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Free speech v hate speech

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First, ACT leader David Seymour argues that there is a quiet chorus of New Zealanders who fear a loss of an essential freedom.

OPINION: New Zealand is free, and freedom is its nationality. OK, I borrowed an old quote that was actually about Canada, but it fits after a week of free speech debate in our country.

There are some dim people out there, and they often have the loudest voices. Without any logic, they believe that if you value freedom of speech you must be racist. The more you think about it, the more offensive it is to be accused of racism just for valuing free speech. But I defend their right to say it all the same.

Meanwhile, there is a quiet chorus of New Zealanders concerned about our most basic freedom. In a media company's online poll, 85 per cent said they thought freedom of speech was under threat. Was that a scientific poll? Not remotely. Could such a result occur if there wasn't significant concern? Very unlikely.

* The difficulties of free speech
* Don't let politicians use the law to shut down speech they don't like
* We need laws with real teeth to protect our online safety

The public gets it. If there are people with objectionable views out there, we're much better off letting them say what they think. We can't object to their views otherwise. All our progress as a nation has come from open discussion, and our worst failures have come from suppression.

Aside from the practical value, there's something fundamentally human about open and honest discussion. Members of no other species sort out their differences with words. No other species can express the range of emotions and experiences that we can. Freedom of expression is central to our common humanity.

On the other hand, people rightly fear the hate speech censor. An office that can punish you with the power of the state for being "offensive" or "insulting" to a "reasonable person" is scary enough. Now imagine what sort of person will apply for a job with such power.

The prime minister has already........

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