Friday, March 31, 2023

On activists from other countries and their role in the culture wars

A commenter on this blog a few days ago drew attention to the fact that some of the most active antagonists in the culture wars are relatively recent arrivals in New Zealand.

I commented on the same phenomenon in a post two years ago. I named the abortion activist Terry Bellamak (American), the Green MP Ricardo Menendez-March (Mexican), migrant activist Guled Mire (Somalian) and our old friend, chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt (British).

Since then there’s been a slight reshuffle of the names. Mire seems to have gone quiet and Bellamak has dropped out of sight, presumably because she achieved her goal of making New Zealand one of the most hazardous countries in the world in which to be an unborn child. Job done.

But there are two new entries on the list. One is Eliana Rubashkyn, the former Ukrainian/Colombian refugee who became a hero of the woke Left by assaulting Posie Parker in Albert Park last weekend. It was Rubashkyn – last seen taking admiring selfies of herself on a flight to New York on Thursday – who inspired Tuesday's comment on this blog.

The other is Shaneel Lal (Fijian), who 
was instrumental in whipping up the hysteria that led to the violent protest, verging on a riot, against Parker. Lal has emerged as the voice of the LGTBQIA+ cultists – except that he/she rejects those initials because they don’t capture his/her “precolonial, indigenous queerness”. For Lal, it seems there are not enough letters in the alphabet to encompass all the variants of sexuality that queer people might identify with. He/she even goes so far as to claim that the + symbol “privileges white identities”. Seriously.

My commenter also cited Golriz Ghahraman, who came to New Zealand with her family as refugees from Iran. The common factor shared by nearly all these people is that they left – or in some cases fled – violent, corrupt, unstable or oppressive (sometimes all four) societies and were given the chance to make a new life in a country that was none of these things. So why does it seem to be their first instinct to repay the favour by complaining about all the things that are supposedly wrong here and agitating for change? It’s like a house guest coming to stay, then demanding that you re-arrange the furniture.

In the 1970s, at the height of the Vietnam War protest era in the US, there was a celebrated bumper sticker: “America: Love it or leave it”. It was a response to the rise of the counter-culture and it was scorned by liberals (me included) as the pathetic cry of rednecks and reactionaries. Now I’m inclined to think the slogan made a legitimate point.

In my post two years ago, I wrote: “As immigration has ramped up, so New Zealand has become home to an increasing number of activists, political aspirants, bureaucrats and academics from countries whose values and mindsets are often dissimilar to ours.

“They arrive with attitudes moulded and fixed in societies that are, in some cases, thoroughly f**ked up (Somalia and Mexico, for example, though some might say that description also applies to the US) and which can teach us nothing about freedom, wellbeing or human dignity. But that doesn’t prevent these recent arrivals from insinuating themselves into positions of prominence and influence here, stridently finding fault with the way we do things and demanding that New Zealand – an exemplar of liberal democracy and a country respected worldwide for its human rights credentials – reshape itself to conform to their radical ideological prescriptions.

“Logically, immigrants are drawn to New Zealand because they recognise this as a country where they can live in peace, own their own homes, get a university degree, enjoy freedom of speech, vote for the politicians of their choice in free and fair elections, practise their religion without let or hindrance and enjoy the protection of the rule of law.

“This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t avail themselves of the rights available to native-born New Zealanders: the right to stand for public office, to lobby for political causes, to join political parties, to phone talkback shows and write letters to the editor. 

"In other words, we shouldn't expect immigrants to remain silent and invisible. But neither should they expect those of us who were born and raised here, whose families in many cases have been here for generations, and who have paid taxes and voted in elections all our lives, to welcome newcomers whose first instinct on arrival is to plunge into political activism aimed at refashioning our laws and institutions.”

Of course anyone who expresses such views risks being condemned as xenophobic, racist or a cis male oppressor, if not all three. Sure enough, someone on Twitter claimed I was arguing that the longer someone’s ancestors had been in New Zealand, the more rights they should have. But I didn’t say that and I don’t think it. I was simply arguing that newcomers should have some regard for those who were here before them (which applies to colonisers' attitudes to Maori too). Call it courtesy, if you like.

The tweeter went on to claim I had said that no one had been in New Zealand longer than my Pakeha ancestors – a total fabrication.

Significantly, no attempt was made in the subsequent thread to engage with my point. I suspect the reason Twitter is so popular with the woke Left is that its enforced brevity encourages puerile name-calling but spares tweeters the burden of having to develop a coherent argument,

The person who posted that tweet came from Sri Lanka, a country that was torn apart by a brutal 26-year civil war and remains a basket case. The first person to applaud her comment about me was Giovanni Tiso, a Marxist from Italy.

For the record, I absolutely believe it’s a good thing that New Zealand opened its doors to people from Sri Lanka – and for that matter from Iran, Mexico, Colombia, Somalia, Fiji, China, India and all the other cultures that have made New Zealand a more colourful, vibrant society than the one I grew up in. 

I wholly support immigration from religiously and ethnically diverse countries, with the one proviso that it needs to be carefully managed so as to avoid destabilising the host society. Europe has shown us what can happen when large groups of disaffected migrants congregate in ghettoes.

This doesn’t mean we should want immigrants to assimilate to the point where they become submerged, as was expected of non-British migrants (including my own forebears) until well into the 20th century. Most New Zealanders welcome and applaud the cultural diversity introduced by the liberal immigration policies of the past few decades.

But it’s not too much to expect that immigrants respect the values and institutions of the country that has adopted them, as most do. Those values include, but are not restricted to, freedom of speech and the rule of law (we’re looking at you, Eliana Rubashkyn), equal rights for all and no special treatment on the basis of race, religion or sexual identity (which is what Shaneel Lal and his/her fellow cultists seem to be agitating for, as far as one can tell).

That’s the way we do things here. It’s why this country is seen as a sanctuary by people fleeing despotic regimes. To paraphrase the headline on my 2021 blog post, why move to a new and infinitely better country if your first instinct is to change it?

Footnote: Shaneel Lal was named Young New Zealander of the Year in the Kiwibank-sponsored New Zealander of the Year awards last night, reportedly for his/her role in getting conversion therapy banned. I wonder if Kiwibank is having second thoughts after Lal's role in last weekend's shameful tumult.





Thursday, March 30, 2023

It's true, then: go woke, go broke

So TodayFM is buggered. A mate's cruelly calling it YesterdayFM. 

I’m not going to dance on its grave. No one should rejoice when people’s livelihoods are on the line. But the station’s failure comes as no surprise.

It was conceived and born in unpropitious circumstances. Its progenitor was Magic Talk, which had grown out of Radio Live.

Remember Magic Talk? That’s the MediaWorks-owned station that got rid of John Banks after he appeared to agree with a caller who described Maori as a Stone Age people.

As I wrote at the time, that statement offended a lot of people. Being offended is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society, but the woke Left were outraged and demanded Banks’ head.

He was soon gone. MediaWorks chief executive Cam Wallace, freshly arrived from Air New Zealand and presumably keen to make a big impression, boasted that the former cabinet minister and Auckland mayor wouldn’t be back as long as he was in charge.

We learned from that episode that former airline executives aren't big on such nebulous values as free speech. Bums on seats is what they understand. MediaWorks quickly buckled in the face of boycotts by major advertisers Vodafone, KiwiBank and Spark, who weren't interested in free speech either.  

Sean Plunket was the next to go. He too was targeted by vindictive woke zealots. Peter Williams lasted a few months longer. He walked because he felt his position had become untenable due to pressure over his stance on Covid and vaccine mandates.

By the end of 2021 Magic Talk had cleared the decks of its embarrassing conservative hosts and MediaWorks was ready to rebrand the station (at a reported cost of $9 million) as TodayFM, with a glowing roster of politically more acceptable hosts that included big names Tova O’Brien, Duncan Garner and Rachel Smalley.

