"The right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society. This includes the right to hold opinions and express one's views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one's ideas.

"History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.

" ... universities can take positive action by providing a venue for reasoned discussion and cogent argument. "I do not see this is a zero-sum game aimed at limiting the right to free speech or the expression of differing or radical or even erroneous ideas.

"Universities support our staff and students to push boundaries, test the evidence that is put to them and challenge societal norms, including examining controversial and unpopular ideas."


Bold words indeed in a week when freedom of speech has been a hot topic.

Somewhat remarkably, they come from Jan Thomas, vice-chancellor of Massey University, written last month before she blocked Don Brash from speaking at the university where he had been invited by students.

An "example of tyranny", perhaps — certainly Thomas should add "chief censor" to her job description.

In her article, Thomas writes about "hate speech" — something she says Dr Brash sails close to.

There are, quite rightly, laws around speech which incites violence and hatred — particularly on the basis of race or in the form of an attack on a minority.

I am not fully familiar with Brash's repartee, but his opposition to Maori wards, Maori seats in Parliament, and other elements of specific Maori representation comes nowhere near "hate speech".

It is a political/social/cultural point of view, and one which is likely shared by a good many New Zealanders.

As someone standing in the alt-centre and editor of a newspaper, I have to say it takes a heck of a lot to trump the right to freedom of speech, and banning Brash reflects badly on Thomas and her university.


Certainly, there are times when the expression of views needs to be curbed, as I know from my daily grapple with the Chronicle letters page.

In those columns inflammatory, non-PC and sometimes quite weird opinions can be found.

The endeavour is to allow freedom of expression while censoring personal abuse; what may be widely understood to be misinformation; and — yes — "hate speech".

Not easy ... but worth the effort.