In response to the release of Inclusive Campaigning Guidelines by LGNZ and the Race Relations Commissioner, the Free Speech Union has created its own Truly Tolerant Campaign Guidelines to push back against attempts to control the debate and agenda of this year’s local government elections, says Jonathan Ayling, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union.
“The Free Speech Union believes strongly that political candidates must have the freedom to express their ideas and policies as they see fit, and that the only arbiters of the acceptability of their speech are voters at the ballot box. It is vitally important that candidates can show their true selves.
“In their guidelines, LGNZ Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene makes clear her goal of “shifting what’s acceptable”, a task that should be reserved for voters, not bureaucrats. Likewise, in an interview subsequent to releasing the Guidelines, Meng Foon implied that anyone opposing policies related to co-governance and Māori wards was racist. These examples show Freeman-Greene and Foon are putting their fingers on the scale of democracy by policing how local government candidates should engage with New Zealanders and debate these issues
“The Truly Tolerant Campaigning Guidelines reflect our attitude to democracy and the freedom of candidates to express themselves freely. Our guidelines assert such principles as proposed government policy never being a “no-go zone”, and encouraging political candidates to engage even with those whom they find unsavory.
“We agree with LGNZ and Meng Foon that respect is important in political debate and that when discussing issues, the focus should be on the ideas and not the characteristics of those proposing them. What we won’t enforce, however, are our own opinions of what “respectability” means.
“We have provided Council candidates across the country with these guidelines, and a questionnaire on their positions related to free speech. We will use this to create a report for the 75,000 Free Speech Union supporters around the country to use when voting.
“In these elections, we call upon candidates and voters to take a stand for free speech as a principle critical to the healthy functioning of our democracy. Candidates deserve to show their true selves and voters deserve to know them. We achieve this through open dialogue and free speech.”