A new leader gets a chance of definition with early utterings

So what will the world’s leaders make of Chris Luxon’s first pronouncements?

Given the context, they might be surprised to discover that his conversion therapy reference was not to the alchemic process by which an amiable executive became the leader of one of the western world’s historically most successful political machines.

Does it perhaps signify a liking for political philosopy?

If so, the aversion to conversion is odd.

New Zealand has a rich tradition of nurturing doctrinaire cranks proclaiming the truth: Radiant Livers, communitarians, New Ageists, most socialists.  Liberals mostly enjoy and ignore them – unless they break the law.

So how will Luxon take forward his exegetic reasoning.

Is it based on the need for evidence to confirm the existence of the ‘gay gene’?  Or does he essay down the path of evolutionary selection of culture?

There’s risk and opportunity with the latter, because at times most factions have run that argument.

If you subscribe to cultural Darwinism, you can’t really avoid tackling the hypothesis that homosexuality has an evolutionary purpose (apart from enraging certain old-school conservatives).  Which would give big state supporters a chance to urge its active and compulsory promotion (call this reverse conversion, or perhaps reversion on a grand scale?)  Luxon should be able to take refuge in the causes of small government and non-interference.

But he’ll need to be careful of being overly philosophical in debates over selective abortion based on genetic typology – gay gene or not.

Jacinda Ardern does appear to believe in something (however harmful and divisive some people might think it is).  An early job for Chris Luxon – and not an easy one in the circumstances – will be to show that he is not one of those centre-right politicians who will believe in just about anything.

So clarity on his political philosophy – and on its continuity with the historical traditions of the National party – might actually be pretty important. And it might be useful to keep in mind that line from Yeats’s Second Coming (“The best lack all conviction … “) – still something of a gold standard in troubled times.

Parliament is in recess but Kris Faafoi is too busy to discuss proposals for hate-speech laws


The Minister of Justice appears to have gone into hiding. GRAHAM ADAMS,  writing for The Democracy Project,  provides an update on how the public debate on hate speech regulation is going, especially in terms of whether political opinion should or shouldn’t receive an exemption from new laws.


It fell to RNZ to break the news to the nation late last week that the Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, had “gone to ground”. Despite making repeated requests to interview him about proposals to expand hate-speech laws, the public broadcaster has been told the minister in charge of managing their introduction is too busy — even during a three-week parliamentary recess — to discuss them.

With her Minister of Justice having gone AWOL ever since a disastrous television interview on the topic a month ago, the Prime Minister’s call for a national debate has lurched from a shambles into farce. The government allowed only six weeks for public submissions and now — with less than two weeks to go until the August 6 deadline — the cat has apparently got Faafoi’s tongue in an iron grip.

On Newshub Nation in late June, Faafoi failed to offer coherent explanations of what kinds of speech would likely fall foul of a new law — including whether Millennials could be prosecuted for expressing hatred against Boomers because of house prices, or whether someone claiming that homosexuals are destined for hell would be liable for prosecution. Continue reading “Parliament is in recess but Kris Faafoi is too busy to discuss proposals for hate-speech laws”

While our govt is being pressed to further whittle our freedoms, UK judges have upheld the right of Brits to speak offensively

Family First today is highlighting the findings of a new poll (which it commissioned) that gauged public opinion on so-called hate speech.

The poll found just one in ten New Zealanders think it should be a crime

  • to publicly claim that gender is revealed at birth and is not a matter of personal identity, or
  • to publicly state that marriage is between a man and a woman only.

Family First – and all other critics of the government’s readiness to further crimp our liberties – should make much of the judges’ landmark ruling in the British case of a mother who called a trans woman “he” on Twitter.

The judges said:

‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.’

But the government in this country is under pressure from several quarters to deliver on its promise to tighten the laws on “hate speech”, further requiring Kiwis to watch what they say or write. Continue reading “While our govt is being pressed to further whittle our freedoms, UK judges have upheld the right of Brits to speak offensively”

Bill Gates stumbles on China and Covid

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has done a fine job reinventing himself as a philanthropist.  The foundation he and his wife established has done admirable work for global public health, giving him credibility in his commentary on the Covid crisis.

But he struck a jarring note, when asked whether the Chinese government could be held accountable for deception in the early stages of the Covid pandemic. Continue reading “Bill Gates stumbles on China and Covid”

With an election coming next year, Zuckerberg defends free speech

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is under attack because of the consequences of too-free speech on his platform.

But it’s possible he may be a more considerable public figure than many had him down for, after he made a reasoned and principled address defending free speech (and his company’s approach to it) at Georgetown University last week.