Unfortunately it’s been pretty much downhill ever since. By the end of last year, TodayFM’s ratings had tanked to a derisory 1.4 per cent share of the market. Martyn Bradbury called it the worst result of any talkback station in New Zealand radio history.

Meanwhile, Sean Plunket had responded in the most effective way possible to his falling out with MediaWorks: namely, by setting up The Platform, which appears to have thrived in inverse proportion to TodayFM’s headlong decline.

But even as TodayFM’s ratings agony continued, it appeared to have learned nothing. It required its hosts Leah Panapa and Miles Davis to make an on-air apology and submit to a humiliating ritual called Rainbow Tick training after they offended the wokerati by making the outrageous suggestion that only women could get pregnant.

That sent a resounding message to the station’s dwindling audience, who would quite reasonably have wondered why a radio station should expect loyalty from its listeners when it showed none to its hosts. The punishment of Panapa and Davis would also have signalled that TodayFM was more concerned with pandering to carping objectors than with providing daring, stimulating and entertaining radio. 

At that point O’Brien, Garner et al must have been feeling cold shivers, yet as far as we know they did nothing to support their colleagues. It now seems clear they would have had little to lose by taking a stand, since the whole shebang was obviously on the skids anyway. 

By then Wallace had fled back to the airline business. He was followed by the wunderkind Dallas Gurney, MediaWorks’ director of news and talk – the guy who made Panapa and Davis walk the plank. Now, only two weeks later, the whole ship has sunk.

The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that MediaWorks didn't deserve to run a talk station in the first place. Even before it launched TodayFM, the company clearly had no respect for the idea that controversial and provocative ideas should be freely aired and debated in an open society, which is the very essence of talkback.

Another lesson might be that no talk station can survive by trying to ingratiate itself with people who never listen to the radio anyway. As the saying goes: “Go woke, go broke.”

Footnote: RNZ has gone big on the TodayFM saga but has been strangely reticent about another radio story of public interest - namely, the unexplained absence for the past few weeks (unconnected, according to the New Zealand Herald) of two of its most popular hosts, Jim Mora and Karyn Hay. Listeners' curiosity can only have been heightened by the PR smokescreen emanating from the RNZ head office, which seemed calculated to deflect attention from the subject of the paper's inquiries. Whatever the explanation, they are two of RNZ's most likeable presenters and I look forward to their return.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

New Zealand's most useless public servant

The man masquerading as the guardian of New Zealanders’ human rights has weighed in, from his Olympian heights, on the Posie Parker affair.

As usual, Paul Hunt’s opinion is worthless and leaves us wondering once again what we did to deserve this third-rate British import and how much longer we should be expected to put up with him.

The chief human rights commissioner writes, as if we all eagerly awaited his insights, that he wants to provide a human rights perspective on the issues raised by Parker’s visit. He adds, in Uriah Heep fashion, that he does this “from where I sit with my multiple privileges and advantages”.

Oh, please. Breast-beating liberal white guilt has rarely been more cringingly displayed. We can only hope his $365,000 salary eases the pain.

Hunt wrings his hands over the scenes that forced Parker to abandon her rally in Auckland last weekend but conspicuously refuses to condemn outright the behaviour of the mob that assaulted her, harassed her and shouted her down.

He gives away his bias in his very first sentence by revealing he attended the rally because he wanted to show support for his “trans friends”. Ingratiating himself with the wokerati is more important to Hunt than demonstrating the impartiality we’re entitled to expect from a senior public servant. Clearly, it’s also more important than standing up for free speech.

Hunt doesn’t just pass up the opportunity to emphatically defend free speech; he effectively aligns himself with its enemies.

At one point he pays token lip service to freedom of expression, acknowledging that it’s “a vital pillar of our democracy”. But he negates that in his very next sentence by quoting the late radical Maori lawyer Moana Jackson, who said “No one’s exercise of free speech should make another feel less free”.

So free speech is okay just as long as it doesn’t make anyone feel bad? That’s a novel new take. If the elected representatives who make New Zealand law took that view, they would have written it into the Bill of Rights Act, Section 14 of which unequivocally guarantees freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form”.

Nothing about making exceptions for injured feelings there, but apparently the chief commissioner of human rights thinks we should regard Moana Jackson, rather than the New Zealand Parliament, as the ultimate authority. That's a very peculiar position for a senior public servant to take.

Hunt goes on to remind us of a supposed link between transphobia and colonisation. He quotes Tina Ngata, another radical activist, as saying “Transphobia was brought here on a boat”.

No one who approvingly cites such palpably absurd extremist rhetoric can expect to be taken seriously on anything. That whooshing sound you just heard was Hunt launching himself in the direction of Planet Woke, which orbits in a distant ideological universe no one realised existed. Tina Ngata is probably already there.

You have to persevere well into Hunt’s piece before he grudgingly acknowledges that Parker was entitled to share her views without being assaulted or shouted down. But you have to wonder at the sincerity of his position, given that he’s spent the preceding few paragraphs effectively excusing the behaviour of the Albert Park mob on the grounds that trans people have historically been oppressed and brutalised. (Really?)

Even then Hunt can’t bring himself to condemn the bullies. It turns out he believes it was the responsibility of the state to ensure Parker could speak safely. Not a word about the protesters’ violent disregard for her rights. It was all the fault of the police.

It’s a rambling, irrational and contradictory article that in the end, dissolves in a morass of meaningless woke-speak.

Meanwhile, we read that the Human Rights Commission has received more than 90 complaints about Marama Davidson’s deranged claim that cis white men are responsible for the world’s violence. We’re still waiting for a journalist to ask Davidson whether she categorises New Zealand gang wars (to take just one example) as non-violent, given that the participants are nearly all non-white. But then she’s so fixated by retributionist ideology that she’s beyond reason.

As for those complaints, expect them to be buried for as long as it takes for the commission’s dissemblers and apologists to find a reason, no matter how spurious, to dismiss them.

Hunt, of course, has been silent on Davidson’s explicitly racist outburst, as he always is when it’s the woke Left inciting ill-will and division.

Is he New Zealand’s most useless public servant? It’s a crowded field, but I think he has that title safely in the bag.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Cartoonists need to realise they too could one day be at risk from the stiflers of free speech


The Wairarapa Times-Age published the above cartoon yesterday. I wrote the following letter in response, which the paper published this morning.

Shaun Yeo’s cartoon depicts a sulky-looking Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka Posie Parker, leaving New Zealand in a huff after a violent mob prevented her from speaking in Auckland on Saturday.

It’s a “good riddance” cartoon. The caption reads: “We will respect your right to free speech … if you will respect our right not to listen.”

This is nonsensical. No one challenged people’s right not to listen to Parker. People could choose not to listen to her by simply staying away.

That’s not what the noisy rabble in Auckland did. They were determined to ensure that no one was allowed to hear what Parker had to say.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act doesn’t only guarantee freedom to speak. It also upholds people’s right to hear opinions “of any kind in any form”.

That right was denied to New Zealanders on Saturday, and what makes it worse is that the police stood by and did nothing. They didn’t even arrest the person who poured tomato juice over Parker – a clear case of assault witnessed by everyone who saw the TV news.

Not only is Yeoh’s cartoon a perverse distortion of what happened at Albert Park, but he should pause to reflect on the fact that all cartoonists depend on the right to free speech.

Regardless of what he thinks about Parker’s opinions, he should be alarmed at the denial of her right to express herself. All it takes is a change of the political wind for his own right to be threatened.

Incidentally, I don’t regard myself as a Parker supporter. How could I be, when I’m not allowed to hear what she wanted to say?


Monday, March 27, 2023

Let me be very clear about this

There’s one immutable rule in politics: never trust a politician who prefaces a statement with the word “frankly”.

Actually, make that two rules. You should also never trust a politician who says, “Let me be very clear”.

Anyone who begins a statement with the word “frankly” is signalling that whatever he or she is about to say (it’s usually a he) is fearless or radical.

