Free speech, not hate speech
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy wants to do something about hate speech during her final year in the role.
Following on from her controversial appointment in 2013, the former world squash champion was the subject of several written and verbal attacks.
One person threatened to kneecap her.
‘’’This is not a job for the fainthearted,’’ she said.
She was aware insults and threats were a part of life for many people and wanted to see more prosecutions and preventative work done.
‘‘Whilst I believe in freedom of speech, hate speech isn’t free speech. I think it is really good to continue to have debates, but once you let the prejudice and hate become involved in the conversation it’s really hard.’’
It was important for New Zealanders to recognise they live in one of the most peaceful countries on earth, but it is also ethnically diverse and has not resolved its cultural issues, she said.
International pressures and the rising tensions under Donald Trump’s leadership in the United States were on her radar, but her role prevented her from commenting on matters outside of New Zealand, she said, adding ‘‘I find that quite difficult of course’’.
‘‘I am trying to ensure the focus becomes that we don’t travel down that path. . . .There’s a lot of divisiveness, there’s a lot of tensions and there’s certainly a lot of racial issues that are being discussed – anti-immigration those sorts of things. It would be naive to suggest it could never happen here.’’
She was concerned about the impacts on New Zealanders.
‘‘Every time there’s a world event – and it’s not just the Muslim community it’s the Jewish community too – these people are horribly marginalised.
‘‘Most New Zealanders would be really horrified to see the personal attacks and discrimination always increase, particularly to women and children who are visibly more diverse ...We need to ensure that we continue to be tol- erant and fair minded.’’
Devoy was in Queenstown with friends to tramp the Greenstone and Caples Track, when friend Tom Pryde asked her to speak at a Queenstown Inner Wheel high tea at the Hilton to raise funds for the Lakes District Air Rescue Trust and St John, on Thursday.
Organisers said over $26,000 was raised.