Human Rights Commission may step into the free-speech court case

Victoria Young at NBR reports: Quote:

The Human Rights Commission is considering formally intervening in the court fight between a group of free speech advocates and Auckland Council.

The newly formed coalition for free speech, which crowdfunded more than $50,000 for its legal fight will take its case against Auckland Council unit Regional Facilities Auckland on July 30.

The coalition was formed after Auckland Council banned controversial Canadian right-wing activists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from holding events in publicly owned facilities. They had been expected to appear at the Bruce Mason Centre on August 3.

Although officials had cited security concerns as the reason for cancelling, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has said on Twitter that public venues should not be used to stir up ethnic or racial tensions.

The group of free speech advocates includes political analyst Chris Trotter, lawyer Stephen Franks, former politician Don Brash, businessman Ashley Church and former Labour MP Michael Bassett. It has enlisted QC Jack Hodder.

According to court documents filed by the free speech group, the group want the decision judicially reviewed, and also claim the decision breaches the contract of promoters Axiomatic. They want a ruling overturning the council?s decision.

Yesterday the case had its first call in the High Court at Auckland. However, the proceeding has now been transferred to Wellington because of its urgency and because there was no available judge in Auckland to hear it at short notice, Mr Franks says.

Mr Franks says the HRC has indicated it may want to intervene, which the lawyer says he hopes means will see it support its case.?End quote.

I’m not hopeful that the Human Rights Commission, with so many activists in its organisation, will intervene on the right side of this debate, but we shall see.?Quote:

The HRC says it has received a copy of the proceedings from the free speech coalition and is considering the issues.

??We will decide shortly whether to formally apply to the court to participate in the hearing as an intervener,?? chief legal adviser Janet Anderson-Bidois says. She won?t give any more comment on the case.

The HRC has the right to intervene in proceedings where intervening can assist it in performing its duties. One of its key functions is to encourage the maintenance and development of harmonious relationships between individuals and diverse groups.

It last intervened in the dispute between Labour MP Louisa Wall and Fairfax over a cartoon which Ms Wall said breached the Human Rights Act.

The politician said the cartoon was so insulting its treatment of M?ori and Pasifika that the court could comfortably conclude they were likely to excite hostility towards or bring into contempt people of that ethnicity.

The HRC intervened and argued that a very high threshold should be applied when the court is considering potential breaches of existing racial disharmony laws.

“The reason the commission took this stance is that we strongly support the right to freedom of speech and expression and believe that there should be legal consequences only for cases at the most serious end of the spectrum. Words or conduct that offend, upset or hurt people’s feelings are not of themselves going to fall into this category,” acting chief human rights commissioner Paula Tesoriero said at the time.

The court ruled against Ms Wall and ruled in favour of the HRC?s approach to section 61, which prevents the incitement of racial disharmony. End quote.

Fingers crossed the Human Rights Commission does the correct thing and supports the case of the Free Speech Coalition.

If it does, it will be further embarrassment for Phil Goff who seems to be changing his story daily at the moment.

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