Article Title:John Key, Hackergate and the National Party list
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Politics and religion commentator Craig Young
Published on:20th August 2014 - 12:38 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:15590
Text:Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager Why did concern arise over the Prime Minister's stance on marriage equality and what about his attitude to other LGBT legislative reforms and social issues? The answer is blowing in the wind...or more prosaically, the opinion polls. It's called triangulation. Rainbow Labour has tried to arouse concern that Prime Minister John Key might abandon the fait accompli of marriage equality if it meant that the Marriage Amendment Act 2013 was a liability to any prospective National Party/Conservative coalition arrangement. Key voted for the passage of the legislation and was widely credited as providing crucial leadership for almost half of current National MPs who followed their leader and voted for it. Why did Key adopt bipartisan social liberalism on this issue? It may be because of his personal centre-right social liberal values. It might also be because of the popularity of the measure as substantiated through several opinion poll references. Based on this and based on his earlier remarks about supporting substantive further inclusive adoption law reform, that secondary legislative objective might well also pass parliamentary stages if canvassed in the near future. What about transgender rights? When Louisa Wall renews any further attempted amendment of the Human Rights Act 1993 to finally and concretely add gender identity to the Human Rights Act 1993, what could be done to secure likelihood of this core LGBTI legislative reform? This would need to be accomplished by a media-centred series of active interventions to inform the general public what is at stake and to change public opinion beforehand. If it does so, and if it fulfills its intended objective of perceptible shifts in support for transgender rights, then one can suspect that the Prime Minister will take due notice of such public opinion measures and accordingly declare his support for the relevant legislative reform. As with marriage equality, this would cobble together a substantial bipartisan social liberal parliamentary coalition to insure the passage of any such bill. The New Zealand Christian Right cannot rest easy when it comes to any of its core social conservative policies. When it comes to euthanasia law reform, the Prime Minister has said that he would vote for that measure, although not for Labour List MP Maryan Street's proposed End of Life Choices Bill. This is a most ambiguous response and one would have to ask why it wasn't pursued by the interviewer in that situation. What form of euthanasia law reform would the Prime Minister vote for? Most amusingly, he made the original declaration at a recent Family First "Forum on the Family," where it provided a good opportunity to distance himself from Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, also in attendance. In this context, though, 'symbolic' liberalism is more appropriate. Key might state that he supports hypothetical euthanasia law reform at some point in the intermediate to long-term future, but gets away with not actually committing to anything. Added to which, when and if Maryan Streets' End of Life Choices Bill resurfaces in a future New Zealand Parliament, he will be able to claim support for euthanasia law reform while voting down Street's bill. Added to which, the Christian Right will face denominational cross-pressures between its fundamentalist and conservative Catholic factions over this. The latter are quite aware of binding citizens referenda's use to facilitate euthanasia law reform in the United States and Switzerland and want to prevent that contingency- which may blunt the latter constituency's support for the Conservative Party on that basis. Indeed, that may explain why few conservative Catholics seemed to support Family First or the Conservative Party when it came to opposing marriage equality- precisely because of fundamentalist addiction to binding referenda. Let's also consider the perennial abortion debate from its perspective. The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand wants abortion absolutely decriminalised, as with gay male sexuality and sex work. On the Christian Right side, Right to Life New Zealand wants abortion absolutely prohibited. In Voice for Life (SPUC), "realistic" anti-abortionists try to engineer parental interference with the rights of competent female minors to terminate their pregnancies, restrictions against a tiny number of late-term abortions on the basis of severe and lethal fetal abnormality, or force women to watch anti-abortion propaganda under the guise of informed consent. On this issue, once again, the Prime Minister equivocates. Commendably, he refuses to kowtow to the Christian Right anti-abortionists by restricting abortion access and has publically stated that he is pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights. However, unlike ALRANZ, he probably wouldn't decriminalise it either. At least, not unless the opinion polls demonstrably indicate that a majority of New Zealanders back decriminalisation, so we're stuck with the current contradiction between the flawed Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 and the reality of liberal abortion practice and widespread access. Could this get the Prime Minister into trouble on some issues? Well, possibly. Let's have a look at the accelerating trend toward cannabis decriminalisation and access within the United States. Twenty one US states already have some form of access to medicinal cannabis derivatives for people with severe chronic or life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS. More recently, Colorado and Washington state took the next step and decriminalised cannabis for recreational use and other US states are going to vote on that issue at the November 2014 midterm US Congressional elections- Oregon and Alaska, while Florida may introduce access to medicinal cannabis derivatives if a similar referendum succeeds. In 2016, California may similarly face a referendum on decriminalisation of recreational cannabis. Public opinion appears to be moving rapidly toward decriminalisation and liberalisation of access when it comes to cannabis in the United States and it may be possible that a future centre-left government bites the bullet if New Zealanders mirror our US counterparts when it comes to attitudinal change. It will also sour other social conservatives on the issue of binding referenda- what "good" is it if it results in liberalised access to recreational drugs like cannabis or decriminalisation or maintenance of access to euthanasia/assisted suicide? The question is, how quickly will that happen? Granted, it's still possible to triangulate on the question of decriminalising pot- simply state that one favours liberalising access to cannabis for adult users alone and call for refocusing attention on Class A Misuse of Drugs Act substances like P/crystal methamphetamine when it comes to law enforcement and interdiction. On Wednesday August 13, Nicky Hager dropped a bombshell on the election debate when he released his latest book, Dirty Politics. I have to admit, I have found the controversy extraordinarily difficult to assess. On the one hand, Nicky Hager is one of New Zealand's premier investigative journalists. The Prime Minister is incorrect to dismiss him simply as a 'left-wing conspiracy theorist.' I suspect that designation has much to do with Hager's disclosure that the Brash era National Opposition had questionable dealings with the Exclusive Brethren during the Civil Union Act debate back in 2005, which led to strengthened electoral finance legislation. The book alleges that there is a email trail from the office of senior Key advisor Jason Ede to centre-right bloggers Cameron Slater and David Farrar which the latter activists allegedly used against political opponents of the Key administration. May I stress the term "allegedly" in this context? And therein lies my problem. Both Cam Slater and David Farrar were sterling allies of our communities during the marriage equality debate. Hager accuses Slater of hacking into the Labour donor database during the prelude to the 2011 New Zealand General Election. However, there are corresponding questions about how Hager himself obtained his own information about Slater and Farrar's alleged activities. What is the status of New Zealand law related to hacking, denial of service attacks on websites and deliberate distribution of targeted computer viruses? In making this observation, I am maintaining strict neutrality given the provisional nature of accusations from both Hager on one side of the debate and correspondingly, those against Hager from those he accused of those crimes. For crimes they are, under Section 250 of the Crimes Act 1961, which makes it an offence to engage in hacking into websites, engaging in deliberate denial of service attacks on particular websites and deliberate targeted virus release. The offence carries a seven year potential imprisonment sentence if hacking, viral release and DoS attacks are concerned. If the crime results in endangerment of human life, that sentence duration increases to ten years. Again, given that the subject under debate may be the substance of legal controversy, I am making no judgement about the substance or otherwise of these claims. However, they are newsworthy and within the public domain, so it is my responsibility to report on them, provide context and subject them to critical analysis as a journalist. To change topics, are the National Party's own list rankings going to get them into trouble when it comes to more intensive scrutiny? As with the assessment of religious social conservatism within Colin Craig's vanity party, it is comparatively simple to use Facebook to dissect whether or not new National List or constituency MPs are stealth fundamentalists. Of existing National MPs, Jonathon Young, Sam Lotu-Iiga and Tim Macindoe are the highest profile conservative Christians within the National caucus. Indeed, Macindoe was responsible for Supplementary Order Paper 203, which sought to gut service provider discrimination protection within the Human Rights and give special discriminatory "rights" to fundamentalist butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, hotel owners and other religious social conservative professionals. Of the above, Lotu-Iiga and Macindoe are Cabinet Ministers. Comparing National's new party list against what they've stated on Facebook then, what is discernible? There are three new fundamentalist prospects within National's new party list. Misa Fia Turner is a Samoan-born woman and attends Mangere's Bridge Community Church. At No 53, she may well get in on the party list. At No 64, Simeon Brown is a blatant fundamentalist. He's standing for Manurewa, fortunately a safe Labour seat, against Louisa Wall. Brown's Facebook page contains a link to his submission against the Marriage Equality Amendment Act. Amongst his preferred groups, he lists "Work to Abolish Abortion in Oceania," "Thinking Matters Auckland" (a fundamentalist discussion forum) and "Creation Now" (yeah, seems he's a creationist.) He also stated his support for former ACT MP John Boscawen's attempt to decriminalise parental corporal punishment. Not good. Not good at all. And remember, if National gets an absolute majority, this young true believer will be in Parliament. Fortunately, as the election campaign continues, this may be a decreasing likelihood. However, it is an incentive not to encourage over-representation of the National party list within Parliament. At No 71, Mark Bridges is a List MP, lists his religion as Pentecostal, attended fundamentalist Immanuel Christian School, is a fan of elderly antigay Pentecostal icon Bill Subritzsky and lists "The Word Today" as one of his preferred groups. At No 75, Chris Penk is friends with conservative Catholic anti-abortion activist and Family Life International member Brendan Malone. Granted, Bridges and Penk are unlikely to get into Parliament, but the same cannot be said about Brown, if National were to obtain an absolute majority, or Misa Fia Turner, although she strikes me as no different from incumbent Labour Mangere MP Sio William Sua, also a (Mormon) religious social conservative. One really has to wonder about National's decision to stand young Mr Brown in Manurewa, especially given that Louisa Wall is an out Maori lesbian. Indeed, Louisa Wall has already noted that there may be a 'dirty tricks' campaign being waged in her electorate that keynotes her lesbianism and successful advocacy of marriage equality. Is this a 'dog whistle' to the Christian Right? But if it is, why place Brown so far down the list? Is it an insurance policy? It will be interesting to see Turner and Brown's performance during this election campaign and whether they run afoul of the centre-right social liberalism that the Prime Minister is trying to project. Recommended: Simon Collins: “Euthanasia legitimate up to a point, says Key”New Zealand Herald:05.07.2014: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1  
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