Alas, it never is. The speaker might desperately want people to think he/she is being fearless, radical or even simply outspoken, but no one is fooled.

Moreover, “frankly” is superfluous, since we’re entitled to assume that the person always speaks frankly – or in other words, honestly.

To put it another way, use of the word could be regarded as implying that everything else he/she says should be regarded as insincere. Which may be true.

“Let me be very clear” falls into a similar category. It too denotes boldness and decisiveness.

Someone who says “Let me be very clear” is not to be trifled with. Nothing will shift them from their principled position.

Again, alas, they are likely to have forgotten within days, if not hours, what it was that they were making themselves very clear about.

What prompted this reflection was a commentary by Tova O’Brien in which she referred to an interview she did last week on TodayFM (yes, it’s still on the air, though its audience is now possibly numbered in the hundreds) with Christopher Luxon.

The subject was Posie Parker. We won’t bother with O’Brien’s opinion of the British women's rights activist, other than to say it demonstrates that we shouldn’t assume someone who made her name as an aggressive political journalist is necessarily a sharp or original thinker.

The exchange with Luxon was, however, revealing. National's leader has provided a masterclass in equivocation on the rather important question of free speech and he wasn’t going to allow O’Brien to pin him down.

"Would you allow your MPs to attend Posie Parker’s rally?" O’Brien asked.

"I haven't had that conversation with them, I couldn't imagine there will be many that would be very interested in it," Luxon responded.

O’Brien persisted. "But are you going to be blocking your MPs from attending her speech?"

Luxon: "That's a decision they can make individually, frankly, but I can't see that there will be anyone that would be that interested.”

There it is – that “frankly” word. But what does it mean? Nothing. In fact worse than nothing. It implies he’s saying something meaningful when the exact reverse is true.

I don’t know whether Luxon has ever said “Let me be very clear”, but I’d put money on it.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Eliana Rubashkyn tipped that bottle of tomato juice over an entire country

So. We now know the person who tipped a litre of tomato juice over Posie Parker is a refugee from Colombia.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Eliana Rubashkyn, who describes herself as intersex and trans, came to New Zealand from a country notorious for its violence and corruption. She has been granted residency in one of the freest, most tolerant countries on earth. She is on record herself as calling New Zealand paradise. 

She benefits from our rights and freedoms – rights and freedoms not exactly abundant in her country of origin – and this is how she repays her host country? By denying her fellow citizens the right to hear a speech by someone she doesn’t approve of? By aligning herself with thugs and bullies who would probably feel quite at home in Latin America?

Lest there should be any doubt, I applaud the fact that New Zealand welcomes people from countries with troubled histories. We should share our good fortune. It’s one of the qualities that make this one of the most civilised countries in the world. 

Metaphorically speaking, that bottle of tomato juice was tipped over the country that gave Rubashkyn refuge. I hope she reflects on that, but it’s unlikely. She will be too busy bathing in the unabashed admiration of the media and her friends on the woke Left, who present arguably the gravest danger to democracy in our history.

Now, a question. Will the New Zealand Police be charging Rubashkyn with common assault? They know her identity; the whole country does. What’s more, the crime was witnessed by everyone who watched the TV news. Self-defence is unlikely to fly as a justification. So what’s stopping them?

Oh, and one other thing. Is anyone else struck by the contrast between journalists' obvious approval of yesterday’s violent mob and the media's contemptuous attitude toward the deplorables (for so they were depicted, even though their protest was mostly peaceful) who occupied the grounds of Parliament last year?


If you value free speech, sign this letter

The Free Speech Union has addressed the following letter to the Minister of Police. I urge readers of this blog to follow the link and sign it, and to consider donating to the FSU as well. Its work has never been more important.

Public Letter to Police Minister

Dear Minister,

At the ‘Let Women Speak’ rally on Saturday in Auckland’s Albert Park, Police claimed regarding women’s right activist, Posie Parker, that "she is in a public space. If she feels unsafe she needs to leave." Regardless of our views on Parker’s claim, this is an abject failure of the Police to do their job; defending the basic liberties of those in New Zealand, including free speech.

The counter-protest on Saturday used the ‘Thug’s Veto’ to silence opponents, not through debate or reason, but through manifest intimidation.

Without the right to peacefully gather and express beliefs and opinions, controversial or condemnable though some may consider them to be, free speech is no longer protected in New Zealand. Free speech guarantees the right to both express perspectives and views, and also to hear others perspectives and views.

The Police have failed in their duty to protect these foundational rights.

If you take free speech off the table, as it seems Police allowed to happen on Saturday, the contested opinions and beliefs don’t simply go away. However, the ability to express them peacefully is undone. This leaves on far more extreme forms of expression on the table. We are concerned for the tenure of public debate, and the potential for this to produce violence.

We believe in tolerance. Without free speech, eventually we will all lose.

We call on you, and the Police Commissioner, to acknowledge the lack of action to defend the basic speech rights of those who turned up to the ‘Let Women Speak’ rally, and reassert that those who express unpopular or controversial views in public are entirely in their right, and deserve to be protected from threats, intimidation, and violence.


Sign here:

Saturday, March 25, 2023

The battle for free speech won't be won by hiding in the shadows

The rally planned for Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka Posie Parker, in Wellington tomorrow has been cancelled following the shameful assault on free speech in Auckland today. The threat of violence was too great and the New Zealand Police are either too gutless or too politicised to guarantee the speaker's safety.

The enemies of free speech have won this round. Whether they will win the war will depend on whether the defenders of free speech have the guts and the resolve to fight back.

That means deciding whether to commit fully to the cause or to continue putting up only a half-hearted resistance.

The enemies of free speech have no qualms about outing themselves, as we saw today. They are so convinced of their rightness, and so confident of support from the media, that they don’t mind being seen on the TV news. In fact they revel in the exposure.

I hate to say it, but in this respect they have the high ground over many of those who profess to support free speech, including many commenters on this blog.

The enemies of free speech will not be countered by keyboard warriors lamely commenting behind the safety of pseudonyms. The woke activists we saw in action today must draw great encouragement from the fact that many of their opponents so lack confidence in their cause that they are frightened to identify themselves.

The defenders of free speech need to put themselves out there. To use a cliché, they should have the courage of their convictions. They should be prepared to march in the streets if necessary. At the very least they should be willing to openly declare themselves as being prepared to fight for the survival of liberal democracy.

Accordingly, this blog will no longer publish comments from people hiding behind pseudonyms. If an idea is worth expressing, it’s worth putting your name to. And if free speech is worth saving, then it requires a meaningful commitment.

I can anticipate the objections. People will say I don’t understand what a battlefield it is out there and how vicious the wokesters can be. But plenty of commentators publish ideologically unfashionable opinions under their own names and others should take courage from their example. The battle for freedom of speech will never be won as long as one side hides in the shadows.

Beyond that, I can do no better than publish the following statement issued today by the feminist group Speak Up for Women. It’s an admirable summary of the issues raised by today’s ugly triumph of mob rule at Albert Park.

Today in Albert Park as women were punched, kicked, spat at, trampled, and overrun by a violent mob, New Zealanders have seen the true colours of some of those who, ordinarily, cloak themselves in claims of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion.

In the same week that World Athletics has stated what all reasonable New Zealanders know to be true – that fairness, safety and opportunities for women in sport require the exclusion of males, no matter how they choose to identify – New Zealand activists have shown that they believe women should not be able to have anything for themselves. Not even a small band rotunda in an Auckland park.

So let us clearly say the things that Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull was not able to say today. Lesbians cannot have penises. Men have no place in women’s single sex facilities, services, or sports, regardless of what they proclaim their inner gender identity to be. Puberty blockers, created to castrate male sex offenders and treat prostate cancer, are experimental and harm vulnerable children. And people cannot change biological sex no matter how much they may want to or how many documents they may possess saying otherwise.

Saying that does not deny the existence of people who identify as gender diverse, or instigate harm or violence against them, or make them unsafe, it simply states the truth. Biological sex is real and it matters.

