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Tim Barnett - Rainbow Politicians [AI Text]

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I was born in, uh, and and brought up in a place called rugby. Uh, best known for being the the place where the game, uh, began, uh, which is a town of about 50,000 people sized vaguely of Nelson in the centre of England. Um, it was, uh, when I was growing up, it was the largest town in the UK without a cinema, which gives you some idea of the dearth of anything cultural. Um, there was one bar which used [00:00:30] to be gay one night a week, but even people who went there regularly had no idea it was happening, so it was very subtle. It was vaguely near to Coventry in Birmingham and Big Midland C. So when I, when I grow up, grew up in the 19 sixties into the seventies, Essentially, um, there wasn't a lot of positive gay imaging around. There wasn't a lot of debate on the issues. I was in a household that was kind of my mother was sort of conservative liberal. My father was labour [00:01:00] liberal, so they they were they were not, um, negative on issues like race equality, but on issues of sexuality, it would never really have been discussed apart from in a fairly offhand way. So I grew up. Um, probably not with not with a particularly, um, overt sexuality. Um, and I was in an all boys, uh, secondary school. So not a lot of social contact with with girls, but fairly, [00:01:30] fairly much not a loner, but kept myself to myself. An only child sort of got on with the stuff was reasonably studious. Um, spent a lot of time at home with my parents. Didn't get that involved in sport. Very interested in current affairs. Um had a small circle of friends, some of whom I still got. So it was not an unhappy time at all, but But the fact that I wasn't having the kind of relationships that many of my peers were having never seemed to be important. And then I went on to have two years off between school [00:02:00] and university and that I was in Belfast and then in Barbados. So I was doing, um, work, um, around disability issues, actually, for most of the two years, and that again was quite intense. And and the cultural difference was great. It was in, um, Barbados. I had my first sort of gay sexual experience and a sort of a torrid, humid, slightly rum filled environment. So that was all very nice. Um, and then went on to universities. There was, like, two gap years [00:02:30] went on to university in London. Um, and at university again, most of my friends were male. Um, one or two turned out afterwards to be gay. Indeed. Going back, a bit of my close friends at school. There were four of us, and, uh, myself and two others came out as gay, but not two years later. So, oddly enough, that kind of the attraction was there the friendship attractions there without us necessarily realising. So I went on to university in London in [00:03:00] the in the very late seventies, early eighties. So it was quite a buoyant period, quite a political period. And, uh, there was a labour government, and then Margaret Thatcher came into power, so it was a very interesting time to be there. But, um, at the London School of Economics, where there was a gay society and so on, but didn't really to me, my identity wasn't really there. I hadn't met that many people who are openly gay. I was involved more in politics, interested in this? That and the other. Um, and it wasn't until I left. Uh, university got a [00:03:30] job as a community worker in South London. By then, Ken Livingston had just been elected in to lead the Greater London Council. It was a period when there were when there was a lot of a progressive political thought in London. There were a lot of new left wing local bodies, uh, elected in in 1982 and we were one of them in Greenwich. Um, and I met, uh, the person who later became my partner for 18 years, Jonathan who, um, [00:04:00] was a a local priest. And just prior to meeting him, I'd met somebody who was writing for capital gay, and I'd asked which was like a week ago newspaper I think it's still going. And, um, I'd asked them what they were. Advice they would give to somebody coming in as a new local body councillor about what they could be doing for the gay community. So they wrote this open letter to me over about five editions on employment issues and funding community groups. And so on. [00:04:30] So Jonathan saw this and kind of put two and two together. There must be me. And then in the period leading up to that, which was when I got elected to council for Labour, Um, I'd I'd started to realise there was about my sexuality, and it was largely through thinking it through it through a few failed straight relationships and just starting to understand more. And I was kind of a late developer, I guess, and, uh, went to gay bars a couple of times. Nothing much ever happened, but I was starting to just kind of understand [00:05:00] that there's this new thing that I was part of. So through that whole process, Johnson and I got together. He was an Anglican priest, and and our relationship sort of started in, um 19. Yeah, it would be 1982. Uh, so I would elected to cancel, um, started to get involved a bit in gay politics and, uh, really came out to all the friends I knew at the same time and my parents right at the end of that. So that was that was a fairly intense year for me, [00:05:30] uh, and then spent the next six years. Um, so eight years living in London 8, 8.5 years and on the Council for four years and Lewis and Council for Two after that, um, and then moved north London and followed a paid career because those were very intense volunteer jobs paid career in NGO management. And I was in organisations where we were could actually be doing outreach to the the lesbian [00:06:00] and gay communities. And it was a period when there was a quite a, a kind of outpouring of new organisation in the queer communities. So it was a very interesting time, and I was not at the centre of it. I was at the edge of it, but I was using pushing issues of equity inequality around race and, uh um, sexuality in particular in that in that period, was homosexuality ever an issue for you? No, I thought I mean, I can remember it was on Christmas at home that so must have been. [00:06:30] I think it was probably my last year at university. So in 1981 I think I went back to my parents' place in rugby at Christmas and had a fair amount of time on my own after having been very involved in everything at university. And, uh, I kind of thought it through, and I kind of rationalise the fact that I was gay. I mean, having having handing, had odd one off, Um, uh, flings, um, but not thought it was serious. I kind of started to think it through and thought, Well, obviously this [00:07:00] is what I am, but it was and all and everyone I met who was gay, who I'd had an ongoing friendship with at that stage I. I weren't people I particularly warm to, and I think it's nothing to do with their sexuality. It's just not people. I particularly kind of had other other sort of senses of contact with, and And So, um, for me, it was that of thinking. So once I thought it through, it was it was fine. Just want to get on with it. And I was telling everyone and being open. And then I thought, after that something will happen once I'm at peace with myself. And [00:07:30] I've never been somebody who likes hiding things particularly, um I mean, it's hard even working for a political party now and being a member of Parliament and a senior whip. There's always a part of your life, which is kind of private and, you know, stuff that other people shouldn't know or mustn't know. And I've always find that quite difficult. So I think once I knew what I was, I just wanted people to know and to get on with it. Uh, I, I never thought at that time I I'd end up, um, being sort of working full time in the movement. [00:08:00] Uh, and I didn't I've never been someone who's known enough a lot about the history and the context. I've just been somebody who I guess has been an advocate and a lobbyist and on a on a good day, a communicator and a quite a good networker and an organiser and a strategist sometimes so that I bought those skills. I didn't bring a great encyclopaedic knowledge about the history of our communities, uh, in the UK or the world. I've kind of found out about that through experience. Did [00:08:30] the laws in the UK around kind of age of consent for for, um, homosexual acts did that have any impact on you? Because it's quite different from a New Zealand, isn't it? When you were growing up, um, didn't I mean, they weren't laws that were particularly, uh, um observed. And unless, um, the police were very bad and, well, people were, uh, particularly overt. They didn't seem to be enforced a great deal. So not really. I mean, the the fact that [00:09:00] the the conservative government was trying to, uh, Margaret Thatcher government was trying to to restrict the laws further, Um, both in terms of, um, the expression of sexuality of the Section 28 stuff, Which was how, um, the stonewall group started and how I got involved, uh, full time in the whole thing. Um, there. But also, they were trying to make the laws around, um, soliciting and input, tuning and sex in the public place. [00:09:30] So we're trying to increase the penalties for that. And that was how Stonewall started its first fights. Really? So so, yeah, it was a period when I when I certainly sense that this nasty government were headed in for a whole bunch of people and the gay community weren't immune from that. And the migrant communities weren't immune, and women's rights were being restricted and and movements that were happening in London. The the kind of liberation stuff around disability and a whole lot of different communities was being denied by the government. And we have this great clash of [00:10:00] having a very liberal progressive Council and then a very regressive government and Westminster Parliament on one side of the river and County Hall on the other. It was all highly symbolic and exciting when you were getting new to politics and Margaret Thatcher as a very um, I mean the upside was a very kind of vivid, forceful, um, opinionated, values led politician who, um, it was hard to be apathetic about her. You either liked her or you loathed her, but it made politics real [00:10:30] to people. And and I was reflecting a lot when she, uh when she died. Um, this year, Um, mean, on what I mean, there was something about being being around at that period and a woman in an extraordinary position of leadership in a country that had never had a particularly great record in that area. Suddenly, somebody with her background to get there was extraordinary and had whether it was possible to separate that from the reality of the stuff she was doing, it was [00:11:00] be a bit like having a our first Maori prime minister here, But then being national, it would be that kind of the good and the bad all caught up together. So I found that that was an interesting time to be around. And I was near enough to some of the circles around to sort of to sense what was going on. Yeah, it was a very interesting period. And as I go back to your question, the laws didn't mean the great didn't have much meaning. And it was a time when when increasingly, culture was being influenced by particularly the gay male community that, [00:11:30] um, expression in TV and film was going from the stereotype to to more meaningful expressions. It still wasn't great, but it was going to getting better. And it was a really exciting time to be around there. Can you just describe what Section 28 was and also what the Stonewall lobby group was? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So Section 28 was an oddity. I mean, Margaret Thatcher was a populist, and I think in the present day would say that she [00:12:00] was led by focus groups and polls, and she decided there was a need to throw a bit of raw political meat to the right wing of her caucus. And that was around a piece of legislation that was within, um, the local government act. And it was called Section 28 because it was section 28 of the legislation and it basically banned local authorities from, I think I quote [00:12:30] promoting homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. So it was very strange. Strange wording for legislation and what it was designed to do was to prevent local authorities from, um offering, um, positive images, being lesbian or gay. So it was pretty insidious, and it really was in that sense when the nastiest pieces of legislation you could imagine within that context, it was then interpreted by conservative local authorities to mean, [00:13:00] for example, one with a A tour by visiting opera company. A tour of school was because they were performing Benjamin Britain, and they decided that just performing his his operas was actually tantamount to promoting homosexuality. So it got it got silly, and then others completely ignored it, in fact, and the and yet others actually did things they wouldn't have otherwise done in protest. It didn't have much of an effect. But what the effect it did have was to be the catalyst for a, um, a coalition, an odd coalition of [00:13:30] conservative and progressive lesbians and gay men who got together through the arts community, the political community broadcasting to say, um, this kind of attack on our rights is fundamentally wrong. And this is the catalyst for us to get organised. And and that became the Stonewall Group. So the group was 10 lesbians and 10 gay men, and I mean included Pam Saint Clement, who was on East Enders at the time. [00:14:00] It was Michael Cashman who'd done the first gay kiss on screen also in East Enders, and is now just, uh, retiring next year as a European parliamentarian, having been president of the Labour Party there in the in the course of his career. Um, Ian McAllen, uh, known best here for Gandalf. Um, there were who else, um, Matthew Paris, who was a former conservative MP who had resigned [00:14:30] in protest at section 28 coming in, although he never said that publicly, but that was the reason the homophobia and her pandering Margaret Thatcher's pandering homophobia he found remarkable for somebody who he knew privately was a lot more friendly and supportive and found that unacceptable. So he was part of the group. Uh, Dorian Jabri, who was, uh, stood as a partner of, um uh, Chris Smith, who was the first out gay MP in in Britain. So this group formed. [00:15:00] They raised, um, a bit of money. They don't know where they got They got a a donation from foundation to get going. They're just enough to print a very colourful, very expensive brochure which didn't do a great deal of good, um, and employ me for a year, um, as what the media called Britain's first professional homosexual. So it was the first full time job for somebody to work on lesbian and gay rights in the country, which is something we've never achieved here in New Zealand, I guess. Um, [00:15:30] So I was employed for and and II I remember being on a holiday in Ireland with my partner and, um looking at this job in the paper, being quite happy in my previous work. But something about it looked interesting it was quite vaguely worded. It was clearly about gay rights, but it was a bit sounded a bit strange, and I applied and I and I heard nothing. And I thought, Well, that's that. And I got called to this interview. The, um the tubes were on strike in London. The whole public transport system was on strike, and it [00:16:00] was a very hot day as I walked and I miss timed it. So I arrived just at the time I was supposed to start the interview and I was pouring the sweat and they gave me 10 minutes to recover and I went into this room and the sun was so bright that I couldn't actually see. There were eight people there. I could see these shadowy figures, couldn't actually see who they were. I realised at the end McKellen was one of them and they interviewed me and I could do a presentation. And so I thought, Well, this is a waste of time went through that. They said they let me know the next day, and then 10 days later they rang me to offer me the job and and I started and and I was in somebody's [00:16:30] front room. They given up the spare room to be in the office at a filing cabinet with one bit of paper in which was this brochure. There was money in the bank to employ me for a year and pay for running costs, and there was a computer that never worked. And it was a phone and and the aim was, um, equal rights under the law for lesbians and gay men, that was a That was the mission of the organisation, and that was it. And they sat back and waited for me to do something, which was, and it's probably the most. Um, I mean, every job [00:17:00] I've done has been a bit challenging, but that had particular challenge about it because it was completely blank Slate. And so I was there for I was there till I emigrated to New Zealand. So I was in the job for, um, probably 2, 2.5 years, two years, and basically what I did it was to we had to get lots of people to offer free help and the reality it was in the lobby companies and PR agencies, and so on. There were heaps of, um people, particularly [00:17:30] people who are gay, who were happy to help who felt strongly about the issue. So we were overwhelmed with offers of support. Um, it was very hard, but But like Labour Party general secretary with a tiny, tiny staff team, but lots of people wanting to help how you actually get that organised is quite challenging. So, uh, we were lucky in that the government, um, came up with this proposal to tighten, um, tighten the or increase the penalties for some, um, consensual gay crimes. And that became [00:18:00] a bit of a chance for us to run the lobby and to educate MP S about the issues. We started an all party group. We, um Then Margaret Thatcher got thrown out and John Major became prime minister. He came with some reputation for being gay, gay, friendly, with quite a lot of people in the social circle who were gay. And we organised Ian McKellen to meet him very publicly at number 10. So I had to go beforehand, and we kind of arranged almost, um, like a script for [00:18:30] the meeting that we would present this and they would say this and and the media were very interested. It was the first time there'd been a an upfront gay lobby. And then we were attacked the whole time by Derek Jarman, the filmmaker who, uh, uh thought that we were just a bunch of men in suits. Um, who were who were, um, a disgrace to the history of the community because the history of the community is one of activism, and we were deliberately dressing up and going into the into the the the the powerful places. So [00:19:00] I was wheeled out to meet him and try and charm him and and assure him we weren't doing the nasty things. And and, uh, Peter Tatchell, who is still a very good friend of mine. He he started, um, outrage at the same time. So they were doing the street stuff and we were doing the behind the scenes stuff we were doing. We're both doing media. Our stuff tend to be more serious, and, um, although a lot of the leaders of Stonewall were quite hostile to Peter, he and I formed quite a strong [00:19:30] bond. We link what we did, so we were never actually sort of clashing in public Sometimes the methods, our methods and their methods offended the other side. But we were. So we got, um we got quite a good sort of wider coalition of lobby groups going. We got the free help from a GJW, which is a very big lobby organisation. They basically allocated for staff who were gay to no. Two were gay, and two weren't [00:20:00] to work with us. Um, across the political spectrum. So they had people who linked to each of the major parties. Um, we did a lot of media work. What is any issue? I mean, we we became the go to organisation very quickly for media to to talk to anyone about queer issues and that that was