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Simon Bridges: the 15 March Christchurch massacre and winning at any cost

21 September 2019 Leave a comment

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Just when you thought Simon Bridges couldn’t sink any lower – he has.

After the March 15th  Christchurch terror attack, the (current) Leader of the National Party issued strong committments to support urgently needed gun law reform;

“We will be ready and prepared to be constructive and to look at anything here because we do need to see some change.”

“Change is needed, I understand that, and the National Party will make sure it’s a constructive party in all of this. I am no expert in this. There may be loopholes that can be fixed quite readily and quickly.

Yes, that’s probably the right way to go [to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons] but let’s hear from the government. It is now for the government and the prime minister, whose roles I respect in this, to put forward those proposals. We are up for change.”

“Everything has changed. Everything has changed. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to you we shouldn’t have gun control change. I don’t myself know what would have changed this… we had someone who had IEDs in their car.”

National has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the Government. We agree that the public doesn’t need access to military style semi-automatic weapons. National supports them being banned along with assault rifles. We also support the Government’s proposals to limit the access to other high powered semi-automatic weapons and ammunition.”

It’s imperative in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe. The attacks on Friday changed New Zealand, the intention of the gun law changes is excellent and I understand the need for urgency. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of New Zealanders and fighting extremism in all forms.

National will work constructively with the Government to ensure we get this right. We support the prime minister and I think most of our rural communities will understand.”

The above statements from Mr Bridges were also posted on the National Party website. So there is simply no room for error and claims of being misquoted.

Writing on The Standard, L Prent acknowledged Simon Bridges’ constructive response to the massacre and need for thorough, wide-ranging gun-reform laws;

“Now I know that most people are going to be surprised that I finally have a reason to laud Simon Bridges (I know I am). But I just have to on this occasion. Both he and the public responses of National to the announcements yesterday were excellent.

They’re fully supporting the thrust of the proposed changes going forward into the future. As National seem to have made a career in politics of being stupid over my lifetime, I’m sure it won’t last. But I’m going to enjoy it while it does.

And on Twitter, this blogger posted a dire warning/prediction;

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Alas, neither L Prent nor I were to be disappointed.

Six months later, Simon Bridge is back tracking.

On 28 August, Simon Bridges announced he would not be supporting a second trance of gun reform laws.

“No, I’m not making this political, it’s not about the Police Association. It’s about a situation where National supported the first law, which was the right thing to do – but the buyback scheme, however, is a fiasco.

We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.

Just to be clear, the buy-back scheme has thus far netted around 20,000 banned weapons from 20 June this year. The scheme will be on-going until 20 December.

Whether the scheme will retrieve every single banned weapon and parts is unknown: successive governments have failed to implement registration of individual firearms. Which is bizarre, considering we, as a society, consider it normal to register cars, dogs, real estate agents, etc.

Since the initial banning of semi-automatic weapons and associated parts, and buy-back scheme (which Australia successfully carried out following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre by a deranged gunman), a second tranche of gun reform was introduced;

  • Establishing a firearms register
  • Make owning a gun a “privilege” that comes with obligations
  • Tighten the rules to obtain and keep a gun licence
  • Tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a licence
  • Require licences to be renewed every five years
  • Not allow visitors to purchase guns in New Zealand
  • Introduce a new warning system for police so they can intervene if they have concerns about a licence holder’s behaviour
  • Introduce a licencing system for shooting clubs and ranges
  • Set up an expert group to advise the police on firearms
  • Introduce new advertising standards around guns
  • Require licences to buy magazines, parts and ammunition
  • Increase penalties and introduce new offences

The rules seem so straight-forward that it beggars belief they were not already in place. Bear in mind, these are lethal, high-powered weapons we are talking about – not registration of ‘Mr Bigglesworth‘, the family pet chihuahua.

By the end of August, Simon Bridges began walking-back of every statement he made following March 15th. His spin-doctor-crafted “talking points” glaringly obvious;

“We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.

“In short, the Government is going after the good guys and not the bad guys [with these rules].

“There’s no politics. It’s simply a question of a next series of laws that seem to be aimed at good, law abiding people rather than criminals, the gangs and extremists.

It is difficult to understand how the proposed new restrictions would “not [be] aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists“. Just to remind everyone that the (alleged) Christchurch shooter was also a licenced, “good, law abiding person” – right up until he pulled the trigger at his first victim. Then he wasn’t.

In fact, the new laws should make it harder for  “gangs, the crims and the extremists” to possess firearms. Because – according to Police – most firearms ending up in the hands of “gangs, the crims and the extremists” – come from “good, law abiding people” with gun licences.

