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Rainbow Wellington's party questionnaire

Mon 3 Oct 2011 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

Rainbow Wellington has collated the responses it's had from the majority of major parties to a number of crucial questions heading into the election. You can find out where the parties stand on the major glbt issues here. The questions were put to the parties ahead of Rainbow Wellington's candidate forum on 12 October. New Zealand First declined to respond as it does not answer such surveys as a general rule, while there has been no response from the Mana Party. The policies of the parties which have responded on the matters Rainbow Wellington raised with them are: 1. What is your policy on or view of the need to make progress on the extension of rights of adoption by same sex couples on the same basis as mixed sex couples? ACT ACT supports ending the discrimination same sex couples face when trying to adopt a child. The Adoption Act 1955 is out-dated and the criteria for adoption should focus on how fit a person or people are to be parents, not their sexual orientation. Greens The Green Party’s policy on this is that parenting skills are distinct from sexual orientation or gender identity. We support equal criteria for both ‘rainbow’ and heterosexual couples in their assessment for suitability and eligibility for parenting. Spokesperson Kevin Hague has formed and convenes a cross party group to reform adoption law. Essentially the 1955 Act is archaic legislation that is flawed at its very heart, in that it does not place the interest of the child at the heart of decision making. The Act require either comprehensive overhaul or complete replacement. It seems certain that while a small change to the law would provide the change required on the specific issue of same sex couples, the chances of achieving this change with the current parliament are remote, and will be enhanced in any parliament by being advanced as part of a larger reform. Steady and careful progress in the cross party group provides the best opportunity to secure the reform when that becomes pssible in parliament. Labour Labour believes that the current adoption laws are antiquated and discriminatory, which need to be modernised and updated. The current Act fails to take into account the number of legislative changes introduced over the past decade areas such as assisted reproduction technology, surrogacy and the legal status of de facto relationships and civil unions. A Labour-led government will enact legislation that will require the Law Commission to review and update adoption law to better reflect modern New Zealand. Labour has already drafted and tabled a Bill to give effect to this. Māori Party The Māori Party is a strong believer that in issues of adoption, it should be whānau who should be first port of call in adopting mokopuna or children. In actual fact we see ‘adoption’ as a ‘legal fiction’ – in the presumption that biological parents can be replaced. It is our view that the connection that we have through our whakapapa to our genealogical history should be protected. Whāngai arrangements which operate within the broader context of whakapapa are a way of maintaining those genealogical links while still supporting children. Whānau is where children find the strength and support to become productive, caring members of society that we need them to be. If there is a need for children to be cared for we believe strongly that whānau, regardless of sexual orientation, must be encouraged to care for these children within the family. National In the current internationally volatile financial environment National is focused on providing stable government with a strong plan to create jobs and certainty for households, reducing debt and returning to surplus by 2014. We are aware of issue with the Adoption Act. It’s an old piece of legislation and has been identified as an area for potential review. We are currently running a very full justice agenda focused on making New Zealand safer, putting more police on our streets, and reducing crime. In the context of the current economic environment reform of adoption laws is not a priority for the Government. United Future It is time to revisit all aspects of the Adoption Act. 2. Does your party have a policy or view concerning the need to provide for same sex marriage? ACT When the Civil Union Bill came before parliament in 2004 it was put to a conscience vote, meaning all M P s were allowed to vote according to their personal opinion. Five of the then nine ACT MPs voted for the Bill. I was then leader of the National Party and voted for the first reading of the Bill. But I opposed subsequent stages of the Bill, on the grounds that the Bill was proposing to make such far reaching changes to our civil institutions that the matter should instead be put to a referendum. I said that I would vote in favour of allowing civil unions in such a referendum. In other words, I managed to confuse everybody. To be clear now, I should have voted in favour of the Bill in all its stages. I admit I don’t understand why, having legalised civil unions between two people, irrespective of their gender, there is still pressure to provide for same sex ‘marriage’. In the English language I have always understood ‘marriage’ to be between a man and a woman. Greens “Rainbow” and heterosexual partnerships are equally entitled to respect and support. We support the extension of all legal partnership arrangements and rights to same sex couples. The Green Party strongly supports full equality and believes that this will eventually be achieved either through the amendment of the Marriage Act to include us, or through the repeal of the Marriage Act (which would leave civil unions as the method by which the state formally recognises relationships, and marriage as a purely religious institution). All Green M Ps would support a Bill to achieve this. Labour Our initial focus has been to ensure that existing rights under marriage should also extend to civil unions, and we will complete that work. But Labour believes in formal equality before the law for people in any relationship status, including marriage. Māori Party The Civil Union Act to establish the institution of civil union for same sex and opposite sex couples was passed by Parliament on 9 December 2004. The Act has been described as similar to the Marriage Act with reference to marriage replaced by civil union. National In the context of the current economic environment and our strong focus on providing stability, reducing debt, and returning to surplus by 2014 the government currently has no plans to amend the Marriage Act. United Future United Future proposes no changes to the Civil Union Act but acknowledges to need to clarify the discrimination issues referenced [this refers to the problem of the legal status of same sex marriages in other jurisdictions if the couple comes to New Zealand to which we alluded in our questions]. 