Before she arrived last Friday, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull – aka Posie Parker – was a controversial figure internationally for her claims that transgender women are a threat to the safety of women, but few New Zealanders knew her name.
That changed when Parker’s rally in Melbourne, the previous week, attracted a group of neo-Nazis who gave a ‘Sieg Heil’ salute as they marched past.
Suddenly her name was on everybody’s lips and Parker was greeted with a large organised protest at her rally in Auckland’s Albert Park. Parker’s supporters have criticised police for not doing more to stop the “argy bargy” that took place. Parker left after having tomato juice tipped over her head by a trans-activist.
Her ‘Let Women Speak’ tour was cut short and her Wellington event was cancelled
The Detail looks at the fallout from Parker’s visit, by getting three different takes on last weekend’s events.
“Her visit has just crystalised something that’s been happening for a long time,” says Stephen Franks, former ACT MP and Free Speech Union member.
“The reason we’re getting so much street activity is that politicians have opted out,” he says.
“There’s a whole set of debates where ordinary New Zealanders are simply not seeing their views represented in politics.”
Franks tells The Detail why he had tears in his eyes when he read the accounts by some of the women who were confronted at the protest in Auckland.
“Unless someone’s inciting violence, I’m all for free speech it doesn’t matter what they’re saying. I want to hear from people I detest,” he says.
He says New Zealand has had 100 years of “relative civil peace”, but decades of bipartisan support for freedom of speech has dissolved in the space of three or four years.
Franks proffered that New Zealand had seen a delayed onset of the “culture wars”, so well advanced in other countries, by having a succession of well-respected prime ministers [Clark, Key and Ardern in her first term].
The Detail also talks to Franks’ former ACT colleague, journalist Deborah Coddington, who wrote an opinion piece in support of transgender women. Coddington says people who support Parker’s right to speak do not understand that freedom of speech has its limits.
“And I would say that the people who were shouting her down and stopped her, that was correction of speech because what she is saying is factually incorrect,” she says.
Coddington describes Parker as a smart PR operator who has faced similar clashes in other parts of the world but in a few weeks she will have been forgotten and everyone will have moved on.
We asked our third participant, Auckland lawyer and Jewish community leader, Juliet Moses, if New Zealanders would now be better informed on trans issues after Parker’s aborted tour.
“I think it left us better informed that this is an extremely divisive issue,” says Moses.
“Will they be better acquainted with the arguments on either side? No, probably not.”
Moses backs the decision to allow Parker into New Zealand on the grounds of freedom of speech.
“There are people who come here and speak…who I profoundly disagree with, people who indulge in antisemitism…. but my view is that it is generally better to let people have their say, as uncomfortable as that might be, than not let them in.
“My concern is that if we can’t have these discussions, civil or even uncivil dialogue, it plays into the hands of extremists on both sides and I really don’t think that is a healthy place for us to be as a society.”
Hear more about these viewpoints in the full podcast episode.
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