Today we are told that there will be an addition to the crimes act on Hate Speech and new intelligence agencies as the failure to ensure Brendon Tarrant did not have a gun license within a few weeks of arriving in NZ (and changing the law to allow applications for automatic weapons to be done online) led to the death of a pile of people in two Christchurch mosques.
The pushback on this is coming.
We say that limiting the freedoms of New Zealanders is a cowardly, short-sighted and pointless response to a terror attack designed to make this country more fearful and closed-minded.
The Government has been planning to legislate hate speech for a while, and the use of a national tragedy to cover this move makes it so much more difficult to motivate public opposition to restrictions on free speech.
The new offence will be based on inciting “racial or religious disharmony” including by intent to “stir up” or maintain “insulting communications”. Depending on the final wording of the section, we say that is a dangerously low threshold.
The UK has seen what happens when vague, far-reaching powers to police speech are implemented:
a blogger is arrested and charged for causing “gross offence” for sharing a video of his dog doing a Nazi salute.
a journalist is investigated by the Metropolitan Police for a comment made by his guest deemed racist.
and 120,000 “non-crime hate incidents” are recorded, which put people’s jobs and livelihoods in jeopardy despite no crime being committed.
This isn’t dystopian fiction. This isn’t 1984. This is the reality of hate speech laws.
We have the opportunity to avoid this nightmare, but only if New Zealanders and our politicians get the message that criminalising speech will not make people safer.
Today we will be sitting down to plan a major campaign to convince the public that hate speech laws are dangerous – and that Christchurch should not be used as an excuse to erode our freedoms.
If you don’t allow ugly speech you don’t have free speech. You can have laws against libel. You need to be careful about blasphemy laws — and hate speech is a blasphemy law — because that means dissension may move from speech to terror.
We had an example of terror this morning.
Ben shine and Thomas Bell are disappointed they won’t be graduating today.Ben shine and Thomas
The university said it received a threat to its upcoming graduation ceremonies.
“It is with deep regret the University announces it is postponing today’s graduation ceremonies and associated events due to a security threat,” the university said on its Facebook page.
It said police strongly recommended that the graduation ceremonies scheduled for today did not go ahead.
Two graduation ceremonies were planned to go ahead at 1pm and 4pm today.
“The safety of everyone who is planning to attend the ceremonies and the wider Dunedin community is at the heart of this difficult decision,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said.
“We realise this is incredibly distressing to everyone who was planning to take part in the ceremonies. For many, this was the replacement ceremony because of previous cancellations due to COVID-19. The University shares your disappointment.”
The procession dissipating after news the graduation ceremony was being postponed.
Ben shine, a student who was looking forward to graduating today, said he was “pretty gutted” as it was the second time his graduation ceremony has been cancelled.
“It’s pretty annoying to have the whānau down and have to disappoint but you know, better to be safe than sorry.”
Student Thomas Bell said he was also disappointed but that he wasn’t surprised.
“It’s been a turmoil year and it would be remiss not to take it [the threat] seriously.”
A dad who travelled down from Auckland for the ceremony agreed with the students and said he had been really looking forward to it [the ceremony].
He said chances are he probably won’t be able to make it back but he’ll make the best of the situation while he is there.
The Singh family at the graduation parade.
Leigh Friday, a mum who travelled to the university from Wellington to watch her son graduate, said it was hugely disappointing after what started of as such an exciting day, recognising the culmination of years of hard work.
“It’s so sad that a rite of passage has been abruptly hijacked by a threat,” she said. “The disappointment from both the students and their whānau is tangible.”
Leigh’s son, Josh Friday, said the priority was health and safety for everyone involved and he hoped it would come together but “it is what it is”.
The university said all graduands will receive information from the university as quickly as possible about future plans and updates will be posted its website.
“Please do not call AskOtago today as they would like to keep their lines clear.”
The university confirmed graduation ceremonies planned for Saturday and next week are scheduled to go ahead.
They said the they will continue to work with the police and other authorities as they investigate the threat.
This was on the advice of the police. The police are now sensitized about threats, after Christchurch.
In a standup outside the Dunedin Central Police Station at midday, Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham said the threat was aimed specifically at the university’s graduation ceremonies.
He said police and the university could not talk about the specifics of the threat and did not confirm that it had been made online.
“That said, we have increased the police presence at the campus, through the CBD and the high street. We have extra visible patrols out there and we have other specialist squads contingencies in place.”
He appealed to the person or people who sent the threat “to come forward and bring this to an end”.
“Your actions are inconveniencing a whole lot of people and causing a whole lot of pain for people that don’t really deserve to have to carry that pain. It’s not too late to come forward and do the right thing.”
Otago Daily Times staff outside the university’s dental school were earlier asked by a member of the proctor’s office to leave the area because “they are under threat here”. He would not specify why.
People wearing graduation regalia told a reporter they were asked by a man to leave the area and disperse into the central city. Several were in tears.
A fair number of people will now just get their degrees in absentia and get on with life. I hope this does not continue.
I’m not sure if this is due to the preaching about diversity, poor teaching practice, or a variation in the students as the population is changing, but our kids are not doing well.
It’s probably not the preaching of diversity. Singapore preached diversity (of a sorts) and it generally does best in these international assessments.
The Year 9 students’ scores in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) fell by the largest margins since the study began in 1994.
More than 580,000 children in 64 countries participated in the test in 2019.
Singapore topped the table in every subject and for every age group with average maths scores of 625 for nine-year-olds and 616 for 13-year-olds, and science results of 595 for nine-year-olds and 608 for 13-year-olds.
New Zealand’s scores for nine-year-olds (Year 5 students) also fell in both subjects since the last time the test was conducted in 2014/15.
But Year 9 students’ results were particularly bad. Their maths score fell 11 points to 482 and their science score fell 14 points to 499 on a scale where 500 is the midpoint.
The study showed the students performed worst in algebra and chemistry questions, and best at data and probability, and earth science.
It found New Zealand had one of the biggest achievement gaps in maths based on the number of books students had at home with 90 percent of students with lots of books meeting or exceeding the study’s benchmark for low performance, while the figure for students with few books at home was around 60 percent.
The directors of the study, Dr Ina V S Mullis and Dr Mick O Martin, from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College in the United States, said the decline in New Zealand’s 13-year-olds’ results were “a little startling”.
They said the results showed a “probably insurmountable gap” in maths achievement between Asian countries and the rest of the world, and that children’s home environment had the biggest impact on their achievement across all countries.
There is a reason this child of two teachers is now saying home school. Schools are not doing their job.