Jordan Williams
Free Speech Coalition

Responding to the judgement of the Court of Appeal on the Free Speech Coalition’s legal action against Regional Facilities Auckland Ltd, Coalition spokesperson Jordan Williams says:

“Today’s judgement represents a significant improvement on that made by the High Court.”

“We won on the point that Bill of Rights Act obligations (including freedom of speech) apply to councils and their subsidiaries that control public venues. In other words, Councils can’t hide behind ‘independent’ managers.”

“We secured a terse reversal of the lower court’s incomprehensible ruling that we were not bringing a case of public interest and importance.”

“We secured a dismissal of the lower court’s decision that our representative plaintiffs were on a personal ‘crusade’ and did not have standing to bring the case.”

“The Court made strong statements about the importance of free speech and obligations not to assert health and safety fears without proper foundation.”

“Perhaps most significantly, we’ve had the costs award against us cut by 70 percent, because of the public interest nature of our case. This is an unusually large discount that speaks to both the merits and importance of our case.”

“We are disappointed to have lost on our key argument that the cancellation decision should have been made after much more investigation of ways to diminish the protestor threats to health and safety. The court says the speaking tour organisers were not upfront enough with the venue managers about the protest risks. We think this is a shame. In other contexts, victim-blaming is called out, but not this time.”

“The Court failed to give a clear steer on just how important it is to ensure that the Thugs’ Veto does not win. The judges have weaved around the issue, saying we do not have US-style law, and citing similar Canadian evasions where thugs have defeated free speech. They say our judges will have to develop law that suits New Zealand, but don’t take the opportunity to do so.”

The BFD. Free Speech. Cartoon credit: SonovaMin

“This legal action was started off the back of repeated public statements from Mayor Phil Goff, who boasted that he had personally taken the initiative to ban the Canadian speakers. The Mayor’s claims turned out to be false – he was not involved in the decision to cancel the event. We would have liked to see the court hold the Mayor to account for his dishonesty. We fear that the Mayor has been allowed to seed a chilling effect on groups that may wish to host events exchanging politically-unpopular ideas.”

“On balance, we are satisfied to have secured a much-improved judgement. But the murkier parts of the decision and our experience before the High Court show how vulnerable human rights can be in New Zealand. The court displayed none of the passionate commitment to defending fundamental rights it has shown in other ‘constitutional’ cases. Section 5 of our Bill of Rights gives a wide scope for courts to limited speech rights according to what judges deem reasonable. We say that is too subjective.”

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Free Speech Coalition Responds to Court of Appeal Judgement
Press Release

Press Release

This article is a press release that has been published in full and un-edited by The BFD.