Brash back on campus after ban

Don Brash. Photo: Getty Images
Don Brash. Photo: Getty Images
Don Brash will give his speech to Massey University students today, more than two months after the university cancelled it citing security concerns.

The cancellation of the speech to the Politics Society at the Palmerston North campus sparked debate about freedom of speech after Brash said he believed the decision was based on his political views rather than security.

At 11am today he will finally get the chance to give his speech, although this time there are bound to be questions about the saga.

Internal emails released under the Official Information Act last month seemed to confirm his suspicions.

The documents showed that security was not the main concern, with Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas saying she didn't want a "te tiriti led university be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".

"I would like to know what are our options re [regarding] not allowing politics clubs to hold event on campus - free to hold any event but not with any inference of support by university," she wrote in an email to her assistant in July.

"Will hit the fan in the media if we go this way. However, racist behaviour of Brash - given te reo is a official language of NZ and we are a tiriti led university - can't be ignored."

However, it wasn't until August 7, the day before Brash was marked to speak at the Manawatū campus, that Thomas cancelled the speaking event citing security concerns.

Massey University continue to insist that "genuine" security concerns existed for cancelling the speech.

In a statement provided to the Herald a spokesman for Massey University addressed the emails requested under the Official Information Act surrounding Brash's planned visit to speak at the Manawatu campus as part of an event hosted by the University's Politics Society.

"It shows the vice-chancellor was first advised of the event several weeks beforehand.

"She held concerns because of the upset that a previous visit by Hobson's Pledge representatives to campus had caused but had been prepared to let it go ahead under conditions the students had signed up to," the spokesman said.

It was when a security threat was raised that Thomas made the decision to cancel the booking.

"Despite what others have claimed, the concern about the threat was genuine. Professor Thomas has subsequently said the University is reviewing how staff assess security threats at its campuses."

Earlier this month, however, Massey University chancellor Michael Ahie said the Council of Massey University was undertaking an independent review into the process surrounding the cancellation of the former National Leader's appearance on the Manawatū campus.

The review will be undertaken by Douglas Martin, a former Deputy State Services Commissioner.

Martin was scheduled to report his findings and make recommendations to the University Council by the end of November.

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