Article Title:Classic Illiberals: The Social Conservative Invasion of ACT?
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:13th September 2003 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:104
Text:Where has most of the opposition to the government's current queer-inclusive Care of Children Bill come? No, not United Future, despite Peter Dunne's repetitious sniping at the Civil Unions Bill, without providing any actual evidence that same-sex parenting harms children. Not the Christian Heritage Party, which has been involved with the transition from Graham Capill to Auckland's Ewen McQueen in the last weekend of August. Not the Maxim Institute, which published a rather lame "Observations on the Care of Children Bill" on its website, without any substantiating junk science from Wardle, Cameron, Nagai, Lerner, Morgan ad nauseum. No- it's ACT New Zealand and their social conservative allies in the current National Party parliamentary leadership that are making the most noise about this issue. As one might guess, the chief offender is Dr Muriel Newman, the anti-welfare spokesperson, ACT List MP for Whangerai and habituee of anti-feminist, male backlash "fathers rights" groups that apparently support her agenda against legal recognition of same sex parental rights and responsibilities. On ACT's website, Newman has worked herself up into a fever of activity over Labour's recognition of pluralist family models, or, as Newman calls it, the Socialist Conspiracy to Undermine the Traditional Family. I wish I was joking, but one only has to look at the titles of her media releases to gain some idea of their dire content: On July 11, we were treated to "A Crumbling Society" and on July 22, she went over the same territory when she addressed the so-called Union of Fathers in Tawa. On August 6, she shrieked that "Families [are] An Endangered Species" etc. At no time has Dr Newman advanced any convincing social scientific or medical evidence-based studies that substantiate her claims. It was at the latter that she repeated her lurid claims that Labour was encouraging "unsuccessful alternative" family models to replace the heterosexual nuclear family. As one can note from my previous reports about the Care of Children Bill and the vast amount of evidence-based social scientific and medical evidence that supports the benefits of same-sex parenting, Newman is being nothing more than a scaremongering, hysterical populist over this issue. What is a rabid social conservative like this doing in a "classical liberal" party, and will her continued populist outbursts scare off mainstream centre-right voters from giving their list vote to ACT at the next elections? Unfortunately, Newman is not alone. Disappointingly, Deborah Coddington joined in the chorus when she published a recent online "Liberty Belle" conference (July 25). Debs says that she has nothing against same-sex families, but doesn't think that the government should give them any additional legal recognition, precisely because they are alternatives to the so-called "normal, traditional" model. Coddington is an especial case for disappointment, as some had hoped she'd regained her libertarian principles after her votes for the Prostitution Law Reform Act and Death With Dignity Bill. Moreover, she has contributed to the Maxim Institute's "Evidence" journal on earlier occassions. Of course, Rodney Hide, Ken Shirley and Heather Roy are still good centre-right social liberals and worth voting for, and Richard Prebble has tepidly condemned UFNZ about same-sex couples. Stephen Franks is a similar kneejerk populist, however. Are social conservatives trying to take over ACT, and will they end up driving away younger mainstream centre-right voters who are primarily concerned about economic issues, who may have lesbian or gay parents, siblings, or extended family members? When will ACT encourage a greater range of voices about social issues of sexual politics and lesbian/gay rights? Craig Young - 13th September 2003    
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