Advocacy group hopes for second transgender MP

By Imran Ali

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Whangarei lawyer Kelly Ellis hopes to use the Labour Party's special branch in Whangarei to highlight issues of concern to voters. Photo/John Stone
Whangarei lawyer Kelly Ellis hopes to use the Labour Party's special branch in Whangarei to highlight issues of concern to voters. Photo/John Stone

A group of Whangarei lawyers lobbying for transgender advocate Kelly Ellis' nomination as a Labour Party candidate in the election is hoping for a repeat of 1972 when traditional National voters changed tack.

In a boost to their campaign, the 12 lawyers who call themselves the "Justice Sector" have been given the green light by the Labour Party to form a special branch in Whangarei.

It means they can now discuss amongst themselves issues of concern to the local electorate and to comment publicly on them.

Ms Ellis, a Whangarei-based lawyer, could be the second transgender MP in the country, after Georgina Beyer, after putting her hat into the ring to secure party nomination.

The Whangarei seat is currently held by National's Phil Heatley.

Ms Ellis said the special branch would act as a platform to discuss social issues such as poverty, unemployment and crime.

She said anybody other than lawyers were welcomed to join the special branch.

"As a bunch of lawyers, we have a special interest in justice - a broader interest than court - as we're all advocates for people who don't have otherwise strong voices," she said.

Convener of the special branch and lawyer Wiremu Puriri said maybe Labour could provide some remedy to problems such as unemployment and poverty as the party was close to the social democratisation model used in Scandinavian countries and Japan.

Under the model, both extremes in terms of rich and poor are not glaringly reflected.

The fact that Mr Heatley was not contesting has given voters an opportunity to reflect on the other alternative voice, such as Ms Ellis, she said.

"In 1972, the traditional National voters must have voted for Labour when Labour's Murray Smith got elected in Whangarei and we're seeking to replicate that."

Mr Puriri said Whangarei hadn't been thriving in the past 15 years and that it was time for fresh blood and new ideas to represent the district.

"We operate at the sharp end of the economic and social distress in this town," he said.

Mr Puriri said it should be an interesting battle between her, National's Dr Shane Reti and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters if all secured their respective party nominations.

Mr Peters has earlier neither confirmed nor denied standing in Whangarei.

Nominations for Labour candidates in Whangarei closes at the end of next month.

Ms Ellis is a member of the group TransAdvocates and had been fighting for five years to stop transgender prisoners suffering in jails.

- Northern Advocate

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