Storming barricades and assaulting women is not “free speech”. It is violent sexism and misogyny. Drowning out the speech of people you don’t like is the cowardly approach of people unwilling to debate contesting views. A 5’1” woman needing four security guards to form a human shield around her to protect her from a screaming, spitting mob is not a New Zealand we know. But it is a true representation of a movement that has become increasingly determined to shut down and destroy anyone with views about sex and gender that they don’t like.

We see those of you in the media who are already trying to downplay the results of the frenzy you were busy whipping up all week. There was not a “scuffle” between supporters and Mrs Keen-Minshull did not leave because she got some paint thrown at her. A small group of courageous women were stampeded by an activist mob and a number were assaulted and physically harmed. Fortunately, in the age of technology New Zealanders can see for themselves what happened.

In the country that was the first in the world to give women the vote, tomorrow’s Let Women Speak gathering in Wellington has been cancelled. Mrs Keen-Minshull’s security team have advised her that they cannot keep her safe from mob violence and the police have declined to do so.

Activists spent the week being courted by a complicit media platforming their claims of being scared, fearing for their safety, deliberately lying to propagate their claims of New Zealand being full of “queer hatred”, and claiming that words they don’t like are harmful and make them feel unsafe. In reality it is clear who really was unsafe today. It is clear who was actually harmed. And it was not the activists taking gloating selfies from a band rotunda.

Speak Up for Women thanks Mrs Keen-Minshull for having the courage to come to New Zealand and showing up in Albert Park today, despite receiving multiple death threats and threats of violence in the last week.

In the coming weeks Speak Up for Women will be gathering witness statements and laying a formal complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority about the lack of police action to prevent violence in what was clearly an increasingly volatile situation.We call on all political leaders to roundly condemn the violence that transgender activists perpetuated this morning.

We speak directly to the Greens, who actively courted and promoted the violence that occurred today, including just this morning posting on social media that they were ready to “fight the Nazis”. And by Nazis they meant the 70 year-old woman who was punched in the head by the mob they instigated. The Green Party was founded by people who fought for free speech, including speech they found abhorrent, you should be ashamed of what you have turned the party into.

A Day of Shame

Protesters marching against the Springbok rugby tour in 1981 used to chant, “The whole world’s watching”.

I doubt that the world was watching what happened in Auckland this morning (it probably wasn’t watching in 1981 either), but anyone who witnessed what happened to Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka Posie Parker, saw a mortal blow being delivered to New Zealand’s reputation as a civil, liberal democracy where the rule of law applies.

A violent, angry rabble forced Parker to abandon a public meeting as the police stood by and did nothing.  She was drowned out when she tried to speak, had food flung at her and tomato juice poured over her head.

As predicted on this site, the real inciters of hate and disorder turned out to be not the so-called far Right but the woke Left – the same woke Left that tried to convince the High Court yesterday that they were the people who would be at risk if Parker was allowed into New Zealand.

Hypocrisy doesn’t begin to describe it. The English language doesn’t have a strong enough word.

In a perverse way, the trans rights activists have done us a favour by laying bare their hatred, their bigotry, their intolerance of dissenting opinion and their propensity for violence.  The people of New Zealand can now see who the real thugs are and who represents the threat to public order.

The people who profess to embrace inclusion and diversity are in fact pathologically hostile to anyone who challenges their world view. As they showed today, they don’t hesitate to use force, numbers and intimidation to silence their opponents.

Auckland Pride festival organiser Max Tweedie and the gay Labour MP Shanan Halbert both told Stuff they were proud of the protesters. Well, there you go; say no more.

Tweedie even had the gall to say that “Tamaki Makaurau demonstrated its values today”.  In fact it’s far more likely that the people of Auckland will feel shamed and tainted by what happened at Albert Park. They certainly should be.

And what of the police? They stood back as the diminutive Parker was assaulted and harassed by a crowd of bullies. They took no action to protect her right to speak, nor the right of people to hear what she had to say – rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights Act. They intervened only when the meeting was abandoned and a frightened-looking Parker had to be escorted through the jostling mob.

So – a black day for free speech and a wake-up call for anyone naïve enough to think the police would uphold the right of peaceful assembly. 

To revive another phrase from 1981, this was a Day of Shame.

Friday, March 24, 2023

In different circumstances, you could almost admire their chutzpah

Justice Gendall in the High Court has come to the right decision in the case of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka Posie Parker. Whether it was for the right reasons remains to be seen.

Gendall ruled that the government’s decision to allow Parker into New Zealand to speak at rallies in Auckland and Wellington was lawful.

As Jonathan Ayling of the Free Speech Union says, it was the only right result for a country that values tolerance, free speech and the ability to debate.

At very short notice, the FSU sought and was granted intervener status at the hearing this morning to make sure free speech issues were considered.

While the Crown Law Office argued that Parker should be allowed in, Roderick Mulgan of the FSU pointed out that the government’s lawyers concentrated their argument on whether her visit raised the risk of harm. Mulgan said the right to freedom of speech needed to be factored in too.

Gendall was under pressure to make a quick decision, and he did. Parker was due to arrive in the country this afternoon.

The judge said the application by those opposing Parker’s visit failed for technical and procedural reasons. He suggested one factor was that he had no opportunity to hear from Parker herself. He will give the full reasons for his decision in writing later.

It will be interesting to see where free speech sits in his reasoning, assuming it features at all. What will worry the FSU is that Gendall said he had considerable sympathy with the application and the issues of public order that were raised.

I’m no lawyer, but I would have thought it was open to the judge to strike out the action as frivolous and vexatious.

The groups that opposed the government’s decision to allow Parker into New Zealand cited likely harm and risk to public order. But if there's any threat of confrontation at Parker’s rallies, it's likely to have been entirely created – incited wouldn’t be too strong a word – by supporters of those same groups.

Had they ignored the British feminist and anti-trans activist, she might have come and gone with hardly anyone being any the wiser. It’s the LGTBQI+ activists, backed by opportunist politicians and hysterical media, who have whipped up an atmosphere of impending havoc.

The implications for free speech were obvious. To have caved in to the demand that Parker be barred would have reinforced the message that all anyone has to do to get a speaker cancelled is to threaten disruption – a ploy that the courts have done little to deter.

The lawyer for the rainbow and transgender groups opposing Parker’s visit said there was evidence (supplied, no doubt, by the public-spirited people at the unimpeachably reliable Disinformation Project) that far-Right and neo-Nazi groups were planning to attend Parker’s rallies in New Zealand.

Well, we shall see. If the attention-seeking baboons of the far-Right do turn out, it will almost certainly be because their interest has been aroused by the grandstanding of the attention-seeking rainbow and transgender lobbies and their political allies.

You have to admit, it’s an innovative approach: create the setting for public disorder, then rush to court squealing that it mustn’t be allowed to happen. In different circumstances, you could almost admire their chutzpah.



Thursday, March 23, 2023

That dull, clunking sound you just heard

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges memorably described the Falklands War as two bald men fighting over a comb.

The parallels may not be immediately obvious, but the same phrase could be applied to the confected outrage over the speaking tour of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka Posie Parker.

Okay, we’re not talking about war here. Nonetheless, Borges’ description fits a situation where a rational person can only wonder what all the fuss is about.

It should have been simple, straightforward and wholly uncontroversial. A woman virtually no one in New Zealand had heard of a few days ago intends to hold a couple of public meetings where she will make what should be an utterly unremarkable assertion: namely, that a man cannot be a woman.

It seems to me that the most damning thing that can be said about Parker (and I’m using her gimmicky pseudonym here only because it’s quicker to type than her real name) is that she’s an accomplished self-promoter who appears to revel in her notoriety. But that doesn’t negate her basic premise – nor, crucially, her right to freedom of speech. As far as I’m aware she’s not advocating violence or persecution.

