A Soviet chill should have run up our collective spine today. Cabinet Minister Andrew Little announced a special unit is to be established at the Ministry of Justice. Its role – to ensure “misinformation” does not cloud next year’s referendums on legalising cannabis and euthanasia.
But who will decide what is “misinformation”? Given this Minister’s track record of labeling those who disagree with his socially liberal views as being ill-informed, one has to be concerned. The extreme abortion law reform his government is promoting will allow “terminating” unborn children up until birth. When this fact was correctly noted by opponents, Little simply wrote off their concerns as “absurd” and the sort of statement made by “fanatics”. It would appear that, for the Minister, “misinformation” means views which he may not like to hear.
In light of this what can we expect in the referendums next year? The Minister tells us he wants people to focus on the facts and the real issues rather than what he calls “emotional and irrational responses”. However by whose standards will his officials judge what is acceptable in the public debate? They are ultimately accountable to him. And when Little says misleading information will be “called out’ by his misinformation unit what does he mean?
The precedent being set here is indeed chilling. When politicians and government departments start deciding what will, and what will not be allowed in public debates, alarm bells should start ringing.