Controversial Aussie politician Pauline Hanson invited to NZ to discuss free speech

Controversial Australian politician Pauline Hanson has been asked to debate on this side of the Tasman.

The invite from the Government Accountability League comes as the issue of free speech in New Zealand polarises public opinion.

Her office tells 1 NEWS she's yet to receive a formal invitation, but it's believed she will be holding an event here in November.

The possible visit comes after Simon Bridges says the left has attacked free speech recently.

Mr Bridges was addressing students at Massey University in Palmerston North about the controversy today. Source: 1 NEWS

"We have seen a real attack on free speech from some on the left recently, first on some Canadian speakers and now on Don Brash," he told reporters outside Massey University.

He also had a message for the Government on the issue.

"The Government needs to have a real position on this, they can't cop out and sit on the side-lines, they fund the universities of New Zealand and should be standing up for free speech as well," Mr Bridges said.

Dr Brash, a former National leader and Reserve Bank governor, was due to speak to the university's Politics Society in Palmerston North two days ago, but Ms Thomas cancelled the event citing safety concerns.

Ms Thomas said the decision came at a time of heightened tension over free speech and hate speech prompted by the visit of Canadian alt-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux to New Zealand.

Brash said their actions just helped to prove his case. Source: 1 NEWS

Last night protesters attempted to shout down Dr Brash while he spoke at a free speech debate at Auckland University.

The invite from the Government Accountability League comes as the issue of free speech in New Zealand polarises public opinion. Source: 1 NEWS

Christchurch motorists riled up over new bike, bus lanes but council says 'they're not stuck in traffic - they are the traffic'

Some Christchurch motorists are riled up over a network of new bike and bus lanes developed as part of of the city's rebuild, saying they're making it more difficult for drivers.

Christchurch has seen an average 15 to 20 per cent boost in cyclists, with tens of thousands of trips recorded across the city in the last week. 

"We've got a long way to go to get to the Netherlands and Denmark and that, but actually compared to a lot of European cities Christchurch is starting to get in the same space actually," said Glen Koorey, a traffic engineer.

But it's sharing the space that's got some motorists annoyed. 

Christchurch City Councillor Deon Swiggs says people should have a choice of what they want to use to get to work and, "we can't make it really, really difficult for those people to get around our city".

The council's transport manager, Mike Davidson, says motorists are not stuck in traffic - they are the traffic. 

"And this is half the reason why we're trying to actually put in all this network of cycleways."

It's an issue facing all New Zealand's major cities converting to greener modes of transport.

But will it means cars have to give way? 

"New Zealand as a whole has been decades investing in transport infrastructure that really is just focused on vehicles. And so I guess we're just trying to balance that," Mr Davidson said.

It's a vision of the future which means sharing is something motorists will have to get used to.

Council officials are taking steps to make sure drivers aren’t lost in the move to greener transport.

They say although efforts are being made to balance the infrastructure between cars and other travel options, motorists will still be able to get around the city without interruption.

Cycling is up 20 per cent in the Garden City, but some drivers say they are being inconvenienced because of it. Source: 1 NEWS


Beneficiaries who fail drug tests not subject to harsh sanctions

The Ministry of Social Development is refusing to enforce harsh sanctions on beneficiaries who fail drug tests, and the Government is acknowledging the drug sanctions stigmatise the unemployed.

Viv Rickards is the Ministry's new deputy chief executive and he says imposing sanctions on people who fail drug tests just doesn’t make sense.

"For normal New Zealanders, they'll think we can stop their benefit - of course we can.

"But that's not our mode of approach, that's not our operating model, because doing that doesn't help people become employed and independent," Mr Rickards told 1 NEWS.

The Drug Foundation's executive director Ross Bell said that's an astonishing thing for the Ministry to say, but agrees wholeheartedly.

"If the sanctions regime isn't being used and the testing regime doesn't work - then lets scrap it."

The Greens social development spokesperson Jan Logie says her party wants them gone.

"They destabilise families trying to get by and that's not helpful for any of us.

"This was actually more about trying to stigmatize beneficiaries as lazy pot smokers than it was addressing any real issue."

Sanctions for failing drug tests were introduced by the former National Government in 2013 - and at that time it was estimated thousands of unemployed New Zealanders would fail the tests.

However, that hasn't occurred.

"You know we've had over 40,000 (47,115 last year) people going towards jobs where people require drug testing and out of that we've only had 170 people have come back where they've failed the drugs test," Mr Rickard said.

An advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty, Ricardo Menendez March wants the drug sanctions axed.

"A lot of money is going into this fear-mongering atmosphere when really this money should be going into funding addiction support services."

The Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says the drug sanctions have a negative impact on the unemployed.

"I agree they're stigmatising but I guess it's a hangover from the previous government that was trying to look like they were coming down hard on beneficiaries."

But National's deputy leader Paula Bennett believes new drug testing technology needs to be investigated.

"The way that we originally did that drug testing years ago was controversial it's not something that you do easily.

"Actually it's easy to test for marijuana, it's hard to test for meth, I think it is something that needs to be revisited."

The Government believes drug sanctions only stigmatise the unemployed, while National wants new testing technology to be investigated. Source: 1 NEWS