Watch: Don Brash confronted by protesters during debate

by Matthew Theunissen / 10 August, 2018

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Former National Party leader Don Brash was last night front and centre of the free speech debate that's been making headlines in New Zealand and around the world.

Dr Brash was nearly booed off stage at the University of Auckland debate, before counter-protesters persuaded him back by chanting his name.

The event comes after Canadian right-wing speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux's visit to New Zealand, which ignited impassioned arguments in favour of their right to speak here and against their controversial views.

Dr Brash's speaking event was controversially cancelled at Massey University's Manawatu campus earlier this week after threats were made on Facebook.

Nonetheless, the University of Auckland's debating society decided to go ahead with its scheduled event, which also featured New Zealand Herald journalists Simon Wilson and Fran O'Sullivan.

Dr Brash was joined by the New Conservative Party's deputy leader Elliot Ikiley in arguing that PC culture gone has too far, to the point where it is limiting freedom of speech.

However, Dr Brash only got a few seconds to argue the point before he was drowned out by protesters.

At one stage a scuffle broke out and it looked like he was not going to continue speaking before a section of the crowd beckoned him back.

Watch: Students support the inclusion of Don Brash

Eventually, he did get a chance to address the crowd of more than 500, arguing that the protests were a demonstration that the culture in New Zealand is inhibiting free speech.

"Anything which is a bit beyond the pale you really can't talk about frankly," he told the lecture theatre. "Issues relating to religion, sexual orientation, family structure, the rights of people of different races, climate change - you name it - you've got to tiptoe through those issues in New Zealand today."

The group that organised the protest cited Dr Brash's previous comments about tangata whenua as its primary motivation.

Organiser Beth Stanley said they felt it was necessary to demonstrate that his views were not welcome at the University of Auckland.

"He's spent his whole career working to tear down Māori rights, to tear down te reo, to tear down Te Tiriti o Waitangi and we don't want his hatred and division on our campus," she said.

But that was by no means the consensus at the debate.

Protesters at Auckland University. Photo / Matthew Theunissen

 Auckland couple Paul and Cathy Davie were a small but noisy counterbalance to the vocal protesters. They had wanted to go to the Lauren Southern-Stefan Molyneux talk before it was cancelled.

"It's important for all views to be heard and all views to be discussed, not oppressed like these people are trying to do," Mr Davie said.

Speaking after the debate, Dr Brash said he was extremely irritated by the reputation he had as being anti-Māori.

He said he had expected protests, but perhaps not to this extent.

"I've been involved in a lot of confrontational situations but that is probably at the upper end of the range."

In the end, debate chairman Chris Ryan left it to the audience to decide who won, with both teams getting loud applause and cheers from the crowd - as well as a fair few boos.

 

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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