|Asenati Lole-Taylor What is the Manukau Ministers Network and why is it not frontlining its support for the Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill?
On Thursday June 6, I noted that the Manukau Courier had popped up an article on one Stephen Miller of the Manurewa New Life Church on the Stuff Fairfax newspapers website. I recalled that the Manurewa New Life Church had made an earlier submission to the Local Government and Environment select committee, endorsing passage of the Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill and wondered what he had done against the interests of Manukau street sex workers, so I decided to google his name.
While I suspected that there was some orchestration and stealth co-ordination of local fundamentalist campaigns against street sex work going on, I was previously unaware of the so-called "Manukau Ministers Network," which is primarily a South Auckland area fundamentalist network. As well as opposing street sex work, it also opposed Louisa Wall's recent Marriage Equality Act. It seems to have close connections to Family First, which rapidly featured the Manukau Courier article on Bob McCoskrie's blog site, MacBlog shortly after its initial appearance.
In August 2012, the "Manukau Ministers Network" consisted of
Pastor Lui Ponifasio – LifeChurch Manurewa; Pastor Stephen Miller – Manukau New Life Church; Pastor Chris Sola – The Dream Centre Manukau; Reverend Mark Beale - St Elizabeth's Angican Church Manurewa; Reverend Craig Millar – St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Manurewa; Pastor Michael Nicholas – Faith City Church Manukau; Pastor Barrett Ruakere – Equippers Church Manukau; Pastor Moses Singh – Indian Christian Life Centre; Pastor Boyd Ratnaraja – Elim Church Manurewa; Reverend Peter Benzie - Redoubt North Wesleyan Church; Pastor Jim Shaw – New Life Church; Pastor Brian Paki – Christ for Every Nation; Pastor Tarsem Paul – Christian Outreach Healing Fellowship International NZ; Pastor Karel Botha – Doxadeo Church; Pastor Amosa Kennar – Jesus Worship Centre Manurewa; Pastor Esera Maeataanoa – Every Nation Church; Pastor Julia Amosa – Elim Church; Pastor Steve McWilliams - Papatoetoe Christian Centre; Pastor Martin Profitt – East City Life Church Pakuranga; Pastor Paul Gibson – Otara Baptist Church; Pastor Peter Leota – Peace Chapel Mangere; Pastor Craig Munro – King of Kings Church Manukau; Pastor Stewart Hanna – CityWay Church Manukau; Pastor Michael Loto – House of Grace Otara; Pastor Luka Robertson – Manukau New Hope.
As regular readers of this column will recall, LifeChurch Manurewa, the Manukau New Life Church and Papatoetoe Christian Fellowship/Church have also made corporate submissions as individual entities to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee supporting the Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specific Places), although not as the "Manukau Ministers Network." Moreover, the aforementioned Stephen Miller is listed as one of the contacts for this shadowy organisation.
As one can see from this list, the organisations involved seem to be predominantly Pacific Island (and some palagi) fundamentalist church leaders. The organisation may also overlap with "Auckland Affirm," which seems to have aggregated about the fundamentalist Presbyterian "Affirm" group based in Tauranga, one of the opponents of marriage equality within that dying denomination. "Auckland Affirm" has a Facebook page. Moreover, the Manukau Ministers Network was probably associated with the Manurewa Local Board's publicisation the so-called New Zealand First "Street Prostitution Forum" on May 15, 2013.
Notwithstanding Pastors Ruakere and Paki, there seems to be little Maori representation within this so-called "Ministers Network," possibly because the Maori Party and Mana Party both oppose any recriminalisation of street sex work because they are strongly aware that it is Maori and Pacific Island whakawahine and fa'afafine who make up the majority of street sex workers who would be most vulnerable in that context. This is also odd, given the substantial Maori presence in South Auckland itself.
However, to balance that out, the "Street Prostitution Forum" was listed on the Auckland Council's own website as a 'council event.' It would be interesting should someone request the necessary details about this under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. It seems to have been planned in conjunction with New Zealand First and especially Winston Peters and Asenati Lole-Taylor's assistance. Indeed, one tends to suspect that Asenati Lole-Taylor may be shaping into either Winston Peters' deputy as New Zealand First leader or even his successor, and may well try to use the issue of street sex work to mobilise conservative Christian Pacific Island and palagi voters to vote for her as a possible Manurewa constituency MP, against sitting Labour Manurewa MP Louisa Wall. No doubt she will have assistance from the Manurewa Ministers Forum should this eventuality materialise. Either that, or she will make a determined effort to take Manukau East off Labour, given the pending retirement of Labour MP Ross Robertson from national politics at the next election. And why is it that the Auckland Council assisted her in the context of this partisan event?
For partisan it most certainly is. I utilised New Zealand First's own website and noted that both Winston Peters and Asenati Lole-Taylor appear to have a keen interest in instituting repression against street sex workers in Manukau City and Greater Auckland. Peters started the ball rolling when he criticised underage street sex work (20.06.2012), and then similarly commented about the "financial and social costs of street sex work" (28.03.2013) on Radio Live. However, it has mostly been Lole-Taylor who has campaigned against street sec work and promoted her own private members bill, the Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill, should the current Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill fail at its second reading.