The immediate kerfuffle was over political campaigning.  The Trump campaign put out a social media ad which implied that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had corrupt motives in helping fire a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the Ukrainian company which employed his son.  Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential contender, riposted by attacking Facebook for letting politicians run advertisements with false claims.  To prove her point and get some publicity (good for her, not so good for rival Biden), she ran a self-proclaimed false ad – on Facebook. Continue reading “With an election coming next year, Zuckerberg defends free speech”

Labour Party in disarray – and the flow-on to the PM

The once-proud NZ Labour Party was in a sorry shape this week. Its president Nigel Haworth handed in his resignation, the PM Jacinda Ardern was looking rather bedraggled, and several of her senior staff stood accused of a cover-up, in the wake of the scandal involving allegations of sexual assault against a Labour staffer said to be working in the Beehive.

Stuff reported earlier this week that a 19-year-old woman was allegedly assaulted on two occasions by a staffer with “strong influence” in the party.  It took a year after the second alleged assault before the party eventually launched an investigation into multiple complaints. But in spite of the young woman meeting with Labour Party officials including Haworth to seek help, the party contended the allegations did not include sexual violence.

Continue reading “Labour Party in disarray – and the flow-on to the PM”

How to think about tech

What’s the most useful model of tech to keep in your head.  Most models are rationalisations of the status quo. But tech forces us to visualise something which exists everywhere but is developing constantly. Watching the foundation-of-Facebook movie ‘The Social Network‘ is a start but probably not enough.

For a structured but approachable model, listen to the podcast ‘Software has eaten the world’ by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape and tech venture capital pioneer.

He captures the pervasive quality of tech – and positions it as the fundamental driver of change in our environment and lives (at a pinch, you might also throw in the vastly increased mobility of peoples in recent years).  He demonstrates this through three claims about the world:

Continue reading “How to think about tech”

The muting of political fulmination: how pamphleteers were brought to book by NZ’s advertising police

Emma Vere-Jones – according to a website in that name  – describes herself as a journalist, author and copywriter.   What distinctions she draws among those different forms of writing are a moot point, assuming she is the same Emma Vere-Jones who has brought a bunch of political pamphleteers to account as “advertisers” for disseminating material with which she disagrees.

Pamphleteering – we should not forget – was an early form of journalistm and in the days before the advent of the periodical press, pamphleteers were the world’s proto-journalists.

As a paper platform for a spectrum of religious fanatics, eccentrics, social commentators, and satirists, the pamphlet evolved as a weapon of propaganda (forged between the fledgling press and Star Chamber censorship) for powerful vested interest groups, political parties, governments – and revolutionists.

The Guttenberg revolution of the Renaissance provided the spark and the Reformation of the sixteenth century the explosive fuel for the pamphleteering phenomenon.

As the pamphlet form took root, then so English prose emerged from its antique form with an extraordinary rash of stylistic innovations to embrace such unlikely postures as subversive fulmination, cod polemic, ferocious satire, and manifesto. In times of religious ferment, civil war, colonial unrest and revolution, such texts – risky or even dangerous to publish – were often the product of secret presses and anonymous authors. Continue reading “The muting of political fulmination: how pamphleteers were brought to book by NZ’s advertising police”

A flat tax? Alas, RNZ burnt up its interview time while grilling Seymour about free speech and the racism bogey

RNZ’s Morning Report yesterday led us to hope we would hear something about the attractions of a flat tax, an idea once promoted by Roger Douglas when he was Minister of Finance in the Lange government.

A flat tax – adopted in some American states and European countries – is among the tax reforms favoured by the Act party as it tries to refresh its image.

We were led to believe the Morning Report team would kick this around with Act leader David Seymour just before 8am yesterday because they mentioned it in their introduction to an interview with him.  

Presenter Corin Dann said Act is targeting free speech “and radical tax reform” as it works to lift voter support heading into next year’s election.

The party had re-launched with the slogan ‘Act for freedom’. Continue reading “A flat tax? Alas, RNZ burnt up its interview time while grilling Seymour about free speech and the racism bogey”

At Kiwiblog you can find an article on free speech which Stuff and Newshub have not published

Stuff columnist Donna Miles-Mojab laid down a challenge to ACT leader David Seymour in a column headed: Why not rebut Ghahraman’s arguments, rather than label her a menace?

The column, prompted by Seymour’s saying “Golriz Ghahraman is a real menace to freedom in this country”, asked:

Why not offer a rebuttal to her arguments instead of accusing her of being “a real menace to freedom in this country”?  

She might now ask of Stuff: when will they publish the 700 or so words which Seymour submitted on the controversy around his remarks?

An email from Seymour says: Continue reading “At Kiwiblog you can find an article on free speech which Stuff and Newshub have not published”