|Why isn't the Maxim Institute's nzvotes.org website far more clearly identified as the property of that Christian Right pressure group? True, it did issue a media release that identified the origins of nzvotes.org website, and added this useful description of its objectives within that release: "A major feature to be added next week is an electorate section that will profile candidates in every electorate in the country. In their own words, candidates will outline their political background, their interests, and notably where they stand on six conscience issues likely to arise in the next term of parliament."
Granted, savvy political analysts would already know this from Evidence, the Institute's website, and observant bloggers. Granted, it might also be identifiable from Google as a search engine. However, are causal web browsers that motivated to discover the origin of nzvotes.org, and the organisation that established the website, as well as its social conservative agenda? Nzvotes.org is not labelled clearly as being the property of that organisation, apart from that aforementioned media release, and one menu item. Nor does it state the aims and objectives of that particular pressure group. Is this ethical? Presumably, the Institute has a bias toward social conservative candidates and political parties, and it is identifiably a conservative Christian pressure group. Surely it should be obliged to state that fact throughout its website, perhaps within a mission statement at the bottom of each webpage. As Russell Brown and Norightturn have noted in their blogs, the Greens are already concerned at an apparent misrepresentation, although it seems minor at this stage. If an organisation is to conduct a survey of candidate voting records on any given issue over the last parliamentary term during this election campaign, then it should clearly spell out its own political philosophy and electoral preferences. Presumably, if the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions or Business Roundtable compiled a similar website on industrial relations parliamentary votes from their opposite perspectives, they would clearly label it to target their respective audiences, whether trade unionists or the business community. Why doesn't the Maxim Institute see fit to do so? Or this yet another example of fundamentalist stealth tactics? Granted, nzvotes.org does seem to have a range of political commentators, but it's rather difficult to conceive of a Labour or Green MP that would secure the Institute's commendation. Rest assured, this issue of direct pressure group identification will be raised with the Electoral Commission, and Advertising Standards Authority. However, the Institute's parliamentary voting guide isn't the only one doing the rounds at present. At the anti-abortion Right to Life New Zealand website, there's a partisan voting record whose selective "morality" is obvious to anyone who takes a look at it. One Jim Stower is the architect of this website. Incidentally, RTLNZ had Graham Capill as one of its patrons, and happily endorsed the CHP for much of the last decade and a half, until Capill stepped down, despite CHP support for the death penalty. Unlike Voice for Life/SPUC, which tries to stick to anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia activism, RTLNZ is a broad-spectrum Christian Right group that covers other things apart from anti-abortion/anti-euthanasia propaganda. Predictably, given its links to Capill and far right ex-Muldoon Cabinet Minister Bert Walker as its patron, it also opposes LGBT rights and sex work decriminalisation, as well as Sue Bradford's anti-belting bill. Oh, and Matt Robson's private members bill against lax teenage drinking. Because of its bias, United Future, National and New Zealand First get 'high' marks for social conservatism. Interestingly, the Progressive Coalition and ACT are almost on a par over these issues, with evenly divided caucuses. However, Labour and the Greens score 'lowly' due to their relatively supportive stances on women's reproductive choice, civil unions, Section 59 Repeal and decriminalisation of sex work, compared to ambivalence about euthanasia law reform and raising the teenage drinking age. I question the highly selective nature of this survey. Granted, we can invert this to demonstrate how Labour and the Greens win out as social liberals, and how the Progressives are trustworthy on many issues. By contrast, National and New Zealand First appear dominated by social conservatives, apart from euthanasia law reform, where caucus loyalties told against social conservatism, and abortion access, where there are more caucus liberals than on other issues. However, that's not the point. Who says that abortion, euthanasia, civil unions, support for belting children and sex work are the be all and end all of 'morality,' or that conservative moral stances are neccessarily the 'correct ones?' I particularly take issue with the Section 59 Repeal question evaluation, given that Bradford's declared intention is to make severe parental violence against children illegal. I don't see anything particularly 'moral' in opposing that measure for childrens rights. I'd prefer a more representative list of parliamentary votes. For example, why hasn't Stower included votes to raise P to the status of a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975? Why hasn't he included law and order votes taken during the lifetime of this administration? What about foreign policy votes that attacked repressive and brutal regimes, such as those in Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar and Sudan? What about centre-left opposition to the Iraqi War? Mind you, this is all one can expect from RTLNZ, an organisation that supports (fortunately unattainable) total prohibition of abortion, and is a satellite of the Maxim Institute and United Future on virtually every other issue of importance. I query its selective morality, silence about Capill's downfall, and odd contradiction when it comes to protecting the rights of already-born children when it comes to freedom from battery compared to ranting and raving about non-aware embryos and fetuses. Finally, Winston Peters came clear about the price tag attached to his binding citizens initiated referendum policy during the weekend, on the INL/Fairfax Stuff.Co.Nz website. If Winston has his way, we'll pay four million dollars a pop for these divisive far right/Christian Right populist baubles. Oh, and Winston wants to give the opponents of prostitution law reform another swill at the trough. If his own figures are correct, that means that eight million dollars will have been wasted on pressure groups that couldn't secure enough for a referendum last time around, even given an extension. One wonders who else will stick their snouts in. Perhaps the male backlash 'shared parenting' lobby, despite their similar failure? So far, these fundamentalist follies are topping sixteen million altogether. No wonder Winston opposes Don's 'tax cuts,' given what appears to be a bottomless pit of far right grievances against progressive social reform. Recommended Reading: http://christian-news.info Christian News: It seems to be the product of Mambo, which hosts the CHP website. Although it is currently primarily anti-Islamic/anti-evolution, keep an eye on it. http://www.right-to-life.org Right to Life New Zealand. (Stower's survey is stored on a Powerpoint display). http://www.nzfirst.org.nz New Zealand First http://www.nzvotes.org Maxim Institute's own list of social liberal and conservative perspectives on parliamentary 'conscience' votes http://www.elections.org.nz Elections New Zealand http://www.maxim.org.nz Maxim Institute websites http://www.votersvoice.org.nz Voters Voice Action Group (Binding Citizens Referenda junkies) Maxim Institute Media Release (Scoop, 29.07.05) http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0507/S00332.htm Craig Young - 13th August 2005