Article Title:Local Authoritarians?
Author or Daily News staff
Published on:17th July 2013 - 01:55 pm
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Story ID:13662
Text:Just how representative is the current Auckland Council, in the context of the current debates over begging, street sex work and other concerns? Let's contemplate the nature of local and central government in New Zealand. Unlike Canada and Australia, which are federal nations where state and provincial governments have considerable power and autonomy of their own, New Zealand is a unitary state. We used to have provincial assemblies in the nineteenth century, but they today remain only as vestiges within sporting team marketing and allegiances. In the United Kingdom, Thatcher's excesses triggered a new wave of Scottish nationalism. To offset this, the Blair administration devolved some legislative power to national assemblies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In an analogous manner, New Zealand's National/ACT coalition created an amalgamated Greater Auckland regional supercity, but with one potential fatal flaw- unlike the UK devolved national assemblies, it was prevented from embracing a more democratic Single Transferable Vote electoral system and was forced to abide by the restrictions of First Past the Post elections. When it comes to local government and LGBT voters, we have largely neglected it, given the centralisation of legislative power within central government, New Zealand's unitary state structure, and our focus on successive legislative reforms. Because it is weaker and is seen as less democratic as a political institution, we have paid it minimal attention, except at points where it directly threaten us- like the right-wing Mills/Hay mayoralty of the mid-nineties and the current Auckland Council attacks on street sex work. Although the Auckland Council reformed its behaviour toward lesbian and gay Auckland citizens after the fall of Mills and Hay, its current transgender rights record is abysmal. Granted, that was foreshadowed when Len Brown answered that he would try to lobby for prohibition of street sex work if elected as mayor, when Family First asked him that question in an Auckland mayoral candidate voters guide. Since then, Brown and other Councillors, local board representatives and religious social conservatives have formed an axis with New Zealand First's Asenati Lole-Taylor, herself a former local authority politician, to lobby for the introduction of transphobic restrictions against street sex work within three successive private members bills. The Council was also responsible for an unpleasant rate-payer funded attack on Manukau street sex workers, propagandising for the recriminalisation of soliciting/street sex work. Thankfully, local government does have restricted legislative power in this context. Auckland Council and other anti-sexworker local authorities cannot contravene the provisions of the Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003, except if one of the two current anti-soliciting bills is passed and street sex work is recriminalised. Fortunately, the Ministry of Justice and its Prostitution Law Review Committee have provided ample research projects to demonstrate why this should not be the case. Unless and until Len Brown relinquishes any connection to the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill, and the Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill, I recommend that no member of Auckland's LGBT community vote for him, or for any councillor or local board representative who have tried to recriminalise street sex work in October. Before that, and before the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill approaches its second reading on September 30, we must actively work to insure its defeat. Daily News staff - 17th July 2013    
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