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Voicing opinions can depend on circumstances

One of the leading national news stories over the past week has been about the imminent arrival of an English woman by the name of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, and whether she should be allowed into the country or not.

The founder of a group called Standing for Women, Keen-Minshull – also known by the pseudonym Posie Parker – is described in some stories as an “anti-transgender activist”, although she rejects that characterisation, preferring to call herself “pro-woman”.

At issue is Keen-Minshull’s forcefully expressed opposition to aspects of transgender activism, including the call for transgender women [i.e, people who were born male but maintain they are really females who are “trapped in the wrong body”] to have access to facilities like toilets and changing rooms that until relatively recently were unquestionably the sole preserve of those who were born female and continue to “identify” as such.

Opponents of Keen-Minshull will be quick to say this brief account of her position is inaccurate and they’d be right, insomuch as providing one example is necessarily simplistic.

But space is limited and to say the transgender issue is “complex” is an eyewatering understatement [“semantic quagmire” is much closer to the mark].

In any case, transgenderism is not the subject of this opinion piece [that particular act of self-immolation will have to wait for another day], but rather, who should get to voice their opinion, and in what circumstances.

Those who wish to prevent Keen-Minshull from voicing her opinion are seeking to do so under section 16 of the Immigration Act 2009, which enables New Zealand officials to deny entry permission or visa waiver to a person likely to be a threat or risk to public order or to the public interest.

Among those calling for her to be barred are the Rainbow Greens and three Green Party MPs, who, in a lengthy open letter to the immigration minister, contend that Keen-Minshull “has a longstanding track record of hateful speech and the incitement of violence towards trans and gender diverse people”.

Some of what’s provided as evidence to support this claim is arguable at best, especially the idea she actively incites violence towards anyone.

But one claim that does stack up is that four years ago she spoke at the same conference – and even took a selfie with – a chap called Hans Jorgen Lysglimt Johansen, who has a history of antisemitic statements and Holocaust denial.

Certainly not a great person to be seen associating with, no question.

However, it’s interesting to contrast the call from today’s Green MPs with the response of then-Green MP Keith Locke to our immigration service banning bona fide Holocaust denier David Irving back in 2004.

“David Irving’s holocaust denial views are repugnant to most New Zealanders, but that is not sufficient reason to bar him from New Zealand,” thundered Locke, who was the party’s human rights spokesperson.

“Banning him only gives more publicity to his obnoxious views.

“We have plenty of people with extreme views in New Zealand. Are we now going to stop them expressing themselves?”

That was a rhetorical question less than two decades ago. It seems like an increasingly real one today.

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