Article Title:Hansard Returns!
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Doreen Agassiz-Suddens
Published on:8th November 2002 - 12:00 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
Story ID:56
Text:By request Hansard returns. At the end of my earlier column on MPs' quotes from Hansard, I mentioned that I thought perhaps that any further parliamentary statements I had read about us should remain forgotten. But curiosity was abroad in the gay and lesbian community and I was asked to reveal more of the idiotic comments and assumptions New Zealand politicians have made about us in the public arena of parliament over the years. So here are further statements of parliamentary ignorance for all to see. During 1968 when the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society presented a petition to the parliamentary Petitions Committee seeking changes to the Crimes Act 1961, a headline appeared in Wellington's Evening Post newspaper that upset the MPs of both National and Labour. The hearings had heard the views for and against reform from medical doctors, church leaders, the police and lay people. And the headline over a report on the committee hearings read, 'Statistical Claim is Made that Four MPs in NZ Are Probably Homosexual'. This statement caused outrage, and led to an investigation by the Committee of Privileges of an alleged breach of privilege! Parliamentarians were concerned that because of the headline they might be thought of as being homosexual, and they considered this to be an unacceptable situation. The Speaker of the House, Sir Roy Jack, said of the caption that it "gives great prominence to an unpleasant adumbration associating Parliament with a perversion concerning which strong emotional attitudes are held by many people." Labour's Norman Kirk said that it "cannot help but lower the prestige of Parliament in the eyes of the people," and National's Sir Leslie Munro called it a "quite disgusting statement." The Committee of Privileges was to find that, "the startling and inaccurate nature of the headline tends to lessen the esteem in which Parliament is held by the public." It was to be seen as "amounting to a breach of privilege" and the editor of the Evening Post agreed to express the paper's "sincere regret" at the printing of the headline. More ill-informed statements about same-sex relationships were uttered again during the introduction of National's Venn Young's Private Member's Bill to decriminalise homosexuality in 1974. Labour's Minister of Police Michael (Mick) Connelly said "homosexuality is an unnatural habit, and changing the law to legalise the practice will not make it natural." And Labour's Dr. Gerry Wall said that he wanted to attach an amendment to the Bill that would restrict what he saw as "way-out" groups whom he considered to be "proselytising or recruiting in this field." He was opposed to groups that organised social functions for homosexuals, as he thought they were trying "to promote widespread acceptance of homosexuality by means of organisations devoted to the promotion of this type of activity and of social activities not necessarily directly involved in sexual acts." Wall thought older teenagers would be led astray by attending functions such as the one that he had seen advertised on a university notice board which invited "everyone who is homosexual, a transvestite, a lesbian," or as Wall added, "anyone else with a particular sexual aberration, to attend a social function that evening." (Hansard 1974: 3161.). He seemed to be making a veiled reference to Gay Liberation who were active on university campuses at that time. During the debate on the Second Reading of the Young Bill in 1975, Paddy Blanchfield (Labour, West Coast) also seemed to have been agitated about the Gay Liberation Front, when he stated "A growing section of New Zealanders will be influenced by the gay libbers' way of life. Theirs is definitely not a good example for New Zealanders to set their standards by." Blanchfield went on to say: "I hope the member for Egmont [Young] realises the way the gay libbers are going. Their endeavours to create an atmosphere of happy comradeship are only a façade; the movement is as full of social dynamite as Guy Fawkes' barrels were of political gunpowder." (Hansard 1975: 2773.). In 1985, after another ten years of Gay Liberation influence in society, some MPs were still living in the shadow of ignorance about homosexuality. Norm Jones (National, Invercargill) was to state (amongst other things) during the Second Reading of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill: "If the Bill is passed in its present form the country will become a Mecca for thousands of homosexuals from Australia, the Continent, and America, who will jet in here. Our 16-year-olds are virgin territory. The Minister of Tourism will be able to advertise New Zealand to homosexuals throughout the world: 'Come to New Zealand for sun, for scenery, and safe sodomy.'" (Hansard 1985: 8048.) After the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986, it was to be another seven years until an amendment to the Human Rights Act outlawed discrimination against gays and lesbians in 1993. Even then there were still some MPs who were opposed to homosexual progress such as National/Christian Heritage MP Graeme Lee. Lee for many years had been an opponent of gay and lesbian rights, but by the 1990s he seemed to have moved on from being upset by homosexuals and become more distressed about bisexuals. For in 1992 in Hansard, he was quoted during the HR amendment debate as saying: "In relation to the question of bisexuality: I believe that is even worse than homosexuality. Very briefly, it is a reprehensible behaviour that is about cheating and lying to partners and spouses, but, in particular, it is very much the conduit for the spread of disease to the heterosexual community." (Hansard 1992: 13212.) Over the years MPs in the New Zealand House of Representatives have made some 'odd' comments about us in the gay and lesbian community. And no doubt there will be more to come in the years ahead of us. But I think one of the unintentionally funny comments made was by National's Les Gander who stated in 1974 in the midst of the Venn Young debate that "I am not a homosexual, and as far as I am aware I have not even met one." But then I suppose a lot of MPs would say that wouldn't they? Doreen Agassiz-Suddens - 8th November 2002    
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