Title: Election: Reject the right! Credit: Craig Young Comment Thursday 16th June 2005 - 12:00pm1118880000 Article: 780 Rights
For the good of our communities, as well as the good of our country, the Right must not be allowed to win the next New Zealand general election later this year. I would invite members of our community to consider the following scenario: Despite Labour's status as the largest party in Parliament, Don Brash and Winston Peters seize power, even though National has only three-quarters the voter level of the Clark administration. Brash panders to Peters through promising him binding citizens initiated referenda. Once that legislation is underway, unrepresentative Christian Right pressure groups use it to attack LGBT rights, such as a civil union repeal petition, as well as women's reproductive freedom, despite strong warnings from feminist groups and medical practitioners organisations about the consequences. Couldn't happen? Wrong. It could, if enough New Zealanders remain apathetic about the outcome of the forthcoming election. Apparently, hard right elderly social conservative voters have already forgotten about the events of the late nineties, when Winston Peters walked out of a centre-right coalition government because he objected to Jenny Shipley's social liberalism, and could not control social liberal elements within his own caucus. New Zealand First has become far more socially conservative over the last seven years, and has made binding citizens initiated referenda a core policy plank. Essentially, this means that any mischievous Christian Right or far right pressure group could pit New Zealanders against their fellow citizens through introducing divisive binding citizens initiated referenda proposals. Of course, the League of Rights wants that. It has always had a constituency amongst the credulous, gullible and conspiratorially-minded elements of the New Zealand fundamentalist community. Like Trotskyite far left groups, it engages in entryism, infiltrating centre-right and Christian Right pressure groups and driving them hard right after they lose their target issue. It happened to the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, the Voters Voice Action Group sent correspondence to the League about their shared objectives, as recorded in a previous Gaynz.Com column, and an anti-immigration BCIR is one of the avowed targets of both fringe organisations. Don Brash is politically naive, and his party will cut any deal, no matter how extreme his proposed coalition partner is. One looks in vain for the stature of French President Jacques Chirac within New Zealand's centre-right, for Chirac made a principled anti-racist stance against the threat that the French National Front posed to French democratic institutions. I may not agree with Chirac's economic policies, but I respect Chirac for his stance. And the centre-right is playing with fire, as well. In Canada, liberal Eastern Canadian cities and provinces are alarmed by fringe Christian Right elements that have infiltrated the Conservative Party Opposition, and there is every prospect that Paul Martin's scandal-ridden Liberal federal minority government will survive as a result. In Australia, there is growing antipathy toward the concentration camps that house 'illegal' asylum seekers and refugees, despite international and domestic humanitarian objections. Even John Howard's 'Liberal'/National coalition is experiencing a backbench revolt against its extremism. As for the United States, it seems that the Bush administration can do no wrong for the fundamentalist community. No matter that the Iraq War seems unwinnable and has bitterly divided the country, no matter that it has a worsening economic outlook, no matter that there have been a spate of corporate governance scandals during the Bush administration's first term. All that matters to the US Christian Right is that Bush is anti-abortion and anti-gay, nothing else. The National Party cannot be trusted to govern on its own, either. Granted, there are problems with the 111 emergency telecommunication service, the NCEA debacle and other ongoing problems of public sector conduct, but the Clark administration has moved quickly to investigate the origins of these problems and remedy them. However, that is not the point. Under Bill English and Don Brash, the National Party has become unrepresentatively social conservative. Unlike Jim Bolger, Brash is no pragmatist, and cannot see the need to secure and promote centre-right social liberal talent within his party. Resultantly, we have to put up with social conservative ideological purists like Judith Collins, Richard Worth and their ilk. This is unacceptable. Either the National Party takes steps to become far more representative of wider New Zealand society, or it risks ultimate political irrelevance. I realise that the commentary above will be unacceptable to lesbian and gay National Party partisans. Unlike centre-right social liberal Nats, they believe that the National Party is infallible. Although I am a Labour Party supporter, though, I believe that the Bolger and Shipley administrations were truly centre-right in the best sense of the word. National's social liberals can take credit for passage of the Human Rights Act 1993, and Jenny Shipley was the one who proposed what eventually became the Civil Union Act last year. (And ACT? I feel deeply aggrieved that the Opposition will be bereft of principled centre-right social liberals like Rodney Hide and Heather Roy if the party fails to win a constituency seat to insure its survival. Hide and Roy have been loyal allies of our community, and neither deserve impending electoral oblivion. If it hadn't been for the idiot populism and opportunism of his predecessor, Richard Prebble, New Zealand First would not have seized on the refugee and asylum seekers issue and revived its fortunes. Furthermore, Muriel Newman and Stephen Franks deserve a share of the blame. Their shrill social conservatism alienates prospective centre-right social liberal voters, and rendered them indistinguishable from New Zealand First on too many occassions. For that matter, ex-Auckland Mayor John Banks similarly sends the wrong message. Still, I wish Hide well in Epsom. He would be a vast improvement on Richard Worth, National's current dire incumbent MP.) Whatever its faults, the Clark administration needs a third term of office at least. Labour needs either sufficient party votes to govern on its own, or enough party votes to enable the survival of the Green Party as its logical coalition or confidence and supply partner. Once back in office, Labour should move urgently to ensure passage of a Canadian-style Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a written constitution for this country, and it must include a commitment to equality rights that is unable to be overturned by any mischievous future BCIRs. Remember, too, Labour holds out the best prospect for transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws and adoption law reform. Moreover, if enough of us vote Green, we can offset any social conservative rump element within the majority party. And if one doesn't feel comfortable with the Greens? There's the Progressive Party as well, which has always stood alongside us. Older members of our community might strongly approve of Jim Anderton's resolute stance against the scourge of pure/crystal methamphetamine, and younger ones might appreciate Matt Robson's outspoken support for Ahmed Zaoui over that period as well, indicative of a strong commitment to civil liberties and human rights. I should stress that this is purely my own opinion. It would be instructive, though, to learn whether National's current social conservative extremism has alienated LGBT New Zealanders from the Opposition. If so, Brash and his entourage only have himself to blame. Recommended Websites: Labour Party Green Party Progressive Party Know Your Enemy: Challenge Weekly Maxim Institute New Zealand First Society for Promotion of Community Standards United Future New Zealand Voters Voice Know Your Allies: New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists No Right Turn blog Russell Browns Public Address blog Craig Young - 16th June 2005    
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