‘Not surprising’: Reason behind cancelled Brash event revealed

Morning Talk 19/09/2018
Photo: AAP.

Don Brash says he's "pissed off" after newly-released emails show Massey University's Vice-Chancellor had concerns about his "racist behaviour" before cancelling his speech.

Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas claimed the August event was cancelled due to threats to security. But emails released to Newshub on Wednesday show she was also concerned about being seen to be "endorsing racist behaviours".

"That really pisses me off that they used that vernacular," Dr Brash told RadioLIVE.

"How can someone who says 'we want every New Zealand citizen irrespective of identity to be treated equally', how can that in any sense be racist or inconsistent with the treaty?"

Dr Brash said he wasn't surprised when reading the emails, because he felt it was clear from the outset that she banned his speech not for security reasons but "because she didn't like my so-called support for the two Canadians and my involvement in Hobson's Pledge".

"The issue that riled her, clearly, was that Hobson's Pledge encouraged people to sign a petition requesting a referendum on whether to establish separate Maori wards in Palmerston North and Manawatu.

"When the referenda were held... roughly 80 percent in both Palmerston North and Manawatu said we want no part of race-based representation in our district. That suggests to me that most New Zealanders don't want race-based political representation," Dr Brash said.

Dr Brash, a former National Party leader and founder of lobby group Hobson's Pledge, was due to speak about his life in politics at Massey's Manawatū campus on August 8.

But Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas cancelled it the day before, citing "security concerns".

OIA request reveals emails discussing the event cancellation

An Official Information Act request sent to Newshub shows a lengthy email discussion on the topic between Dr Thomas and staffers between July 9 and July 13.

In one email, Dr Thomas queries the options for "not allowing politics clubs to hold events on campus - free to hold any event but not with any inference of support by university [sic]".

The email continues: "Will hit the fan in the media if we go this way. However, racist behaviour of Brash - given te reo is a official language of NZ and we are a tiriti-led university - can't be ignored."

A staff member responded to the email, saying university policy did not specify criteria around club event approvals.

"The ground for me declining it may well be challenged and as per [name omitted] email yesterday I think would present a very real risk of us being accused restricting free speech etc," the email said.

In further correspondence, a staff member states that Dr Brash uses "free speech as a shield which to hide [sic], as do many colonial racists and conservative commentators."

Dr Thomas then reiterated her original position. "I really want to find a way to indicate that Dr Brash is not welcome on campus unless he agrees to abide by our values and the laws against hate speech," she writes on July 13.

A public decision to cancel the event was not revealed till August 7, the day before Dr Brash was due to speak. It prompted protests in the name of freedom of speech.

Massey University maintains there was a security threat

Massey University said in a statement on Tuesday that the release of the documents shows the Vice-Chancellor was first advised of the event several weeks beforehand.

"She held concerns because of the upset that a previous visit by Hobson's Pledge representatives to campus had caused but had been prepared to let it go ahead under conditions the students had signed up to.

"It was when a security threat was raised that Professor Thomas made the decision to cancel the booking. Despite what others have claimed, the concern about the threat was genuine. Professor Thomas has subsequently said the University is reviewing how staff assess security threats at its campuses."

Dr Brash went on to speak at a freedom of speech debate at the University of Auckland on August 9.

Listen to the full interview with Don Brash above.

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RadioLIVE/Newshub.