helpful. And for 18 months, we we just sort of ran that and slowly started to to grow as an organisation. We didn't let it rush too much. Um, and we got funding from the Sainsbury family. [00:20:30] Um, Elton John invited, uh, Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman to dinner one night, and everyone got quite drunk. And then they to $100,000 came out of that. And then David Hockney gave a painting pet shop. Boys were liable by the Daily Mail and they got to pay out in the courts and they gave that to us and so slowly and there was there were individuals giving donations as well. So slowly the organisation started to to grow. When when I left, there were only three people and then it started to expand quite rapidly [00:21:00] and I when when we decided my partner and I to immigrate to New Zealand, the organisation was kind of a take off point and I remember thinking, Hm, Maybe I like if I stay, I'll have to stay long enough to see it grow a lot more. But maybe my job has actually been just to get it into the public eye and so on. So it's quite a quite a shock to the people involved when I left. But I think it was the right thing to do. And it was right that the woman took over from me, uh, Angela Mason. She got the OBE eventually for services [00:21:30] to to, uh to equal rights and all that stuff. So the organisation became very establishment. Probably Ja's worst fears were realised. Looking back on it, um, and the group I mean the it's it's quite a classic history of a lobby organisation. Actually, I mean that there's even been radio documentaries made in the UK about how started. Um uh, and when I McAllen was here, um, last year, um, he was, you know, this [00:22:00] this year? Um, he was talking about the need to get a history written to the organisation because of the lessons not just for the the Queer World, but for for lobbies, on tricky issues and how to actually get into the system. What type of lobbying do you think is more successful? The kind of street activism or the kind of more quieter in the offices of power type lobbying? Oh, I think you know. I mean, it depends the extent on the issue. I mean, I think some some issues are barely [00:22:30] going to get in the door, so you need to be fairly public. And then the question is what you do. But some of the stuff Greenpeace does is undoubtedly massively effective, and and they are prevented by governments and Corporates from getting in the door where they are well able to get media attention. Increasingly, it's visual images that are going to be effective. Some of the street stuff can look violent and hostile and negative. So I think you need to be quite careful of that. And sometimes the street activity will have no effect because the issue is too subtle and you really need [00:23:00] to have the conversations, um, in the doors. I mean, we were while we were doing the lobbies with the conservative government. We were also looking ahead to the, uh, the possibility of a Labour government. I mean it. It seemed likely that Labour will get in there in 92 which they didn't, and it took another five years. But Roy had he was a deputy leader. Neil Kinnock, who was a leader. Neil Knock's wife, Glennis was a patron of the RS trust, so we were very closely linked to them. Tony Blair, who [00:23:30] was a shadow home secretary. He he linked to us. And in fact, when he just before he stopped being prime Minister, he he did a He spoke at a stonewall dinner and said that the is sort of a what's the word? Um, the way in which he had nurtured the law reforms to deliver what stonewell wanted, which was that complete equality under the law was one of his proudest achievements. Because it was something that was under not under undercover, but it would do. It didn't get the biggest [00:24:00] publicity of everything. But what it did was to really achieve fundamental things. And they inherited in 97 quite a messy law. As you said, that has been around for a long time, but, uh, where gay sex was legal, but at an unequal age of consent. And so getting that sorted out and then some of the other edges of the law, like around adoption, are quite, uh, proven to be quite messy there. But, um, it's always it's always investing and looking ahead and that looking ahead, work has to be done often in [00:24:30] a more private, uh, environment, Uh, which is important. And the other thing that we did, um, because we were well aware that the debate in the Conservative Party was important. And I think if you look to what the Cameron government's done, maybe we helped right to the beginning to do that. Um, we we tried to nurture the development of a a gay rights lobby within the conservative Party, Uh, which wasn't easy, but we had people like Matthew Parris [00:25:00] who were part of our organisation. So I well, remember the, uh, Bournemouth conservative conference. And it was the year that Margaret Thatcher was, um, thrown out. That would be 1990 91 That, um, we I mean, 91 was my last not long before I came to New Zealand. Um, we, um we booked a room for Stonewall. We weren't able to have a store. They didn't want to have a store, but they let us leaflet, so I was the only person [00:25:30] prepared to leaflet. So I stood at the conservative Conference having out leaflets for this meeting to lots and lots of people. And we told all our networks with no idea where to get two people or 200 we got about 100 and 50 people turned up. It was like a evangelical revival meeting. And from that torch, which is a con Tory conservative, um, campaign for homosexual rights, whatever they call it, um, got started, and that's really been the lobby [00:26:00] that has helped to to nurture some of the positive things that they're still doing there so that was kind of an odd, uh, it was a lot of thing we had to do, but it was It was about working across the spectrum, and we worked with the Liberal Party and we worked with the Scottish National Party, just trying to make sure that the, in a sense, the issue was depoliticized, but also that we knew which part of the the spectrum was really going to help us. So it was an interesting job from a strategic point of view, a lot of media [00:26:30] exposure. Um, very, very interesting. Very interesting, uh, to be often the lone voice on the media or the media were very keen to get balance, and therefore we were in really high demand. We went to the Isle of Man because we had to deal with Not only there's one law in England and Wales. Another law in Scotland, another law in Northern Ireland, another law in Jersey, another law in Guernsey and another law in the Isle of Man. We had all these different jurisdictions, So even when England had decriminalised [00:27:00] gay sex in 67 it was still completely illegal in Northern Ireland. And, um, in Jersey and other places. So in Jersey, I went to meet with the HIV Society. And then Ian McKellen came to do a one man show, and, uh, at the beginning of the show, um, and and most of the island politicians were there. He he said, just before I begin, I want to point out that, um uh, I I've been forced to become a criminal since coming to this island yesterday, [00:27:30] Uh, and just spoke about the law for one minute and then did his one man Shakespeare show. And within a year, the law changed. So two years and the oldest man and we had to argue it out, and I had to do I had to appear before the Tin World Parliamentary Committee to give evidence about how bad the law was there. And then, um, did a radio interview next to somebody who was sitting there with the Bible in front of them. And then somebody rang up and offered to pay me money to leave the island immediately. So it was very it was all very I mean, so it was a [00:28:00] bit of a I mean, I had to be the maverick in the sense that the group were happy to raise the money and be used on occasions. But they didn't really want to spend their time doing a lot of the stuff I was doing. So it was like a It was the perfect gift for somebody with my sort of interests and skill set. You mentioned just before about, uh, briefly about HIV. And I'm wondering you were coming out of a time in the early eighties when HIV aids was just coming in or just being known. Can you paint a picture for me of what it was like in London [00:28:30] at that time? We because I didn't mean my coming out was probably. It was at the time, just after I left University and when I was in living in southeast London and being a community worker and then being a city counsellor. So the H HIV seemed almost other. It was almost other world to us down there. It didn't seem that that real um [00:29:00] Then I got involved in the volunteer bureau movement and became the national work. Um, in national director of that movement, HIV was certainly an area which was then getting a lot of people involved as volunteers again. It was kind of it was the other place stuff. My partner was involved as a as a counsellor in In In the Sector in London, which is growing. And, uh, Nick Partridge, who was head of James Higgins Trust. Uh, which, incidentally, the this is an aside [00:29:30] for a future interview. Um, Terrence Higgins, who was a young guy who died of, um, HIV, uh, or died of, uh, died of AIDS. He, um, his partner, who's still alive is a New Zealander. He's who I met in London a couple of years ago. He's a doctor. And so he was Terence Higgs partner. So sins Trust was the the kind of community based organisation that started. [00:30:00] And then the lighthouse was the main sort of care and support centre in London. So I was certainly aware of them when I got involved in Stonewall, Um, we were pretty looking back in it. We were pretty narrow and transgender issues we never touched. And the transgender community there was big enough and strong enough and probably sloppy enough not to want to touch Stonewall. So unlike here where the everything's melded, I think it's rather it's great that it is. It's much richer experience here. In many [00:30:30] ways there, everything's quite separated. The HIV stuff was separated quite largely from what we did. I mean, we were arguing in terms of human rights law for similar things. Uh, and, uh, certainly Nick Partridge was was very much sort of part of our world, but we were pretty well work. And we were trying to, in a sense, publicly talk about the rights issues separately from HIV. But they clearly HIV, as in New Zealand, was a trigger to get the law right. Um, [00:31:00] we didn't want that to be too much a driver of what we did, so it was always slightly slightly awkward. It was, um, as a a young gay man, sort of coming out and being in being in that vibrant city. It was a pretty extraordinary time. Uh, there were people in the group who had IV, uh, and and, uh uh, that I mean, that became obviously a dominant issue for them, but it was never part of our close world. We were very much we were more about the human rights world [00:31:30] and quite a lot of strong international links with other lesbian and gay organisations. But looking back on it, it was probably a time when a lot of us were denying the reality of what was, uh what was happening around us. Uh, and the government was tending. The conservative government was focusing on HIV often in a fairly uninformed and rather sort of scary way. Um and they were tending to really focus on the sexuality aspect. And then we were trying to trying to keep [00:32:00] the whole thing separate. So the messaging was complicated looking back on it, and it wasn't always clear in Africa, sort of where I was working till a year ago. Things were a lot. Yeah, they were a lot clearer in that area. I guess the science have moved on. The understanding it moved on and the the kind of the relationship between sexuality and HIV was maybe becoming a bit clearer. What prompted you to immigrate to New Zealand in the early nineties? Yeah, I missed. [00:32:30] I missed Christmas Day in 1991 so I immigrated and and that was the day I lost on the way over. So I left on left on Christmas Eve and arrived on Boxing Day. So, um, the the the real the catalyst was a combination of two things. I mean, one was, um, me feeling that my job, I got as far as it could could get with me there, and it needed somebody new. My partner's job was, um, as a selector with the Church of England. [00:33:00] So he was, um, one of the A team who would, um, organise selection conferences. People wanted to become Anglican ministers and would then interview candidates and write up the conference and and do all that stuff. And then at the end of that process, um, we write a report and and so they were He was helping to to really sort of get the next generation of of leaders off the ground, which is great, but but really hard for him to get any advancement in the church because of sexuality. Even though, [00:33:30] uh, a very large proportion of the Anglican clergy in London were gay, he was more open than most and was known to be gay, and therefore it was much hard of him to make progress. So he was feeling a bit stuck, and I was feeling as though, um, I couldn't quite see where my life was heading next. And after a long time of a conservative government. It was an increasingly kind of bleak place for me in many ways. And this job came up in Christchurch, New Zealand, which Jonathan came out to be interviewed for, and we discussed [00:34:00] at length before we did that. That was the middle of 91. I came out with, um, very cold, uh, miserable winter in Christchurch. And we made our first sort of foray into New Zealand and thought, This is an amazing country, Amazing experience. He got offered the job and then he moved out about three months later. It got quite complicated because we applied to come as a couple because the Labour government here, before going out of power in 90 [00:34:30] it had opened up the possibility of same sex couples migrating. And, uh So when he was offered the job, we applied as a couple went to the High Commission in London and got interviewed, and they were all very nice and friendly and asked all the right questions. And then it got it had to be referred from London to here because it was the same sex couple and ended up on Bill Birch's desk. Uh, and he rejected it on the basis that, um [00:35:00] if my partner was known to be gay, that he was liable to lose his job with the church here and again. It was the don't ask, don't tell approach taken by the church here. And therefore, if he lost his job that I wouldn't have any right to stay. It was very interesting. So So, uh, so on that basis, it was refused. So then we had to. Jonathan had to apply as an individual. We had a job offer, and then he got in, and then I came as a visitor, [00:35:30] and then I had to apply under the point system to be allowed to stay. So it was our first experience of the New Zealand system. So I got here in, um, so right at the end of 91 I got involved in politics almost immediately, uh, with lean and crush at Central. And she was, uh, one of my great sort of supporters through that period, Um, and spent about a year just sort of getting my head around New Zealand doing odd jobs research for the volunteer centres. Um, [00:36:00] got on the AIDS foundation board, did some research for them around the Human Rights Act and in 92 through to 93. So I I got to travel around the country quite quickly and to get to know people networks me, Catherine Healy from the prostitutes collective who was on the, uh, board at the same time. And Charles shall who was then a young dynamic, uh, gay lawyer and then was in parliament one day. Uh, George [00:36:30] was on the board, I think later. So I got to know quite a quite a network of people who were important to me later and then got the job in nine start of 93 running the Community law centre in Christchurch. So it was quite a good It was good to have that year of just the freedom to get to know the country, travel around, make the networks got involved in Christchurch, and the Freedom Party we had was that period when we had this big dance parties [00:37:00] was hero and freedom and devotion, so that that was through the AIDS foundation. So I was on the planning committee for that for two or three years and, um got very involved in local politics. Got elected to Labour's National Executive Committee in 93 middle of 93 when the party reconstituted, sort of starting the starting the lead to M MP. And, uh and I was in my Moors area [00:37:30] and he I stood against one of his great supporters for that, um, that position on the council and I got it. And then, of course, the end of 93 Labour lost the election, although quite narrowly. And then, um, Helen Clark became the party leader and Mike saw me having won that election as the beginning of the end looking back and it was all part of the plot to him. So that was all quite exciting. And so we had Helen as leader. I was running Community Law Centre, and I did [00:38:00] that for three years and really started with a very small, rather rundown organisation. And we grew quite rapidly and became quite important in the Christchurch scene and a big service provider. So that was a that was a nice sort of stabilising period with a job that was very hands on involving lots of young students, lots of lawyers, Uh, really trying to invite people with the kind of knowledge they they they needed around human rights and issues from sexuality as well as many other things and part of that lobby [00:38:30] around the Human Rights Act. Uh, and helped with parliamentary submissions and background research, Um, and then in 95 got selected to stand for Parliament. I guess that was the next, um, the next stage. And in my career here in those first couple of years in New Zealand, I'm wondering, can you compare what the kind of standard of, uh, living or the place in society for Rainbow people in New Zealand was? [00:39:00] Compare that to what you had known in the UK Mm. It. I mean, the scale is so different. I mean, Christchurch has got in many ways, the heart of our queer history, bits of it sitting in Christchurch. I mean, it's a city that's been the place where a lot of our liberation movements have, uh, have started and where the the tend to be well established organisations and and there was still the lander lounge going [00:39:30] when I was there. There was quite a quite a strong I mean, a bit like the history in Britain. I guess the history is not dissimilar, but the place of a different history of large may run quite quite closed but really important organisations just to keep the flag flying and keep things going. Um, of course the When, When I when I arrived, Law reform was a fairly recent, um, memory. And that was a bit of a dramatic period here because the law had changed from [00:40:00] zero to equality in in a short period, which in Britain we'd lived in a half world for, uh, for many years after I left. Uh, actually, um, So I think I came from a place where which was very into the the gay culture and the the buoyant, vibrant, different community to Christchurch, which was it's quite an isolated city, uh, with kind of strong history of equal rights and a strong history [00:40:30] of community organisation, Um, never quite big enough to really sustain a vibrant gay night life. I mean, there were a range of bars and saunas and and so forth, but but you can never really sense it was a big, vibrant community. There were, there were networks and there were bits of things, but it it felt pretty comfortable. It felt quite easy, the attitudes and feel. I mean, the homophobia was, in a sense, more overt, but it was easier to challenge. Or [00:41:00] some people are here more upfront about their feelings, but more prepared to listen to challenge. In London, people have learned not to not to say things they might have thought them, but they wouldn't say them, I mean, because the city was changing so so quickly. Even then, I think here people were happy to happy to say what they thought, but then pretty open to having