Auckland faces a weekend of culture clash protests and counter-protests after authorities say a British anti-trans activist with views described as “repugnant” does not meet the threshold to be excluded from the country.
Most New Zealanders would’ve had little idea who Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull was before this week but after she sparked protests and made headlines with her events in Australia, Kiwi politicians and authorities weighed in on whether the gates to Aotearoa should be open for her.
Counter-protests to Keen-Minshull, who uses the alternative identity of Posie Parker, have already been arranged for both the Auckland and Wellington Let Women Speak events. An online petition has also been launched calling for her to be kept out of the country.
Kate Hannah, the director of The Disinformation Project, told the Herald it’s worrying to see the spread of ideas that are innately harmful about some of our most vulnerable community members.
”So-called gender-critical feminists have partnered quite quickly and readily across the world with other people who also hold transphobic ideas, which are often couched in terminology which is white supremacist or neo-Nazi,” Hannah said.
Immigration NZ announced on Monday it was reviewing whether she should be able to travel here and in a decision released yesterday, general manager Richard Owen said Keen-Minshull did not meet the high threshold to be considered an excluded person under section 16 of the Immigration Act 2009.
“We note there is nothing specified in the Immigration Act or immigration instructions which could be used to prevent a person travelling to New Zealand on a temporary basis based on their previous expression of opinion and ideas.”
Owen said the agency appreciated that some people will not agree with this assessment, but it was critical that INZ applies the law in all such cases, regardless of the views the individual holds.
“The assessment means that Ms Keen-Minshull can use her visa waiver status as a British citizen and travel to New Zealand on the basis of holding a New Zealand electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA).”
Rainbow community leader Shaneel Lal told TVNZ’s Breakfast show allowing someone like Parker to enter the country was normalising the hatred towards queer people.
”Queer hatred is at an all-time high. So when you bring in someone like Posie Parker into our country, what she does is that it normalises the hatred towards queer people and it emboldens people to act on their hate speech,” Lal said.
”We cannot ensure the safety of queer people at that event, having seen how that event played out in Melbourne.”
Now that she is here, there will be a flow-on effect, they said.
Lal said Parker presented herself as a person advocating for women’s rights.
But some of the things she has said or been involved with suggest otherwise, Lal said.
”She says she will annihilate any woman who stands in her way. Now that is not someone who advocates for the rights of women.
”Posie Parker, in my view, is a...transphobic bigot who masquerades as a women’s rights activist. To call her a feminist is to throw bread in a pool and say that is toast.”
Keen-Minshull joins a list of other controversial speakers who have faced opposition to coming to New Zealand in recent years include Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, right-wing extremists Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern, and US whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
The Keen-Minshull events and counter-protesters start at the same time at the Albert Park Band Rotunda at 11am on Saturday in Auckland. In Wellington Keen-Minshull’s event is at Civic Square at 2pm on Sunday, while counter-protesters are meeting at the nearby City to Sea bridge at 1.30pm.
Minister for Immigration Michael Wood said the case of whether to allow Keen-Minshull into the country also did not meet the threshold for ministerial intervention.
The INZ assessment took into account the events in Melbourne, where her speaking event drew a crowd, including people who were seen giving Nazi salutes and shouting slurs, Wood said.
“Like many New Zealanders I would prefer it if Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull never set foot in New Zealand. I find many of her views repugnant, and am concerned by the way in which she courts some of the most vile people and groups around, including white supremacists,” Wood said.
“As we look towards her events for this coming weekend, the welfare and safety of our transgender community is front of mind. Event organisers maintain the primary responsibility to ensure they run a safe and secure event and police have advised they will also be in attendance to ensure public safety.
“I condemn her inflammatory, vile and incorrect worldviews, and will always stand alongside those New Zealanders who use their own right to free speech against those who wish to take society backwards.”
Section 16 of the Immigration Act states no visa or entry permission may be granted, and no visa waiver may apply, to any person who the Minister has reason to believe is likely to commit an offence in New Zealand that is punishable by imprisonment.
Those who are, or are likely to be a threat or risk to security, public order or the public interest or are part of a terrorist entity designated under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, are also included under the Act.
Keen-Minsull told the Herald the decision to allow her into the country was “quite right”.
”I’m delighted. I think it’s really important for the women in New Zealand to be able to speak about their rights,” she said.
“To now be talked about by the New Zealand Prime Minister - whether or not I should be allowed in the country … is so bizarre.”
Hannah, of The Disinformation Project, said when people focus on issues such as women in sports or changing rooms, they are ideas people care about because they’re related to justice and children.
“And as soon as we get into that framework, someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with the issues is quite easily sucked in, because of course we all want to protect children from harm.”
Hannah said such a focus on a statistically rare event becomes “unfair” or “dangerous”.
“That’s resonant targeting.”
Several Green Party MPs have voiced their displeasure at Keen-Minshull and wanted her to be barred from entering New Zealand. The Green’s Elizabeth Kerekere told NZME she was disappointed and “really shocked” that there was no reason to decline the visit “despite the public harm that might be caused”.
“It’s outrageous and I have to say gutless.”
Kerekere said attention will now be going into peaceful protest to show this is not the kind of “behaviour and vitriol” wanted in this country.
She also called the Labour Government hypocritical.
“Don’t turn up at our big rainbow events, promise big things and then not take this opportunity to show and make a stand for the protection for the rights, the humanity, the dignity of our trans [and] non-binary people.”
Kerekere’s message to Wood was that there was still time to change the decision, and she hopes he does.
Justice Minister Kiri Allan and Finance Minister Grant Robertson, both members of the LGBTQI+ community, also voiced their displeasure with the decision on social media but acknowledged there is a high bar to deny someone entry from a visa-waiver country.
“From my perspective I find her views and statements abhorrent,” Robertson said.
“Her bigotry is dangerous and disingenuous. As a country we need to keep our trans community close, and support them through this time. The hateful language is the same that was directed at gays and lesbians in years gone by. It’s the same misinformation and lies that destroyed lives and broke apart families. I for one will never let that rhetoric take hold. We must stand together against bigotry and transphobia.”
Allan said: “Nope to any person that tries to censor anyone else’s identity - race, sexuality, class, gender - just nope.
“Let’s do what we do, Aotearoa - stand up, make some noise and support our trans whānau by showing up and drowning out any bigotry that seeks to divide and hurt our whānau.”
National’s immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford said the decision was unsurprising as the legislation is “quite clear and sets a very high threshold” for refusing entry into New Zealand.
“We can’t ban people on the basis that we don’t agree with what they say. The best antidote to speech we don’t like is more speech.”
The Free Speech Union also welcomed the decision to allow Keen-Minshull into the country.
Chief executive Jonathan Ayling said the organisation envisioned a flourishing New Zealand civil society that “values and protects vigorous debate, dissenting ideas, and freedom of speech as cultural cornerstones”.
Another protest, organised by Hannah Tamaki’s Vision New Zealand, is also kicking off in Auckland at 11am on Saturday at Aotea Square.
A social media post about the event claims it is to rise up against “radical gender theory”.