|Six months after the most recent New Zealand general election, and the New Zealand Christian Right is looking somewhat frayed and shopworn. What's wrong with the Conservative Party and Family First?
To take Family First as the first example. The Manukau City Council (Regulating Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill was finally defeated back on February 25 (109-11) when the entire Labour, National and Green caucuses voted with the Maori Party, United Future and ACT MPs to derail the private member's bill in question, and only New Zealand First (predictably) voted to retain the benighted proposed legislation. Wisely, Parliament decided to follow submissions based on evidence-based research and professional expertise in the context of the Local Government and Environment select committee stage, which fortunately decided to recommend the dumping of the bill. The margin of the defeat is a slap in the face to Family First, who was quite vociferous in lobbying for it when it came to pro-bill propaganda and trying to engineer orchestrated individual submissions, but as usual lost the plot due to their usual problems with strategic planning of political campaigns and failed to maintain the pressure. When it petered out, it became difficult to maintain the facade that this was allegedly a "general public" demand to recriminalise street sex work, as opposed to the usual grandstanding from an obnoxious and unrepresentative Christian Right pressure group. And thus, the only piece of proposed legislation that tried to "legislate moralism" has miserably failed to pass parliamentary muster has been defeated. It seems that Bob McCoskrie has yet to realise that endlessly parroting US Christian Right propaganda and slavishly imitating their tactics and strategy only renders them transparent and capable of deconstruction, through evidence-based rebuttal. Empty posturing is not the be-all and end-all of authentic, representative political activity, which is all that its fervent religious social conservative declarations are. Indeed, as the surge of box office interest in the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey after Family First and other Christian Right nagging suggests, sometimes it can perversely lead to exactly the opposite response from 'desired' behaviour.
Speaking of behaviour, it is odd that while Family First has recently been pontificating about R18 tee-shirt displays and Fifty Shades of Grey, it did not make a submission to the Justice and Electoral select committee over the new Objectionable Publications and Indecency Bill, which seeks to strengthen the hand of the Office of Film and Literature Classification when it comes to interdiction and curtailment of the horrendous trade in images of child sexual abuse, which now takes up much of the OFLC's operational time and budget. I commend the Key administration for this legislation, as it focuses primary attention on areas of our minimalist censorship policy where there should be no debate- the aforementioned issue of child pornography, while letting depictions of consensual adult sexual activity past. Getting back to Family First, however, the time for submissions came and went, yet, according to the Parliament New Zealand website, there were only eight submissions to the Justice and Electoral select committee, and none of those came from either Family First, the pro-censorship Society for Promotion of Community Standards (although to be fair, neither did any New Zealand LGBT community organisation). This may have due to the restricted time frame for submissions, or it may have possibly been the case that Family First (or other Christian Right organisations) lacked sufficient expertise to comment in this area. Or perhaps their funds do not permit focusing on such issues? In any case, the bill seems to have passed its second reading, with no parliamentarian voicing the quaint Christian Right belief that adult consumption of adult erotic entertainment genres that depict consenting adults supposedly has some tenuous "relationship" to the hideous trade in images of child sexual abuse. But again, where was Family First? Perhaps Mr McCoskrie would care to enlighten us?
As for the Conservative Party, many political commentators wondered whether that latest fundamentalist microparty had quietly crawled away and died after failing to enter Parliament last year during the New Zealand elections held in September 2014. Apart from brief logistical statements on its website, little was heard from them. Half-humorously, centre-right commentator Matthew Hooton stated that given that John Key is seeking photo opportunities with drag queens at Big Gay Out, marriage equality continues apace, as does childhood comprehensive sex education and hitting children is still (thankfully) illegal, and given that the South Island is suffering from drought and that several Auckland suburbs have reported Queensland fruit fly infestations, the microparty in question should be basking in the attention.
However, as the Fairfax media site Stuff reported, the actual story is far more amusing. Colin Craig's leadership may be under siege from former ally Garth McVicar (Sensible Sentencing Trust) and there have reportedly been resignations from senior Conservative Party board members Leighton Baker, while Christine Rankin is still on the board of directors but not "chief executive." Meanwhile, former Conservative Party candidate and ex- United Future List MP Larry Baldock is once again misbehaving, albeit for the positive reason that he rejects Conservative Party monoculturalism against Maori political aspirations and political intervention, and has been expelled over two interviews during last year's election season. After former Northland National MP Mark Sabin's resignation, Craig announced that it would not be standing a candidate in the Northland by-election, because he didn't want to split the 'centre-right' vote. Others might interpret this as a sign of more disorganisation from the microparty. In 2014, Sabin had a commanding lead, polling 18,269 votes, about 10,000 ahead of Labour's Willow-Jean Prime (8969), while the Conservative candidate, Mike Taylor, came fifth, after the Greens, and the rural-based Focus New Zealand Party, with only 1555 votes. Is Colin Craig about to learn that charismatic personalities do not a mainstream political party make, whatever one's undoubted commercial sector expertise might be?
(And is it really true that a wooden spoon would be more popular than Colin Craig amongst most voters, or was that just The Civilian's Ben Uffindell being very naughty?)
Not Recommended: Conservative Party: http://www.conservativeparty .org.nz Family First: http://www.familyfirst. org.nz
Recommended: Matthew Hooton: "Where is Colin Craig?" National Business Review: 28.02.2015: http://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/where- colin-craig Andrea Vance: "Colin Craig: Conservative Party doing fine" Stuff: 03.03.2015: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/66936443/colin-craig-conservative-party-doing -fine Audrey Young: "Conservatives skip north by-election to avoid giving Peters a filip" New Zealand Herald: 02.03.2015: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1