8 Aug 2018

Don Brash to speak about 'PC culture' at Auckland Uni

10:05 am on 8 August 2018

The University of Auckland will not be following Massey University's decision to ban former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash from giving a speech.

Former National Party leader Don Brash

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Yesterday, Massey's vice-chancellor cited safety concerns as its reason for cancelling an event planned for today.

Jan Thomas said the decision to pull the plug on former National party leader Don Brash came at a time of heightened tension over free speech and hate speech.

But Mr Brash said he believed it was his views, rather than safety concerns, that led to him being banned from the publicly-funded university.

"I'm stunned that the vice-chancellor of the university - a taxpayer-funded university in New Zealand - would ban my appearing because one or two, presumably thugs, would threaten to cause some kind of mayhem if I turn up.".

In her statement, Ms Thomas referred to Mr Brash's support for the group Hobson's Pledge, which opposes separate electoral wards for Māori.

She also cited his call to allow controversial Canadian speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux to speak in New Zealand.

Chancellor of Massey University Michael Ahie declined to speak on the matter to Morning Report, saying the decision was an operational matter for the university.

Mr Ahie said he fully supported Prof Thomas' decision.

Mr Brash was adamant he did not support the Canadians' views, but did support their right to speak here.

He said he would consider legal action over this point, saying Ms Thomas's statement may be defamatory.

"Most of it is not about security at all. It's about my alleged views on race relations and on the two Canadians."

The Free Speech Coalition, of which Mr Brash is a member, is also mulling legal action.

Coalition member Stephen Franks said there needed to be clearer guidelines about public institutions' obligations when it comes to airing controversial views.

He said the group may go to court to get clarity.

"Just a public law action - an application to the courts to give us clarity on what rights and what obligations public authorities have to make sure that people can exercise their freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of thought and speech."

However, Mr Brash's long-time opponent Hone Harawira had no sympathy for the man who delivered the Orewa speech about race relations in 2004.

"For somebody like Don Brash and those Canadians, who go on and on and on about trying to kick Māori and Pacific Islanders and our rights, and then get huffy when they're not allowed to do it, that's not the denial to the right to free speech. That's just somebody intelligent saying, 'Go and blow it in the wind, Don. Because no-one's particularly interested in hearing it."

Christian Houghton, one of the students who helped organise the Massey lecture, said he didn't think the threats which led to cancellation of the event were serious.

"We had a look and we took it to our security. They said it actually wasn't too big of a threat - everything could be easily contained."

Likewise, he doubted that the mention of a gun on Facebook was a genuine threat.

"Our belief was ... the intention was figurative rather than literal."

Act Party leader David Seymour yesterday called for Ms Thomas to stand down over her decision, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it an "overreaction".

Mr Brash is due to participate in a debate at the University of Auckland tomorrow night.

He will be speaking in favour of the motion, has PC culture gone too far to the point where it is limiting freedom of speech?

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