questions from back of them. So the church and Michael was where my partner was the vicar, and it was pretty obvious to most people that he was [00:41:30] living with another man in the very large vicarage. And and for those who got to know us well, it was when they knew we were gay. So but a lot of people just didn't get their head around it, um, and didn't want to ask. And then a few asked if they did ask, They they only vaguely found out because because the rules of the church at the time made it difficult and there were complaints and the bishop had to investigate. And it was a kind of awkward period in terms of the Labour Party. Never an issue, never an issue at all. [00:42:00] I think I was kind of made me a topic of interest, sort of popping up from nowhere. Leanne has always been very supportive of of our community, and and therefore having her around was pretty useful, but no hostility from any quarter, Really? So when you were campaigning to go into Parliament, were you campaigning as an openly gay man? That's an interesting question. I mean, I remember Chris. Chris Carter got elected, and then he came out as a guy. [00:42:30] Um, when I was the media were care. They were careful about how they reported me. They they would say that I had a, um I forget how they put it. They, they they they said that I had helped to organise the Freedom Party. Um, so they were kind of hinting at things, but they didn't feel able to say anything for sure. We never put on literature that I was openly gay, but we never denied it. And the press certainly ran two or three [00:43:00] articles where they broadly hinted at it. Um, the political parties we were up against from the left and the right were certainly aware of it. And, um, probably New Zealand New Zealand first were as well. So I think the other part is that we were campaigning against were all using it in in more of a whispering way. Um, without exception, they were using it. And the national party, I think, would have won the seat. But their candidate, um, [00:43:30] he, uh, was discovered to have been having a relationship with a young, uh, Samoan woman, uh, which she videoed and, uh, and the video got into the possession of a labour MP and, uh and so and so he was prevailed on to resign, Which he did, um, having having done a lot of work in the seat and was replaced by somebody who did hardly any work but came quite close to winning. [00:44:00] Um, and he was also gay, so the national candidate was gay as well as myself. Um, but I got I got into the seat with about 32% of the vote, so it was very split. And there were two other candidates, Um, Liz Gordon for the alliance and one mark for New Zealand first, who also got into parliament. So it's one. It was the first M MP election. So it was, um my I mean, we didn't we didn't We didn't either promote or deny issues around sexuality who has gone on with it. And I think [00:44:30] because it was crash at Central, we were presumed to be likely to win, So there wasn't a lot of public. Um, focus on the seat. Uh, I was selected against the odds. Um, because because I organised Well, um, Marion Hobbs was the other candidate. I was sort of in there with, uh and so I. I was a bit of a surprise when I got in, but there wasn't a lot of attention paid to me through the campaign by anyone by the Labour leadership or by [00:45:00] for the local media. Just because we just get on with running a campaign. I mean, it was we didn't We weren't that great at campaigning. We were still learning, and we and they'd had a former prime minister then Leanne in the seat, so they hadn't had to try that hard. But the two seats had combined. So we had a David C seat that had older supporters in who were always very supportive of me or they. The sexuality issue, you'd assume, would have been a problem it never seemed to be. And then the inner city crush at Central with a very high turnover [00:45:30] membership, a lot of young people and quite a diversity. Um, it was really only after the first election that I started to recruit a bit of a gay, not a core. But there were gay supporters who are who are still there now, in large part. Um, never. I never went for trying to get a really, really big lesbian and gay membership any more than any other community. We were probably renowned for our diversity, and it's always been one of the biggest, uh, electorates, which is good. We have some organising successes [00:46:00] and some failures. I wasn't the most, uh, startlingly effective MP, but we left a strong seat, and I think probably the the legacy in terms of the political process would be the young people who got involved to the party, some of whom are employed in Parliament. Um, and some of the case work we did locally, which was not just about helping the individual, but which was about supporting communities. So we got quite a good political system going. Uh, it took probably six years to get it off [00:46:30] the ground and working properly. Um, but it was once it once it got really buzzing. It was a It was a great place to be. And there was a lot happening going into such a public arena. Uh, becoming a member of parliament. Did you consciously think at any time what happens when somebody asks me about my sexuality? I mean, was that ever a conscious thing? Well, I think I mean, once I got elected, it was there wasn't an issue, and I'm not I'm not I don't think I I'm pretty sure I didn't [00:47:00] say anything immediately after getting elected saying, Oh, wow, we've You've just selected a gay man to parliament. Um, I think the press probably did report me as being gay straight afterwards, as pretty matter of fact. And because of that, it was a 96 election. Uh, and we had that long period when Winston Peters was deciding what to do. Um, I didn't get to do my maiden speech until about three months after we were elected. I think so. It was this quite long, odd gap [00:47:30] when I was getting staff together and getting things organised and everything else. So that was a That was an interesting period. But, uh and, uh, the the getting the party organised, um are starting to define some of the issues I was going to work on around poverty and heritage and pretty mainstream stuff. I was a bit of an oddity in the caucus because I don't think Helen had really sort of focused on me being around or hadn't really got a job for me. So I was a bit of a kind of add on for that first period. [00:48:00] Um, and I didn't I wasn't really looking for big jobs, and one of the things I done when I got selected was or was trying to get selected. As I went round all the party members and I gave them a survey about about the different roles of an MP and asked them to prioritise what they wanted and they'd had two high profile MP S running with Jeff, Jeffrey Palmer and Leanne. And they were looking for somebody who was going to focus more on building up the local party, building up the office, providing services to the community and [00:48:30] being seen as somebody who was a good local representative. And so I that that was a deal I made when I went in. And I think I stuck to that right the way through, which is one of the reasons I never really focused on getting into cabinet and and all that that side of stuff in a way that some people thought I should. But I never seemed to me to be, um you didn't need to do that to be able to, um, to work a perfectly satisfactory political career. So, um, there was a lot of impasse [00:49:00] at the beginning. Then I did my maiden speech in parliament, Uh, and by then, within the caucus, when everyone knew I was gay, sort of from the beginning, it was just I assumed part of the diversity and the intake I came in with, um for labour had three Maori MP SI think 44 Maori MP S through quite a lot of lost. So people came in in 93 lost again. It was a strange election where the had his intake and then this exodus as well. But we were also leading [00:49:30] in the polls and almost straight after that election through 99. So it was a period when when we were clearly preparing for government. And Helen's leadership, which had been pretty sort of shaky and rocky for the first three years, suddenly started to go on the rise. And my role in that period was pretty pretty much in the background. I mean, I did. It was I mean, it was a bit of a a fast, um, development, I guess from when I emigrated to to parliament. So I didn't want to overstep my extraordinary [00:50:00] luck I'd had. So I, um I was the human rights spokesperson and that did become a bit of a campaigning issue. Later, uh, I took on it wasn't something I planned to do, but, I mean, it was a pretty obvious one looking back in it. But the issue of sex work, uh, law had already been discussed around the edge. The edges of politics. I guess you could say including being, um a commitment in our manifesto [00:50:30] to, um to decriminalise soliciting. So that was that had been there, I think, in the 90 93 manifesto in 96 Uh, and then Catherine O'Regan, the national MP who had been a minister and was demoted from cabinet. She, um, got a hold of me one day and said, we need to do work on this issue, and the prostitutes collective were on board and and others on board as well. So we got this, um, this little team of us going to work on that. So that was another theme for the three years. Um, [00:51:00] I was urban affairs spokesperson. I was associate housing. Um, and we were travelling quite a lot, not as a caucus but as individual MP S around the country, just in that lead up period to getting into government. So getting used to the team and getting used to the people being known for being pretty hard working, um, probably associated with a few kind of not quite zany things, but certainly known to be somebody who wasn't afraid to push stuff. He thought was right. Having got a lot of friends [00:51:30] in the caucus who are Maori and being have always been close to Taiana through the years. So I got I was in a place where I was quite comfortable, uh, in an institution which has got its, um its fears and its negatives. But I never felt out of place. I felt like a good good place to me. And then they had to travel back and forth pretty easily to Christchurch. I was in a a comfortable space, so I knew we were going into government. I didn't regard myself as somebody who would expect to be in the first tranche [00:52:00] of people as a minister. And indeed, I got a much better role after, um 99 which was as the chair of the Justice Committee, which, uh, was did a a whole lot of of some of our more progressive reforms and fundamentally rewrote quite a lot of legislation and ran inquiries and did this stuff which was good, solid lawmaking and bridge building between the parties and and building up a bit of a a team of team of labour [00:52:30] MP S who was focused on issues that are important. And that's how the we got the civil union bill through that committee in prior to the the prostitution reform bill was there for about three years. So that was took on a very intense workload. Um uh, really parallel in my head to what some of the junior ministers were doing in terms of the importance to the government and probably a lot more interesting. Gave me a lot more scope than the average minister would have in lots of ways. So that that filled a lot of that [00:53:00] time in the last three years was as a senior whip and then parallel and all that was the law reform work that I was doing. We'll come to those, um, two bills in just a minute. But I'm just wondering mid nineties when you first come into Parliament. This is only 10 years since homosexual law reform. So you've still got quite a number of MP S that were in the house at the time that law reform happened, and some of the, uh, debate [00:53:30] in Parliament was quite venomous. How were you treated when you first came into parliament by other other members in terms of the games. I can remember John Banks, who was, um He was doing radio at the time, though He was still he had been in parliament. I guess before 96 it certainly was the law reform time. He, um he attacked me on radio quite a lot purely because I was gay. And then he then some people from my electorate, including party [00:54:00] members, used to listen to Radio Pacific. I think he was up, rang up and said, Well, you're like, you're not treating this guy fairly And then he started to kind of talk me up a bit, uh, again without ever talking to me directly. And then when it came to the the swearing in of Parliament, when the governor general does the speech to all the MP S after the three years and then we you you walk out afterward and labourers on one side of the net on the other and there's I came along the road to do walk down the middle. I realised that John Banks was going to be next to me. [00:54:30] So he and I were talking for maybe a minute as we walk through. So I said, I thought I always thought he was a good radio broadcaster and a good communicator. So I told him that. And he responded, And he was. He was always kind of distant, but not disengaged. I can remember making one of the two speeches that where my sexuality was an issue and certainly the maiden speech. And there were There were a few surprise looks from the other side, but they had Chris Carter there before. They kind of knew what it was all about. I guess. [00:55:00] Um, I mean, there was There were comments made in debates that were negative when ST Peter's used to go with me occasionally. He became better over the years, but he he spoke about working at Cambridge Fudge Factory or something. I mean, it was odd things that would come back to me. I mean, later on we had the destiny Church to deal with. But in terms of the internal institution, not a lot. And there's a lot of the staff in Parliament are lesbian and gay. So So they were always very supportive, [00:55:30] and they kind of read what was going on. The Labour Caucus. Utterly and completely supportive men and women um, even the ones who like Jeff Bray Brook, who were there for? I think three or six years when I was there, um, they engaged. I mean, time move on. And none of them, even the ones from Labour who voted against, um, homosexual law reform. I don't think they fell to personal animosity to people in the gay community. [00:56:00] I don't think they did. I mean, they they might have done conceptually. But when it came to me as an individual, they were prepared to treat me as an individual until they and as a good person until they found out otherwise. And I don't think I gave them any any basic material to dislike me. So we kind of got on fine, actually. And I'm somebody who's always been able to get on with a range of people and know when to let the issue go a bit so and then went to push it and I I prefer to push things [00:56:30] through legislation than through conversations. For the sake of it. I think that was quite that was quite important. So I kind of think I mean, I remember having a swipe at who was a new a lot of New Zealand first. MP S came in when I came in and he, um he he said something really negative about the gay community in his speech. And I had a go at him in my maiden speech the next day. Um, but most of my stuff was was about issues in my electorate, [00:57:00] and I sort of I stuck to the mainstream. But But because I was working on the prostitution law reform and then later civil Civil Union, I felt that I wanted a legacy where I could say I worked for my community but also worked for my electorate and worked for my party, and I and I wanted to be able to tick all three By the time I left leg legacy was always important to me. It always has been, hopefully, always will be, um [00:57:30] and and that's not legacy for me so much as being able to say that, because because of the way that I operated, people met each other, things happened. Things moved on, and that was, and that was good to me. It's about benefit to other people, certainly not about me accruing money or political prestige or whatever. It's just about feeling that I've done some good. That's why the prostitution law reform is so important because it was a, uh, [00:58:00] in my head, a fairly pure liberation piece of legislation hidden hidden in various other ways. Uh, at the time, that's what it was. And it was transformational. Civil union did have a They had a transformational edge to it. But I think the transformation was the law reform in, uh, in 84 85 rather than anything after that. Why was prostitution reform? Why was it important? Oh, I think because it because it tackled [00:58:30] a whole lot of fear and prejudice that lies deep in many people. I mean, I think that I mean, it was a classic law. I mean, the criminalization was classic in the sense that it was the people who are marginalised by not only their agenda, but often by their sexuality and by their race. Um, so there are. I mean, the people who were criminalised were among the most marginal in our society and the most at risk through [00:59:00] the work. They did and got no recognition and no support from the system. And that was that that I mean, obviously the law had fed attitudes. But taking that criminalization away, I think, profoundly affected their position in society. And that was most evidenced by their relationship with the police, which was, I mean, it went through 100 and 80 degrees from being one where the police to them were the enemy and and to police sex [00:59:30] workers were, uh, not only criminals, but were were as demeaned as they could be. And that turned to a situation where the police and sex workers working together could solve crimes and could actually deal with a whole lot of stuff which the old system prevented. So that was one just one evidence, but but bigger than that, it was just about recognising people's humanity. It was tackling some of the mystification around sex. It was, um, [01:00:00] it was reversing this pretence that it's first of all that that the law can ban people who want to be in a relationship together, be it based on money or not. Um so, regardless of gender and regardless of whatever else, um, if you're over 18 in New Zealand and and you want to have consensual sex with somebody else. Um, we are the only country where that can happen, regardless of the law. Because every other country, because no other country has decriminalised sex [01:00:30] work, there is still one aspect of consensual sex for consenting adults over 18, uh, which is banned by the law. Utterly bizarre, in my view. So it still happens happens in in large quantities. So in that sense, it was very like the anti gay laws. It was actually the law trying to preach, trying to deny a reality. Uh, the difference was that the the laws around sex work were enforced a lot more than the laws around. [01:01:00] Um, the gay community were, um but they came from quite a similar place. And I think it was those parallels and those links that I found fascinating. I remember doing a a broadcast a BBC world service, uh, many years ago. Um, but they have some questions. It was in London, Some questions asked by listeners, and they want they bring in an expert to answer. So I was brought in to answer the question of, um, why is the word gay being used [01:01:30] by these people campaigning for law change when it really means something colourful and innocent. And of course, the word gay was actually first used in English in the early 18 hundreds to mean somebody mean sexual to mean sexual activity outside the norm so before it became used to being gay. But we hardly hear the word. Now gay is in colourful and innocent and friendly. Whatever else it was actually used to mean both people who [01:02:00] were homosexual but also sex workers. It was actually a unifying concept way back then and then when we found out in the Select Committee that the arrest rates for the the the profile of those arrested for prostitution offences in Auckland, um over half were Maori or Pacific, nearly half were men and that was because