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DAVID FARRAR: Vic Uni shows how under threat free speech is

The new Victoria University Vice-Chancellor decided to have a forum at the university about free speech and academic freedom as it is obviously a topical issue, and the Government is looking at legislating some carrots or sticks for universities to uphold their obligations under the Education and Training Act.

They had a great panel of five speakers, being:

  • Law Professor Nicola Moreham from Victoria University (expert on media law)

  • Emeritus Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland (activist and academic)

  • Dr John Byron from the Queensland University of Technology (former president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations)

  • Jonathan Ayling from the Free Speech Union

  • Michael Johnston from the New Zealand Initiative (former VUW Associate Dean)

There were 600 people keen to attend. The VUW staff also reached out to others with an interest in the area and had us do a two minute video segment with our views. It’s the sort of event that is so badly needed.

But it got cancelled, or at least postponed. Why? The Post reports:

Five academics and public figures were set to debate free speech on university campuses on Monday, but backlash within Victoria University has seen the event postponed.

More than 600 people had registered their interest in attending the event, a panel discussion about the role of universities in free speech.

But earlier this week the university postponed the event with a notice saying “the mere framing of this event has surfaced a depth of feeling and a polarisation of views on how we should proceed, that has made it challenging to even schedule a conversation about how to have challenging conversations”.

So what does that mean? We find out:

Student association president Marcail Parkinson said that context had not been clear and people “freaked out” when they saw the panel line up, which looked like a platform for “right wing voices”, with the involvement of Free Speech Union president Jonathan Ayling and the New Zealand Initiative’s Dr Michael Johnston.

She was glad to see the event was postponed and being reformatted. “That’s 100% the right thing to do in this scenario, when you make a mistake, to say actually we realise we made a mistake and we’re going to try and fix it.”

Student protests had been planned for Monday’s event, Parkinson said, and it remained to be seen whether they would go ahead for the reformatted event.

So the panel got cancelled because it had two speakers on there who might have right wing views (the same views the majority of the country voted for at the last election). Some (I bet very few) students were unhappy that two people whose views they disagree with would be allowed to be heard by 600 people who wanted to hear from them.

If ever one wanted proof of how free speech on campus is now a crisis, this is it. You can’t even have a panel discussion on the topic, unless it is exclusively made up of people with left wing views.

The forum is well intentioned, and I hope it still happens. But the cancellation or postponement has starkly shown more than ever that the status quo is unacceptable, and the Government does need to intervene to ensure universities live up to their statutory obligations around academic freedom and free speech.

David Farrar runs Curia Market Research, a specialist opinion polling and research agency, and the popular Kiwiblog where this article was sourced. He previously worked in Parliament for eight years, serving two National Party Prime Ministers and three Opposition Leaders.

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230 comentarios

I kinda like free speech, it enables me to challenge the echo chamber which is B.B. & H. I can also call our PM an all time, 18 carat, A1 certified moron and know I won't be crushed by a tank in the middle of town or abducted in the middle of the night and sentenced to 30 years in a Gulag. Fortunately I'm not privy to any back room conspiracies, Julian Assange was not so lucky?

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Contestando a

We can indeed enjoy the privilege of free thought and speech but only as long as it does not influence too many others and threaten the authority and power of the minority of influential political party members and funders that have taken over the political system and our government while the rest of us were talking but doing nothing about it. However, that privilege is slowly being taken from us and will continue to be taken because those "elites" want even more authority and power to regulate and control our lives. Of course, they say it is "for the common good" but that is just denial of their real agendas and ambitions. Our NZ equivalent of "Big Brother" is watch and listening for…

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Any government department, any media organizations the taxpayer funds , every institution of higher education we fund are dependent upon us.

This is rough. Because, as always,

There are always 2 sides to a coin.


Let the institutions that profess to know what's best continue.

There is a very simple way to end it.

You make space in the market for competitive behavior and competition in every aspect of this countries future, and I mean everything.

I couldn't care less whether it's education,health I couldn't care less if it's in the most important fields of our lives.

You want to beat them.?

Do it better.

There's more than enough knowledge and understanding in new Zealand, privately owned, that understan…

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30 abr
Contestando a

Alleluia! brother.

There are many among us have been advocating for a free and open market for over 5o years.

All we have ever been given in this supposed land of plenty; once surreptitiously known as Godszone, is more controls, restrictions, licensing, along with further monopoly producing bullshit. (Known in Chicago gangsters world as protection rackets)

Beware Capitalism, the Labor movement cried! and all the time the psychopaths among them were pulling the rug from under the feet of every freeman in the country.

Beware of Socialism, the Capitalists cried! as the psychopaths among them further infiltrated and took control of the freeman's supposed bastion....

Final result: a monopoly of civil servants down in psycho Central doing the bidding o…

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I'd have loved to have sat in a smoko room with Billy t every day of the week.

Aaron 👍

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30 abr
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Here is the full skit. These guys must have been clairvoyant ..... love the Bassett connection..... not to mention the 21 bum salute. Like you Aaron there is a tear or two in my eye.

What happened to this country.?.... that woke horse and her breed of cross bred brumby ponies have a lot to answer for

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But that is only tactics.

Strategy requires what Charles Morgan wrote ( in 1942, London) :

‘Is there not a sense in which it is true to say, not merely that the past must be interpreted by history, but that neither the present nor the future can be imagined except through an imagining of the past? Without this one is in peril of falling into a blind search for scapegoats. …’

Dismissing idiots is almost accomplished. But territory must be retaken, and held.

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True, the statement of the problem, and easy, if done correctly, the application of the remedy, which you gave in the last paragraph.

Actors and actors-out, within academia and journalism are more susceptible to incentives than the average person. The PIJF proved that. That’s a nice way of saying liars would sell their granny’s … posteriors and call it virtue, if it pays.

Done correctly, it would be without drama, but anyone for free speech who hopes for that is thinking as the opponents of free speech do, whose metier is flamboyance and distraction.

The protestors at Parliament grounds were serious - Speaker Mallard misjudged them and his tactics turning on the sprinklers.

A slow drip of diminishing coin and…

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