Fresh from a Melbourne rally that attracted neo-Nazi supporters, British anti-transgender rights speaker Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull is scheduled to appear at two events in Aotearoa.
So what’s the lowdown?
Another controversial international speaker wants to visit New Zealand, and, as expected, reaction has covered the full spectrum from outrage to support.
It’s not the first time – and it won’t be the last – that a divisive figure wants to head down under to speak to supporters. Think back to 2018 when Canadian far-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, who were ultimately booted from their venues, planned to hold talks in Auckland.
This time it’s just one controversial speaker?
Yes, her name is Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, though she is also known by the pseudonym Posie Parker. She’s from the UK.
Just to be clear: she is very much not the Golden Globe-nominated actress Parker Posey.
She’s controversial… how?
Her views on the transgender community have seen Keen-Minshull widely labelled as an anti-transgender campaigner, though she would likely opt to be called pro-woman. She opposes many of the laws and policies implemented to support transgender people, such as around bathroom use and gender identification.
Beyond just rallying against the trans community, Keen-Minshull has also been criticised for appearing on far-right media networks and in videos alongside far-right figures like Tommy Robinson. She has described Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has in the past promoted conspiracy theories, as “an intelligent, really lovely, welcoming, warmly welcoming man”.
And she’s coming to New Zealand?
Yes, assuming she makes it through border control. She is expected to speak at a pair of events in New Zealand this coming weekend.
Why wouldn’t she make it through border control?
A spokesperson for Immigration NZ told The Spinoff that Keen-Minshull was the holder of a British passport, meaning she could typically avoid a visa and instead apply for a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA). “Immigration New Zealand can confirm that Ms Keen-Minshull is the holder of a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority,” the spokesperson said.
However, it was confirmed on Monday that things might be slightly more complex. “INZ is now reviewing whether in the light of the events at the weekend Ms Keen-Minshull is still able to travel to New Zealand on the basis of the NZeTA that she holds without obtaining a visa first,” the statement added.
What happened ‘at the weekend’?
In Melbourne, supporters of Keen-Minshull marched alongside neo-Nazis who were seen performing Nazi salutes and carrying upsetting messages like “Destroy paedo freaks”. Opposition protesters chanted “Posie Parker you can’t hide, you’ve got Nazis on your side.”
According to Newshub, about 400 people were there to support Keen-Minshull, but there were about twice as many pro-transgender supporters.
Victoria’s premier Dan Andrews has announced plans to formally ban the Nazi salute in his state as a result, writing on Facebook: “I wish it didn’t have to be said, but clearly it does: Nazis aren’t welcome. Not on parliament’s steps. Not anywhere.”
Who wants to prevent Keen-Minshull from visiting Aotearoa?
The first group to publicly condemn Keen-Minshull’s visit was the Rainbow Greens (the Green Party’s LGBTQIA+ network), who released an open letter earlier this month.
“There is reason to believe her arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand poses a significant risk and threat to public order and the public interest – particularly with respect to preventing violence towards members of our takatāpui, transgender and gender-diverse communities,” the open letter reads.
A spokesperson for the group told The Spinoff that Keen-Minshull has a long record of hateful speech as well as links to far-right extremist groups. “This type of hateful speech is proven to both incite violence towards transwomen and foster a broader dehumanisation of trans and gender-diverse people that promotes and condones violence towards our already vulnerable communities,” they said.
“We cannot ignore the impacts of this rhetoric. Last year, Tauranga’s Rainbow Youth drop-in centre was burned down, and Greymouth’s pink church was vandalised. This month, a drag storytime was shut down at Avondale Library by anti-LGBTQIA protesters who opposed the popular community initiative.”
Green MPs have backed the petition, including the party’s immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menendez-March, who said questions about Keen-Minshull’s tour needed to be asked.
“I do think we should be considering whether her arrival to Aotearoa could pose a security risk for our communities and the repercussions that it could have when it comes to galvanising the far right,” he told RNZ.
Wellington mayor Tory Whanau, a former Green staffer, also condemned the visit.
As is the case when any controversial speaker visits, there are people defending the trip – some because they endorse her messages and others on free-speech grounds. Here in New Zealand, Keen-Minshull’s visit has been supported by Speak Up for Women, a self-described gender critical group.
OK, so what has the immigration minister said?
Not a lot. A spokesperson for Michael Wood said it was up to Immigration NZ to decide whether or not Keen-Minshull could come into the country. He gave no indication of his personal views.
“This will be a decision for Immigration New Zealand, who will assess her application on character grounds,” the spokesperson said.
And the prime minister?
At a post-cabinet press conference this week, prime minister Chris Hipkins also left the hard calls up to Immigration NZ. “There’s a process that’s being worked through at the moment,” he said.
However, he added: “I condemn people who use their right to free speech in a way that seeks to deliberately create division. It’s not something I would attend or engage with.”
Hipkins said he wasn’t totally across the details of what it was that Keen-Minshull has been criticised for and, as such, wouldn’t comment on whether she should have freedom of speech to keep saying it.