I trust you’ve been keeping well since last time I was in touch. As always, a lot has been happening –in and around the electorate, but also here in Wellington. (Parliament is sitting this week and I am currently writing from the House while debating some ACC legislation.)
I have several important public meetings coming up. On Monday, 15 April, there will be a meeting about proposed traffic management changes in St Heliers and Mission Bay. More details of the meeting are at the end of this newsletter, but in short, Auckland Transport want to add around 12 new raised zebra crossings to St Heliers Village and remove approximately 40 car parks. I think this is overkill. They have some similar plans for Mission Bay including a roundabout by Selwyn Avenue.
I am also hosting a public meeting about the capital gains tax proposed changes. This is on Wednesday, 17 April at St Chads. I have asked Paul Goldsmith MP to be our guest in his capacity as spokesperson for Economic and Regional Development. Again, full details are at the end of this newsletter.
Public meetings have been the order of the day for me the last few weeks, with three meetings on the education changes. Along with my colleague Nikki Kaye, I have been busy meeting and consulting with locals around the changes to education. Most recently, at both Glendowie and Sacred Heart Colleges we had the opportunity of addressing parents and educators about the very problematic education changes proposed by the government. It was a really good discussion and good to see schools uniting their voices via Community Schools Alliance.
Essentially, the proposed changes would strip power from boards of trustees and instead concentrate it in centralised ‘hubs’ comprised of government appointed bureaucrats looking after 125 schools each. Practically, this means that we as parents would no longer have a say on zoning, donations, the appointment of principals, or aspects of the curriculum.
It was great to visit the local Men’s Shed, a registered charity and community workshop, often for those who are retired and keen to continue contributing to our community through their handiwork. The guys work in a range of projects to support the community including making traps for our local songbird project (Eastern Bays Songbird Project) and items for schools and hospitals. The Sheds are also a welcome place for people to gather, socialise, share hobbies and support one another. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, head on down. Thanks for the warm welcome guys. Next time, I will grab a hammer and chip in!
I was also delighted to join one of our locals who turned 100 years old recently. Friends and family of Sister Eileen Mary, who lives in Mission Bay, put on a celebration and I was pleased to come along to say congratulations. Sister Eileen has given her life to teach young people and her birthday was a chance for many of us in the community to acknowledge and celebrate her.
I also had a welcome opportunity to have a private meeting with former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently. We discussed conservatism and the opportunities and challenges both our countries, and the West in general, face. I have found it important to keep strong and high level contacts with politicians (current and former) in other Commonwealth Realms such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It continues to provide me good counsel when needed and I am grateful to the likes of Stephen for always making the time to chat with me.
IN THE HOUSE
Worryingly, there is increasing talk within the media and from within government about introducing “hate speech” legislation. I believe firmly that our democratic systems are built on a foundation of free speech and that we do no grow and develop when we restrict what can or cannot be said.
It is somewhat ironic that in recent weeks we voted out an old law around blasphemy. I noted at the time that while this older restriction on speech was being removed, the ‘progressives’ in Parliament were seeking to introduce their own new blasphemy – that is, enforce their particular political and moral views on society and try to ban others expressing an opinion contrary to theirs. Such duplicity must be called out whenever possible.
What is critical in this discussion is to understand the difference between ‘hate speech’ and ‘speech we hate or don’t like’. I would suggest that when you hear the likes of Labour or Green MPs speaking, they are talking mostly about the latter. While they will use extreme examples which we could all agree is about inciting violence, they are more interested in limiting speech on topics such as Maori rights, social rights, or views around life and death. We need only think of how the progressive left reacted to the likes of Dr Don Brash having an opinion or, more recently, Canadian psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson. The latter came to suggest that people need to take responsibility in their lives, accept that life can be hard, and work to improve things in their own lives and then for those around them. It is staggering to think that many on the progressive left view this has ‘hate speech’. I have been concerned about this issue for some time and I worry that an effort will be made soon. Calls for ‘hate speech’ legislation are aimed at silencing those the left disagree with. Not just international public figures, but people like me and you as well.
This is not to say that we should ignore the dangers of speech which clearly intends to incite violence. However, I would suggest our laws already cover this adequately. What is being called for now, is a means to stop opinions that media and the progressive left don’t like. You will often hear of ‘a right to not be offended’ (which is utter nonsense), or that we need to be ‘safe’ from certain opinions (as if an echo chamber is conducive to good thought). Calls to be intolerant of the intolerant (again, nonsensical if not downright hypocritical) or to ‘de-platform’ people which is academic jargon for supressing unpopular ideas. Those calling for hate speech legislation want to make all of these dynamics perfectly legal and acceptable. Personally, I think it shows great weakness. It demonstrates that they feel silencing their opponents is easier than rationally defending their own position.
We also have the issue of what qualifies as ‘hate’. It is a rather amorphous concept and a cursory review of the country’s media demonstrates their eagerness to apply that to any opinion they do not like. Those who value free speech subscribe to Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s maxim, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I believe we only develop further as a society if we engage diverging views, discuss rationally and scientifically, challenge those ideas firmly when needed, demonstrate folly in thinking when warranted, and learn from one another. These traits are the cornerstones of a truly democratic and tolerant society. In contrast, those calling for hate speech want a tyranny of their beliefs alone.
Speaking of controversial topics, the euthanasia bill has returned to the house for a second reading. After a year of consideration, the Justice Select Committee has reported back. It heard from over 39,000 people, 3,000 of those in person. 90% were opposed, but the critical bit of information is that they could not recommend the bill proceed. As I understand things, this was primarily due to the bill being completely unworkable and unsalvageable. This is quite important as there are a number of MPs who are conceptually in favour of euthanasia but who also recognise that this particular bill is fatally flawed.
Public meeting on transport. Along with the St Heliers Residents Association and St Heliers Business Association, come along to a meeting about the proposed traffic changes. This is on Monday, 15 April, from 7pm, at the St Heliers Church and Community Centre (100 St Heliers Bay Road).
More Taxes? I am also hosting a public meeting on the proposed capital gains tax, and other possible taxes the Labour Party is thinking of introducing. Come hear me and Paul Goldsmith MP discuss the proposals. This will be held on Wednesday, April 17, at 7pm, St Chad’s Church and Community Centre.
ANZAC Day. As you may have heard, many services have been cancelled, including our usual St Heliers commemoration. The service at our Orakei RSA continues, with the service from 10am.
Until next time,