ACT Party candidate Stephen Berry says hate speech against trans people shouldn't be shut down

An ACT Party candidate has been booed at a debate for saying hate speech is disgusting, but "part of living in a free country".

Stephen Berry was speaking on Tuesday night at a debate in Wellington hosted by LGBTQ group Rainbow, and discussed his views on free speech.

"In a free country, freedom of speech is probably about the most important value we have, and so that's why we cannot have laws banning hate speech," he said.

"People like Brian Tamaki, he's a scumbag piece of sh*t, but he has the right to express his sh*tty views, and we also have the right to call him out on how sh*tty those views are. That's what freedom's about."

Mr Berry was asked if freedom of speech applied to people who told others to go kill themselves - trans people in particular.

"People tell you to jump off a bridge, do you do it? No, of course not," he said.

"It's disgusting speech, it is disgusting speech but that is part of living in a free country. And that is why you have the freedom to tell these people how disgusting they are."

The crowd erupted in vocal discontent, with one person saying "that's bullying".

When contacted by Newshub, ACT leader David Seymour said Mr Berry has been spoken to in regards to the controversy.

"ACT strongly supports free speech, and sometimes this involves defending people's right to say objectionable things. However we draw a line at incitement of suicide - Stephen should have been firmer on communicating that," Mr Seymour said.

"I've let him know that we expect a higher standard from our candidates."

Mr Berry is ACT's East Coast Bays candidate and is number five on the party's list.

Newshub.

If you wish to talk to someone about mental illness, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757 or the National Telehealth Service on 1737.