But Parker’s rally in Melbourne was gate-crashed by publicity-seeking neo-Nazis and noisy trans-gender advocates (pardon the oxymoron) who demand that society accept, contrary to biological reality and all human understanding, that men can be women.

Stir in some hysterical and brazenly misleading media coverage, add a liberal sprinkling of political opportunism and cowardice, and presto! What should have been a one-day wonder – and a minor one at that – has blown up into a full-on moral panic.

Parker has rightly been allowed to proceed with her visit. That should never have been in doubt in a country that professes to be a liberal democracy.

The other side of the same coin is that LGBTQI+ activists are entitled to stage protest rallies (as are any local neo-Nazis, as long as they keep it peaceful). But the trans-gender advocates should realise that by drawing attention to Parker’s visit, they are giving oxygen to someone they despise.

They probably do realise that, of course, but it’s outweighed by their desire to parade their outrage. To ignore Parker would be to pass up an opportunity to engage in what they do best: exhibitionism.

The most depressing aspect of this three-ringed circus was the haste with which politicians rushed to denounce Parker for expressing an opinion shared by all but a tiny, ideologically deranged segment of the population.

Chris Hipkins, Grant Robertson and Michael Wood, anxious to demonstrate their woke credentials, all wanted to let us know how much they detest Parker, even as they grudgingly acknowledged her right to speak. It would have been better all round if they had kept out of it, but of course that would have deprived them of a chance to signal their solidarity with the legions of oppressed trans-gender people being callously trampled underfoot by mainstream society.

Even Christopher Luxon apparently felt obliged to distance himself from Parker’s views, obviously regarding the radical idea that only women can be women as altogether too subversive to contemplate.

What sort of Alice in Wonderland world have we ended up in? Is the leader of the National Party so intimidated by the wokesters that he has to show he’s onside with them? Is it possible he thinks his craven equivocation might convince them to vote for him? 

It’s far more likely that he will drive more disillusioned National voters into the welcoming arms of ACT. That dull clunking sound you just heard was Luxon’s popularity rating dropping by another couple of points.  


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Traffic cones and the precautionary principle

Driving between Eketahuna and Masterton recently, I came across some road works.

The road was reduced to one lane each way. There were the usual Stop/Go controls at either end, but this time there was a new twist.

I was at the head of a queue that was stopped at one end. A line of vehicles coming the other way was led through by a white ute with flashing lights.

As they reached my end of the road works, the ute pulled over to the verge. Then it did a U-turn and positioned itself at the head of the line of traffic waiting to go the other way.

On the back of the ute there was a sign saying “Please follow me”. Needless to say, I was pathetically grateful for this guidance because otherwise I would have had no clue where to go.

I’m being facetious, of course. The section of road works was only a few hundred metres long. There was nowhere else for me to go but forward. There were no side-roads that I might have inadvertently veered off onto, and therefore no risk that I and the cars behind me might have ended up hopelessly lost somewhere in the back of beyond.

So I wonder, what genius decided that I and my fellow drivers needed to be escorted by a ute with flashing lights through routine (i.e. non-hazardous) road works that we were perfectly capable of navigating without assistance?

Incidentally, there was a man in a hi-vis vest sitting in the ute’s passenger seat. For what purpose, exactly? Perhaps he was there to ensure the driver didn’t take a wrong turn himself, or – far more likely, given the tedium of their duties – fall asleep.

In other words, two men doing two non-jobs – guiding other vehicles through road works that generations of New Zealand drivers have miraculously coped with in the past without risk to life and limb.

Here was one of the great cons of the 21st century, the cult of traffic management, carried to new levels of absurdity. Some inventive pooh-bah in Worksafe (sorry, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa) had found yet another way to waste public money, needlessly inflate the cost of highway maintenance and pad out an already bloated and largely superfluous industry.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown recently highlighted the scale of this racket, revealing that Auckland Council and its associated bureaucracies spend an astonishing $145 million a year on traffic management. And that’s not counting the money spent by private companies such as Vector, which says traffic management costs it $30 million a year.

Factor in wasted time and needless disruption, and you have an even bigger economic cost to the country.

Brown has shrewdly zeroed in on a 21st century phenomenon that causes millions of New Zealanders to burn with frustration and resentment. No one can drive anywhere and not be aware of the scale of the traffic management fetish.

It’s attested to by vast forests of road cones – frequently arranged in complex configurations that seem more likely to cause accidents than prevent them – and by patently absurd speed restrictions, often where no road works are in progress or have long since ceased.

Perhaps the most ostentatious symbols of the traffic management cult are the big trucks with flashing arrows that appear to be mandatory even for jobs as routine as mowing grass verges. The occupants of these vehicles seem to spend most of their time looking at YouTube videos on their phones.

I’ve observed situations where one man driving a tractor mower – i.e. the solitary bloke actually doing real work – has been protected not by one, not by two, not by three but by four accompanying safety vehicles with flashing lights and arrows.

In many instances, as in the recent case of my escort vehicle, there are two men in the cab. The passengers seem to be there for no other reason than to keep the drivers company.

It’s astonishing to think that New Zealand’s highway network was built without any of this palaver. What changed to suddenly make it necessary? Did I miss a swathe of news stories about road workers being killed and maimed by careless motorists?

The emphasis on safety would be more tolerable if visible progress was being made on the projects that these elaborate precautions are supposed to facilitate, but the NZ Transport Agency has a woeful record for getting jobs done on time and within budget.

I can’t count the number of years NZTA has been upgrading a relatively small stretch of State Highway 58 between the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Bizarrely, even on the sections where work has been completed and the road is now wide, smooth and safe, a speed limit of 50kmh is still in force. Most motorists sensibly ignore it.

The traffic management cult is itself an outgrowth of a longer-established cult, the cult of health and safety. Both proceed from the assumption that most New Zealanders are imbeciles who can’t be trusted to make sensible decisions for themselves and must therefore be protected by ever-proliferating rules and regulations, the economic costs of which are incalculable.

Both also reflect a mindset that has become embedded in the bureaucracy and largely goes unchallenged by the politicians who are nominally in charge. I’m referring to something called the precautionary principle, which holds that every theoretical risk – and I stress theoretical –must be mitigated by appropriate safeguards, often without regard for sensible cost vs. benefit assessments.

I wonder what proportion of the national roading budget is consumed by traffic safety management. My guess is that the amount must have increased exponentially over the past couple of decades.

Perhaps more to the point, has anyone calculated the cost of traffic safety management against deaths and injuries avoided as a result? I doubt it. Someone has got very rich providing services that for the most part are not needed.

Evidence of the precautionary principle is everywhere. Yet ironically, and tragically, the principle isn’t always followed where the need for it is obvious and urgent – as in the case of Whakaari/White Island, where Worksafe stood aside for years, apparently happy to allow tourists onto a high-risk active volcano, then had the gall to prosecute tourism operators and even rescuers after an entirely predictable 2019 eruption caused 22 deaths. In a breathtaking act of self-exoneration, Worksafe let itself off the hook.

The precautionary principle appeals to the bureaucratic psyche because it provides an excuse for every control freak’s dream: the perpetual expansion of an oppressive and intrusive state apparatus that’s constantly looking for new ways to exercise power over people’s daily lives. And for the most part we obligingly comply because we are essentially passive people, programmed to submit to authority. We may mutter with resentment and metaphorically shake our fists, but ultimately we fall into line. The bureaucrats know this, so are free to proceed with impunity.

Examples of the precautionary principle range from petty, everyday irritants to serious social and economic impediments. An early example from the 1990s was a law prohibiting bands from playing on the backs of trucks during street parades, presumably to reduce the alarming number of tuba and euphonium players falling and being crushed beneath the wheels. Herewith, a few others:

■ Children’s playground equipment – for example, swings and old tractors that have given pleasure to kids for decades – being declared unsafe because of the theoretical risk of an accident. How many children were killed or maimed playing on them? Good question.

