Brain Food Integrity Forums

by Julie Haggie

Chief Executive Officer

Where in the World are we?

We were fortunate to have two of New Zealand’s senior trade and diplomatic experts present for the second of our “Brain Food” Integrity Forums. They looked back to New Zealand’s historical response to the tyranny of distance, and outwards to our current position in world trade.  

Colin Keating – former Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations and former Executive Director of Security Council Report – and Vangelis Vitalis – Deputy Secretary Trade and Economic, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade presented to this forum. Suzanne Snively, Chair of Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ), chaired the forum and facilitated the discussions.

Colin started with ideas about ‘where we are’ or ‘where we belong’, are ephemeral. They can change. They do change. What does not change is the geography – the bundle comprising location, size, resources and the risks and opportunities that come with it.

Driven by geographical position

He then focussed on how New Zealanders as a people have responded to our geography and how this has influenced our choices in foreign and trade policy.

Colin took us on the journey from the beginnings of New Zealand trade, and how we confronted the geographical weakness through innovation and entrepreneurship. He talked about how our political responsibility for Pacific states has influenced our social view. He covered the challenges that we have faced, including the removal of the British security blanket and the UK trade access blanket when the UK began negotiations for entry to the EEC in 1970. This drove our strong advocacy for the United Nations and for GATT/WHO, and later the Closer Economic Relationship (CER) with Australia.

We also faced French nuclear testing, demands for independence from Samoa, Cook Islands and Niue, our diplomatic efforts on behalf of the Antarctic, and the strengthening of control over the oceans that surround us.

Nimble and innovative policy

Colin reflected that New Zealand has been nimble and innovative in adapting its foreign and trade policy to manage the changing risks and opportunities. We have a diverse trade profile, he notes “geography is a bit like DNA. It is your inheritance. You can’t change it. But your future is all about how you respond to the challenges and opportunities of those inheritances.” Click here to read or download Colin Keating’s presentation.

Golden weather under threat

Our second speaker Vangelis Vitalis has been Chief Negotiator on several of New Zealand’s core trading agreements. Vangelis talked about the period of golden weather for New Zealand trade, This offered us many opportunities to grow and diversify our trading relationships and to take advantage of rules based structures of global cooperation, such as the World Trade Organisation. This is how we were able to challenge the Australians on apple imports, and the USA on lamb, the European union on Dairy and Indonesia on beef.

Unfortunately the golden weather is under threat. There has recently been an increase in protectionist approaches, from the US and China and also from the European Union.

In the discussion that followed, Vangelis talked about New Zealand’s approach to Brexit – i.e. to secure bilateral and continuity arrangements. He also talked about the need for New Zealand to be in the room at trade discussions, and continuing to work on all of our negotiations and to encourage rules based approaches to trade.

Hate speech. free speech

Most people who think about this topic sit on and off fences, wanting to enable freedom of expression, but not wanting the result to be discriminatory or dangerous. This event was an opportunity to think more deeply than clickbait, and it certainly delivered for the attendees.

In our final of the three ‘Brain Food Integrity Forums’, we heard from Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University; and Liam Hehir, lawyer and regular political commentator on this and other topics. The session was facilitated by Debbie Gee, Transparency International New Zealand Member with Delegated Authority. 

Myths debunked

Professor Spoonley first debunked some myths. He said that what we are facing is not intolerance of speech. Instead there is simply more speech and so more objectionable speech.

In his various roles he has encountered deeply concerning hate speech. He challenged the myth that hate speech is too difficult to define and he offered definitions from both the Council of Europe and Facebook.

“Hate speech covers all forms of expression that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, or other forms of hatred based on intolerance” – Council of Europe.

“Hate speech is anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their “protected characteristics” – race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliations, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, or serious disability or disease” – Facebook.

Professor Spoonley recommended reading ‘The Harm in Hate Speech’ by Jeremy Waldron, an internationally regarded New Zealand legal academic. In this book Jeremy talks about the harm caused by hate speech to vulnerable groups in particular. Professor Spoonley also noted research that establishes a direct link between online hate and hate crimes.

Delicate balance

Liam Hehir put the case that argued that there is a fine balance needed when calling for restrictions on speech.  Liam offered JS Mill’s four justifications for free speech:

  • First, the opinion might be true
  • Secondly, the collision of error and truth often sheds more light on the latter
  • Third, if we don’t vigorously defend the truth we fail to understand it
  • Fourth, if the truth becomes a dogma then we may cease to really believe it. 

He noted that free speech is particularly sensitive to a chilling effect, such as the typically high cost of seeking justice to defend one’s position. This also has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

He noted that there is good guidance to work out if something is hate speech, which includes the intent of the speaker and the likely impact of the comment.

Preferred responses

In discussion after the presentations Liam and Paul agreed that non-censorious government responses, civic education and sophisticated counter-speech including ridicule, are effective antidotes to hate speech.

Liam noted that the European Commission on Racism and Intolerance had previously urged hate speech prosecutions. But after monitoring, it pivoted to alternative measures.

Attendees commented on a range of positions including freedom to question religious belief and freedom to define sexual identity.

Presentations: Hate Speech or Free Speech Liam Hehir and Hate Speech or Free Speech Paul Spoonley.

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