they were the transgender workers that the police were particularly going for, and the probably the sex workers who are going to argue back to the police [01:02:30] most vehemently. And so the homophobia. The police was actually brought out in the enforcement of the law around, uh, six workers. So as I went through and saw those parallels and it was a long way from Stonewall, I mean, I don't think there were. I don't think when I was at Stonewall that a sex work would ever be mentioned. I had this conversation with Ian McKellen and he through travelling the world as he has done, he he started to get the parallels, uh, around the law reforms. But I mean, to me, that understanding that relationship and I never [01:03:00] spoke about it much I do. I wrote something recently for the, uh, workers in London when they were being attacked by the gay community or something or other, or gay, like a gay lobby or something. And I just wrote about as a gay man how I see the parallels between the laws and the communities and and the way in which the stuff was worked through. But because sex work is overwhelmingly, uh, in in in our society, women are doing the work. It felt like a long way from [01:03:30] a largely male dominated gay rights movement, whereas in particularly in working in South Africa, the melding between the two was, uh is quite incredible and fascinating. So So I found that really conceptually interesting, but not something I'd ever talk about or write about a great deal because nobody nobody who would want to kind of understand the subtlety of it all. To me, that's very real. And and I mean II. I haven't been in brothels before. [01:04:00] The law reform debate started after they finished, but while it was on, I went to a lot of Brussels to talk to workers and understand what it was all about. And and I found it fascinating and interesting. And, uh, when I led conservative National MP S into into brothels in Christchurch to explain things to them, Um, I thought that was all very, very different. I thought I brought something to this Parliament in an odd kind of way, and the law reforms got through. It's not been easy to cement it, and and it's still, um, [01:04:30] in certain Certain aspects of the law are still controversial, but really in the street stuff. I think we've dealt with everything apart from that. I think the street work remains dynamic because street, anything happening out in the street has got the dynamic edge to it and and it's really hard to control. But apart from that and that's only an issue in some parts of the country, I think we've kind of I mean, we've seen a shift and it would suggest it's gonna take many years for us to do the shift in the same way. But, um, [01:05:00] it's I think it's pretty fundamental. If prostitution hasn't been decriminalised anywhere else in the world, how did you then convince New Zealand that actually, that's the way to go? Well, by saying that many countries in Europe had, um, had done very similar things to what we were going to do, which is technically true. So so because I mean in in Germany and the Netherlands, Um, France, Spain, Portugal, they they have aspects of legalisation, which is basically [01:05:30] where there's still a lot of state interest in what happens and regulation and zoning and registration and so on. But from the point of view of the public, they would look quite similar to die, but is fundamentally different in the sense you're actually tackling the whole issue of criminality of the individual. So basically the those countries and all of Australia except New South Wales, which we based our law on, um and [01:06:00] is the other place in the world that's decriminalised. They basically all said, Well, we're going to that the law has, the state has to be interested in this area. We're not going to treat it in the same way as other occupations are treated. And we're going to regulate and control for I mean to me, really, for reasons of controlling those individuals rather than for any reasons of public health and public morals. So So why in Melbourne you can't have a brothel with more than six rooms and you have to have a certain kind of light by the bed [01:06:30] to, uh, it seems to me just just kind of really odd thing to do and why every sex worker has to be registered, which means that half the sex workers in Victoria aren't registered because they're on the streets or they they're in an unlisted brothels. So therefore, there are still sex workers who are trying to work who are over 18 that are effectively labelled as criminals by the law. Whereas in New Zealand, no sex worker, uh, just for being a sex worker is labelled as a criminal, even even [01:07:00] if you're 13 or 14 or 15, I mean you'll be either child, youth and family will be interested in you if you're between 15 and 18. Um, if your clients will be risking a jail term, that you as a sex worker are not criminal. So So we've in that sense, we've completely reversed the law, and it's much purer law here. It's not perfect. We had to compromise in a few places, but it is as good as well, it's much better than anything [01:07:30] else that exists and considerably better than New South Wales. What was it like sitting on the select committee and hearing submissions? Oh, yeah. I mean, it's a committee I chaired, but I wasn't allowed to chair that one because, um, because it was my bill. Uh, so I, um So I wasn't I mean, I just had to let one of the national MP S chair it and Sue Bradford and I really just fought the fight to get get it through there. I mean, I had to fight with my colleagues on occasions. Most of them trusted me to understand [01:08:00] the issue, and it was a complex issue, and we got good MP S like Steve Trad on on occasions just to come explain to people what it was all about. And we, um because it was a member's bill. It got lowest priority. And we were dealing with really big stuff the Supreme Court Bill and victims rights and, uh, a whole lot of other sentencing legislation, like massive government legislation. So it took two years to get it through the committee. So we kept it kept popping up every time we ran into other business. Um, so that was [01:08:30] a problem. We just We just thought, let let it take as long as it's going to take. Um, we we heard all the normal submissions from groups were there, many from regular organisations. But, um, we agreed to travel, and we also agreed to hear sex workers in private. So the media and, um media weren't allowed to be there. We did a deal with the police that they would not, um, they would. They would advise us. The police were appointed as advisors to the committee, [01:09:00] but they didn't try and sort of lobby in any way about the legislation. And they came out supporting it at the end anyway, which there was a lot of internal debate about it between the kind of moral, the kind of moral group in the police and those who are more pragmatic. Um, so that the certainly the the sessions listening to sex workers tell their stories was were pretty, um amazing. Never, never harrowing. I don't think there was any attempt to try to hit the emotions, but trying to understand [01:09:30] the nature of the sex industry is really hard. I mean, it's layer on layer of complexity. I mean, to understand why a client would want to, um, pick a sex worker up off the street and have sex in their car rather than walk into a brothel is one. I mean, it's kind of I still don't fully understand that stuff and to be dealing with legislation where the where we had no submissions from clients at all. I had some correspondence, but but the client's voice was almost silent. So half [01:10:00] of the equation had nothing to say, whereas the other half had a lot to say. And then the people who weren't involved at all had an awful lot to say. Uh was quite strange so that the slum and the clients were the they were the demand. They were the reasons why the industry existed, and yet their voice was silent. And then he started to piece together a picture of clients. It was much more complex than the opposition. Pretended So, um, men who [01:10:30] had wives who had severe disabilities, who had a sexually dysfunctional or or very sterile relationship, who wanted some sexual outlet, um, men who just couldn't emotionally hold down a relationship. Men who had a disability and were unable to to kind of form the the physical link, et cetera, et cetera. People have been away from home for months working. I mean, it was more complicated. I mean, it was kind of recognising that that [01:11:00] many human beings have a sexual urge which needs to find expression. Uh, obviously very male, sort of male focused. And then in Africa, I found this whole bunch of male sex workers for whom nearly all of their clients are women. And so I I did another complexity of the whole thing. So so And and and pick that and then the the race on top for transgender workers. On top of that, um, [01:11:30] there was a male brothel, uh, opened up around the corner from Parliament on the same block as parliament and all the workers used to come along. There was only one of only two in the country which was actually mayor. And they, uh, workers used to close on the night that the legislation has been debated. No, come and sit on the chain. But there, all sorts of little twists and stories like that. But it was still a a community where where not many sex workers were confident about coming into parliament and talking. But luckily through the process, we did develop quite a team. [01:12:00] Uh, that came to do that. Uh, and it was some of that 1 to 1 lobbying, and I guess some of that goes back to my stone wall days. It was some of that 1 to 1 lobbying matching to the summer and sex work have been matched with Winnie Labour. And to talk to her or when he finally finally got got it. Um, I mean, some of my colleagues voted for the legislation, never quite got it. Some got it. But where I got it, I mean understanding enough about why [01:12:30] people use the industry, the nature of it, the the extent to which a lot of the oppressions were tied up in the sex industry in dealing with the dealing it in the way we wanted to do. It was kind of fundamentally it was almost radical. It was certainly a highly progressive piece of legislation. Not many of my colleagues became that interested by it. A lot of them just said, Oh, it's Tim's thing, We support it. It was in our manifesto. We will do it But we did try and get those MP S to understand enough to be able to respond to to, [01:13:00] uh to mail and so forth. And also we had to we lost some labour MP S. We had to get MP S from the parties to come on board, which is where it became a very tight piece of political management to say the least. Uh And what about Georgie and Baer's involvement? Oh, I mean, to be blunt. It was sort of, uh, marginally helpful and damaging some of the time. I mean, she came out against the legislation, I think, five [01:13:30] weeks out from being voted out, and then she voted for it. And then, since she's come out against it again, so it's kind of it's quite and why Did she come out against it initially? Oh, well, that was I think it was clever when I was a bit of a bit of Georgina who often likes to kind of challenge the got to do things you don't expect. Um, but the other side, um, who who were quite quiet. I mean, through the two years at the beginning, the legislation went through like the first reading [01:14:00] went through 87 to 12 or 14 or something. It was it was overwhelming. And then it went to the select committee. Then when it came out to the select committee, which would have been towards the end of 2000 and two you right? So it must have been just Oh, yeah. The election was earlier that year, so yeah, So it came out after the election, which was in about September. So the next vote was 64 [01:14:30] to 56. We it was a more conservative parliament, and we realised that the heat was on. It was only really then that this really powerful lobby started against it called Maxim Maxim Institute. Um and we we fought them on that, and we fought them on the civil union bill, and they were very well funded. And they were on occasions, Very clever. Not that clever, but they were clever enough. Um, and they did a lot of media, so they became the alternative media, um, voice to us [01:15:00] and the, uh they brought over Melissa Farley. And she was an extraordinary figure. She still is. She was a psychologist who claimed to have endless studies to her name. Endless letters after her name, uh, was lesbian. And she came over for a few days to New Zealand, paid for my maxim, and she met a whole lot of MP S, including me. And her view was her [01:15:30] purpose was to just shift a few MP S, uh, against the law reform. And she did that by claiming to have incontrovertible research evidence that, um, sex workers were a victim of post traumatic stress disorder, that there were mainly victims of sexual abuse and weren't in control of their own behaviour sufficiently. And she she conducted some astonishing New Zealand research where she interviewed a handful [01:16:00] of sex workers and declared that exactly the same condition existed here, and she for a few people. And she certainly fooled Georgina, who came out in the media afterwards saying that she was no longer supporting the legislation because this conversation had brought up a lot of, uh uh, the trauma that she now remembered from her own experience. Uh, so I saw. I mean, I took a deep side and started on the job of trying to bring her back around, um, which [01:16:30] we did eventually, Uh, there was also a, um uh, a conversation between, uh, John Key and Helen Clark because Helen was happy to, um, talk about her experience as a health minister when she had, um, got help to get the, uh, prostitutes collective funded. That was the one of the kind of key historic moves here to actually get the in the the, um the collective to have their own voice and their own financial base and be able to look at the [01:17:00] environment and the context in which they worked. Uh, so Helen Helen was having to talk about her view based on that to MP S who were undecided, and John Key became known as Mr Flip flop by the prostitutes collective because he kept changing his mind so much on the issue um I mean, intellectually, he kind of got it. But then every time a conservative church group in his electorate called him in, he would get very worried about it. So, um, I engineered the conversation [01:17:30] between the two of them, which I thought was interesting, sort of given what happened afterwards. Um and then So So we went through this extraordinary sort of intense process over months and months and months, and and it it was interesting in the, um I mean, it affected my I think both the 02 and the 05 election. My my personal vote was never massively high in the electorate. I mean, my my it went up from 32% to 57 or 60. But it, um and we focused lastly, on the party [01:18:00] vote, which is we finally got it right in terms of understanding the the campaigning methods. Um, but I think I'm sure there were people who didn't vote for me because they thought I was oddly obsessed by this thing. That meant nothing to most people. Um, but that didn't matter that much to me. I mean, as long as I was doing good work elsewhere, and it wasn't affecting my ability to be a good representative. I reckon it would be enough. And the national party in, uh, 99 [01:18:30] had stood, um, they stood family focused conservative candidates against Georgina and Chris and I using the same. It was it was the same language on the billboard, which was clearly pushed the door. I got John Stringer Gap against me. He was, um, somewhat, uh, somewhat crazy character, Um, obsessive, sort of quite disliked by the national Party, but obsessive [01:19:00] Christian conservative. Um, he thought that that he he was the man chosen by God to defeat this he sex worker loving, homosexual socialist MP, uh, and ran this very, very eccentric campaign. And the press, to their credit, decided that that this was the most interesting fight in town. So they gave a lot of coverage to Tom Stringer's eccentric activity. He used to pull a No one could work out the message. He had a car with a trailer [01:19:30] and the trailer was a stuffed sheep. And he spent his whole campaign pulling the stuffed sheep around. But no, quite the message somehow got lost. And he he his most outrageous thing he did was, um, the opening of the Midwives Centre, the National, the national Organisation National College of Midwives that they had their national headquarters in Christchurch and they opened it during the election campaign. And they invited myself and other MP S along, and Helen Clark [01:20:00] came to open it, and the mayor, Gary Moore, was there. And because John hadn't been invited, he decided that he would do a one man protest outside, and he got He was there in his car with a stuff sheet behind, and he got a megaphone, and he and it just when, uh, the, uh, the the Maori priest was doing the blessing his dad is screaming that the TV cameras were there. The mayor went out and berated him, and it was very so and the press, the press loved [01:20:30] it. And he did one. He did AAA public meeting in the square, and he got one person coming on. He was white, who was the deputy prime minister at the time, and the press covered that as well, with people hurling insults at them. And so So it became a very it was a great It was a very entertaining campaign, Um, but that that that helped push up my majority. But the point I was making was about the fact that the openly gay or two openly gay candidates the transgender candidates at the time were were seen to be the ones who were particularly vulnerable by the national party, which I don't [01:21:00] think we were, because we were all actually very focused on our electorate. So I think we knew that there was a risk that would be seen as a single issue and superficial and somehow not of the community. So Georgina, through a mayoral work and then her work as an MP in Chris in West Auckland, where we did a lot to to be really mainstream representatives without planning it out. It was just our gut feeling. That was how we had to sort of handle the issues. And I think Grant does exactly the same now in in [01:21:30] Wellington Central in the way that he operates. It's quite important to do that. How did the media, uh, react to the prostitution reform? Were they were they Did they take sides or was it pretty balanced? I think I think, probably in the civil Union the media were sort of 80% in favour. I think in prostitution reform they were uncertain. They the issues are complex. The press used to get hysterical from time to time over under age, sex [01:22:00] workers and numbers and and we'd we'd have this ongoing argument and we'd bring in people who counted the numbers and they deny the truth of it. And then we the end and they never really got it. But they most of the media did, on balance, recommend accepting the law reform when it came to the editorials and because of the subtle. The difference between criminalization and and legalisation is quite when you were involved [01:22:30] a lot. It's kind of obvious, but it's kind of difficult when when you're a journalist trying to write up something quick, quickly in one evening. So, um, they, they they they didn't put them off writing it out. But they liked the stories they liked access to individual sex works to talk about the reality of their lives. So they found some of the vitriol from the other side a bit offensive. And so I mean, they came to their own conclusions. Um, there are a lot of women involved in media majority women, and they tended to understand [01:23:00] the issues more, and some of them were really excited. Some of the younger journalists, younger men and the women journalists were quite amazed that we were in embarking on this little adventure. Never