■ Compulsory scaffolding for even the most routine housing construction and maintenance jobs. It has made scaffolders rich, but has anyone bothered to measure the accidents prevented against the additional costs imposed?

■ Increasingly restrictive limitations on who can donate blood. I wonder how many prospective donors have been put off because the rules kept being tightened. It certainly strikes many people as ridiculous that they still can’t give blood if they spent six months or more in Britain between 1980 and 1996, and hence were theoretically exposed to mad cow disease.

■ Airport security screening. Admittedly, this is a biggie. Most travellers put up with the inconvenience, indignity, delay and legalised bullying because they’ve been convinced it’s essential for their safety. But if terrorists wanted to attract worldwide attention by killing a lot of people in one hit, they could do it on a provincial flight (no security checks) or even a suburban bus. Could it be time for a rethink?

■ Irrational, inconsistent and constantly changing earthquake construction standards, resulting in the panicked and probably needless evacuation of key Wellington buildings - headless chicken behaviour aptly described by veteran property investor Sir Mark Dunajtschik as hysteria.

■ Send a package overseas, even something as innocuous as a New Zealand calendar worth $20, and you're required to fill in a detailed customs form. If you get the smallest detail wrong, such as using the initial of your first name rather than writing it out in full (because there's not much space), you'll be told to do it again - which you do, because it's Christmas and you don't want to make a scene in front of the queue waiting behind you. Does anyone read these forms? I doubt it, just as I bet no one ever scrutinises the immigration declarations we're required to fill in every time we re-enter the country.

■ Nitpicking employment rules that discourage initiative and even basic compassion – as in the case of a rest home employee who was sacked for operating a hoist by herself, against the rules, when a desperate patient in a wheelchair needed to go to the toilet and there was no one available to help. (The Employment Relations Authority, to its credit, held that she was unjustifiably dismissed and ordered that compensation be paid.)

■ Small-scale makers and sellers of cheese and raw milk being hounded by bureaucrats with demands for risk management plans, testing fees and hygiene compliance rules that drive them out of business.

■ The Covid lockdown. Say no more.

■ Worm farms and cat breeding being classified in health and safety legislation as “high risk”. The same legislation rated mini-golf as more dangerous than the actual sport and putting up curtains as more hazardous than demolishing buildings, thus providing a rare insight into the Alice in Wonderland mentality of the health and safety cultists. (Note: while checking this, I stumbled across a document entitled “Health and Safety Guide for Community Gardens – Worm Farm Risk Assessment”. It ran to six pages and included such hazards as sunlight and dehydration. Just to be clear, these were presented as risks for humans, not the worms. I rest my case.)

■ Page after page of safety instructions – e.g. please do not use this hair dryer while you are submerged in the bath – with every electrical appliance purchased. (Okay, the hair dryer example is a slight exaggeration – but only a slight one.)

These are just a few examples off the top of my head. I’m sure readers can think of others.

Interestingly, even people on the Left – normally the most eager to impose controls on their fellow citizens – are starting to rebel against the dead weight of all-controlling Big Government and its inevitable tendency to deter individual initiative. Can anyone guess who said the following after Auckland bureaucrats were caught napping by the disastrous late January floods?

“I can’t begin to fathom what was going through their [Auckland Council’s] heads, but I’ve definitely seen over the past few years that we have continued to build out our bureaucracies at every single level of Government to effectively be super risk-averse.

“And being super risk-averse when we are facing the greatest kind of flooding and crises that any of us have in our lifetimes here in Tāmaki Makaurau at this scale didn’t benefit anyone.”

Waddya know: that was Chloe Swarbrick, whose party probably holds the world record for the number of control freaks per square metre. The aversity to risk that she criticises is what underpins the precautionary principle.

Then there was this commentator, writing about the book The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods by John McKnight and Peter Block: “These writers warn us of the dangers of the dependency that results from governments fixing our problems for us; robbing us of our capacity to problem-solve, and reducing our ability to build resilience. And that is something we are going to need in spades as we confront the challenges we know are coming our way.”

That was former Christchurch mayor and Labour cabinet minister Lianne Dalziel, writing in Newsroom in January. She went on to talk about the need to empower citizens to solve their own problems rather than rely on the government.

When even people like Swarbrick and Dalziel are sounding the alarm about bureaucracies stifling initiative and resilience, perhaps the message is getting through that New Zealanders don’t need to be infantilised by governments that insist on wiping their noses and their bottoms for them.

But back to traffic and roads. Nowhere are the loony excesses of the precautionary principle currently more evident than in the Wairarapa, where the NZTA has imposed an 80 kmh speed limit all the way from Masterton to Featherston in place of the previous standard 100 kmh.

No rational case has been made for this. The NZTA is doing it because it can. It’s an agency that’s out of control and answerable to no one.

The 36 km stretch of road between Masterton and Featherston is entirely flat and mostly straight and wide. In the 13 kilometres between Greytown and Featherston there are only two bends. There can be few straighter or safer stretches of highway in the country.

According to the Wairarapa Times-Age, citing figures obtained under the OIA, there have been 10 fatal crashes on the Masterton-Featherston section of State Highway 2 in the past 22 years. But get this: speed was a factor in only one – that’s right, one – of those deaths. Of 43 crashes that were rated as serious, speed was a factor in only nine.

On this flimsy basis, NZTA has imposed a speed limit that will unnecessarily add time and expense to the journeys of everyone – commercial transport operators as well as private motorists – driving through the Wairarapa. A local commercial real estate agent, Chris Gollins, has pointed out that the additional travel time will serve as a disincentive to anyone thinking of moving to the region or setting up a new business there. Does NZTA care? Of course not. Not their problem.

The NZTA staged a pretend public consultation process but ignored the hundreds of submissions opposing the new limit. Now the heat is on local MP Kieran McAnulty, who after initially pooh-poohing NZTA’s plan then seemed to change his mind but now, observing the public backlash, has executed a second U-turn.

NZTA’s argument is that the 80 kmh limit will make the road safer. But by that reasoning, a 50 kmh limit would be safer still.

In any case, will the road be made safer? I predict that if anything, the new limit will have the reverse effect. Law-abiding drivers will conscientiously comply, even if they think it’s absurd. But others, chafing with impatience at being delayed where there’s no obvious reason for it, will pull out to overtake and risk hitting someone coming the other way. 

In other words, expect the law of unintended consequences to kick in – as it so often does when bureaucrats make decisions that defy common sense.

And lest readers think this is purely a local issue, consider this: if the NZTA gets away with it in the Wairarapa, it will try it elsewhere. There’s nothing surer.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Moana: sacrificed to the culture wars

This may be the most painful story you read today:

'Hardest decision of our lives': Foster parents return Moana to state care |

If you’ve followed this saga, you’ll get the gist from the headline. Marty Sharpe’s story will very likely make you angry. Unless you’ve got a heart of flint, it should also deeply sadden you.

It’s a story about good people who tried to do the right thing and have been ground down to the point where there was no option left but to capitulate.

More to the point, it’s about a vulnerable girl who found love, affection and security for the first time in her life with foster parents who wanted the best for her, but who has now been taken away from them to face an uncertain future.

It’s a shocking indictment of a perverse system that appears to have callously sacrificed a child to the culture wars.

The most depressing aspect is that the whole wretched affair appears to be rooted in a particularly cruel and destructive form of racism – only not the type of racism we normally hear about, because that’s supposed to flow the other way.

And we, the taxpayers, are involuntarily complicit in this process, because the government department pulling the strings in the case is acting on our behalf. It's not a day to feel a proud New Zealander.


Neo-Nazis 1; free speech nil

With their masks, their black uniforms and their Sieg Heil-type salutes, the knuckle-dragging neo-Nazis who turned up at British feminist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull’s Melbourne rally are a truly pathetic bunch of human beings. All that’s missing is the word “LOSER” tattooed in large letters on their foreheads.

