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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 21. September 10, 1968

Editorial — Speakers ruling is unwise


Speakers ruling is unwise

September 10, 1968

Opinions expressed in Salient are not necessarily those of VUWSA.

Mr Roy Emile Jack, Speaker of the House of Representatives, in persistently disallowing the use of loudspeaker systems in the Grounds of Parliament thinks he is resisting a trend which will bring Parliament into disrepute.

It would be socially unacceptable to completely ban all demonstrations and public meetings outside Parliament. This would appear a too blatant attack on freedom of speech.

But it is possible for Mr Jack to hinder them severely by not allowing any effective system of communication within the meetings.

New Zealanders have long since accepted this sort of solution to the cake problem in human rights. You eat the cake but leave the icing—a solid sweet and very pretty untouched shell which looks as if it covers something substantial.

But to leave only the icing may be dangerous in this case, for though the sugared shell of free speech makes Parliament a most attractive place to hold a meeting, it foredooms such a meeting to collapse with the icing into a revolting mass. When effective communications are outlawed orderly meetings are practically impossible—if there are over 500 people, absolutely impossible.

Solemn protest and earnest discussion degenerate into waving banners and shouted slogans.

Without loudhailers it is impossible to keep the most sophisticated people from getting bored and the element who is frustrated by the limitations on the effect they can have may get dangerously restless. No crowd can be calmed or controlled. Parliament's repute ithe Queen's Peace cannot remain undisturbed.

Thus in his eagerness to preserve the good repute of Parliament, Mr Speaker is guilty of encouraging it to become a rendezvous for unlawful assembly.

Only two courses are open to the Speaker: to ban public meetings from Parliament Grounds altogether (which would be a flagrant breach of customary rights), or to allow the use of loudhailers.

The Speaker is afraid this would lead to his Grounds degenerating into a Hyde Park. He would have to give permits not only to acceptable groups like Czechoslovakia protesters, but to almost everyone, even the "communists and homosexuals".

Without questioning the profundity of Mr Jack's democratic thought, it could be put to him that such liberality might be desirable.

The Speaker, by encouraging the Grounds to become a place of public forum is able to link Parliament with a positively democratic activity.

In a society which, hopefully, adulates democracy, this should increase the repute of Parliament which it is the Speaker's responsibility to preserve.