New Zealand is at risk of facing an "Orwellian future" if the Government wades too far into what is, and is not, considered hate speech, Act Leader David Seymour says.
He said that Justice Minister Andrew Little's comments about what he called an anti-Māori pamphlet suggest that Little thinks the Government should be responsible for shutting down comments it thinks are foolish.
The pamphlet, titled One Treaty One Nation, calls for an end to state partnership with Māori, scrapping the Waitangi Tribunal, Māori electorates and wards and said Māori have benefited from colonisation lifting them out of "a violent stone age existence".
The pamphlet was dropped in people's mailboxes in Auckland and is now the subject of a complaint which has been lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority.
Speaking to the Herald about the pamphlet, Little said it was racist and that its author was "an ignorant fool".
"It peddles myths about pre-European Maori society that historical scholarship does not bear out."
He said it was a matter for the Human Rights Commission.
But Seymour said it appears that Little was saying these types of comments should be illegal.
"If people weren't allowed to make stupid and historically inaccurate statements, we'd have to close down Parliament, but that is what Justice Minister Andrew Little seems to be suggesting in his response to a One Law for All pamphlet this weekend."
Seymour said Little was not claiming the pamphlet incites, or threatens violence, or that it was defamatory.
"Those would be legitimate reasons to curtail speech, but Little is claiming the Government needs the power to shut down speech that is foolish."
Seymour said if the Government was cracking down on speech that was foolish; it would need to take a look at itself.
He used the example of the Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr referring to the bank as a Kauri tree, and the Treasury measuring "sun and moon feelings" as examples of this.
He said if the Government was seriously thinking of having a policy against people saying stupid things, these would be areas for it to start.
Late last month, Little said he would fast-track a review of the Human Rights Act, which could see a crackdown on hate speech.
He said the current hate speech laws were not strong enough and needed to change.
The review has the support of the National Party but its Leader, Simon Bridges, said free speech should not be limited as a result of any changes that may be made.
Seymour said any form of a Government censor that had the ability to make "arbitrary judgments" of what is and isn't a reasonable opinion would go against the Bill of Rights Act.
That Act says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form".
Creating a "public decency tribunal" – as has been mooted by former United Future Leader Peter Dunne – would be "the stuff of police states and third world dictators".
"That Orwellian future is one that must be resisted by every free-thinking New Zealander at all costs."