Media Release: Free Speech Coalition astonished with winning of ‘thugs veto’ over use of Auckland public facilities

30 September 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Reacting to the decision of His Honour Justice Pheroze Jagose, Free Speech Coalition Counsel, Jack Hodder QC, said:
 
“With our clients, we will need to consider carefully what the judgment does and does not say, and consider the options, including rights of appeal.  The judgment effectively avoids having to engage with the main driver of the judicial review: that an essentially public body appears to have yielded with speed and without serious inquiry to the 'thugs’ veto'.”
 
“There is a long tradition of local authorities providing facilities used for political dialogue, notwithstanding that these may attract protests; and the essence of the judicial review was whether Regional Facilities Auckland’s existence changes that.  According to this decision, it does.”
 
Coalition Spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:
 
“We are astonished by this decision – which concludes that the decision to de-platform the Canadian speakers is not reviewable because the Council has vested the speaking venues in Regional Facilities Auckland.  It is differing the rights of freedom of speech and assembly, on the basis of the Council’s preferred ownership structure.”
 
“Effectively the Court has said to Phil Goff and other Mayors, if you want to shut out unwelcome speakers in the future, just give control of your community gathering assets to a team of hand-picked trusties who will safely suppress those you disagree with.”
 
“This is the kind of decision for which past generations of bullying local elites would have dreamed. For example they could have shut down access to unpopular religions (like the Salvation Army when it opposed the interests of publicans during the temperance campaigns) or workers promoting unions, or anti-war activists 40 years ago.”
 
“This decision could allow politicians to set up front organisations to gag the spread of vegan or vegetarian ideas in farming communities. It would also allow councils to cancel meetings held by women’s rights groups discussing whether transgender women should have access to women's toilets and changing rooms.”
 
“If we can raise the money to appeal the decision, we will be looking very closely at doing so.”

ENDS