants’ case is funded, the Mayor and Council have forced the Free Speech Coalition and its lawyers to divert valuable resources to address a side issue. Unlike the Council, we do not have unlimited money to spend on this litigation. ”

“More than a thousand New Zealanders donated to the Free Speech Coalition in order to uphold the Bill of Rights Act and the fundamental right of freedom of speech. It is outrageous that Mr Goff and the Council would even consider trying to have the claim struck out on the basis that it is crowdfunded.”

“This might just be an underhand legal tactic, designed to increase the costs to the Free Speech Coalition, a play for time, or a brain-fart that goes nowhere. But either way, Mr Goff and the Council, who are using ratepayer money to defend their decision, should make it clear that they will not try to stop ratepayers using their own money to get a judge to rule on their powers, so that we can go back to focusing on the real issue in this case: whether or not the Mayor and Council can exercise a veto over freedom of speech.”

The Free Speech Coalition launched on 9 July 2018, in response to Mr Goff’s decision to ban two controversial Canadian speakers from using Council-owned venues, and pledged to file legal proceedings if it could raise $50,000 by 5pm 13 July. It raised the target within 24 hours, and by the 13 July deadline had raised $89,000. 97 percent the total amount raised was from donations of less than $300, with 0.9 percent of donations $1000 or more, the largest being $5000.

With the funds, the Coalition engaged the public law firm Franks Ogilvie and Jack Hodder QC, and filed proceedings on 18 July.

Mr Goff who initially took full credit for the speaker ban, and said it on the basis of the speaker’s views, now says that it was the decision made by officials, and solely on the basis of safety concerns.

“The Free Speech Coalition do not endorse the views of the Canadian speakers, in fact many in the group find them repugnant. But that’s what standing up for freedom of speech is all about,” says Mr Williams.

ENDS

Enquiries:
Jordan Williams
021 762 542

A fantastic and inspirational

Richard Wiig's picture

A fantastic and inspirational speech. Yes, shame on the Mayor and the thought police, but it isn't surprising coming from them. What I can't fathom is when a supposed libertarian lover of freedom belittles and denigrates the man, claiming that he stands for nothing. There lies an even greater shame.

It's time to admire the West

Bruno's picture

What a great speech by Stefan Molyneux in Melbourne!!

"It's time to to admire the West!"

Is this the terrible man the though police wants to ban in New Zealand!? Shame!!

#TheWestistheBest! #FreeSpeech!

Australia Interview

Bruno's picture

Stefan and Lauren have been interviewed by Sky News Australia!

Media Release

Lindsay Perigo's picture

MEDIA RELEASE:

Proceedings now filed against Mayor Goff and Auckland Council

The Free Speech Coalition has now filed proceedings against Mayor Goff and Auckland Council under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

This came after the Coalition presented the Mayor with an open letter suggesting he avoid the cost of litigation by reopening discussions with the promoters of the event in question.

The open letter outlined:

The Council declined to discuss security concerns with organisers or Police prior to Phil Goff's tweet.

There was no time pressure justification for the Council's sudden, uninformed decision.

So far no privately-owned venues in Auckland have been found to be available or suitable in such a short time frame.

In Australia, all but one of the venues hosting the speakers are owned by local councils or state government. There is no reason for Auckland to be an outlier.

The Council has left the Coalition with no other option but to seek urgent judicial relief.

The Coalitions gets the impression the Mayor is eager for the Police to say they can't uphold their duty to keep the piece and protect free speech – a sad contrast with Australia that we never expected.

Coalition member Melissa Derby says, “The Council’s arbitrary and uninformed decision making process suggests bias, prejudgment, and indifference to the fundamental freedoms outlined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. It’s regrettable to see the Mayor digging his heels in when we have given him every opportunity to reconsider and avoid litigation costs.”

David Cumin, a member of the Coalition and also a plaintiff in the proceedings, says, “Despite his earlier tweets, Mr Goff now claims it wasn’t about banning the speakers because of their political views, but about safety. What he risks is delivering a ‘heckler’s veto’, where potential protesters get to decide who Aucklanders can hear from or associate with.”

