Are We Threatening Freedom Of Speech?
The recent comments from certain commentators and politicians calling on others not to attend the Building the Constitution conference are an outrageous assault on free speech, says United New Zealand leader, Hon Peter Dunne.
"While some of the issues on the agenda for discussion may seem radical, this in itself should not be the reason for them being swept under the carpet," says Mr Dunne.
ACT and New Zealand First have decided not to attend because they object to such controversial issues being debated at such a forum. ACT leader Richard Prebble said it was inappropriate that senior members of the Judiciary should attend while certain issues remained on the agenda.
"It is disappointing and disturbing to hear fellow political leaders attacking this forum, before it has even taken place, on the basis that the issues are too big or controversial.
"Surely we should be promoting freedom of speech, especially about constitutional issues that stand to affect our future as a nation.
"Simply brushing issues under the carpet because they are too hard or controversial is unacceptable, or labelling expert opinion elitist because you disagree with it is the extreme of narrow-mindedness.
"If we are going to move forward as a mature, confident nation then we must be willing to confront such issues, not timidly run away from them.
"Mr Prebble and others should be welcoming the opportunity to put forward and debate their views, rather than playing to outdated prejudices and refusing to participate. Their reaction smacks of trying to shut down debate rather than foster it.
"United NZ welcomes the Building the Constitution conference as an opportunity for us to demonstrate our maturity and diversity as a nation," concludes Mr Dunne.