IT USED to be said that New Zealand was so old-fashioned that international airline passengers would be told, ‘We are about to land in New Zealand, please set your watches to 1950.’ No longer: thanks to Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand is bang up to date.
Woke New Zealand has sent weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, a biological male who now identifies as a woman, to the Olympics. Competing as a man Hubbard was far from world-class. Competing as a woman, Hubbard is consistently in the world top ten. Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen describes this as ‘a bad joke’. Only the woke are laughing.
It’s not just sport where New Zealand flaunts its woke credentials. According to literary critic Steve Braunias, the 2021 Ockham New Zealand national book awards has become a bit of a ‘wokefester festival’. Of the 16 authors on the shortlist, seven are writers of colour and seven are women. In the poetry category no writers are white. Three of the four books nominated for the non-fiction award are concerned with Māori. Braunias is no backwoods curmudgeon and thinks some of the books are very well written; what he questions is the criteria used in the selection of entries.
These moves are not happening in a vacuum. Under Labour Prime Minister Ardern New Zealand, or as the woke increasingly term it Aotearoa, its name in te reo Māori, is attempting to gain pole position in the race to wokeness. In the opinion of Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First and one-time deputy prime minister, Labour are ‘enabling a wave of rights-based activism in and outside of Government’.
A fully paid-up member of the globalist club, Ardern never hesitates to talk down the nation state in favour of ever-expanding supranational bodies. At the UN in 2019 she described national sovereignty as ‘simplistic’ and argued: ‘Undeniably, we are living in a time where our greater reliance on one another has collided with a period of greater tribalism.’ Her major point was that ‘our globalised, borderless world asks us to be guardians not just for our own people, but for all people’. Ardern wants New Zealand to be the progressive leader she thinks the world needs.
A cornerstone activity of every progressive movement is working towards the curtailment of free speech. This is to remove the level playing field of ideas and debate and hamstring any socially conservative opposition to progressivism. Although the perpetrator came from Australia, the ghastly Christchurch massacre in March 2019 opened the door for the introduction of restrictive laws by the Ardern government.
Proposed legislation will increase the groups of people already protected from hurt feelings. Planned changes would cover the written and spoken word and online platforms, and speech that intentionally incites hatred on the basis of sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief (meaning the lack of a religious belief), colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status and sexual orientation.
As outlined, it appears that only approved opinions concerning identity groups such as ‘rainbow communities’ will be allowed, and questioning those woke-approved opinions could be a criminal offence. The proposed legislation, like that of the Trudeau government in Canada, resorts to vagueness to achieve its ends. It is not obvious who will decide which opinions are acceptable and what the threshold for unacceptability is. Tellingly, there is no clear definition of ‘hatred’. However, currently the maximum penalties for hate speech in New Zealand are a $7,000 (£3,500) fine and maximum of three months’ imprisonment. The proposed changes would increase that maximum to three years’ imprisonment and a $50,000 (£25,000) fine.
Victoria University of Wellington senior law lecturer Eddie Clark questions the radical expansion of the groups protected under hate speech law. ‘Including things like political opinion and employment status seems quite odd to add as a hate speech provision,’ Clark says. ‘The one that particularly worries me is political opinion, because you want to have robust political disagreement . . . and you wouldn’t want to risk capturing that within hate speech legislation.’
The Ardern government’s proposals will take away basic rights to free speech. Their effect will be to shut down debate and make people wary of expressing valid opinions. Inevitably the police will be further politicised and will face pressure to prosecute those with unpopular views. David Seymour, leader of the Right-wing classical-liberal ACT party (Association of Consumers and Taxpayers), said in a press release that the proposed laws ‘will put cancel culture on steroids’.
Already many see New Zealand as a bastion of progressive government and Jacinda Ardern as a poster girl for progressivism. Behind the caring exterior there is an inflexible determination to drive forward a progressive agenda for its own political sake. These changes in New Zealand’s society are more than the usual social engineering we have come to expect from progressives: they are an attempt to be seen internationally as progressive and gain recognition and leadership within the Western progressive movement.
Winston Peters said, ‘The woke generation are the equivalent of a person with no long-term memory, stumbling around in the present without any signposts to guide them. If a person, like a country, doesn’t know where they have come from, they have no way of knowing where they are going.’
Unfortunately, woke New Zealand knows where it is going: it is deliberately charting its own progressive course in the world. It is no longer Australia with manners, it is becoming California with sheep.