|Green MP and rainbow issues spokesman Kevin Hague discusses why his party is standing up to Colin Craig: "Allowing Colin Craig to win would have a profound chilling effect on the freedom to speak out and defend our values."
2014 is a big year for the Green Party. The 20 September election offers a very real chance for us to have the first Green government and to be able to use that platform to deliver great green change. We need to put as much effort and resource into that mission as we possibly can.
But there's also another really important issue on which we have made a choice to stand up for the values we believe in.
Those values are acceptance, tolerance, and love and a vision of a diverse society that delivers good lives and a fair future for everyone. Some of you would have heard our Co-leader Russel Norman at the Big Gay Out explaining why we thought that a vote for John Key was a vote for Colin Craig. We are worried about the impact on the gay community of Colin Craig in government with John Key. Colin Craig has said, amongst other things, that it is not intelligent to pretend that homosexual relationships are normal and that New Zealand women are promiscuous. Russel, backed by the Green Party, finds these views offensive. What does John Key think of them?
The Green Party are proud of our record of fighting for rights and freedoms for New Zealand women and the gay community. Our position on these issues compared to Colin Craig’s could not be more different. They are so different that, as you know, Colin Craig, the founder and leader of the Conservative Party, has decided to take Russel to court for defamation over the comments that Russel made.
Advertisement Colin Craig now has a track record for making allegations of defamation if someone says something about him that he doesn’t like. Russel has made it clear that he doesn’t plan to back down from his statements because of a lawyer’s letter. New Zealanders want to hear freely from their politicians but Colin Craig appears to want all our statements run past lawyers. We are not going to engage in that style of politics. It is only right that politicians robustly set out their positions, and I think that if Colin Craig wants to enter the political debate he needs to accept the criticisms that are going to come his way. That is just part and parcel of robust political debate.
We should be proud of the progress we have made as a society, and should not allow it to be put at risk. Last year was a huge moment for equality and acceptance in New Zealand as we celebrated marriage equality. But while we were rejoicing Louisa Wall's Bill being drawn from the ballot, Colin Craig was making his comments about gay relationships not being normal.
Russel was right to draw attention to the risk posed by Colin Craig's party at this year’s election. This election offers real choices for New Zealanders – and we won’t back down from our message to women and gay New Zealanders that the Green Party backs your rights and freedoms.
Colin Craig is a wealthy man. He was the largest political donor at the 2011 election and continues to pour money into advancing his conservative agenda. It is essential for our vision that his agenda is resisted as vigorously as possible. Mr Craig is well aware of this, and has now established a track record of threatening legal action against political opponents and commentators. So far, others have chosen to withdraw their comments rather than face a court case, no doubt mindful of Mr Craig's deep pockets. Backing down would be easiest for Russel too. But allowing Colin Craig to win would have a profound chilling effect on the freedom to speak out and defend our values. And when we become afraid to speak out or criticise then we are taking a giant step in the wrong direction towards a repressive and conformist society.
That is why we are choosing not to back down. Protection of the rights of women and minorities, celebration of a society that values everyone and freedom of political speech are values that must be defended. I am proud of Russel and of our party for defending them. We didn't choose the courtroom for this argument – Colin Craig did. But we are choosing to stand strong in the face of views that threaten our values as a party and the critical right to freedom of political speech.
- Longtime glbti rights advocate Kevin Hague is a Green MP and one of its rainbow spokespeople. Kevin Hague - 11th April 2014