According to a NZ Herald report in 2016, by Phil Taylor, licenced gun dealers were a prime source of guns for “gangs, the crims and the extremists”;

“Most of the illegal guns we come across are from burglaries or from rogue licensed owners,” said the drug enforcement source.

Rogues such as Peter James Edwards. Edwards, who had a class A licence that enabled him to buy rifles and shotguns in a sporting configuration, made a business out of buying guns and pimping them for criminals by cutting down the barrel or stock and adding pistol grips and silencers.

Pistol-size firearms are prized by criminals because they are easily carried and concealed.

Over 18 months, Edwards, described in court as unemployed, bought 74 firearms including 69 from Gun City’s Auckland and Christchurch stores, plus more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition, a large number of parts including pump-action pistol grips, and pistol grips.

He pleaded guilty to supplying firearms to unlicensed people, supplying a pistol and supplying methamphetamine. Edwards sold methamphetamine to his daughter, starting on her 19th birthday.

He was sentenced in 2014 to a total of five years and 10 months in prison. It was revealed in court that he had 53 previous convictions in Western Australia. He had failed to declare any previous convictions on his gun licence application.

Edwards claimed not to know the names of anyone he sold to, and would not help recover 64 firearms that were missing and believed to be in the hands of Head Hunters gang members and associates.

In another example;

Another who didn’t want to help police trace the firearms he sold to criminals was John Mabey.

“He probably has a greater fear of those associated with the guns than anything we can bring to bear,” Inspector Greg Nicholls told the Herald after Mabey was sent to jail in 2009.

Mabey gained a gun licence at a young age and later added a “collectors’ endorsement” that entitled him to have restricted weapons such as pistols and submachine guns and military-style semi-automatics.

He fell into debt and decided to sell his collection on the black market. When notified that police planned to check his collection, he faked a burglary in which he claimed his entire collection of restricted firearms had been stolen. He maintained the fiction for two years before admitting he had faked the burglary.

Only 11 of 121 of Mabey’s restricted guns have been recovered. Glock and Beretta pistols were found in the possession of a drug maker and seller who had fired at police officers during a routine traffic stop.

A Browning pistol was found in the possession of a methamphetamine cook. A Luger pistol was found in the home of a Mongrel Mob member. Methamphetamine was involved again.

Because individual firearms are not registered, the number of transactions involving purchase and sales is not recorded. As the same police source pointed out;

“There is no way of identifying who is buying too many guns. There might be an innocent explanation for why someone buys firearms five times a year, but when someone buys 69 guns in a short space of time … hang on, that’s not right.”

In 2012, in a Police report – the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper – found  that “325 illegal firearms were seized in police raids in the year to June. While that is the lowest haul in the past five years, it is still an alarming number and, along with other aspects of the present firearms regime, a cause for continuing concern. Most of the guns seized by the police were stolen in residential burglaries or from collectors by organised criminals.

Four years later, in 2016, information relating to the underground business of illegal firearms sales was sought by the the Law and Order Select Committee when Judith Collins was Police Minister. Simon Bridges was a colleague of Ms Collins in the same government. They did nothing to tighten gun control laws. Three years later, fiftyone people were shot dead in a Christchurch mosque and scores more injured.

The same 2012 Herald editorial, which revealed the findings of the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper had warned presciently;

Parliament needs to act before the laxity of current regulations is underlined again by a tragedy involving unlicensed guns.

The (alleged) terrorist-killer was a legally licenced gun owner. His weapons – unregistered.

If Simon Bridges is now playing politics to curry favour with gun owners and conservative voters, it is a deadly ‘game’ he is indulging in. Fiftyone people paid the ultimate price because this country – and successive governments – was to naive and blase to realise the deadly nature of poorly regulated gun ownership.

Mr Bridges has plumbed new depths of dirty politics. To return to partisan politics on an issue which – literally – is a matter of life and death is troubling.

It is obvious that he has waited until the moment of the tragedy subsided. Once the screams and cries of frightened innocent men, women, and children no longer reverated through our collective consciousness; once the searing white-hot grief had dimmed; once the headlines moved on; did Mr Bridges think it was safe to conduct political business-as-usual?

If so, it demonstrates an almost sociopathic callousness that would be beyond most of us.

His win-at-any-expense strategy for next years’ election shows the true, deeply-flawed character of the man. It raises the question; what won’t he do to win votes?

And for all New Zealanders, especially National supporters, the question becomes; is this the kind of person we should trust to lead us?