But they gave the media and the woke Left the perfect excuse to whip up a storm of hysteria over Keen-Minshull’s pending visit to New Zealand, with even Wellington’s already tiresome look-at-me mayor gratuitously getting in on the act. Tory Whanau says Keen-Minshull’s views are strongly condemned and unwelcome in Wellington. But condemned by whom? And how would Whanau know what the people of Wellington think, beyond her own tight little circle of swooning admirers?

The presence of the neo-Nazis at the Melbourne rally enabled Keen-Minshull’s opponents to smear her by association, no matter how emphatically she declares her contempt for them. So the controversy over her speaking tour is now framed in the shock-horror media as a contest between liberal (yeah, right) progressives and admirers of Adolf Hitler, when it’s nothing of the sort.

The neo-Nazis are not remotely interested in supporting Keen-Minshull (aka Posie Parker). Why would they be? She’s a feminist. Last time I checked, neo-Nazis weren't exactly big on women's rights. All they’re interested in is promoting disruption and destabilisation – and they’re succeeding. The tragedy is that the principle of free speech is being trampled underfoot in the process.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Hang on - who are the real inciters?

The Greens, displaying their customary enthusiasm for free and robust debate, want a British anti-trans activist barred from speaking in New Zealand. They say her meetings are likely to provoke violence. But who are the real inciters?

RNZ reports that three people were arrested during clashes between supporters and opponents of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, in Melbourne yesterday. That was the cue for Green MPs Ricardo Menendez-March and Elizabeth Kerekere, tireless free speech champions both, to insist that the government deny Keen-Minshull a visa.  

Failing that, Kerekere thinks Keen-Minshull should be denied access to speaking venues, as happened to the Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux in 2018. (Still unsure what hateful ideas the Canadians supposedly intended to disseminate? Me too. We were prevented from hearing them, so couldn’t judge them for ourselves. The protesters made sure of that.)

Kerekere claims Keen-Minshull’s meetings will incite violence against trans-gender and non-binary people. But hang on a minute: judging by media accounts of the Melbourne meeting, pro-trans protesters outnumbered Keen-Minshull’s supporters. By turning out in force and thus ensuring a confrontation, the pro-trans activists are giving oxygen to the very people they profess to want silenced. Has it ever occurred to them to stay away?

Here’s a radical suggestion. Anti-Vietnam War protesters in the 1960s used the slogan “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came”. The same idea could be applied to speaking tours by people the woke Left dislike. They could just ignore them. But of course that would deny the woke Left a chance to parade their outrage in the front of the TV cameras. Publicity opportunities like that are just too good to pass up, especially when sympathetic media are always keen to frame the confrontations as a fight against the dark forces of the far Right.

From a broader perspective, the denial of a visa or speaking venues to Keen-Minshull would again signal to the enemies of free speech, as with Southern and Molyneux, that they can shut down people they don’t like simply by threatening disruption. What could be simpler than to orchestrate a confrontation with the other side and then blame them for any unpleasantness that eventuates? In the meantime, freedom of speech has taken another hit – which of course is the objective.

Here’s another radical suggestion. Is this whole furore essentially a contest between two sets of noisy exhibitionists? I suspect both sides are immensely gratified by all the attention. I know nothing about Posie Parker, but the cute moniker suggests that she’s not averse to a bit of self-promotion. Then of course there are the tut-tutting media, who are part of the problem. In an ideal universe, they would all be locked in a room together. The rest of the world could be left to get on with things that matter.

Now, one more radical idea. LGBTQIA+ activists bombard us constantly via the media with their breast-beating laments about how oppressed they are. They are endlessly inventive in creating new definitions of sexuality or minority status – QTBIPOC, MVPFAFF, BBIPOC – that no one previously knew existed. I have even read one activist complain - seriously - that there are not enough terms to capture all the variants of sexuality that queer people might identify with.

A tiny but very vocal minority have succeeded in capturing the institutions of power with their bullying diversity agenda. They have done this so effectively that they have co-opted mainstream society whether we want it or not.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think most New Zealanders give a toss about how their fellow citizens identify sexually. They rightly regard it as none of their business. On the rare occasions when a person’s sexuality has become a matter of wider interest – for example, Georgina Beyer – the public attitude has been one of acceptance and tolerance.  

This, apparently, is not good enough for the activists. It’s not sufficient that the rest of us consider it their right to adopt whatever identity and lifestyle they choose and just get on with it – preferably quietly, as sexual minorities did in the past. They insist on being noticed.

Call it exhibitionism, attention-seeking, whatever. “Look at me – I’m different.” Ultimately, that’s what a lot of the activism over sexual identity seems to be about.

ADDENDUM: To his credit, Nathan Rarere on RNZ's First Up this morning invited Kerekere to explain why Tusiata Avia, author of a so-called poem (ejaculation of bile would be a more appropriate description) encouraging retribution against the descendants of white colonisers, had a right to free speech, yet Keen-Minshull didn't. There was an awkward (I hesitate to say pregnant) pause before Kerekere replied that the latter was guilty of "clear and obvious hate speech". Then she sought refuge in a string of standard woke cliches ... marginalised people blah blah ... rainbow communities blah blah .... that totally failed to substantiate her answer. 

Hate speech? Really? We don't even know what Keen-Minshull has been saying at her rallies (the media don't bother to tell us), but as far as I'm aware she's a feminist who insists that men can't be women - a proposition that the vast majority of New Zealanders would consider harmless and unremarkable. Avia's poem, on the other hand, can't be interpreted in any way other than as an explicit approval of racially motivated violence.  But there are no prizes for guessing which one of the two will be on the guest list at the next round of literary festivals.

Friday, March 17, 2023

On the ritual humiliation of the radio hosts Leah Panapa and Miles Davis

What a despicable outfit MediaWorks is. It’s beyond contempt.

Two of its TodayFM talkback hosts, Leah Panapa and Miles Davis, have been bullied by their bosses into apologising for doing what people in talkback radio are supposedly employed to do – namely, say what they think.

In an on-air discussion last week, Panapa and Davis apparently made mocking comments about the prevailing pronoun hysteria and ridiculed the phrase “pregnant people”.

Panapa reportedly commented “It’s pregnant women, not people” and urged listeners: “don’t buy into this bullshit”. Cruel, hateful stuff, as anyone can see.

According to Stuff’s account, Davis agreed and said he and Panapa were like suicide bombers who would have to sacrifice themselves to make a point.

Trouble was, they didn’t sacrifice themselves. On the contrary, they capitulated almost immediately to pressure from the furious enforcers of work orthodoxy. The ignominious ritual apology came the following day.

Worse still was the even more abject ritual humiliation of agreeing to attend a re-education course – or to be precise, something called Rainbow Tick training, which supposedly demonstrates that companies are diverse and inclusive.

Pol Pot was very fond of re-education courses. Just saying.

Someone named Martin King, director of the rainbow excellence awards (reminder to self: must enter them next year) described the exchange between Panapa and Davis as toxic, inappropriate and shocking, condescendingly adding that the two broadcasters would greatly benefit from potty training (my term, not King’s). How sad that flogging and the stocks are no longer an option.  

“Toxic” and “inappropriate” are words that the wokeists have stripped of all meaning, but obviously MediaWorks’ director of news and talk, Dallas Gurney – a careerist too young to have heard of Pol Pot – concurred with King. “Once Leah and Miles were made aware of the impact of what they said, they were devastated about those they have hurt,” Gurney was quoted as saying. More nauseating condescension.

As Steven Cowan has pointed out on his blog, Gurney hasn’t explained exactly who was hurt, or how. We’re just supposed to take his word for it.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this is the unconditional surrender by the two broadcasters. Panapa is reported as saying their comments were “inexcusable, inappropriate and deeply offensive”, and apologised for any distress they may have caused. Standard wording, straight from the HR department.

But hang on. Which Leah Panapa are we to believe: the one who rightly ridiculed the nonsensical expression “pregnant person” or the one who, only a day later, said her remarks were deeply offensive? Assuming that most people don’t suddenly change their minds so completely, which of the two Leah Panapas was saying what she truly thought?

