Title: Forum for (Very Few) "Families" Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 8th June 2011 - 10:59am1307487540 Article: 10453 Rights
Demonstrating how foolhardy those who would downplay the still active role of the Christian Right in New Zealand politics are, please note Family First's Sixth Forum on "the Family," to be held in July 2011. Family First organises these get-togethers for antigay, anti-abortion and other Christian Right groups. It's being held at Life Convention Centre, near Auckland Airport in Montgomery Road on July 8th. At the forum, Family First leader Bob McCoskrie has an intriguing line-up of guests. As 2011 is an election year, John Key and Phil Goff are going to be interviewed by McCoskrie one on one about obsessions like abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and parenting, welfare policy, favouritism for fundamentalist private schools ad nauseum. Note that there's no mention whatsoever of issues like affordable family housing, homelessness, poverty, grocery costs, poor child nutrition and health, social service withdrawal and related concerns of interest to real New Zealand families, especially low-income ones. All I can say that I admire Phil Goff for his courage in venturing into such an obviously biased and partisan setting. Why do I say partisan? Look at who else is on Family First's scheduled speakers list. One of the advertised speakers is Lindsay Mitchell, New Right critic of comprehensive welfare state provision of social services. I must say, I'm disappointed to see this. While I don't agree with Ms Mitchell in her approach to welfare policy, I was impressed that she seemed to regard two-parent same-sex led families as equivalent to two-parent straight ones in terms of care, responsibility and optimal education and employment outcomes. I hope that she still upholds this stance, as it is supported by mainstream paediatrics and developmental psychology in countless statements of policy, research papers and academic journal articles. Still, her presence is interesting for another reason. Does this mean that Family First backs the New Right when it comes to welfare privatisation? Did Family First speak to mainstream Christian social service agencies about this, given that most of them would be strongly opposed to this radical policy shift? If not, why not? Why didn't it invite representatives from the Anglican and Catholic social service agencies to balance Mitchell's presentation? I was also disappointed to see Dr Albert Makary there, although I gather his presence is a sop to those of us on the centre-left who have expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of definitive emphasis and developed policy perspectives from the New Zealand Christian Right when it comes to alcohol restriction and regulation. It is significant that this is the first time such a keynote speaker has been present at its Forums. Or aren't families scarred by alcohol and drug abuse 'real' families either? And of course, given that this is a Christian Right networking conference, there are the inevitable Christian Right activists. Ian Grant may be a fundamentalist pop parenting guru, but he really doesn't have any qualifications in paediatrics and developmental psychology to back up his fundamentalist nostrums. It will be remembered that Ian and Mary Grant joined other Auckland fundamentalists in their antigay campaign against the Hero Parade in the early nineties, though, so we should watch him closely, given that he's going to talk about (straight) marriage and why (straight) two parent (and single income) families are "better" than other kinds. However, we should stress his lack of formal academic standing if any response is made. The other figure is a seriously bad choice. It is election year, and given the reappearance of Don Brash, certain memories of predatory Australian fundamentalist donors to centre-right political parties may spring to mind. So, Family First has invited militant Australian fundamentalist activist Jim Wallace of the "Australian Christian Lobby," a Canberra-based fundamentalist lobby group who is also notorious for attacking same-sex marriage and Muslim Australians on Anzac Day, despite the tradition of non-politicisation of that event. Note that Wallace is openly going to give tactical and strategic advice to the New Zealand Christian Right on issues like same-sex marriage proper, abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, sex work and other issues. Oh look, bats in the belfry. Must be election year... Not Recommended: Family First: Forum on the Family: Australian "Christian" Lobby: Craig Young - 8th June 2011    
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