Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A worrying precedent for National

Readers of this blog may be interested in the following speech by National MP Simon O’Connor, which I lifted from the Bassett Brash and Hide website.

MP Simon O'Connor: a fine speech about free speech (

O’Connor was speaking last week during the first reading of the Education and Training (Freedom of Expression) Bill sponsored by ACT MP James McDowall, under which tertiary education institutions would be incentivised to provide proper protection for academic freedom and free speech.

Of course this shouldn’t be necessary, since McDowall pointed out when his Bill was drawn from the ballot last year that statutes already require tertiary education institutions (including universities) to do exactly that. But as we know, some have sidestepped their obligations by using spurious health and safety excuses – such as the threat of “mental harm” – as pretexts for de-platforming speakers they don't like. McDowall’s Bill would have sought to prevent that by requiring institutions to adopt freedom of expression codes of practice at the risk of being defunded, or having their grants reduced, if they didn’t comply.

Needless to say, the Bill fell at the first hurdle. National and ACT supported it but Labour and the Greens ensured it proceeded no further.

Labour MP Shanan Halbert (no, I hadn’t heard of him either) argued that universities needed to protect students against homophobes, transphobes and racists. His colleague Angela Roberts talked about the need for "safe spaces" (was there ever a more perniciously whiny phrase?) and said Parliament should trust universities to regulate themselves so as to guard against falsehoods and misinformation. Chloe Swarbrick was worried about free speech absolutism and the need to achieve a balance between competing rights. Labour’s Jo Luxton said she believed in free speech, but … (ah, that “but” word again. It’s funny how often it comes into conversations about free speech). You can read Hansard’s report of the debate here.

But back to O’Connor. His speech was a tad theatrical – melodramatic, even – for my taste, but it was notable because here was a vanishingly rare political spectacle: a National Party MP speaking with conviction on a matter of important principle. This sets a disturbing precedent in the party and I can’t see it doing his career any good at all.  


Gary Peters said...

"a National Party MP speaking with conviction on a matter of important principle. This sets a disturbing precedent in the party and I can’t see it doing his career any good at all. "

I have always warned people with their tongues wedged in their cheek to be careful lest they sneeze.

You do make a good point but I doubt that his position will lead him into hot water but his courage in exhibiting it might.

Doug Longmire said...

Go Karl !!
I watched that video several times over. The points that Simon was making are actually the crux of the matter.
1/ Yes - the universities are no longer the intellectual centres for critical analysis and truth seeking. That is all so last century !!
2/ They are now totally Left/woke and are enforcing good old Communists style suppression of free speech (translation - ATTACK and DESTROY the speaker)

Madame Blavatsky said...

Those who are apparently the most sensitive about issues such as “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average “underprivileged” Maori, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person. Many do not even belong to any “oppressed” group themselves, and instead come from a relatively elevated strata of society. Most typically they are people from the political left (whether explicitly or implicitly), and, crucially, the leftists themselves believe that the groups they seek to “protect” are indeed inferior. They would never admit to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems.

Leftists tend to hate anything has an appearance of being strong, good and successful. They hate what may be termed traditional (i.e. Anglo-European) New Zealand society, they hate Western civilization, they hate White males, and they hate rationality. They hate free speech too, because, not only does it allow their dogma to be questioned and undermined, it also represents the fundamental value placed on freedom of thought and expression that was a key component in the success of these societies and of those people who predominantly constitute them. The putative reasons that leftists give for wanting to protect certain groups from “harmful speech” and the like, clearly do not correspond with their real motives.

Relatedly, the leftist hates activities such as science and the results of rational inquiry because these activities classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior). The leftist’s feelings of inferiority run so deep that he or she cannot tolerate any classification of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or inferior, and worse, that people should be allowed to talk about and learn about such classification.

Mark Wahlberg said...

Its been suggested after 11 years in parliament Simon O'Connor has found his voice and delivered the performance of his career. Lets not forget his gold plated super scheme is safe and well should he suffer the unintended consequences of his forthright opinions.