Postscript:

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A recent National Party leaflet delivered to households;

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In the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, eligible New Zealand voters were asked what they thought of the Government’s moves [on gun reform].

Sixty-one per cent thought the changes were about right, 19% thought it did not go far enough and 14% thought it went too far.

Simon Bridges should listen more carefully.

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References

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expected to announce gun law changes

Radio NZ: Christchurch terror attacks – National Party leader Simon Bridges says gun control laws need changing

Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch mosque terror attack – National changes tune on gun control

Newsroom: Military style semi-automatic guns banned

Fairfax/Stuff media: National supports gun law changes in wake of Christchurch mosque shootings

National: National supports firearms reform

Twitter: F. Macskasy – Christchurch shooting – Simon Bridges

The Standard: Adequate gun control and (almost) complete party support.

Radio NZ: Police Association says National playing politics with gun laws

Fairfax/Stuff media:

Fairfax/Stuff media: Scepticism and enthusiasm for new gun laws as buy-back figures approach 20,000

NZ Police: Information on prohibited firearms

Wikipedia: Port Arthur massacre (Australia)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Second tranche of gun law changes – Firearms register, tighter licencing

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges reveals National is unlikely to support second tranche of gun law reforms

Mediaworks/Newshub: Simon Bridges says gun laws soft on ‘crims, gangs and extremists’

NZ Herald: The Big Read – How are criminals getting their guns?

NZ Herald: Editorial – Unregistered guns invite a tragedy

Parliament: How do criminals get illegal guns?

TVNZ: New poll – 61% of New Zealanders back gun ban in wake of Christchurch atrocity

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road: What Happened Here?

The Daily Blog: Trying to understand National’s position on Gun reform is like trying to understand Trump’s position on nuking hurricanes

The Daily Blog: Dear Gun owners of NZ – you don’t like the buy back plan? We are honestly more than happy for you to be arrested and the guns seized from you

The Daily Blog: Gun nuts should be under surveillance now

The Daily Blog: Jacinda goes beyond ‘thoughts & prayers’ and will change gun laws

The Daily Blog: If we can ban single use plastic bags and fireworks – why the Christ can’t we ban machine guns for civilian use?

The Daily Blog: Bryan Bruce – 100% support for gun law reform call by The Prime Minister

The Standard: Adequate gun control and (almost) complete party support.

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on why the government shouldn’t run the Christchurch massacre inquiry

Previous related blogposts

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

The Christchurch Attack: is the stage is set for a continuing domino of death?

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13 November 1990

That was then…

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15 March 2019

This is now…

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 September2019.

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The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response

14 September 2019 3 comments

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This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues…

Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of the Palestinian people; the threat of climate change; human rights here and abroad; the  reaction to globalisation  manifested by the symptom of Trump and Brexit; opposition to the secretly negotiated TPPA; the obscenity of the international arms industry; the utter failure of the neo-liberal experiment as families were forced to live in motels, garages, and cars, and much more.

The hostile, dehumanising culture of WINZ was a problem I took particular interest in, as well as homelessness.

In February 2013, Martyn invited me to contribute to his ‘new’ project, The Daily Blog. It was a honour to participate and I devoted as much time as could be squeezed into a 24 hour period to research, write, correct, research more, format, write, proof-read – post! Always research. Make sure the facts were as correct as could be – though on occassion sharp-eyed readers picked up on a mistake and were not shy in letting me know. (Which I always appreciated.)

My motivating principle, as much as possible, was to highlight a injustice; point out where something had gone wrong, and offer a solution where possible.

The Key-led (later Bill English-led) government offered no shortage of issues to write up. There were even problems with this current government that I felt necessitated criticism.

I rarely took exception to issues and opinions expressed by my fellow Daily Bloggers, even when I thought they were wrong (we don’t all think alike as some collective ‘Hive Mind’ – more on that point in a moment).

At the top of my concerns were always those most vulnerable; the poor; the homeless; ethnic minorities, and others who were slightly different to mainstream white middle-class Aotearoa New Zealand such as the LGBTQI community.

On 5 September, my Daily Blog colleague (and in many ways, a mentor to me) Martyn Bradbury published a blogpost; “Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did.

It was a critique on the Green’s decision to remove an article by “long-time Green Party member Jill Abigail“.

I have read the article.

Far from being a “moderate”, “mild”, or “reasonable”, it was a thinly-disguised attack on tran speople – specifically, trans women. Trans men are not mentioned anywhere once in her article. It was another in a line of attacks on trans women.

Ms Abigail tried to sound tolerant and inclusive;

“Transpeople are a vulnerable group that until recently has been excluded from general consideration and now justly claim their right to be treated with equal respect.”