New Zealand First's website reveals that Lole-Taylor has issued numerous media releases on the subject, since she engaged in a joint Auckland Council/New Zealand First event that supported the Manukau City (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill, with the assistance of Auckland Mayor Len Brown, Papatoetoe-Otara Local Board member John McCracken and Daniel Newman (16.07.12). Since then, she has accusing street sex workers of instituting "neighbourhoods of fear" (16.11.2012), stating that "prostitution turf wars must be stopped through legislation (22.11.2012), and that her prohibitionist proposed legislation will somehow "empower communities to tackle street prostitution (05.12.2012).
More recently, Ms Lole-Taylor announced the formulation of her own Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill (20.02.2013), that "support had grown" for her bill against street sex workers (26.02.2013), publicising the "Street Prostitution Forum" in Papatoetoe (27.03.2013), (06.04.2013) and providing a transcript of her own speech from the same forum (06.04.2013). On May 1, Lole-Taylor further promoted her bill on the fundamentalist Shine Television's "NZone" current affairs programme, which is linked to below. Since then, she has also stated her support for nationwide street prostitution bans on Scoop (26.06.2013), Radio New Zealand and 3 News (27.06.2013) in the context of the current private member's bill and her own proposed legislation, currently in the ballot box. At the same time, in a Scoop media release, she also linked the closure of Otara and Papatoetoe police stations to the "threat" of street prostitution in the Hunters Corner area, again implying that there is a causal relationship betweeen vulnerable Maori and Pacific Island transsexual and cisgender sex workers and violent and antisocial behaviour, as opposed to sporadic incidents of public nuisance activity (27.06.2013). While she is right to be concerned about public safety in this community context, given Manukau City's high violent offending levels, scapegoating vulnerable women won't resolve this issue.
Coincidentally or not, she's also a deacon at Newton's Pacific Island Presbyterian Church.
At no place during these propaganda sessions do Peters or Lole-Taylor seem interested in citing the Ministry of Justice's papers on the subject of street sex work in any detail, probably because they'd spoil the moral panic effect that she and her leader are trying to promote against informed discussion and debate on the issue of street sex work.
So, there are intriguing questions that should be asked here. Do these ministers have the ear of those Auckland City Councillors opposed to street sex work and supportive of this bill? To what extent are they involved in orchestrating supposedly 'representative' local opposition to street sex workers? Why didn't they make a corporate submission as MMN to the Local Government and Environment select committee on this bill? How did the Auckland City Council/New Zealand First axis against street sex work arise in this context? Why is it impossible to access full details about the Street Prostitution Forum on the Auckland City Council website? Is Lole-Taylor's activism on this issue connected to a possible Lole-Taylor NZF candidacy for Manurewa, manipulating the issue for her own benefit (and assisting her party should she manage to win the seat?) Why is the Manukau Courier seemingly blind when it comes to the level of manipulative behaviour behind the campaign for this bill?
Lastly, in its earlier letter to Louisa Wall (Labour MP for Manurewa) about what they thought her priorities should be, MMN referred to alcohol, drugs, sex work, educational failure, youth at risk and family disintegration. Curious about this, I had a look at what exactly MMN itself had done in this context. Apart from supporting the Manukau anti-soliciting bill, I could find nothing about activism on the aforementioned subjects, which raises questions about the degree of community concern that this fundamentalist pressure group actually has. As for Lole-Taylor, it's fascinating that her latest spate of media releases coincided with the latest session of Parliament, isn't it?
Manukau Ministers Network: Letter to Louisa Wall about Marriage Equality Bill: Family First: August 2012: http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Manukau-Ministers-Network-Oppose-Gay-Marriage-Equality-Bill-2.pdf
"Street prostitution rife" 3 News: 27.06.2013: http://www.3news.co.nz/Street-prostitution-rife-Parliament-told/tabid/1607/articleID/302900/Default.aspx
"Radio New Zealand: News- Government asked to deal with street prostitution as a priority" Radio New Zealand: 27.06.2013: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/138631/govt-asked-to-deal-with-street-prostitution-as-a-priority
"Street Prostitution is not confined to South Auckland" Scoop: 26.06.2013: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1306/S00409/street-prostitution-is-not-limited-to-south-auckland.htm
"Street Prostitution thrives while police stations close" Scoop: 27.06.2013: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1306/S00431/street-prostitution-thrives-while-police-stations-close.htm
"Prostitutes upset pastor" Stuff.co.nz: 06.06.2013: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/national/8762580/Prostitutes-upset-pastor
Auckland Affirm: http://auckland.affirm.net.nz/
Not Recommended: New Zealand First: http://www.nzfirst.org.nz/ NZOne: Asenati Lole-Taylor (01.05.2013): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9rM3mV6H30 Craig Young - 5th July 2013