“This action is to ensure that politicians and officials aren't allowed to discriminate against views they dislike when it comes to ratepayer-funded venues, regardless of how broadly 'unacceptable' the views might be.”

The plaintiffs in this action are:

Axiomatic Media – the promoters of the Southern/Molyneux event.
Malcolm Bruce Moncrief-Spittle – a bookseller living in Dunedin.
David Cumin – an Auckland ratepayer and member of the Free Speech Coalition.

The defendants are:

Regional Facilities Auckland (Auckland Live)
Auckland Council
Mayor Phil Goff

The statement of claim and application for urgency and interim orders are available here and here.

ENDS

Contact numbers:
Melissa Darby – 021 296 4606
David Cumin – 021 369 282

Richard

Sam Pierson's picture

You rascal you, not heeding the learn-ed instruction on offer. The likes of you, and this 50k basket of rapscallions, do not understand free speech! Nor that people deploy TACTICS! (shudder)

In the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, Mr Cresswell's contribution most certainly would have been to raise the pressing issue of the property damage suffered by the ship-owners.

The chap hasn't figured that sometimes it's better to pass over in silence.

Media Release

Lindsay Perigo's picture

MEDIA RELEASE:

Statement by Free Speech Coalition on details of legal action

The Free Speech Coalition can confirm it will this week be filing judicial review proceedings against Auckland Council for its ban on two Canadian speakers from Council-owned venues. The pro-free speech group believes the Council and/or Mayor acted in breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993.

Today the group’s lawyers are writing to the Council to clarify the Mayor’s conflicting statements to media about whose decision it was to ban the speakers, and the reasons for the ban.

The Free Speech Coalition undertook to refund any and all donations if the $50,000 target was not reached before 5pm Friday. In fact, the group exceeded the target by more than 50 percent, with the original fundraising target raised within 24 hours of the group's launch last Monday afternoon. The additional funds have enabled the group to engage Jack Hodder QC, who will be lead counsel. The instructing solicitors will be specialist public lawyers Franks Ogilvie.

Action is expected to be taken for breaches under both the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (freedom of expression) and the Human Rights Act (freedom from political discrimination).

As of today, the Coalition has received donations from 1,061 donors, ranging from $3 to $5,000. Seventy-five per cent of the amount raised is from donations of less than $300.

ENDS

Thought Criminals

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Banning people from entering a Western nation due to Thought Crime is terrifying. Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern seem massively innocuous. Not like Nazis, commies, or muzzies. But I've heard Michael Savage [firebrand conservative radio guy in USA] and Pamela Geller are banned from Britain. Depressing and horrifying.

Auckland Free Speech Rally went well...

Olivia's picture

here is the livestream which Rightminds posted with our four speakers - some clearer than others.
We had a few protesters protesting our rally, they were really ugly, smelly hippies on the whole. Eye

https://www.facebook.com/right...

On the one hand they are

Richard Wiig's picture

On the one hand they are oafs. On the other they are master manipulators.

Acting PM

Sam Pierson's picture

The Acting PM also announced the purchase of some serious military hardware with real weapons.

So he's defending free speech, and the nation's material interests.

The tone of things have changed some, no? Good times.

Good luck with this campaign. Heartening response.

Acting Prime Minister Says ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

“It’s one of the most fundamental freedoms that we have and we should be very careful who we expel on that cause, because the downstream historic 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 from theirs. It’s not enhancing our society.”

—Winston Peters, July 9, 2018

Reason in the Southern hemisphere? Or not?

Bruno's picture

I hope NEW ZEALAND will prove that it is still a proud colony of Civilization, and not "Aoteaora" or whatever that gawd awful primitive tribal name the dinkies call it. Hit this leftist clown of a mayor with all the legal action you've got!

Surprisingly heartening news

gregster's picture

..yet surprisingly, when expecting positivity at such a development, certain conspicuous Kiwis are not taking it seriously and reaffirming a rationalist bias: berks are going berserk over the so-called “death of free speech”

Fantastic news!

