|Isn't it fascinating that Family First appears to be so comprehensively neglecting all other 'family' issues because of its vendetta against marriage equality?
Granted, that isn't wholly true. Family First's own website and Bob McCoskrie's blog do discuss other issues, but it’s opposition to marriage equality that prompts its "Protect Marriage" satellite website. This raises some questions about their priorities. Granted, Right to Life New Zealand provides them with an alibi when it comes to opposition to abortion and euthanasia, but what about the other 'family' issues?
Why doesn't alcohol law reform merit any supplementary website of its own, for instance, and what about its paper-thin 'opposition' to loan-shark profiteering off the backs of impoverished Pacific Island families? Even the Christian Right's attack on the health and welfare of South Auckland street sex workers is being neglected because Family First prioritises opposition to marriage equality above anything else.
In some cases, this is just scandalous. Recently, the Families Commission released an excellent report on Pacific Families and Problem Debt. It dealt with the cultural influences, language problems, easy access to high interest rate loans, accumulated and intergenerational debt liability problems, as well as low income difficulties that plague this community. It seems as if Family First is quite willing to manipulate residual elements of Pacific Island community social conservatism, but too bad about any real problems that Pacific Island families and communities face- otherwise why the prolonged silence? It took several days for Family First to finally publish a brief media release on the subject.
Why doesn't exploitative loan-sharking, addressed in former Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni's private member's bill on the subject, warrant a supplementary website of its own, or similar concerted political activity against it, when its impact on vulnerable families is clearly so much more tangible as to warrant a government agency report on the matter?
This cumulative marginalisation will return to haunt them. Unlike its earlier campaign against Section 59 Repeal in 2007, it is facing a large-scale, disciplined and focused social movement which effectively monitors and counters it. Moreover, Family First is campaigning against marriage equality in the context of severe recession and a time when the US Christian Right is reeling from decisive defeat after it failed to defeat President Obama and lost ground over marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington state after its referenda ploy backfired within those states.
Family First is addicted to populist, short term expediency. That might have assisted their public profile back in 2007, but they didn't prevent Section 59 Repeal, nor has it been able to make it a decisive election issue, nor has it insured the long-term survival of ACT, their primary parliamentary allies. In 2009, there was a non-binding referendum, but since then the issue has become politically quiescent.
One suspects history may argue that it was Family First's 2011 "Value Your Vote" parliamentary leadership guide that turned out to be the choke point in their relationship with mainstream centre-right parties. It emphasised Winston Peters' social conservative voting profile and may have facilitated his party's revival and rehabilitation within Parliament. The National Party cannot have too happy about the resurrection of that particular nemesis. Since then, it has persistently attacked Prime Minister Key and British Prime Minister David Cameron, both centre-right social liberals.
Given this ongoing neglect of other 'family' concerns, what happens when Family First loses its campaign against marriage equality and adoption reform? If it does so against a considerable margin of defeat, and has meanwhile continued to neglect other 'family' issues due to its futile antigay obsession, I can't see the organisation surviving it. Moreover, Bob McCoskrie is Family First, because the organisation has no other visible spokespeople. Once marriage equality is achieved, its opponents will need to recognise that their continued resistance to LGBT legislative reform, such as any potential transgender rights bill, will be futile.
Meanwhile, Colin Craig and his Conservatives have been silent over the issue of marriage equality during October-November 2012. Has Craig given up the fight against marriage equality already and is he now preparing for 2014 instead?
It would seem so. During October-November 2012, Colin Craig quietly relocated his party headquarters from Auckland to Tauranga, formerly Winston Peters' pinion New Zealand First constituency electorate (1993-2005), until his defeat by first National's Bob Clarkson and then Simon Bridges. On the face of it, it seems therefore a prudent choice.
Tauranga has a significant proportion of elderly voters and they tend to be more inclined toward religious social conservatism. By relocating to Tauranga, Colin Craig may believe that the Conservatives can tap any such support and therefore capture the seat from National.
But how feasible is this? Are New Zealand First's former supporters within that electorate now wed to New Zealand First's anti-market orientation as much as its social conservatism? Moreover, have the Conservatives only been able to harvest a particular sub-threshold voter segment that combines support for populist leadership, religious social conservatism and fiscal responsibility, which formerly went to the ACT Party, or defunct Christian Heritage before it? This would strand its support at only two percent or so.
Still, this isn't marriage equality. Colin Craig has seemingly abandoned the issue to Bob McCoskrie, chasing his own elusive prospect of religious social conservative parliamentary representation.
Not Recommended: Family First: http://www.familyfirst.org.nz Protect Marriage: http://www.protectmarriage.org.nz Bob McCoskrie Blog: http://www.bobmccoskrie.com Conservative Party: http://www.conservativeparty.org.nz
Recommended: Hamish Carter: "True blue Conservatives" Bay of Plenty Sun: 24.11.2012: http://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/35309-true-blue-conservatives.html Families Commission: Pacific Families and Problem Debt (2012): http://www.familiescommission.org.nz/publications/research-reports/pacific-families-and-problem-debt Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 6th December 2012