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Crusade for Free Speech

There are many battle fronts when it comes to free speech and the lenses through which it is viewed can be as blinding as they are illuminating. (And I’m sick of losing the updates so I will publish this post then finish it.)

In the view of this website it is often seen in the shadow of the Family Court and its surrounding agencies. Up until now the underlying cause of our concern has often been the biased, blinded, and blood-minded defence of anything female by Feminists but presently we are seeing that battle widen into the ideological arena of identity politics – another issue to be addressed.

I note a recent post on the death of Craig Jackson (A perhaps not so well known campaigner, except to some here) which for some vague reason has been removed. That’s unfortunate but hopefully we can see a more fitting tribute to a man that played such a significant role in this issue in New Zealand put back there. (By the Ministry of Men’s Affairs A community group … and author of that post)

The conflict that evolved was driven by the Family Court and while the Court managed to largely contain that within it secrecy provisions and through the media profile of its Principal Judge this had to eventually reach our Parliament, and it’s been noted here before that judges were referring clients of the court to the select committee process in cases where they simply did not have jurisdiction.

By this stage select committees, particularly the Social Services Select Committee, and the Justice and Electoral Committee were dominated by Feminist politicians and submissions were being thrown in the bin. The committee secretaries in these cases would not respond with the usual letter of acknowledgement, and if contacted by the submitter would say, “All I can say is that I have been instructed (contracted) not to talk to you.”

But they would not say by whom they had been instructed: the Chairman of the Committee or the Attorney-General; remembering that Parliament is a court and that the Attorney-General is head of the bar … being the line at which submitters make their presentation to Parliament in much the same style as we are used to seeing in daily court cases.

This was a significant problem that had existed for some 15 – 20 years when Jackson dogmatically confronted Parliament and forced a back down in what was the unwarranted censorship of the male voice and of issues confronting men that Feminists felt empowered to squash, simply because they had those privileged positions.

I’m not sure if the article that I’ve copied in below, that appeared in the Sunday Star Times under the name of Steve Kilgallon was the only media at the time but this comment by Stephen Franks is worth noting;

Lawyer and former MP Stephen Franks said parliamentary committees usually “lean over backwards, even to hear nutters” but the justice committee had a “real tension” between hearing the information they needed and not allowing people to air vendettas or say something defamatory. “[But] in this case, quite frankly, they ought to want to know the horror stories if they are looking at a reform of a court procedure.”

(Franks is a former ACT List MP during the time of the Shared Parenting Campaign but now shows as an affiliate to the National Party. He unsuccessfully stood as a National candidate in the Wellington electorate in 2008 against Grant Robertson, after ACT failed to maintain its parliamentary position once they dropped below the 5% threshold.)

But how much more eloquently can you say, Parliament has been hijacked, it has failed, and is not doing its job, or fulfilling its democratic responsibility.

What is most important to note though, is that what got this across the line was Jackson’s unselfish dedication to someone else’s plight.

It would be easy to say more about that but I do not want to detract from the credit Jackson deserves for what was a monumental effort in attention to an issue to which so many people are blind to or choose to turn a blind-eye to.

Men’s rights campaigners claim they’ve been silenced by a government select committee reviewing controversial planned changes to the Family Court.

Wellington psychologist Craig Jackson said he was told to cut part of his submission or he wouldn’t be heard; another campaigner, Adam Cowie, appears to have been excluded entirely.

Jackson and Cowie are among 350 submitters on the bill, but Justice and Electoral Reform committee chairman Scott Simpson says he hasn’t gagged anyone, but has to tread a careful line when discussing custody battles.

Lawyer and former MP Stephen Franks said parliamentary committees usually “lean over backwards, even to hear nutters” but the justice committee had a “real tension” between hearing the information they needed and not allowing people to air vendettas or say something defamatory. “[But] in this case, quite frankly, they ought to want to know the horror stories if they are looking at a reform of a court procedure.”

Cowie, who wrote a fictionalised account about his bitter custody dispute with his former wife, says he received no reply to his submission, despite indicating he wanted to make a personal appearance.

Jackson, whose submission quoted Cowie’s self-published Separated with Children, said he was told to excise any reference to Cowie or his submission would be refused.

“Adam’s case showed a complete failure of the system, that’s why they have tried to draw a curtain of silence around it because it is a damning indictment of the family courts,” Jackson said. “His case was a wonderful illustration of the complete failure of the system to do anything effective to protect children’s welfare, if nothing else.”

Jackson said he planned to use excerpts from Cowie’s book to illustrate his argument that reforms should recognise parental alienation of children as a psychological abuse sometimes perpetrated by women against men. But he says he was told to cut all reference to Cowie and that the committee wasn’t prepared to hear Cowie’s own submission: “It was an ultimatum.”

Jackson did produce a redacted version and says he was heard politely during a 10-minute appearance on Thursday.

The proposed changes to the Family Court have attracted an outcry from specialist lawyers and men’s and women’s groups alike.

Simpson, National MP for the Coromandel, said his committee had a duty to uphold natural justice and protect identities of children and former partners in individual cases.

Some submissions, he said, “were quite raw in their content, where people want to tell their personal story or history in court . . . we have to consider natural justice and protect the rights of those that are not present, because there are always two sides to every story”