Personal Explanation - Warren Freer

20 June 1980, New Zealand Parliament

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Hon. W. W. FREER (Mt Albert): With the leave of the House, I want to make a personal explanation. In 1979, after discussions with representatives of the Homosexual Law Reform Society and other people of responsibility and integrity, I agreed to introduce into Parliament a Bill designed to adapt the law relating to sexual acts between consenting males by establishing general principles similar to those accepted in England more than 10 years ago. I was assured privately of strong support, which led me to believe that the Bill would command a majority in Parliament, though undoubtedly the consciences of some members would have required them to vote against it. At that time I encountered opposition from a surprising quarter: radical groups who were bitterly critical of the existing provisions of the Crimes Act, but were not content merely to amend them. Their objective was to remove from the law all differences between males and females in respect of the constraints it places on sexual acts. This created a backlash that worked against my proposals for reform, and I decided not to proceed. Further talks this year with a number of members of the House encouraged me to try again, and I privately circulated to them, and to some others, a draft of a Bill similar to my 1979 proposal, but with some age difference. The object of this was to solicit comment and stimulate discussion, and, as before, I received much support and several helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, the draft appears to have come into the hands of the “all or nothing” groups who wantonly torpedoed my last attempt. This time they have gone further, and I find that a paper bearing my name and purporting to be a copy of the draft Bill, which many people knew I was preparing, has been distributed to members of Parliament and probably to an unknown number of others. In this forged document someone has altered the ages applying in certain sections of the Bill, and it is clearly intended to confuse and anger members and others. This clear and serious breach of parliamentary privilege has misled many members as to my intentions, and generated a hostility to my true purpose that, although totally unwarranted, is again calculated to kill the Bill. I have chosen the word carefully as I believe it is the calculated intention of those who have, in effect, appended my name to a forged document to brook no reform of this area of the law; rather they are dedicated to its abolition. Therefore, I tell the House that I have no intention of proceeding with the Bill, and apologise to members for any embarrassment or concern that may have resulted from the actions of persons outside the House. It is not my intention to press a privilege charge against those responsible for this forgery.

Rt. Hon. R. D. MULDOON (Prime Minister): With the leave of the House, I want to comment briefly on the member's statement. The matter disclosed is a serious one, affecting the privileges of the House. I urge the member for Mt Albert, if he has any evidence as to who is responsible, to reconsider his decision not to press a charge of breach of privilege.