Update: Free Speech Coalition Withdraws Goff Complaint Claims victory

CAPTION: Coalition says Morning Report wanted Brash for a Punch and Judy show.

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 As such the request for urgent orders and a hearing, has been withdrawn.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.”

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