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The column the New Zealand Herald wouldn't publish

Simon O'Connor (National): if you want to hear different views from across the political spectrum & to engage with more arguments – distance yourself from woke progressive politics taking hold in NZ.
Simon O'Connor
National Party MP
May 19th, 2022

OPINION: “Do as I say, not as I do” was my first thought in response to Shane Te Pou’s recent opinion piece.  He wrote asking for those he disagrees with to provide him more reasons and arguments for their views (and there was quite a list).  A great request in itself, yet he and many others within the progressive/woke movement are simultaneously the same ones seeking to de-platform, belittle, and silence those they disagree with well before any opinion or argument can be put forward.  He asks why he doesn’t hear conservatives’ arguments while at the same time writing in belittlement of them.

Immediately we see illustrated one of the notable problems with woke progressivism - double speak.  We see this clearly around free speech.  The woke will talk of how free speech is good, but only speech they agree with.  The woke talk of allowing people to speak in public, but only people they like, anyone else is to be de-platformed, cancelled, ridiculed, or harassed.

Shane writes that he wants to “hear more from them [conservatives] on the reasoning behind the views” and yet he is part of a movement that prevents most attempts to do so.  He also assumes, wrongly, that the woke are only focused on the conservative or right wing of politics. He could not be more wrong, for many on the traditional left are also being disenfranchised.

Conservatives (among many others) are currently arguing that “one person, one vote” is a critical and necessary aspect of democracy. The woke suggest they have a new way forward, and that democracy is some foreign, “appropriated” concept. The sadder irony is that no arguments of how a ‘new Aoteraoa democracy’ will improve thousands of years of democratic learning have been put forward by the progressives, but certainly lots of nasty labels given to those of us who challenge them.  When some academics were asked about the importance of freedom of speech, one woke-inspired response argued that freedom is simply a capitalist and colonial concept.  Others have harassed their academic colleagues via petitions and media beat ups, rather than with rational counter arguments.

Just about every kiwi would be angry at the recent comments directed at Nadia Lim. Te Pou rightly notes how wrong these were.  And yet, he appears to have little to say about those currently deriding political figures as racists, “useless”, and much more and worse. Why not decry both as I and other conservatives would? The answer is simply – the woke choose sides, not consistency.

He also suggests wrongly, that the focus of woke activists is on the right of politics, or more particularly conservatives. He conveniently overlooks that the progressives and woke are just as censorious of many on the left of politics.  In fact, one could even argue that the traditional left are getting beaten up more by the militant woke than anyone else.  We need only think of feminists like Speak Up for Women who cannot even hold a meeting at a university to talk about women’s rights without being harassed and banned. 

As someone who is proudly on the right and conservative, I need to say that despite Te Pou’s assertion, I do not feel besieged. I will say however, as many others have, that we are living in a more censorious world. The very people who write saying they want to hear our arguments are often the same who then go about ensuring alternative views are not published; social media posts are denigrated; that speaking events are de-platformed; or encouraging ‘mobs’ to harass those they disagree with. I have often said, the woke find it easier to attack the person than properly engage the argument.

So Shane, if you want to hear different views from people across the political spectrum and to engage with more arguments – then distance yourself and your friends from the woke progressive politics taking hold here in New Zealand. Support a breadth of opinion to be published across mainstream media; support the right to free speech in society; call out those de-platforming and cancelling speakers at our universities; and challenge those who spend their days only labelling and mocking opponents. Then perhaps you will hear those opinions and arguments you say you are so keen to engage.

Simon is currently the Member of Parliament for the Tamaki electorate in Auckland. He has been appointed as the National Party’s Spokesperson for Corrections, Customs, and Arts, Culture & Heritage, as well as Associate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.