But her subsequent comments revealed her true agenda and negated her previous sentiment;

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts; young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes; women’s refuges and rape crisis centres no longer safe sanctuaries; lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships; malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes; the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’.

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Most serious of all is the medicalisation of children. I recently met a woman who had taken her 11-year-old daughter to a doctor because of a sore throat. The daughter is a tomboy, with short hair. The doctor asked the mother if she wanted the girl to go on puberty blockers. An 11-year-old goes to the doctor with a sore throat and is given a suggestion of puberty blockers?

Gender-critical feminists have allies among some transpeople themselves, who see this ideology as a misogynist, homophobic, men’s rights push. No previous extensions of human rights for new groups have involved taking away the rights of others needing protection. It would be progressive of the Greens to be working for solutions that are fair to everyone, rather than reinforcing the current divide.”

Like saying, “I’m not a racist, but…”

Those three paragraphs are a regurgitation of similar comments made by other so-called “gender critical feminists” (aka “TERFs”) and their over-eager cis male allies.

Let’s scrutinise those three paragraphs.

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts…”

Many of those “academic experts” have columns in mainstream media as well as reported widely via social media. The fact that Ms Abigail’s article has been widely reported; republished; and commented on belies her assertion of being silenced.

Furthermore, there is no automatic right for anyone to be published anywhere, unless engaging in self-publication or self-blogging. The Green Party does not publish opinion pieces by National or ACT supporters and vice versa. The Daily Blog does not publish blogposts from David Farrar or Cameron Slater, and vice versa. Even supporters of a given group cannot expect automatic right of publication.

The Daily Blog itself often declines publication of comments from individuals for various reasons. I publish on TDB at the ‘pleasure’ of Martyn, which he may rescind at any time. That is his prerogative. Anything else is “entitlement”.

The so-called “abuse” Ms Abigail references is often legitimate push-back from trans rights activists; others in the LGBTQI community; cis women; and Inclusive lesbians. It has to be reminded that publishing a controversial  opinion piece (like this one) will attract critical as well as supporting responses. That is the free speech we are continually called upon to speak out for.

young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes…”

What “young children” is she referring to? What age?

Apply that statement to young people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc and it becomes an obvious slur attacking Rainbow people. No one is teaching “young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body“. Just as no one is teaching young people to develop same sex attraction.

What “stereotypes are being reinforced”? Is Ms Abigail suggesting that only binary sex and heterosexual orientation is acceptable? Binary heterosexuality would constitute stereotyping.

The statement makes no sense except to conjure up frightening images of “young children” brain-washed by unknown agents of a secret cadre of LGBTQI.

Similar slurs were made against gay men during the horrendous “debate” surrounding the 1986 Homosexual Law  Reform process. Homophobes constantly accused gay men of lurking in toilets and changing rooms, waiting to turn young straight males gay and fearing that gay law reform would facilitate that “corruption”.

It never happened. Civilisation did not collapse. The sacred family unit has not been dismantled.

“lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships…”

That one is more complicated to unpack because no examples are given. What constitutes transphobia? A simple rejection usually doesn’t. A full-on attack on a transgender person would do it. Have any heterosexual cis men been accused of homophobia because they declined an advance from a gay man? A polite decline would hardly constitute homophobia. A vitriolic response attacking gay men would do it.

“malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes”

According to Wikipedia, there are 28 prominent male-to-female trans athletes and 12 female-to-male. (And those numbers are spread over a fortyfive year span.)  Forty trans athletes out of millions of sports people around the world.

If the trans community were planning for world domination in sporting endeavours, they have a long way to go.

“the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’ ”

This metaphysical complaint should be seen for what is it: chauvinistic. There is no suggestion of “erasing females/women” any more than the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986 erased heterosexuality. Lesbianism has not “erased” heterosexual women.

Curiously, the Gender Critical Feminist theory of “erasure” appears to echo the Great Replacement theory espoused by White Identitarians;

The great replacement can generally be understood as two core beliefs. The first is that “western” identity is under siege by massive waves of immigration from non-European/non-white countries, resulting in a replacement of white European individuals via demographics…

When both are analysed side-by-side, the similarities are striking. It is no coincidence that both Erasure and Replacement fears have gain wider traction during the current Trumpian Era when “The Fear of The Other” is heavily influencing US, European, and British political discourse.

