Free speech 'not an absolute right'

A former head of the Australian Human Rights Commission has weighed into the free speech debate that's engulfed New Zealand of late.

Prof Gillian Triggs is emphatic that freedom of speech is "definitely not" an absolute right.

The decision to block two alt-right Canadians from speaking at Auckland Council venues, and a decision by Massey University to prevent former National leader Don Brash from speaking to a politics club, have been causing contention over the past few weeks.

"Freedom of speech is not absolute - you can pass a line that becomes racist and unacceptable in the public arena," Prof Triggs told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"You can say what you like in the privacy of your own home, you can think what you like, but in the public arena - public transport, in your factory, workplace, in a hospital waiting room - you may not abuse somebody else because of their race.

"Australia's held onto that limitation on the right to freedom of speech. There are exceptions... for journalism, for political debate and for good faith, factually based debate."

Prof Triggs won the Voltaire award for freedom of speech last year - a decision which drew the ire of conservative newspapers like The Australian.

The Guardian reports she was consistently criticised by the Abbott and Turnbull governments throughout her tenure as president of the Human Rights Commission.

"[The Voltaire Award] is a recognition of her work and the courage she has exhibited in the face of very withering criticism from the government from time to time," Prof Spencer Zifcak, acting president of Liberty Victoria, told Guardian Australia.

"Most people would just have resigned in the face of the criticism that she has received."

Watch the video for the full interview.

Newshub Nation.

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