Title: Queer Eye On the Brash Guy Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 15th March 2004 - 12:00pm1079305200 Article: 172 Rights
Or: Don Brash and selective centre-right social liberalism... Craig Young takes us gay voters through the social politics of NZ's right-wing political parties. As can be noted from this week's article on civil unions, Don Brash is letting his Opposition MPs have a free vote on the proposed Civil Union and Relationship Recognition Bills, although he doesn't seem to have a problem with it - unlike New Zealand First's fundamentalist MP, Dail Jones. This Muldoon-era relic hung around with Pat Bartlett when she was still alive, so that's no surprise. Given Brash's recent populist attacks on Treaty issues, how can he reconcile what seems to be a liberal voting record on issues of personal morality with anti-intellectual Maori-bashing? And will this extend to support for same-sex parenting equality as well? It may not be as inconsistent as it seems. It is possible that Brash has resorted to a mixture of centre-right social liberalism and anti-redistributive populism. If a specific social reform or minority does not involve costly financial outlays, then it can be supported, so Brash voted for the Prostitution Law Reform Act, Death With Dignity Bill, and will support the Civil Union and Relationship Recognition Bills. I imagine that if someone pointed out that there's no reputable data that suggests that same-sex parenting leads to unemployability and lack of educational achievement, then he'll probably vote for adoption law reform legislation when it happens, as well. Unfortunately for Maori and solo mums, their particular ethnic minority and alternative family structure don't get off as lightly. If I'm correct, then Brash and his entourage will target both groups because they allegedly breed a 'dependency culture' that results in funding drains from central government. Lesbians and gay men are not seen to do that. Therefore, Brash does not oppose lesbian and gay spousal equality, although he has made no public pronouncements on parenting equality. I am reminded of Michael Howard's similar free vote stance over similar proposed civil partnership legislation within the United Kingdom for British Conservative Party MPs. However, it should be noted that the English/Smith/Boag debacle may have resulted in a temporarily unbalanced social conservative element within the National caucus, which Brash will need to handle carefully. There's one slight problem here, and it is named New Zealand First. As I predicted earlier, ACT's social conservative element have driven centre-right social liberal voters back to Brash's National Party, and decimated its voter share. If not remedied, this will mean that National and New Zealand First face the prospect of a late nineties style coalition. Unfortunately, Brash may not have stopped to consider what that would mean. Is work for the dole enough to cement the parties together? Peters is an anti-recognition populist, who targets Asian immigrants as his primary target, and it is debatable how long Brash and National's Pansy Wong will tolerate this situation. Peters appears to be downplaying his anti-Treaty rhetoric as well, and may still harbour bitter memories of the late nineties which will lead to trouble during election year. If voters conclude that National and New Zealand First cannot govern together, then they will bolt toward the centre-left. And what about the Christian Right during this period? I suspect that we are witnessing a Christian Right that is reverting to Muldoon era populism. As undiluted free-market policies are out of favour now, and ACT may not survive the next general election, the Christian Right may find New Zealand First more palatable. It will become what it was during the eighties when it backed Muldoon's stance on economics and associated social conservatism. But what happens if Brash's National Party is not inclined to reverse the Prostitution Law Reform Act, or pass binding citizens initiated referenda legislation, or if the Death With Dignity Bill is revived for a third incarnation, without most of United Future's caucus, Dail Jones or Craig MacNair within New Zealand First to obstruct it? Will the Christian Right accquire the same 'wrecker' reputation amongst mainstream centre-right political parties that it did after it lost National urban liberal voters at the 1987 New Zealand General Election? Don Brash and Winston Peters: can this strange-sect marriage work? Craig Young - 15th March 2004    
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