US journalist, Katelyn Burns wrote an in-depth analysis of the convergence and close co-operation between Gender Critical feminists and conservative Think Tanks, organisations, anti-abortion activists, and a prominent rightwing host on Fox TV. In Britain, Gender Critical feminists have been supported by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in his tabloids.

So maybe it is not  a coincidence that “Gender Critical Feminists” are (almost always?) white, middle class women. Likewise their cis male allies.

This chauvinism is further demonstrated with comments such as this, by Martyn;

However. As a white heteronormative cis-male, I also believe you can’t force women to accept Trans women into their spaces. Telling women who the must and must not include in the spaces they have fought for seems utterly contrary to respecting feminism.

Which makes certain the assumption that all women think alike on this issue. As mentioned above, and by a reader’s post-article comment, women do not have a single Hive Mind on this subject. There are as many diverse views on this issue as there are with cis men – and bloggers.

At the same time, consider whether any one group in society has the right to define and dictate human and civil rights for another. Think very carefully of the implications.

Does The Majority have the right to define and limit the rights of a minority? If the answer is yes, consider the implications this would have for Maori in a predominantly Pakeha society. Or gays and lesbians (as well as trans) in a predominantly heterosexual society.

Remember that women’s right to vote was determined by men. Now imagine if that vote had failed.

It was only in 1971 that women in Switzerland won the right to vote – after a general referendum by men voting. Twelve years earlier, men had voted against women having the vote.

In apartheid era South Africa, it wasn’t even a Majority holding power and denying a minority equal rights – it was the other way around until 1994.

When one group in society can define and dictate the rights of another, there should be cause for concern. That some Gender Critical Feminists are advocating some form of gender-chauvinism and denying trans women their right to self-identify as such (with some even denying to exist at all), is a giant stride back in time. It would seem to be everything that feminism and the LGBTQI community have struggled to achieve.

Over the last hundred or so years, white heterosexual men have had to share their power with others; women; gays; lesbians; other ethnic groups; etc.

It should not be a surprise that cis women are now called upon to do likewise for their trans-sisters. Radical? No more radical than women’s emancipation and dismantling patriarchal privilege.

That this seems to make some regular commentators on The Daily Blog react negatively is not only disappointing – but disturbing.

In my eight years of blogging I have read many chauvinistic, reactionary comments on the pages of Kiwiblog and Whaleoil. Whilst I shake my head at the wilful ignorance of those right-wingers, I understood that they were railing against the gradual dismantling of their white male privilege.

So it was disheartening to read similar comments – many openly transphobic – from a few TDB regulars.

We resist and condemn the injustice shown to welfare recipients; the working-poor; solo-mothers; Maori, prisoners; the homeless, and others who have been marginalised by the neo-liberal system that treats us as “consumers with spending power” rather than citizens with rights. We understand the innate injustice of an economic theory that treats humans as disposable units.

But when push-comes-to-shove, this current challenge to the predominant status quo is met with scorn, derision, and hateful comments. The response to the transgender issue on The Daily Blog, from some, has been shameful.

In 1986 we decriminalised male homosexuality. Cis hetero men did not “erase” overnight. Toilets and changing rooms are still safe to use. Civilisation  has not collapsed into public debauchery.

New Zealand was not just the first sovereign state where women won the right to vote, in 1999 we were the first country to elect a transgender woman to Parliament.

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In Wairarapa – a rural seat! Not exactly a hotbed of progressive politics pushing for LGBTQI rights.

In 2013, Aotearoa New Zealand gained marriage equality. The “sanctity” of marriage did not end. Heterosexual’s right to marry was not “erased” just because same-sex couples now shared that right.

These are rights that quite rightly we have shared with everyone. No one is denied equality and inclusion because one group feels threatened. “Get over it!” we told the homophobes and the male chauvinists.

For gods sakes, people, no one asked which toilet Georgina Beyer used when she entered Parliament.

Instead, we were damned proud of that achievement.

As a blogger, I will continue to write for those who are marginalised, attacked, scorned, and powerless. I will continue to support Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Trans people to be included in our society and to have the same rights and privileges straight cis people take for granted.

Not because I’m Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Trans, but because I’m bloody minded and I know it’s the right thing to do.

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An injury to one…

… is an injury to all.

(Popular motto of trade unions around the world)

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Postscript

Disclosure: I am a Green Party supporter (if that makes any difference).

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References

Wikipedia:  Transgender people in sports

The Guardian: The ‘white replacement theory’ motivates alt-right killers the world over

Vox: The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained

Wikipedia: Women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Additional

NZ Herald: Greens members leave after ‘transphobic’ article in magazine

Other Blogposts

Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did

Previous related blogposts

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 September 2019.

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