I believe Mr O'Connor's superior is the well known globalist and successor to John Key's crown, Mr Christopher Luxon. While Mr O'Connor is the member for Tamaki.

R Singers said...

Here's an interesting read along similiar lines about the American experience

Gary Peters said...

Hi Mark.

Pretty sure the "Gold Plated scheme" was axed post 1992.

Yes, they do have a decent superannuation scheme but it is contributory and the annuity is based on contributions.

Many MPs do have self managed super schemes but such schemes are available to the general public if they can be bothered doing the leg work.

Karl du Fresne said...

I wondered about that too, Gary. It's true that the so-called "gold-plated" super scheme was closed off to newcomers in 1992, though MPs elected before then remained eligible. There's some useful information about parliamentary perks here:
and here:

Brendan McNeill said...

It does appear that the present leadership of the National Party, absent Simon Bridges, is as 'woke' as those on so called 'left' of the political spectrum, which makes Simon O'Connor's defence of Free Speech all the more laudable.

What is equally encouraging is to find we still have a conviction politician in Parliament; especially one who understand that Free Speech is a corner stone upholding all of our civil liberties.

I wonder how much Simon's Catholic faith informs his understanding of the historical foundations of personal liberty in what remains of Western Civilisation? As we enter a new age of censorship, government sanctioned definitions of truth and misinformation; hate speech, media propaganda and the emergence of a new totalitarianism, where will we find politicians with the courage to push back?

Will those driven by the 'new orthodoxy' shape our future, or is there still hope that the story that gave us liberty and human dignity will prevail?

Don Franks said...

As a life long leftist committed to freedom of speech I like the approach of University of Chicago dean of students John Elison. In a 2016 letter to students Ellison said civility and respect are "vital to all of us," and people should never be harassed. He added: "You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement.
At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

Mark Wahlberg said...

Gary and Karl, I take your point, I am guilty of generalising. But I believe they still enjoy benefits from their time in parliament not available to the hoi poloi.

I suspect it wouldn't be too hard to stash away a decent amount of super when ones earns $160000-180000 a year plus perks as a humble back bench MP.

hughvane said...

Good point about MP's incomes Mark Wahlberg. Tandoori Nachos was a major sore point in respect of that very topic years ago. He must be living the life of Riley in his post-Parl existence.

Recommended viewing therefore

Doug Longmire said...

Well said, Madame B !!!

Mark Wahlberg said...

Hugh, your mention of Nándor Tánczos brought back memories of a trip to Sydney in 2001 on family business and a visit to the Archibald exhibition at the Gallery of NSW.
Walking around the gallery looking swish and wearing my beret to blend in, I spotted Nandor getting the guided tour.
I cruised over to say hi when I was stopped by a security guard who told me it was a VIP tour,
I explained That I was the beaded blokes employer and I wanted to ask why he wasn't at work?
It was at this point I was told to leave and go do my Frank Spencer impersonation some place else.
I went back as Mark Wahlberg and nobody bothered me. Nicholas Harding was the winner that year with his portrait of John Bell as King Lear.

The perks of parliamentary privilege.

Gary Peters said...

You are correct Mark, they do have a heavily subsidised super scheme but so do most public servants and many senior execs also have a generous severance/reward package.

These things are considered when MP salaries are set and remember, although currently they are a disappointingly stupid bunch, they are our government and are regarded as executives it's just unfortunate that lsbour do not seem to fit the bill and are just bludging their way through to an end.

Hopefully that end is fast approaching.

Richard Arlidge said...

While off the topic of O’Connor’s free speech (and good on him for expressing it), since we have segued to political perks etc, one needs to check out Sean Plunket’s latest on “The Platform” regarding co-governance, the Crown and the Mahuta dynasty. Whatever the perks of office, to a certain cohort they just simply are not enough. Heads should roll, but I suspect they won't, leastwise until the next election and then oh, what might that usher in?