thought it would get through. Most of them predicted it was going to lose in the last week, and most of my colleagues were convinced they're going to be on the losing side until the final vote. So, um, the media were on there. I mean, there were there were hardly any public events. There were no I never went to a public meeting about the issue now, whereas Civil [01:23:30] Union got got a few people going because it was, it was a bit of a mystery to lots of even a lot of the church groups couldn't really get their head around what we were trying to do, that they somehow thought it was wrong. But they they didn't want to get go near it. It was just too yucky, whereas they were prepared to preach about homosexuality. But the sex work stuff was just a bit too messy. Uh, where there were strong voices of a place like Hunters Corner in in South Auckland. So where there was a strong commercial [01:24:00] concern, a lot of the a lot of the bar owners were against law reform because their economic interest stood to be under some threat. Because the whole of the the way that we designed the model was not only to incentivize going off the street and to Brussels, but also to incentivize leaving brothels and becoming self managing workers. So they, what we were constantly told were told, was that the the the safest environment was a bunch of sex workers collectively [01:24:30] renting a flat with established clean to, um, probably mainly working 9 to 5. Um, and that was low impact on the community. It was pretty safe for them, uh, regular income. And there wasn't somebody operating views of employment practises. So the the law was predicated in favour of that. And of course, that's quite threatening to brothels, very many of whom still, I suspect, get their their profits through through treating workers [01:25:00] unreasonably so So the the the established industry was against it. And that actually encouraged some people to support us because I didn't really like what we were saying, but they they saw the really nasty people opposing it. So I thought it must be quite good, because, I mean, when something is illegal, then the people get involved often pretty colourful characters. I mean, a few of them tried to have a go at me. I mean, not physically. Just just attack. Attack me for what I was doing. They couldn't be that public because they were also operating illegally. So So it was [01:25:30] a kind of a silent. There was another irony of the whole thing. You know, this bunch of people making a lot of money out of the sex work who couldn't actually speak out for fear that their activities would be exposed. So? So it was quite helpful to have them quiet. Very fascinating. Very complex in that last week, Uh, before the final vote, did you think it would go through? I think I decided that the it was impossible to manage, uh, manage the result. But I just had to manage individuals. And then if [01:26:00] we got enough, we were OK, so I had a number of formula in my head. About what? How we'd actually get there. And there were, I think, going into the debate there were five people who hadn't made up their mind, so I wasn't entirely sure about. So when he was one locker, Smith was one. uh, he, uh, Heather Roy was one. Um, and then I wanted to, I think Roger who voted [01:26:30] the other way. And so I knew I needed four out of No, I needed four out of those five to get it. Then I knew that one person was, um, Ashraf was going to abstain so that no one else knew that. So and I I'm pretty sure that when he was going to vote with us, so I knew we're part of the way. So So it came down to Heather Roy, in my view that if Heather Roy was going to be on side, we get there, and, uh, I when I made sure that when [01:27:00] he spoke last and when she spoke, she geared quite a lot of her explanation to the kind of arguments that would appear So then we went into the lobby around the back, and, uh, I had the numbers and we got to We got to, um we need to. So we knew we needed 60 because we knew there was an abstention, and we got to 57. We had all the proxies and people appeared, and Trevor Mallard was standing by me and Ruth Dyson, both of whom have been very involved [01:27:30] in the homosexual law reform. And they got they got the link. Um, and they were kind of worried because they knew we'd never lost one of these big ones. Euthanasia votes have been lost at first reading. But apart from that, the these big debates, when they get to the final stage, they've always tended to go through. And we got to 58 and then we then lock Smith appeared. So it was 59 and then Heather Roy appeared No, sorry. 57 and locker. He he appeared at 58. Heather Roy. [01:28:00] It was 59 and then no one appeared and they were ringing the bells for the end of it. And I looked to the list, and I realised that, um, Deborah Huntington was in was in in, uh, Cambridge at the time doing a, um uh, Qantas Media Scholarship. So she was off for three months But Heather Roy had a proxy and she had forgotten to give it to us. So we had to go back or someone had to go back in and get it. And sure enough, she had it and bought it through. And that was it. So it was the 60 [01:28:30] we knew because if it was 60 you would have lost. But we knew there was the abstention. So, uh, we walk back in and then the gallery was full of I mean, it really was people from both sides by that stage of the whole thing And I. I thought it was not fair to look excited. So I just looked very kind of calm and then committal. And, um until Gina made sure she sat next to me because she was on side again by then so she could be photographed afterward. She was always very good at that stuff. And, uh and then and then there was a long delay [01:29:00] because the other side had got, got it counted and recounted they couldn't believe what had happened so eventually And of course, they said, um, he says 60 votes in favour and there's this kind of grow and because people thought that case is 60 votes against and it's lost. And then it's a 59 against one of the 10. And then I said to the media, We're the first country in the world. I didn't say it till then. It was very It was. It was It was kind of surreal evening and we went off to bar. [01:29:30] I think they put on a do and Catherine he and lot of the collective came along and Helen Clark rang up, rang up to talk to Catherine. I thought often told that story in South Africa about how the prime minister, who was a woman, rang up the head of the prostitutes collective when the vote went through. Just the fact that would happen was was kind of an extraordinary story about New Zealand and about the way we operate. So for you personally, what did it mean? Having something like this Bill go through? [01:30:00] Oh, it I mean, it was it was immensely satisfying that the process that we'd run against the odds, given that we we always knew we were doing something pretty out there, so running against the odds had had delivered you know, delivered with the tightest of margins. Uh, we I didn't. It was. And there was a level of of luck when we went down to one or two votes. There's all sorts of factors come in that you can't control. But the fact that we [01:30:30] got it through was satisfying. I thought it was my guess. Powers of persuasion and organisation, I think probably I was. I was known as a well organised MP rather than a particularly persuasive one. But but the organisation levels and knowing how to get the arguments out and how to we had, I mean, it was all run from my office. I mean, the the real campaign headquarters was well, the prostitutes collective would would probably say it was run from their offices to an extent. But the the lobby, [01:31:00] I told them who to lobby, So I was going to them saying, I think these people need to lobby and here's why and hear the arguments and they would bring the people in to do it. So it was kind of working hand in hand, but the the kind of the the media stuff and the website and everything else was all running from from my office and staff and volunteers and this extraordinary, eclectic bunch of people just utterly committed to getting it through. So so that experience and the feeling it was all for a good purpose was good. I think I don't think until I went to South Africa and weren't [01:31:30] there, did I realise just the the import of what we'd done, just how significant it was and started to hear in in unlikely corners of Africa. People talk about the New Zealand model of law reform and realise that we'd actually created something that had international relevance. And we were referring lots of people to the justice website to look at the research, the evaluation done on the law reform after five years. So all that seemed, [01:32:00] I mean, that that that took time to sink in, Really. And I got I mean, I I in that in that area. It's probably not so relevant now as even 18 months ago. But I, I I'm somebody who's seen as a I guess, a kind of a global expert on on one edge of the issue. So I'm not a sex worker and that that in itself is complex. It's a bit like somebody who's straight sort of championing gay rights. But I'm fan of that here. But increasingly, you'd expect people from the Queer Communities [01:32:30] to be those leading medium. Well, I wasn't, um and I mean, it makes me a bit of an oddity. I mean, Georgina fronting it would probably have been as a next worker, and a woman would have been a bit simpler, but she probably wouldn't have been able to kind of manage the political complexities. As it was, we worked hand in hand apart from when we disagreed. Which is quite often, um, I like working with people from other parties. I found that quite liberating, quite refreshing. So Catherine, rich from the Nats, [01:33:00] um, Maurice Williamson, who'd been involved right from the beginning on on that issue and understood it as a libertarian, really came from a different point of view. Uh, Rodney Hyde act were generally in favour. They had a kind of moral wing of act you were against, but the core of them, including Rodney, were not just in favour but passionately in favour. He thought it was the most incredible piece of, uh, libertarian legislation he'd ever seen. So I had to try and handle the fact that we have these passionate supporters [01:33:30] who were vehemently opposed to us in many other areas. He, um I got invited to the world Libertarian Assembly and wrote her with people from all over the world Ken Douglas and Roger Douglas and his character in the States to talk about this law reform and how this this socialist guy could have done this stuff and which is liberating legislation. Interesting, uh, experience. So I enjoyed all that. I found it all quite quirky and interesting. And some of the [01:34:00] the powerful images which, um uh, which came to the whole experience. I mean, with Bunches of conservative MP S and in, um, Dungeons and in madams, uh, flats in Sydney, in Christchurch and then and in Melbourne, and and other or most incredible human experiences. But even the MP S who voted against who got very involved in learning but still voted against they kind of understood that there was an issue [01:34:30] there, and what we were doing had validity to it. It wasn't just a zany approach, and so I mean, it was it kind of tested out a whole lot of the things that I thought were pretty amazing about our democracy, and and they kept up. Shine came up shining, and it gave me a a sort of sense that there was a project that, in political terms, was mine. And then Catherine, he on the the NGO side from her point of view that the two of us between us were kind of driving this extraordinary thing. That was quite special. [01:35:00] Tim, this is the second interview we've done about your time in parliament and specifically around two large pieces of legislation the prostitution reform bill and the Civil Union Bill. I'm just wondering if we can, um, briefly look at the prostitution reform bill one more time. And, uh, I mean, it was interesting for me that it was introduced in 2000, and then it passed its third and final reading in 2003. Is that a long time [01:35:30] in parliamentary terms, and And how do you kind of keep the momentum going? Well, yeah, it probably is a long time for a piece of legislation. Uh, I mean, there was a technical reason, which was that, uh, it went to a very busy committee, the justice and Law reform. And I and I wanted Sorry, justice and electoral as it was then. And I wanted that to happen because I was on that committee and because it was a piece of human rights based law reform rather than, um, being [01:36:00] around health or employment. And it had all those aspects. But it was a fundamental reform. Um, and that committee is very busy. And under parliamentary rules, A members bill takes lowest priority. Every time it seemed to rise to the surface and we had a few hearings and then some other piece of legislation would arrive with us, which we had to deal with. So and the other issue which made our journey, uh, on the law reform very different, say to New South Wales was that they'd had a an inquiry, a royal commission [01:36:30] which recommended things which their parliament then put into effect. We'd had none of that. We had a recommendation from sex workers. But that wasn't something which, um which Parliament had any duty to look at. So we had to go back to basics to work through the issues and and because there was a lot of pressure from the Justice Ministry, Um, and occasionally for the Minister for, uh, AC a, um, legalisation model, which means government has more power. [01:37:00] And it means that sex workers is regarded as separate to other forms of activity and is and has a different relationship with the state. Um, and we were very, very determined to keep the rim model, and that involved quite a lot of behind the scenes, uh, discussion and quite a lot of caution when officials came to the committee. So Sue Bradford and I, it was really Sue and I who were doing that driving through the committee really felt just let this one take the time [01:37:30] We had an election in the middle of the process. And a more conservative Parliament, and particularly the United Future Group of fundamentalists, appeared at that time, and they were quickly determined to try and kill the legislation they possibly could. So it there was a lot of political dynamics around it, but luckily, the committee had enough of a head of steam to keep going on the issues right through. Can you tell me the difference between legalisation and decriminalisation decriminalisation means that [01:38:00] the only law relating to the activity is law, which is, uh, around the harm created. So the legislation is about, uh, being the client of a sex worker aged under 18 is an offence, um, being a, uh, being running a brothel when there's no one with a licence. And the licence is a fairly low level intervention now, But, um, there there's legislation to to make sure, if that happens [01:38:30] that the police have a right to go in if they think there's a good reason to believe that's the case, um, the legislation around health and safety and around, uh, employment rights. So basically, the law is about protecting sex workers from harm, whereas legalisation involves creating a machinery around it. So in the state of Victoria, which is legalised, there is a a pro, uh, a A prostitution board, [01:39:00] and they register sex workers. And if sex workers won't register, then they are deemed to be criminal. Uh, and they don't allow street works. Therefore, any street sex worker in state of Victoria is is automatically breaking the law. Um, and we were trying to reach a situation where, um, consensual sex between a sex worker and their client was was automatically legal if there was consent and if they're both aged over 18. [01:39:30] And obviously if there was no sense of a coercion and we achieved that, whereas in New South Wales might be many situations where there is consent. But it is illegal because the sex work is deemed to be illegal by the so it's quite there's a spectrum within that so that in, um, like in Amsterdam, there are there are zones and in the zones it's both pretty well decriminalised, but outside the zones it's not. But we've achieved what to me is the only sensible base for the law. [01:40:00] But explaining that to people wasn't easy. In fact, it took us most of the time. The law reform was going through to come up with a language to to kind of describe it, uh, properly, Can you give me some examples of how you would describe it, say to the media, So so that that that journalists would get it, um, we we we can never find a very brief way of doing it. Unfortunately, and I would say we I mean my brief, my brief terminology would be kind of summary of what I just [01:40:30] said. So B, DC is saying, is having that the law has no moral judgement about prostitution and that the only laws that are relevant to have are to protect, um, the the public or sex workers from harm. Whereas legalisation creates special law around sex work, which includes the state trying [01:41:00] to control sex workers in ways which are not reasonable. So it goes beyond trying to goes beyond legislation around real harm. It's under state control of sex workers. And then if you go beyond legalisation, you get to criminalization. So legalisation is like a halfway measure. You said we don't like it. We'll let a chink of light in, but not the whole thing. Whereas Rim is in that sense quite fundamentally different [01:41:30] with many campaigns, they take it right down to a personal level. So they'll present individual people and their stories to try and sway public opinion. Was that something that that that you tried in in this campaign? A bit of it. I mean, there weren't that many people happy to go public. I mean, they certainly, uh I think, as I said before, people, um, sex workers and former sex workers prepare to go to the parliamentary committee either in a public session or a private session and talk about their experiences. And there [01:42:00] were brothels happy to let the committee visit them and talk about whatever and the prostitutes collective as we travel to the country, organised, um, discussion groups of sex workers to meet members of the committee, and that's pretty unusual for a parliamentary committee to do that. But, I mean, that's great. It's part of our system that we have fairly broad boundaries what the committee is able to do. Uh, but in terms of, um, people prepared to go fully public with their stories, Not that many, actually. Uh, the [01:42:30] most that happened was around groups of sex workers talking to MP S. There was quite a concerted attempt to match MP S with sex workers who either had similar from the same communities as them geographic communities or or terms of sexuality or or whatever. Um, and that was that That was pretty crucial in persuading one or two MP S. But in terms of the wider stories, really a contrast [01:43:00] to civil union, where there were many couples not only sort of Keating but insistent about coming forward. Um, because I guess I guess there is always, I mean, the stigma around sex work has certainly not been removed by the by the law reform, and it's pretty deep and real. And part of the law reform prostitution law reform is to allow sex workers to get on with their lives beyond sex work. It actually is a law reform, which incentive which which clears some of the barriers to people leaving [01:43:30] sex work completely, contrary to what the what the opponents argued. I mean, they other illogically argue it was OK that you can criminalise somebody and that will somehow enable them to leave. Well, of course it doesn't. It actually traps them into the activity. No, I think we're still a few years off anyone or many people being prepared to put on a CV that they've done sex work for a period, and it will. It will be It will be a breakthrough in terms of just accepting reality