Olivia's picture

Goes to show how seriously Kiwis are taking this issue. Very refreshing and heartening! Smiling

Coalition's Press Release

Lindsay Perigo's picture

MEDIA RELEASE:

Free speech campaign reaches initial fundraising target; Auckland Council will face legal action

In less than 24 hours, the Free Speech Coalition has reached its $50,000 fundraising goal and will be engaging lawyers to bring judicial proceedings against Auckland Council for its ban on Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux at Council-owned venues.

Chris Trotter, who is supporting the Coalition, says, "Thank you to every New Zealander who has dug deep to support such an important cause."

“We had hoped to raise this money by 5pm Friday. However, within the first day of this campaign we have been completely swamped by people pledging money to the cause – from $5 to $5,000.”

Melissa Derby, another supporter of the Coalition, says, “We look forward to setting a strong legal precedent that shows the use of publicly-owned venue cannot be dictated by the political whims of those in power.”

“For us this is not about helping these particular speakers, but in defending the rights of all New Zealanders to express and hear controversial views.”
EDITOR'S NOTE:

The Coalition reached its target just after 1pm today.

The Coalition continues to welcome donations – any funds raised beyond the $50,000 target will be put to good use on engaging leading lawyers for this action, to take on the Council's big guns. Any leftovers will be used for promoting and advancing freedom of speech and democracy within New Zealand.

The largest single donation/pledge was $5,000. The next largest was $2,500. In total, there were more than 700 donations in the last 24 hours.

ENDS

Another Run on the Board

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Money target has been met. But don't let that stop you contributing if you haven't yet!

A Run on the Board

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Immigration NZ have changed their mind and told Lauren she may now enter NZ.

@Lauren_Southern

This is so bizarre. Thanks I guess? Now if we could be unbanned from our venue that’d be great

Gutless, Gormless, Goofy, Evil Seymour

Lindsay Perigo's picture

ACT leader-from-behind, David Seymour, who should have been among the first voices to protest the banning of Stefan and Lauren, finally comes out with:

Defending free speech

First things first: Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern are, as Canadians would say, nuttier than squirrel poo.

Free Press takes the view that ratepayers shouldn’t have to fund venues like the Bruce Mason Centre.

However, if we are going to fund venues for political speeches, then the council shouldn’t censoring what is said.

Publicly-funded venues should host an open contest of ideas.

The situation would be different if the pair were inciting violence, but it appears they are not.

A free society needs provocative people even if they hold opinions only a small minority agree with.

"Nuttier than squirrel poo"? That's just David expressing a Politically Correct view that is about on a par intellectually with his "dancing" with the stars aesthetically. On the crap TV show, that just means he's a clunker; on the national stage morally and politically, it means he's evil.

Of course we all know that ratepayers shouldn't have to fund venues like the Bruce Mason Centre. Note, however, this is the first time Gutless Gormless Goofy Seymour has said such a thing. But given that ratepayers are funding such centres, yes, "the council shouldn't be censoring what is said." Duh, David!

It "appears" the couple are not inciting violence??!! Has Seymour been paying the least amount of attention??!!

Gutless Gormless Goofy continues:

"A free society needs provocative people even if they hold opinions only a small minority agree with."

His party has always exiled provocative people, and, as a tool of George Soros, sought to flood New Zealand with Islamosavages of the very kind who have now closed down the visit by Stefan and Lauren.

Deport Seymour to Iran! And Bridges and Ardern! New Zealand for believers in free speech and Western Civilisation!

Good on Chris Trotter. Needs

Mark Hubbard's picture

Good on Chris Trotter. Needs saying.

Will be donating tonight or tomorrow.

[Kudos to you, also, Linz.]

Here's really disappointing thing: not one sitting MP or working journo from the fourth estate - once the champion of free speech - has put their name to this campaign (worse, Bridges said on radio this morning he thought Goff did right thing. Reckon Collins needs to roll him soon).

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