Heather Roy

19 July 2018

Freedom of speech is off to court, thanks to over a thousand small donations. The Free Speech Coalition has filed court action over Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s decision to ban controversial Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from speaking at the Bruce Mason Centre and other Auckland Council owned venues.

Phil Goff’s story keeps changing. First, he announced that the decision was his – a Captain’s call. Then he said that he’d taken the advice of Regional Facilities Auckland, the CCO that manages the venues. And most recently he says it was a matter of safety – he didn’t want the police to get hurt. He is ‘digging in’ despite the public backlash and the Free Speech Coalition’s attempts to give him a back-out option by reversing the decision.

As a society I often wonder if we’ve lost sight of the things that really matter. Freedom today is largely taken for granted. Countries with limited freedom of expression and association seem distant and irrelevant to our daily lives in New Zealand. But we’d miss them if they were gone. It was very encouraging therefore to learn that the donations received by the Free Speech Coalition to fight the Goff ban were mostly small donations. Funds raised from a few shows support from the wealthy, but the same total raised from a large number of small donations shows an issue that is well supported across the board.

Many people assumed that a few fat cats had written large cheques to fund the legal challenge. To which I thought – good on them, freedom of speech is worth fighting for. However, the reality is that the legal fighting fund was from small donations received in a very short period of time:

  • 1051 donations have been received to date
  • The total amount donated was $85,000, received over 4 days
  • The first $50,000 was received in 36 hours
  • 97 percent of all donations were less than $300 each
  • 65 percent of donations were less than $50 each
  • 0.9 percent of donations were $1000 or more
  • The largest donation was $5000

As someone who has done a reasonable amount of fundraising – and not just in politics – this is enormously successful. It shows real public sympathy for the campaign. Even more intriguing is the fact that the coalition didn’t publicly ask for donations – sponsors had to search out the website in order to donate.

I’m not part of the Free Speech Coalition, just a strong advocate of preserving our freedoms. If this is something you feel strongly about, I’m sure they would still appreciate a donation as a sign of supporting liberty.


Also published on this topic: Governance or GOFF-ernance