when we do that. [01:44:00] What were some of the main arguments for and against the legislation are the arguments for where you accept a reality and that you, you guard against the harm. And as I said, most of the harms I think were to sex workers. I mean, some of the public harms would include, uh, um invasive signage or behaviour on the streets. That was, uh, beyond the norm, which was, can be dealt with by other legislation. Um, and then the obvious harms [01:44:30] to sex workers so that that would be the I mean, we we have a duty of care to people in our society. We've we've that that group is alienated from society, they're regarded as criminal. Um, they earn money, they but But generally they earn it illegally because to, uh, legalise, that would be too difficult. So So we have a group apart. And yet the relationship between sex workers and police in terms of exchange of information, not just around sex workers who are victims, but a lot of the worlds [01:45:00] which sex workers will often be aware of. So it was about normalising relationships in society and protecting a vulnerable group over the argument of favour. The arguments against were that it was a fairly untried approach. Although it had been sort of tried in New South Wales that we were going to unleash, uh, offensive behaviour on wider society and that we would normalise sex work as an acceptable occupation. And often [01:45:30] that was combined with the argument that sex workers were innately damaged people either before they went into sex work or damaged by sex work, to the point that they were not able to make rational decisions for themselves. So the state had to effectively make decisions for them, uh, and and that criminalization was a necessary incentive to get out. This was a conscience vote. [01:46:00] I mean, do conscience votes work? I think probably because people are able to be upfront and honest about it and and every conversation mattered and and I wouldn't want to do it for too many issues. But I think every every year or two in Parliament it's quite good to have a debate that goes beyond the party blocks and actually looks at the individual views on the issue. I think it's it can be taken too far, uh, because I think a lot of the a lot of what we do within parliament is necessarily value based and is ideological [01:46:30] and and parties take positions for good good solid reasons. So I don't think that's, uh that's at all a problem. Um, but, uh, I guess the risk of it is that often the issues have a lot of emotion attached to them. And we manage to suppress that while the select committee was happening and we built up a bit of a body of evidence. Uh, but as the voting proved afterwards, that wasn't necessarily enough to counteract some of the emotion that was washing around. [01:47:00] Um, I think probably it's better to have a conscience vote following a an inquiry or a more independent look at the issue, whether it be law commission or a more public inquiry. And I think that's the way that the the debate on drug law reform is going. And that's one of the that. And euthanasia, Um, and maybe revisiting abortion law are probably the big conscience issues that are left at the moment when I say revisiting is any, I mean to shift abortion to being a health issue and not a criminal [01:47:30] law issue. So really kind of paradigm shift and ensuring, uh, ease of access to services which isn't there now. So so those are probably where the the current issues are, but they bubble up. I mean, euthanasia hasn't been a debate, maybe actively, for more than 20 years. In 20 years time, there may be other debates, the same debates around animal rights, animal welfare that kind of get into some of the moral areas as as well, So who decides whether it's a party voter or a conscience [01:48:00] vote? Um, formally, the speaker. But then each party can decide whether or not they want to, um, have a a formal a whip. So the greens traditionally come up with a group view on the issue. Uh, we have this recent case, um, with the Sky City deal where there was a because it was related to gambling and it was about watering down some of the gambling laws, there was a a conscience vote on that, but it was pretty. I mean, the issue become so politicised that it was treated [01:48:30] along party lines, and I think one of the the necessary skills and and a conscience vote is having the right MP to lead it, I guess. And well, didn't sure a number of us could have done it, but somebody who is not regarded as being too partisan by other parties and somebody who can work with people from across the political spectrum. That's pretty, Uh, that's pretty important stuff, um, and that the each of those conscience issues can be presented [01:49:00] differently to different people. So that, um for for the, uh, the right the libertarian right of the national Party and act it's about getting the state out of people's lives. And in a lot of those issues, you can actually say the state interferes too much, whether it's providing drugs or whether it's trying to control whether people can can, can, can suicide or or or can assist others to suicide. So this is about the role of the state and society, and it's actually where I would argue that the kind [01:49:30] of libertarian edge of labour and the libertarian right form this odd not quite a pact, but it's where the rather than being a spectrum, it's almost like a a circle. Um, so I found the easiest conversations around prostitution law reform outside my own party, and the greens would have been with that group in that group of act, and some of the national MP S. So it's interesting is and it's it's fun stuff in Parliament because it does go beyond the political barriers, [01:50:00] which can get quite quite tiring on occasions. Uh, as you can imagine, it finally passed its third reading, I think on the 25th of June, 2003 following that, um, you had organisations like the Maxim Institute uh, petitioning to kind of reverse the law. How How can you talk to me about that? Oh, it's still I mean, there's still a process going on and people are trying to after 10 years, they're trying to undermine aspects of [01:50:30] it. Um, well, we we knew there was a danger that because it's so easy to tell lies around sex work because there's so many mysteries in it and such a lack of tangible research and lack of data, lack of evidence in some areas, you could argue you have to kind of work some of the solutions out by a series of suppositions rather than necessarily having the the hard knowledge. We were well aware that when the law went through, if it went through that, opponents [01:51:00] would continue to tell lies about it, and that could be undermining. So we, um we amended the legislation before it went through to allow the review committee to report after five years. So that was, uh, that was in place. And I reported in 2008, um, and I think it would have been good. I mean, one regret would be that it would have been better to have some kind of ongoing review because III I think now there would be more interesting findings. [01:51:30] And after that period, I think and he's looking at and there was government money released to research the impact of the law reform, whereas now there's no obligation to do it. It's going to sit there, I imagine. Um, so then, in the middle of that first five years, there was an attempt to get a citizens initiated a referendum on the issue, and that failed fairly, fairly overwhelmingly. And as we found out with the asset sales petition recently, it takes takes a very big effort to get get the numbers needed, [01:52:00] uh, to do that process, and they were nowhere near it and then, uh, united future in their 2005 coalition agreement. Um, they insisted on a further review. So that was also happening at the same time as the official review committee. So that was a a review of the effect of the law, and I think that process it kind of it sort of produced recommendations at the end. But it was it was. I mean, so far we've done what we've always done [01:52:30] in New Zealand, Having made these fairly bold steps in terms of social reform, we haven't gone backwards and it's been generally the case and all the issues that we haven't gone backwards. I think this one is by its nature and by the I think I think the deeply ingrained effect of criminalization on sex worker behaviour and on public attitudes and on client behaviour actually means that changes take longer. And that was one of the conclusions [01:53:00] from the five year review that that this is a 25 year process of of change, Uh and so we We're really only at the early stages of of seeing some of that happen, and there's certainly been a normalisation of the relationship between the police and sex workers, and I don't think the police would want to return to having to to act as kind of agents for parts of society that don't want to think about sex work and arresting and harassing sex workers. So I think [01:53:30] that's a paradigm shift which I'll be surprised to see reversed. I think the public health and other government agencies who often didn't in my view, um, sufficiently deliver their duty of care to sex workers and regarded them as groups that they didn't have to deal with. I think there's now a there's now a much greater acceptance that they are part of wider society. Um, I don't think we've seen adequate improvements [01:54:00] in employment conditions in brothels, but I think we have seen a growth in the self managed sex worker arrangements which get away from some of those abusive, uh, employment, uh, relationships. Um, one of the weaknesses in the law reform was that, um, immigration were given powers to, uh, to raid brothels effectively if they thought there were workers who were breaking their immigration, um, conditions, um, [01:54:30] and were the people who were working as sex workers, which the legislation prevented for those who are migrating in. So if you migrate to New Zealand, you can't use sex, work, experience or skills as a reason to migrate. And therefore, if somebody came in as a student or on a work for you or for some other occupation, they're found to be doing sex work and they are breaking the law and they're liable to deportation. And the way the law is worded around that, I think, is probably [01:55:00] a bit too overt and has given immigration a bit too much power to, uh, to create an ongoing tense relationship with sex workers. So that's, uh, that's just the way it is. Um, and I don't think it's likely there's going to be a tidy for the law in the near future. So So there's There's been ongoing kind of caution around some of those areas, so it's not perfect legislation. I give it fully in eight out of 10. But given that most of the world is sort of within one and two, then it's sort of it's it's out there. [01:55:30] I think New South Wales is maybe about six out of 10 on a good day. So in the last couple of years, um, there have been media stories about, um, various councils trying to, um, bring in local regulations in terms of where prostitution can happen. Do you have any thoughts about about that? I mean, I think that in my head, that's part of the those attempts to undermine the legislation, although I don't deny the lived experience of people in some communities who are feeling [01:56:00] a little and harassed or upset by the behaviour of sex workers. But I think the solution to that is around that the law reform opens up is to actually get a negotiation between sex workers and the community. And the police and council and other NGO S who are involved actually sit down and say, Is there a problem? What can we do about it and not to create a situation? As in the proposed bill, which is now the Auckland City Bill? I think, um, which [01:56:30] would essentially criminalise 50 people of whom I think they're all women and 47 or 48 or Maori or Pacific and all of whom are pretty marginal in society in living on comparatively low incomes. So I'm not sure that that legislation, as pointed as that actually has much place in our society, uh, and and It has to be the case that if there are, uh, if there's a nuisance in an area, that the solution is not just to point at those people and and [01:57:00] say you are breaking the law but to actually look at what's going on and come up with a solution in terms of where people do it and how they do it And if there's some kind of accord or way of having some influence on their behaviour, that that that people buy into and we're still too ready in the society to think of the answer to everything is to make it illegal, and the police will somehow deal with it when they they're not interested in dealing with it any longer. So ongoing tensions, including Christchurch, where there is similar similar pressure [01:57:30] Shortly after the prostitution reform bill was passed, we also had another, quite large piece of, um, social change, which was the Civil Union bill being introduced. What was the feeling within government at the time of of of these quite major social changes afoot, Um, well, I guess the civil Union it could have came from a different place. I mean, it was really us responding to what we're seeing around the world rather than coming up with our own solution. Because [01:58:00] there were movements in a few countries to, um, create some kind of legal status for same sex couples not initially really around marriage, but around registration and so on in Scandinavia. And then it started to spread out a bit. And as it spread out, the the models became a bit stronger and a bit closer to something you you could call equality. So that was happening. And I think it was a conversation that I had with Helen Clark back in about 2001 [01:58:30] or two, which was about looking at models of law reform in that area. And, uh, it ended up in our manifesto in Well, it must have been in 2002 elections. I think it was sort of 2001 to 2. I was asked to sort of go away and do some consultation with the the same sex communities. About what? What? What model was appropriate. And so we set up a little working, working party, [01:59:00] uh, of of people from Rainbow Labour and the wider community, and we looked at different models. I mean, including the issue of whether you just say marriage is the only acceptable model and we will accept nothing else or whether you come up with something that's equal we came up with with the concept which I still think had some intellectual rigour attached to it, Um, which was something which was legally, absolutely equal to marriage. Uh, and yet it wasn't called marriage. It was separate to marriage. And that responded to [01:59:30] the voice of many at that time in the the queer community, saying, We, we, we we're not after marriage, We're after the protections. We don't want this thing called marriage. And maybe that was partly because no one thought it was ever possible and it was born of pragmatism. And then the second thing which I don't think any other country did properly. But we we got quite a long way towards which is a separate piece of legislation which was basically tidying up all the laws so that where the law [02:00:00] mentions marriage, it also mentions civil union. So we we did the tidy up, which got a lot more support in Parliament and and yet in some In some ways there's more radical because it was delivering what the Human Rights Act says, that we can't discriminate on the basis of relationship status. So we now have that principle applied to New Zealand law, which is, and that was lean in particular, who was, um, who was sort of rigorous about that. And it led to a lot of delays in getting the whole project [02:00:30] off the ground. But it was, I mean, looking back on it, I think it was conceptually very powerful because it embedded civil union in a broader human rights principle that we shouldn't discriminate on the basis of whatever relationship people were in or weren't in, which is fair enough, obviously. And so So we took time to sort of get that legislation underway. And then the the particular model of Civil Union. Of course, the one I mean the the inequality built into it. Um, [02:01:00] apart from the conceptual inequality that you can't get married. Uh, but the legal package was was, was identical or wasn't identical. It was absolutely the same, but worded differently. Uh, so adoption was the only area left out of that. Um, and arguably it's not necessarily included in marriage equality now, I mean, it's still a bit of a a ongoing debate around that area even now. So, um, [02:01:30] so that was what that was what the debate was about. So what we did in the 2002 election that our manifesto included a commitment to introduce, um, civil union legislation, but with a free vote in parliament with the conscience vote. And that was so I think it came from a good place in terms of, um, starting to tackle that issue, but also dealing with the prostitution reform. I think it was, I think for many people, it was quite a fraught combination of issues. I mean, generally got the same sort of [02:02:00] people in our caucus supporting both, probably civil union was seen as a bit more mainstream, but it also came after prostitution reform. So people were a bit kind of jaded by that, Uh, the opposition to civil union was more organised, but I think intellectually had a weaker base. And so it didn't I don't think it had a massive effect on people. Um, in parliament, there were some strange opponents, including many who [02:02:30] were born again supporters of marriage equality. So coming back to that debate in New Zealand after being away for a while was quite a a revelation, really, to people had voted for homosexual law reform and then voted against civil union but thought marriage was wonderful. Um, including the bizarre Judith Collins, who said that during the civil Union debate she voted against the civil Union because she said she'd only vote for equality and nothing [02:03:00] else. And then she did. To her credit, I guess she then voted for for marriage, equality. But, I mean, a lot of the arguments she'd used around Civil Union were were homophobic, in my view. So it was kind of just a whole lot of nonsense. It was a poll poll led support, in my view and the fact that Obama came out and around the world, there was clearly a bigger movement happening. But I think we're the ninth country to get the marriage equality stuff through. And we were the first country outside Europe to legislate for equal status for same sex relationships, [02:03:30] which essentially is what what the civil Union did. So I think we probably I mean, I I think we had a tougher fight on that compared to the marriage equality debate. And it was, um and as as your question some minutes ago suggested, I mean, it was it came at a slightly difficult political time because it was leading into, uh, the 2002 election, which was a fairly easy. That's what the commitment was. And then the vote was 2004. [02:04:00] So it led in that to lead into 2005 election, which was a lot tougher for Labour, where even in the last week we looked like we were going to lose. So it was a difficult political time, and it fed into that sense that this government said six years and they're doing things which are not popular. And labour is always about minorities and all that. All that stuff which, um which progressive political groupings always get because we're concerned with people's rights. Can you talk, uh, for a few minutes about, um so [02:04:30] some of the opposition to the civil unions bill, Um, I'm thinking of places organisations like Destiny Church and, um, what kind of effect that very public opposition had on you. Well, the, um the Max Institute really got going towards the end of the prostitution reform legislation and they played a fairly significant role around and they were the intellectual opposition to a civil union. But so much so because I chaired the select [02:05:00] Committee that dealt