For his part, Davis said the comments came from “a place of ignorance rather than malice” and added, “We are sorry – we’re better than this.” If that’s not a grovelling climb-down, I don’t know what is.

I’m not familiar with Leah Panapa as a broadcaster but I’ve often enjoyed Davis on NewstalkZB, his former station. His speciality seems to be cheeky banter with callers. With his signature Cockney accent (which he exploits to the hilt), he portrays himself as a Jack the Lad. But we now know that when push comes to shove, Davis will quietly fold. It seems his bravado is just that: bravado.

I’m reluctant to condemn people too harshly for doing whatever they have to do to save their jobs. They may have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. I’m always conscious that as an independent blogger with a guaranteed income from national super, I’m in the very privileged position of not having to answer to a cowardly employer.

Nonetheless, it has to be said that if everyone cravenly backed down as Panapa and Davis did, freedom of speech would be even more imperilled than it is already. If you say something, you should be prepared to stand up for it.

As it is, the enemies of free speech have triumphed once again – game, set and match. The message is clear to anyone brave or reckless enough to speak their mind. But we should have no doubt who the real villains are here, and they are not the hapless talk show hosts. Panapa and Davis are merely bit players.

No, public wrath should be directed squarely at MediaWorks and the totalitarian zealots who have succeeded, despite representing only a tiny, demented fragment of the population, in so intimidating the corporate world that broadcasters are punished not even for expressing controversial opinions (although that should be their right), but for affirming incontrovertible biological facts, such as that only women can get pregnant. 

As recently as a few years ago, this entire preposterous scenario would have read like something from a futuristic, dystopian satire. Now it's happening. The irony is that 99-point-something percent of TodayFM’s dwindling audience would have regarded the statements by Panapa and Davis as not only harmless but unremarkable. 

MediaWorks doesn’t deserve the privilege of operating in a free and open society. It enjoys the rights and benefits of freedom while at the same time insidiously subverting them.

It should be noted that the company has previous form. It was MediaWorks that ditched John Banks and Sean Plunket for offences against wokedom, and where Peter Williams quit – I suspect because he was no longer considered a good “fit” for the station, being in his late 60s and of a conservative disposition.

Oh, and one other thing. How do the other TodayFM broadcasters – Tova O’Brien, Duncan Garner, Lloyd Burr, Rachel Smalley and Polly Gillespie – feel about their colleagues’ humiliation? Had they all stood together in solidarity, MediaWorks might have had second thoughts about throwing Panapa and Davis to the wolves. But they didn’t. Shame on them.

The picture isn’t entirely bleak, however. Martyn Bradbury reported in December that TodayFM’s ratings had slumped to a record low. The MediaWorks CEO who got rid of Banks and Plunket scarpered last month and has returned to the airline business from whence he came. Good riddance, I say.

Perhaps the best possible outcome is that MediaWorks will continue on its present course and in the process, commit slow-motion hara-kiri. No one will miss it.



Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Hipkins has no time to lose

Some commenters on this blog and elsewhere are saying we shouldn’t be deceived by the Labour government’s sharp tack toward the political centre under Chris Hipkins. He’s merely doing what he needs to do to get back into power in October, the reasoning goes.

In other words, it’s an audacious con job. Just wait, they warn; if Labour wins the election, we should expect the entire woke project to be revived and pursued with renewed zeal.

In support of their thesis, the doubters point out that as a senior minister in Jacinda Ardern’s Cabinet, Hipkins supported the policies he’s now ditching. No one changes their political colours that abruptly, they suggest. The implication is that it’s all being done to seduce voters into thinking Labour under its new leader is a different ideological beast.

Their cynicism is understandable, but I think (and hope) they’re wrong. I think Labour under Hipkins is undergoing a fundamental and genuine reset; one aimed at realigning the party with its traditional constituency.

Of course he supported the disastrous initiatives pursued under Ardern. As a loyal minister he had little alternative, short of resigning his portfolios and being blacklisted by his colleagues. But now he’s in the driver’s seat and Ardern is literally history. The King is Dead, Long Live the King, as the saying goes. In other words, there’s a new guy in charge and all bets are off.

The speed with which Hipkins is cutting away Labour’s radical ideological baggage has taken everyone by surprise. Who would have guessed that the boyish MP for Remutaka – a politician cleverly characterised by the cartoonist Garrick Tremain as a wide-eyed schoolboy – could be so decisive and even ruthless?  

Hipkins isn’t just burying Ardern’s legacy; he’s prepared to take on Labour’s powerful Maori caucus and the party’s Green allies as well. This is a politician who seems absolutely confident that he’s doing the right thing and can carry the party with him. His boldness will surely be reinforced by his showing in the latest polls.

The obvious explanation for Hipkins’ U-turn is that he realises Labour squandered its historic majority after the 2020 election by wasting it on ideological projects for which there was no mainstream support. What should have been a glorious chapter in the party’s history was looking like three years of lost opportunity. Presumably he also grasps that his government’s survival has been put at risk by the cabal of committed activists who have driven the political agenda, and that they must be stripped of their power and influence.

He now has only seven months in which to repair the damage. There’s no time to lose, and certainly no time for political niceties.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Meng Foon should pull his head in

Going by what little I know about him, Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark doesn’t strike me as a man likely to back down in a fight.

And neither should he. Meng Foon’s call on him to apologise for using the n-word should be brushed aside as the grandstanding it is. The Race Relations Commissioner should pull his head in.

It would be different if Clark had casually used the word in circumstances indicating he approved of it, but the reverse is true. He says he finds it abhorrent, would never use to refer to anyone and is offended when he hears it used in rap music.

His purpose in using it was to ask how far artistic licence should be allowed to go in tolerating words that cause offence. He cited other examples including the phrase “f*** you, Bitch”, which the poet Tusiata Avia uses in a poem that appears to relish the idea of exacting revenge on the descendants of white colonisers such as James Cook.

Avia’s poem, parts of which ape the jargon of American rap culture, drips with allusions to violence against white people. But far from her work being condemned by the Race Relations Commissioner (no one would be so naïve as to expect that), $107,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent through Creative New Zealand on a stage show called The Savage Coloniser, which is based on the book the poem comes from.  

ACT recently called for the funding to be withdrawn, accusing the government of supporting a work that incites racially motivated violence, but Creative NZ says one of its functions is to uphold people’s right to freedom in the practice of the arts.

As it happens, that’s exactly the subject Clark was exploring. He asked whether poetic expression overrides social norms – a perfectly legitimate question. We need to have these tough debates, he says. But the same right of expression that Creative NZ invokes in defence of Avia is one that Meng Foon apparently wants to deny Clark.

The striking thing here is that it’s not Avia’s provocative and mostly incomprehensible poem that attracted the mainstream media’s attention, despite its references to shoving a knife between Captain Cook’s white ribs (aren’t everyone’s ribs white?) and a car full of brown girls driving around looking for his descendants, with the suggestion that a pig-hunting knife might be used. On the contrary, Stuff’s Sunday magazine carried a long article by Michelle Duff purring with approval.

Neither was it the spending of public money on a stage show based on Avia’s work that generated headlines.

No, what got the media fired up was Clark using the n-word in the course of a discussion about how far artistic licence goes and who controls it – fair and reasonable questions.

Fortunately, it’s true as a general rule that the further you get from the epicentre of the culture wars in Wellington, the more impervious people become to the posturing of people like Meng Foon.  

Demands that people apologise for speaking their mind may work elsewhere; in fact they work far too often, much to the gratification of the bullying class. But they carry less weight in places like Invercargill.

In any case, Clark is not answerable to Meng Foon; he’s answerable to the laws of New Zealand (none of which he has broken) and to the people of Invercargill. If they don’t like the things he says, they can vote him out at the next election.

Sadly the same can’t be said of Meng Foon, safe in his highly paid (and unelected) sinecure.