The Free Speech Union NZ branch

by Daphna Whitmore

Across the English speaking world free speech is threatened. Wokeness and cancel culture, which emerged from the universities in the past decade, has spread. Its ideology is postmodernism, an obscure and impenetrable outlook. Now the university graduates have taken their piousness into government departments and NGOs where they can exercise their authoritarianism.

Why has it taken hold in the Anglosphere? Toby Young who founded the Free Speech Union in Britain suggests this may be a manifestation of Puritanism, seen in cyclical episodes since the birth of Protestantism in the 17th century.

New Zealand has not been spared. Feminists who wanted to discuss a law change that would allow anyone to change the sex on their birth certificate without any checks or safeguards have been targeted by the woke mob. So too have establishment figures like Don Brash for expressing a different view to the current orthodoxy on the Treaty of Waitangi. In the NZ trade union movement discussion of the case of Maya Forstater, a woman in Britain who lost her job for stating that transwomen are male, was forbidden. The University of Canterbury put an academic through a lengthy disciplinary process for a paper critical of New Zealand Universities’ connections to the Chinese Government. A high school teacher was investigated by his employer for wearing a MAGA hat at an Auckland BLM rally and an Auckland Transport staffer was harassed and intimidated on social media for a comment on a private Facebook group which was totally unrelated to their role at Auckland Transport.

Maya Forstater, centre, sacked for saying transwomen are male

The media, with a few exceptions, toe the line fearing censure from the woke priestly class. While the woke identify as left there is no substance to their leftism. They disregard free speech, they ignore the role it played in all civil rights and liberation movements and they eschew any real clash of ideas.

Against the self appointed censors comes the Free Speech Union of NZ. It was founded a couple of years ago as the Free Speech Coalition and has now relaunched and is affiliated to the British Free Speech Union. The Free Speech Union has registered as an official union under the Employment Relations Act.

The FSU put out a statement on their relaunch:

“We’ve seen too many examples of people being ‘shut down’ for controversial views. We must defend the rights of workers to be able to express their personal beliefs without the threat of losing their job. We need to promote a culture of tolerance, including for those we disagree with. A flourishing civil society, where all New Zealander’s feel they can contribute their ideas and engage in robust and even controversial debate, is only possible when employers know that disciplining workers for stepping out of line is not an option.”

The FSU say they’ll stand up for the speech rights of their members:

  • If someone at work writes to your boss to complain about something you’ve said, we’ll write to them too and remind them of the importance of intellectual tolerance and view-point diversity.
  • If you find yourself being targeted by a digital outrage mob on social media for having exercised your legal right to free speech, we may mobilise an army of supporters.
  • If a petition is launched calling for you to be fired, when you’ve done nothing other than exercise your legal right to free speech, we may help you organise a counter-petition.
  • If you’re no-platformed by a university, we’ll encourage you to fight back, and members of our advisory councils may be able to tell you what remedies are available to you.
  • If you’re a student being investigated by your university for breaching a speech code, we may take up your case with the university.
  • If you’re punished by your employer because you’ve exercised your lawful right to free speech, we’ll do our best to provide you with assistance or refer you to specialists who can help.

I’ve joined and I encourage anyone who supports the principles of free speech to get behind this organisation too.


    • The FSU has a Statement of Values

      I. The Free Speech Union stands for freedom of speech, of conscience, and of intellectual enquiry, which we regard as the essential pillars of a free society – the foundational freedoms on which all others depend. We believe that human beings cannot generally flourish outside a free society, which means they cannot flourish in the absence of free speech. Free speech is how knowledge is developed and shared, as well as our views about morality, religion and politics. Robust debate – appealing to reason, evidence and our shared values – is also the best way to resolve disagreements about issues big and small without descending to violence or intimidation. And free speech is the most effective bulwark against abuses of power by politicians, with history demonstrating that its denial is both the aim of tyrants, because it stops people criticising them, and an ominous precursor to the removal of other freedoms.

      II. We believe that free speech is currently under assault across the Anglosphere, particularly in those areas where it matters most, such as schools, universities, the arts, the entertainment industry and the media. The aim of the Free Speech Union is to restore it and protect it.

      III. We take no position on the validity of others’ opinions, political or otherwise, whether expressed in speech, writing, performance, or in another form. However, we condemn all incitements to violence.

      IV. We expect our members not to restrict others’ freedom of speech and we hope that when engaging in discussions and disagreements they keep faith with the spirit of the Enlightenment and use reason and evidence to prosecute their case without seeking to silence opponents through harassment or intimidation. While we discourage offensive or personal attacks, particularly if based on a person’s membership of a particular group, we would not generally exclude people from joining the Free Speech Union, or eject existing members, for engaging in uncivil behaviour (although we reserve the right to do so). The Free Speech Union believes that if society doesn’t uphold the right to express controversial, eccentric, heretical, provocative or unwelcome opinions, then it doesn’t uphold free speech.

      • Thanks. A bit of a diffculty may be experienced with things that may be off topic in a particular forum. Here we have a discussion on the coming NZ schools’ history syllabus. I tried to maintain children be encouraged to investigate. It was allowed but when I started off by trying to bring historical analysis into the present it was excluded. I had asked people to think of a lesson plan teaching investigation of differing versions of current history about covid. To give one version I had linked to Peter Breggin’s interview with Eamonn Mathieson.

  1. ” in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended. The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness – and the other represents oppression”
    ― Rowan Atkinson

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