with the Civil Union Bill which led to attacks on me being biassed. Uh, obviously, um, we only allowed two organisation no. Three organisations to have, I think, half an hour each in front of the committee. So one was Maxim, um against the legislation. One was a campaign for civil unions, and then they had the Human Rights Commission to give a kind of more, I guess, more sort of rights based legal approach to the whole thing. So apart [02:05:30] from that, we just had a lot of individuals doing five minutes each and then five minutes of questions, and that went on for many hours. So we heard 200 or 300 people altogether in that format. And so the opposition was the opposition in front of the committee was was measured and careful. I think the the individuals or the churches particularly and a few NGO S who came out against were um, often remnants of opponents from homosexual [02:06:00] law reform. They were generally measured and careful. I think they realised they were dealing with a very different composition of Parliament to Parliament in those days. So they were It would be easier to upset people than than language would have been then. So it was No, I mean I. I shared the thing. And even I did have some MP who were against civil union asking me afterwards if I was OK because they'd heard such bizarre things about the gay community from these people. And it was it was like water off a ducks back. [02:06:30] You just have to take the stuff sometimes. And they were absolutely entitled to their opinion. Um, so the then externally, apart from Maxim, uh, there were more public meetings. There were more. There was more public debate about it than there was about prostitution law reform. Um, and of course, national Party. They didn't have a whip whip against civil union, but they didn't have many MP S who are prepared to come out in favour. I think a hand picked [02:07:00] very small group, I think. Is it 54 or five? Mitch Pansy Wong Catherine Rich. That might be it three or four only. So we needed to make sure that so in in, conversely, we had fewer labour MP S who who, uh, ultimately voted against. And we didn't, uh, New Zealand first were pretty well opposed to it, So it was. It was tough. It was a different parliament against the United Future were weaker. So on those [02:07:30] issues that made it a bit easier. But, um, it's a bit closer to party lines, but certainly not completely, um, Destiny Church were were kind of loud, but I thought fairly ineffectual and actually helped the cause. By the end, I mean, they were. They produced thousands of submissions, but they were all identical to each other, just signed by different people. And they didn't ever produce a primary submission, so they never actually came to the Select committee. They produced vast numbers of submissions which sat in the box, but they were all [02:08:00] they weren't. They weren't They didn't understand anything about the rules of the system. Then they had the march on Parliament that looked like a bunch of black shirts approaching the building, and and a lot of people on that march were not clear what they were marching about because it was similar time to the foreshore and seabed debate. It's got a kind of complex political period. Um uh, and the image of that march, I think, was scary enough to a lot of people to influence public opinion. So whereas [02:08:30] the prostitution law reform, there's always a big block who are undecided and opinion in the few polls that that happened were broadly in favour of the law reform fairly tightly. Um, when it came to Civil Union, it was a stronger bunch of people in favour. Um, I think I think if marriage had been polled at the time, it would been quite strongly against marriage because it was an option seen as a middle way. Uh, but that wasn't to be. And then the select committee, because it was a government bill or the the Select Committee process was a lot quicker [02:09:00] than it was for prosecution, law reform. And in a sense, there wasn't. There was a lot of changes made around the details of of amending all these 180 pieces of legislation that mentioned marriage, so there was a lot of detailed debate. But the, um, there wasn't a lot of discretion to look at the the model essentially, and there wasn't there was. There were only a handful of submissions against civil union in favour of marriage, but the [02:09:30] most memorable was Marilyn Waring, who, um, was produce what I could carefully call a provocative submission with, um, lots of slides with pictures of benches in South Africa with whites here and blacks there and saying that we were embedding legislation that fundamentally treated people as 1st and 2nd class citizens. And she was entitled to that. There was a herself and, uh, Jenny, Jenny Rowan and Jules and [02:10:00] Nigel Christie, who formed a a kind of lobby for marriage. Um, and they were I mean, their argument was was really about political tactics, and we knew that if we'd tried that, it would have failed. And the man the mandate wasn't for that. The mandate from the manifesto was to produce something which gave real rights, and we got as far as equal rights. But But the difference was part of the mandate we had so we could have just not done any of that and waited [02:10:30] until the marriage debate came along. So I think then it would have been more difficult because I think seeing civil unions in operation actually did persuade some people that the sky hadn't fallen in and that good things were happening. So it was It was an interesting two stage exercise. So I think we went from fairly advanced legislation that had some inequalities embedded to, uh, a a reasonably modest piece of marriage equality legislation. So the leap wasn't that great. My [02:11:00] understanding of the homosexual law reform in the mid eighties was that it was very much, um, initially community driven. So they went to with with with the idea with civil unions. Did that same thing happen or was it more coming from the actual party itself? The Labour Party? Well, I mean, I guess if you go back, yeah, I mean, we initiated the initial consultation with which included Nigel and Jenny and others on that [02:11:30] initial consultation committee. We set up a website and we got submissions from the community. But, you know, and you'd be right to say that it was us initiating that, um, there was clearly interest in the lesbian and gay media around the issue of relationship status, um, and less debate than in other countries. Maybe about the model. Uh, in that sense, it was a more centralised process of labour making a decision about the model or the greens going along with it as being a step [02:12:00] forward, The act supporting it again. Um, although they had a bit of a moral right wing by then. So they were a bit split a Rodney Hyde, absolutely supportive of it. So, um, yeah, I think it would be true to say it wasn't a It wasn't a classic, community driven model. I think part of the community were quite surprised that the government were prepared to move in that direction. And I think for Helen Clark, it was a significant piece of legislation around human rights and [02:12:30] recognising a a group of New Zealanders and with the Destiny Church as, uh, enough as an enough march, uh, through Wellington to Parliament. Were you were you at Parliament that day? No, that the committee was meeting somewhere else hearing evidence in Auckland. It was quite useful. You keep well out of that. It's better. So it's hard when you're in government. When you're part of the governing party to work out how to handle sort of demonstrations like that. Like, do you go? Do you turn up to argue just to keep one [02:13:00] out of it and let the community do the arguing? I think that I think that is one place where the community came out to do the arguing. I mean, Georgina was there to help sort of drive it up, but, uh, I think it was right that the community did that. And so when you saw that kind of thing on TV in the news What? What? What did you think? Us? I mean, because we were We were sort of intensely working through a parliamentary process, and that group hadn't hadn't organised themselves to engage with us. It felt [02:13:30] fairly alien to what we were doing. And the messages felt, um I think I think probably I felt well, this is This is a point at which, uh, this debate is probably one for us because the visual images of that, um, march were pretty powerfully hostile in a way that a lot of New Zealanders wouldn't like. And I think that, uh, I think it I I think it would have been possible to design a campaign against the Soviet Union that could have won. But I think once that bit of the campaign, [02:14:00] um began, it was never going to win. So I felt that I felt my secondary feeling was OK. Well, these people have probably helped us, which is the last thing they wanted to do. So and there's I mean, I mean, it's hard. It's very hard to get a positive image about prostitution, law reform. There were a few attempts, uh, which are like kind of veer into humour or veer into to something that's too mysterious for people to understand. There were a few visual images which we did use, which are quite effective, but by its nature it's hard to do. [02:14:30] And there are many more negative images around the sex industry. But when it came to civil union, the the negative image of the march and the positive image of of loving couples is quite different. So I think probably, though being involved in the two campaigns taught me something about the importance of visual imaging to make a difference. You were saying earlier that there were quite a number of people and couples that were were putting themselves out there publicly in terms of, you know, we're [02:15:00] a couple, and we want, you know, kind of equal rights. What were some of the most memorable kind of images for you in in the civil Union campaign? Oh, I think we we did. We had rallies outside Parliament. I think the day that the vote that would be the third reading there was a final reading and we had a big rally outside Parliament. That was, um, that was powerful. I think the the kind of engage the engagement with people from other parties. I think it was, [02:15:30] um, one of the act MP S managed their side of the campaign and then Catherine Rich for the National Party. And I think Sue Sue Bradford again for the Green Party. I mean that that level of cooperation, though, that those images are important. Um, I think John and Des, the kind of the archetypal older gay couple, [02:16:00] um, in their submission to the committee, which was very emotionally powerful and their presence all through it and then their their first, their civil union, which was one of the very, very, very first ones afterwards. I mean, that was that was powerful. I went to I went to about a dozen civil unions in the first year. Uh, and just watching the impact of the ceremony on the heterosexual, uh, family members of the couple was pretty powerful. [02:16:30] I think for some, they understood for the first time about what this thing this relationship was about when they had to see it more in its totality. When you're actually at a ceremony that will feel like a marriage. So that was that was that was powerful. I think those images are probably more powerful than what went before, and some couple was going to the select committee. I mean, there's a lot of arguments with the same and we're hearing again and again. But the media locally, Christchurch, [02:17:00] Auckland, Hamilton Um, the media locally liked to to use stories linked to the committee and we and that was very important in building up a level of public understanding and support. What was the media response like? Oh, a lot more overwhelmingly favourable. Um, less mystery about the legislation. Um, even though it was largely the same bunch of reports It was so near to the end [02:17:30] of the prostitution law reform. It was the same people. Um, they they were looking for human interest stories. There was a more coherent public campaign, really. Two campaigns. It was the Auckland and Wellington campaigns and other Christchurch and other smaller campaigns. Um, and the, uh, the one page newspaper advert which the Auckland campaign organised to show support at the right time. And so the media was seeing a lot of kind of wealth of [02:18:00] external groups saying things we didn't have to worry about. All that media explanation which in prostitution law reform was largely left to me and my staff in my office and whatever we could throw together in terms of briefing notes. So even having a a functional website helped. So it just felt like a more sophisticated campaign, and we were able to get the email wizard working for the the pressure before the final vote. So the MP S were receiving lots of individual [02:18:30] messages from people who had nominated them to receive their messages. And so, uh, it will be a lot different now in terms of, uh of Twitter and some of the the email functions. But it was it felt like an easier campaign, and it was more, um, empowering campaign for people who were involved, they could actually do something. And we channelled lots of people to go and see MP S and to try and pressure them. It's a really interesting point about the technology, because I'm thinking that in the [02:19:00] early two thousands, I mean, the Internet hasn't been around or widely used for that long. I mean, at least some of the first campaigns where you've you know, where things have been like mass emails and mass submissions to the select committee, or was the mass submissions have been around some time? In fact, most of them in those days were posted, although it was allowed by email. I think towards the end of that period, but in terms of the lobby where emailing is, the main lobby [02:19:30] tool was a lot more was a lot easier between the two pieces of legislation and the prostitutes collective have spent many years trying to get their website together. I think they finally have now, but they were never very sharp in that stuff, whereas the the young young, queer people involved in civil union. It was just second nature to get that stuff off the ground. So a lot of people, actually, I mean now got involved in, uh, campaign activity through the civil union legislation. [02:20:00] It was a very empowering campaign and had many edges I never even saw because it was happening all over the place. So our central operation with prostitution law reform, it was really a lot of the lobby side was run from my parliamentary office and there was no separate organisation at all. It was me and the prostitutes collective and a few of the other key MP S. And that was that with a few very generally fairly distant support organisations. But when it came to civil Union, my office didn't need to do all that. We dealt with some of the media around [02:20:30] it, but we were able to do research. So we had a whole research project based in our our office around, um uh, analysing the submissions. So, uh, and then able to use some of that analysis when we went back for the second reading and the committee stage in the third reading so that it was a lot more focused as a parliamentary organising activity and also the, uh where is the opponents and prostitution law? If we managed to [02:21:00] run an anti campaign that peaked at just about the right time and they nearly won, Um, when it came to Civil Union, they didn't really manage to get the the the negative stuff going there only, I mean, the only line they had, which really worked, um, for some people was that we were trying to ape marriage and that we we were being dishonest. And what we should really be doing was saying, We believe in marriage and that's what's going to happen. And there were more [02:21:30] than one quote for me saying, We're not about marriage. We're about We're about creating a legal status and protection and so on, which which could have become a hostage to fortune with the marriage, equality debate. And none of us expected a marriage equality debate within within seven years. It was, I mean, that there's a a lot of reasons for that, but it was It was interesting when you're in the thick of something like civil unions, uh, that that campaign, how many hours [02:22:00] a week would you be spending on on on that? Oh, when when Parliament's not on, you'd be writing stuff. You might go occasionally to a meeting, but when Parliament's there and you're particularly when you're dealing with the legislation when it's up for a discussion, it would dominate your week that you were there and your colleagues would would see the issue as being about you, and so they would create the space for you to do what you needed to do. So it would be, Oh, it would be, [02:22:30] I don't know, 15, 16 hour days during the most intense period of of the law reform? Absolutely. Um, and it would be a combination of media conversations with MP S. Making sure written material is getting out a lot of contact from lobbyists just trying to find out good advice on what to do. We had, um, we've had to produce lists for the lobby of which MP thought which way, and then the lobby would go and talk to them and [02:23:00] feed stuff back. And we would certainly build up a picture of where MP S were at and see which MP S were, um, changing their mind or seem vulnerable to that. Um, it was never civil Union. Never seemed that tight. I mean, the final majority, I think it was only 10, But after having managed prostitution law reform, it felt it never felt as though we were going to lose. It felt as though it was going to be reasonably tight. It was still I mean, the whole process of getting it through was still pretty pretty amazing. [02:23:30] And, of course, it was a government bill, so it meant that I was a bit more protected. I didn't have to front up to everything. So there was a government minister involved. Um, it was Leanne. He ended up being David Benson Pope, Associate Justice Minister. He wouldn't have been the first MP who would have thought of to front civil union. Um, but actually did a Really, I thought a very kind of honourable job because it was a It was his task. I mean, he was a minister, and probably if he'd [02:24:00] had had his choice, he would have liked it to be a few years down the track. But he he it was already well underway when he took over, and he he never he never made a mistake. In my view, he fronted it as a as a in a very straight matter of fact way, which he needed. Michael Cullen was very passionate about the the Soviet Union legislation because he as a history lecturer, he'd actually taught about his about marriage, the history of marriage so he could he could attack some of the [02:24:30] the arguments that said that that this was not nothing like this had ever happened before. Which, of course, is the cycles of history that this has happened previously in different forms. Um, and that his support was great because it was quite unexpected. Uh, which was good. Active support was unexpected. Um, but it was, Yeah, the internal. And it wasn't the same internal angst about the issue. It was just that concern. I mentioned earlier that this coming on top of the prostitution law reform made [02:25:00] things slightly tricky and difficult for for the political party that was promoting them. But as it was, we we won a third term, which is not not certain in New Zealand by any means. And we got it having done some pretty, uh, pretty powerful things. Can you talk about the toll that being so intimately involved in these types of legislation has on you or if it has a toddler. [02:25:30] Ah, you get stereotyped. And I mean, if if people are generous, they stereotype you, somebody who's fighting for important things and it's not really a stereotype, but they get recognised as somebody who's who's out to support minorities and, et cetera, et cetera, and doing stuff which is innately important. So some of the feedback I