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SkyCity's cancellation of event with philosopher who holds controversial euthanasia views labelled 'affront to academic freedom'

Auckland's SkyCity has cancelled hosting a speaking event with influential Australian philosopher Peter Singer over fears of "reputational damage", according to the event promoter.

Peter Singer. Source: ThinkInc/Supplied

SkyCity, the chosen venue in Auckland for "An Evening with Peter Singer", has cancelled the contract for the live event scheduled for June 14, which has since raised concerns about the suppression of free speech.

"More broadly, it's disturbing that controversial speakers are increasingly being de-platformed, instead of simply protested," Free Speech Coalition spokesperson Patrick Corish told 1 NEWS.

"SkyCity has every right to cancel a speaking event, but they do open themselves up to criticism of being fearful of a little controversy.

"Many New Zealanders who mightn't agree with Mr Singer's views may still be interested in hearing what he has to say. It's a shame SkyCity doesn't seem to value that kind of intellectual curiosity.

"Mr Singer's speaking plans have already sparked some healthy debate over his views. It only seems to be a small minority of critics who want to go so far as silencing him. We shouldn't let them speak for all of us."

In a statement this morning, event promoter ThinkInc said, "Skycity's decision follows a news article attacking Peter's view that it may be ethical for parents to choose euthanasia for their severely disabled newborn infant".

ThinkInc also claimed the decision was made over fears of "repuatational damage".

But a spokesperson from SkyCity told 1 NEWS, "following concerns raised by the public and local media, SkyCity has cancelled the venue hire agreement for "An Evening with Peter Singer".

"Whilst SkyCity supports the right of free speech, some of the themes promoted by this speaker do not reflect our values of diversity and inclusivity."

The Princeton University professor and author of over 50 books said, "it's extraordinary that Skycity should cancel my speaking engagement on the basis of a newspaper article without contacting either me or the organiser of my speaking tour to check the facts on which it appears to be basing the cancellation.

"I have been welcomed as a speaker in New Zealand on many occasions and spent an enjoyable month as an Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury more than 20 years ago. If New Zealand has become less tolerant of controversial views since then, that's a matter for deep regret."

ThinkInc owner Suzi Jamil said the decision "sets a dangerous precedent for all forms of intellectual discourse and is an affront to academic freedom".

"This incident sets a dangerous precedent for all forms of intellectual discourse and is an affront to academic freedom."

ThinkInc is currently looking for a new venue to host the event.

However, Mr Corish said they may have some difficulty doing so.

"The larger free speech concern here revolves around how Mr Singer will find another venue, considering Auckland Council has a near-monopoly on suitable alternatives. The Council has proven that it is easily spooked by threats of protest," he said.

Mr Corish raised concern as a result of this, noting that when Auckland Council cancelled an event in 2018 with controversial far-right activists Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern who were forced to find a private venue at the last minute and ultimately their arrangements fell through.