got was it was very warm and quite personal from people, and I think quite heartfelt and from people who would normally [02:26:00] feel fairly alienated in politics over seeing things happen, which I thought were pretty wonderful, Uh, because they were so out there for New Zealand and it followed a pattern of New Zealand doing a doing out there things in terms of social legislation. So I think that I think that would apply to a lot of people in the Labour Party and quite a lot of people in the greens and on the left of politics and people who've got no great interest. We just liked that stuff being being worked on. That was one that would be one issue and then I think Secondly, [02:26:30] and that was gratifying. Then there was a group who regarded us all as a bit of a kind of a bit awkward and that that we were somehow putting the party at some political risk. And so that was That was kind of worrying because because some of those people people are sort of quite liked and people who did believe in the issue that just always said There's a better time to do this And the time is not now, because I mean, the reality of the political cycle is, if it hadn't [02:27:00] happened, then it would have been 10 or 15 years ahead, and we have been in the same mess that Australia is in on on some of these issues. And then there were the people who were, uh, different stages of being vehemently opposed. It rarely got personal. Uh, and my staff probably protected me from a lot more than I ever knew in terms of stuff that was said on the phone or written to me or whatever. I didn't There's a lot of stuff I wouldn't necessarily have seen, which was just personally abusive. Um, got [02:27:30] a few threats during the Soviet Union. Legislation that were were taken a little seriously because they seemed to be more than just casual sort of references to stuff, but nothing that got me really scared. I think New Zealanders debate these things on a pretty sort of intellectual and fair and balanced level. I made sure that I was never denigrating of the opponents, but respected their right to say what they were saying and that wanted to make [02:28:00] sure that they had their voice at select committee and and and so forth. And they, if they ever did make a point that was, was, was persuasive, that that would be identified. And there were a few, Um, I'm trying to think of examples. There were a few points made by opponents that were, um, were were relevant, I think. I mean, there's an awful lot that was discriminatory nonsense. But there was There were some bits that were relevant in which, um [02:28:30] which we needed to make sure we thought about carefully and if that oddly enough because we went, we went for legislation that created a difference from marriage. Um, a lot of the opponents found it hard to voice their concerns because because they were they were. They were pleased there was a difference. And they wanted to make the difference as wide as possible and obviously wanted to reduce the rights. Whereas it was possible, conceptually, to do something that was a parallel structure [02:29:00] that was quite a complicated debate. So in terms of personal impact through all that, I mean, I guess I mean the upside to me is that I mean, it's helped to create a bit of a sense of a legacy in in, uh, terms of legislation and a legacy that can be built on, as has happened with marriage. Equality. That's that's the upside, Um, and do some weaving of the common ground between political parties, which I think is quite, uh, a good thing to do in our political system. [02:29:30] Um, I think the negative is potentially. If if I've been very concerned about a kind of career path in politics, it wasn't necessarily the best best stuff to go out with. I mean, it was combined with the work chairing the Select committee and up until the last three years, and then the job of being the senior whip. So I had a I had a whole different narrative about my role in Parliament. So in that sense, these were We're kind of sidelines to my mainstream career and representing the [02:30:00] electorate. But they are also the bits that people knew and know the bits people remember. So they're important. Um, and But I look, look back on them and I. I think we did things that have helped to improve people's lives individually and as a class or classes of people who are marginalised by sexuality or sexual activity, um, who are now near the heart of our society. Then that's got to be a good thing. So I think that's that's the one [02:30:30] thing that would remain with me as it happened, not not in the civil Union, but in terms of prostitution law reform. I mean, that led to some international work, and I think may may in the future because there is some interest or quite a lot of interest globally in getting appropriate law around sex work. And the opponents of DECRIMINALISATION have become more more powerful since our law reform and, uh, it's it's quite a deep and [02:31:00] bitter and complex um, battle of ideas globally on that on that issue where New Zealand plays a uniquely important part. I mean, we are the country cited in in papers and documents and presentations around the world as having the kind of law reform the only kind of law reform that will actually sustainably protect protect people, I'd argue, protect wider society as well. So that's important. And that's an ongoing debate, and it will be ongoing for some time. [02:31:30] I suspect you mentioned briefly about the political cycle in terms of things coming around in like 10, 15 years cycle. Can you just describe to me what what that means? Um oh, it means, I mean, I think there's a time. I mean, if he believes that generally these issues are going to be more progressed under a, um, a labour government or a labour green government or progressive government. Uh, and you tend to do things in your first two terms rather than your last term. [02:32:00] And then there is broadly a cycle of two or three terms of government by led by the left and the right, which is actually survived into M MP in different composition. But broadly um so really, if you then look at the the reality of the arithmetic. If if you think of the Labour government between, say, 4004 as being in reforming zeal and then think forward to when there might next be a Labour government [02:32:30] in that period with a normal cycle is going to be another 9 to 12 years ahead. So there's moments in history when you're doing things and marriage. Equality came from a different place because oddly, um, the great faith of the National Party completely changed their mind on the issue. Uh, for whatever reason, So that was a slight anomaly. But generally, a lot of the issues I mentioned are not going to progress much on anything but a progressive government. And it needs preparation. And it needs a government to have a commitment [02:33:00] to go in with. And it needs the right lobby groups and a whole lot of stuff lining up together, including the right MP to to champion the issues. So when you're building policies and your manifesto, you're thinking in that kind of 9 to 12 year cycle. Oh, and the I mean, you wouldn't necessarily get these being debated much in the manifesto stage. I mean, both of these pieces of legislation were justified in a sense, for labour by being [02:33:30] in our manifesto, but also part of our value base. Um, but the big debates and manifestos would be about the big spending items. Uh, rather than being about about issues like this. Um, but certainly you're if you're planning a debate on these issues, I think increasingly, Um, particularly when it comes an issue like euthanasia or drug law reform that we will be looking to external bodies [02:34:00] which are not numerous in our society, external bodies to provide informed input on the issues and the law commission, Human Rights Commission, um, potentially research institutes or independent sort of people's initiated discussions. But something externally to really get people sort of going and interest in the issue. And there's a lot nowadays. You get things like the vote programme on TV, where these these sort of issues are teased [02:34:30] out. So I think there's a lot more interest in in how you actually achieve change. But I think it is still that magic confluence of a series of things, including the government in power, including the individual, including getting the right policy response. And I think in, I think, uh in drug law reform. Getting the right policy response is is hellishly difficult and, uh, being able to tell lies about the effect? The [02:35:00] likely effect of any particular law is, um is considerable, I think I think it makes that quite a fraught area. Euthanasia to an extent, the same, Um, because there are different models of of the process. But I think I think it's possible to come up with a whole series of checks and balances there which have been pretty well tested elsewhere, Um, abortion, law reform or potentially law around gambling and so on. I mean, that's largely, [02:35:30] um, sort of cyclical and abortion law. Often people don't want to go near in Parliament, and and there's a real aversion to dealing with that well, not because I think it's going to be a reversal of the law, but just because it's the opponents of any liberalisation of the law are particularly virulent, and the Catholic Church has got pretty strong feelings on that issue, but they're in. They're interesting ones, but you really have to go and grab the moment on some of them not always possible to plan as well as one might want to. [02:36:00] The civil Union bill passed, I think, on the ninth of December 19, 2004, and it was by 65 to 55. And that's actually quite a large margin. Can you compare that to things like, say, the prostitution reform, but also earlier to the homosexual law reform, where there were very tight margins? Yeah, homosexual law reform. I was six or seven. It was It wasn't tight to the prosecution. Um [02:36:30] oh, I think it's I mean, I think it's reflective of the fact that we have a pretty mature and stable democracy in which there are two big political groupings which, as I said, have almost survived M MP. And now we are the core of a wider grouping. But we're still there as the left and the right, or the progressive and the conservative. Uh, and there isn't a massive gap generally in Parliament between them, I mean the gap. Now I mean the people we look at the last election result. It was Labour's worst for [02:37:00] very many years. But when you look at the groupings in Parliament. It's it's sort of 61 to 59 and lots of votes. So still not, I mean, because New Zealand first and the greens and Labour tend to vote on block and lots of things. So, um that that that that hasn't changed a lot. So the reason why why conscience votes are going to be um similar is that it's very hard to find issues that cut across a swathe of MP S independent entirely [02:37:30] of their ideology. Maybe an initial like euthanasia might do that. Maybe that that your ideology could be almost independent of what you think on the issue. I don't see many people arguing euthanasia in terms of of political principle, around freedoms or state control or whatever. It's much more about their personal beliefs, their personal fears, their life experiences and so forth, so that that might be [02:38:00] a different, different issue. And certainly the voting so far and that indicates there's quite a kind of complicated dynamic going on. But generally, um, there's a history in New Zealand of of two big blocks in parliament, fairly tight votes when it comes to these issues, and then once they're through and the sky doesn't fall in. We we move on. So I think it's I think it's the same pattern we're seeing again and again. And euthanasia is the one that has failed. I mean, it's had one, if not two first reading votes where the [02:38:30] the draught legislation hasn't got through. That's clearly the one which, uh, needs, I think, quite a lot of work on it, because I think when I as a progressive person, I believe that there should be legislation in that area, and drug law reform hasn't even really got as far as a vote. And arguably it would happen in lots of different ways. It wouldn't be one big debate on the issue. It would happen happen incrementally, And it would happen through policing, practise and a whole lot of other things, so that one again can be achieved in other ways. [02:39:00] Just kind of wrapping up now. And I'm just wondering if you can reflect on, uh, the Marriage equality bill that has gone through, uh, this year and also the Civil Union bill in 2004, and just I'm just wondering to get your thoughts on, you know, whether in some ways you, um, wish it had been married in 2004, but also if, um, the civil unions hadn't gone through whether we would have [02:39:30] succeeded with marriage in 2013, I think if we had of civil unions would have succeeded in something short of marriage, which I I guess, in Australia the states can do some things, so that would probably avoid them passing legislation that was federally that would be something short of marriage. But I i out of fear that we'll end up we would have ended at this time of something less. Um, I do think we deflected a lot of the opposition there, and I think we built a a wider public [02:40:00] support for the concept than was existing prior to that legislation. So I think that's a significant achievement politically. Um, as I said, I think I think because I'd, uh, helped to champion Civil Union, that I didn't really want to be publicly involved in the marriage debates. I think it, um I think it would have been a confusing message for people. Uh, and and it was a genuine political surprise to me [02:40:30] that the debate was happening so soon, um, particularly championed by some of the people who are championing it from the other side politically. And so it was. It felt to me like their debate rather than my debate in a sense, and having had a civil union II I felt pretty sort of happy with that status. But also knowing that the legislation would allow that to be translated through to, uh, marriage when if and when we wanted to do that. So, um, I think [02:41:00] it was a gentle debate. Marriage, equality. I mean, some of the same opponents were there, but the public mood was never really in doubt. And the parliamentary mood was never really in doubt. And it was handled very well by Lewis and by Kevin Hague and and some of the other champions of it. So it was. It felt to me, like something which was a lot more mature than what we'd had to go through, Um, but was was innately helped by that earlier process. I'm not sure all [02:41:30] the people involved in sort of promoting marriage equality saw it quite like that. But that was my view. And I thought that was my view was unimportant. I decided early at an early stage my party had a pretty clear view, and my job was to be the general secretary of the party and not to not to to to to engage in these arguments too much. They didn't need to, I think went to a couple of meetings of some of the campaigns for marriage equality. Um, just to talk a bit about the civil union experience and what people [02:42:00] are likely to be up against and particularly to talk about the process and one of my other projects as an MP was to help to demystify the parliamentary process by training groups in how to lobby. And so we use some of that material in writing a submission and presenting a submission when groups were planning their their input on marriage, equality and there were a heap of massively talented people involved in that campaign. That was another revelation. I guess if you look at prostitution law reform, very [02:42:30] little public campaign in favour and then look at civil union, there was a public campaign. It was fairly tight, but it was certainly there and then when it came to marriage, equality. It was bubbling up all over the place and people were happy to do big marches through the streets. And, uh, there were more public allies from non queer organisations. The media didn't really voice any. I mean, didn't give much publicity to the opposition. I mean, insofar as it made kind of entertaining reading, they did, but their [02:43:00] view is pretty clear. So there was a clear there was a kind of maturing of the way that if you see all three pieces of legislation as being in a sense about similar issues and there is a bit of an overlap, and I think it was a very good third stage in the whole thing, it's a pity that the adoption issue is not sort of clarified because that still remains as a tiny bit of an anomaly. And I the issue of the role of the clergy [02:43:30] and the role of churches is quite an interesting one, because I don't I don't, uh I'm not that convinced that our Human Rights Act is clear on whether or not churches really have an exemption. There were a whole area is very complex in terms of law and needs to be sorted without threatening the churches at all. I just think it's It's a bit anomalous that public public bodies can behave in certain ways and hold certain views in our society. [02:44:00] That's a private thought. It's not a Labour Party thought, so they probably I mean, this is, I guess one thing is a reflection. It probably it's more about the the prostitution reform, because that's a more unique New Zealand journey than, um, I think the combination of civil union and marriage equality has got is unusual globally in in the way it happened. Um, because civil union was pretty advanced. And then we've shifted one stage further to marriage equality. Um, [02:44:30] but I think there's there are there are lessons about the lobby process and about, uh, explaining difficult issues and so on, which, particularly from the prostitution law reform, we, um, is yet to really be written up. I mean, it's, uh, it's a complex thing to do, but I think there's a resource there that other countries can learn from in terms of why the law was changed, the effect it had on the ground, the arguments that were used and so forth [02:45:00] and and I when I was working in South Africa on some of these issues, I was was using quite a lot of that material from my own head. But there's a real need to for New Zealand to be less, um, cautious about promoting what we've done, which we're proud of because we're not having done these things. We don't, uh, we as a country, we don't fly the flag for them overseas. It's just the way that things happen here. Whereas other countries, when they when they deliver such law reforms, [02:45:30] they are often a lot more upfront about, uh, talking about the issues. So Sweden came up with a very different law around prostitution, which was to criminalise a client. But decriminalise the sex worker, uh, which has many internal tensions, as you can imagine. Um, but they their government very strongly promotes that law reform in a whole lot of international forums. Whereas I'd be surprised beyond the minimum if New Zealand [02:46:00] had ever spoken much about its law on sex work unless it really had to globally. So I think we're a bit I think we're a bit coy about that. I think we're also a bit coy about the fact that we have a significant influence on countries very close to us, like Cook Islands do two new way where gay is still illegal and sex workers are still criminal. But we don't really Yeah, we don't really work that through in the way that we should. So I think there's a bit. I think we are a [02:46:30] bit internalised about these things that we are a reflection more than anything else. I think there's something to be proud about and in our journey on them, and we don't need to be afraid about talking about that and seeking to persuade others who we have influence over that, maybe they should be doing the same things.

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AI Text:September 2023
URL:https://www.pridenz.com/ait_rainbow_politicians_tim_barnett.html