3. What is your position on the need to complete and speed up the implementation of the 2008 Human Rights Commission Report To Be Who I Am? ACT ACT strongly believes that everyone should be treated equally by the government and by the law regardless of their gender and their sexual orientation. As such we would look carefully at any proposed changes to laws such as the Human Rights Act to ensure everyone is protected but would only support change if we thought it was necessary. Greens Rainbow communities are entitled to equal opportunities in law and in practice. We support making the government comply fully with the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds that were established by the Human Rights Act 1993 and its amendments. We support programs that eliminate prejudice, discrimination and harassment. Regarding surgical procedure, we would need to see the results of the trial before committing to support the recommended outcomes. We do support the inclusion of transgender and related statuses as specific grounds for non-discrimination under the Human Rights Act, and would support both ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ being specified as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Labour Labour will advance the development of legislation to address outstanding issues in transgender rights. It will also give clear direction and support to government agencies in support of rights to services and advocacy. Māori Party The Māori Party opposes any form of discrimination and prejudice. As part of government we have negotiated the support of the government for the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a key part of which is about removing prejudice and discrimination against indigenous people. We will support measures and initiatives that remove discrimination based on sexual orientation. National Government agencies are making good progress in implementing the To Be Who I Am report. A wide range of work is under way in a number of agencies including the Department of Internal Affairs, Department of Labour, Ministry of Education and New Zealand Police. United Future United Future supports the recommendations within the Human Rights Commission Report 4. Will you make a specific commitment to a priority allocation of resources to grapple comprehensively and realistically with the problem of homophobic bullying in schools if you are a part of a government following the election? ACT Bullying for any reason at schools is unacceptable and dealing with it should be a priority for any government. When it comes to resourcing, ACT believes that the individual school is best placed to allocate its own resources because each school has bullying problems of different degree; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to a problem. Greens Green spokesperson Kevin Hague is on record as expressing a desire “to rekindle the flame for collective action in our communities, not for specific law reform, but to make a safe and supportive environment for young people both before and after coming out. As an adult gay man my life is actually pretty great nowadays, but for young people many of the same forces that made me scared, confused and desperate as a teenager are still there.” To this end the Green Party has commissioned an intern from the University of Waikato to work with our communities and others, and review overseas experience, to develop a program of measures to create a safer and more supportive environment for young LGTB people. This draft program will be released before the election, and the Greens will then work to secure commitment from our communities to act together to campaign for its implementation. The Green Party is committed to giving priority to allocation of resources to this area. Labour Our schools can still be unsafe places for members of rainbow communities. Too often, this lack of safety can lead to low self-esteem, self-harm and even attempted or actual suicide. Labour will support schools to ensure that they protect the safety of all students and staff, expressly including members of rainbow communities, and monitor schools' success in achieving safe environments. Māori Party As Associate Minister of Social Development I have been working towards reducing bullying as part of the broader context of violence within our communities. I am a strong believer in the notion of Mauriora – that in order to achieve change in family violence we must first dispel any notion that violence is normal and acceptable. I believe that bullying is but one part of the spectrum of violence which we must challenge. National Any form of bullying in schools is completely unacceptable. The evidence is clear that bullying in schools can cause mental health problems for victimised kids. I am personally very concerned about the mental health of our youth and I have asked my department, the Department of prime Minister and Cabinet, to lead a cross-government project on youth mental health. One of the things I have included in that work is a focus of the impact of conduct disorders, including bullying, on youth. That is also why the government is investing $60 million in the Positive behaviour for learning Action Plan, developed the Ministry of Education and eight education sector groups including NZEI. During the next three years more than 7,000 teachers will receive additional training in effective classroom management. Staff from 400 schools will receive training in how to promote positive behaviour and lift student engagement as part of the school wide program. Feedback the Minister has received from schools and teachers involved with this initiative has been extremely heartening. This is a long run project and we must continue to support and monitor it and evaluate the results. Other support for schools includes a new rapid response service following the most extreme behaviour incidents, and an Intensive Behaviour Service to target the most complex and challenging students. Families also have a very important role to play. More than 15,000 parents in at risk families will be supported to build more positive relationships with their children. United Future United Future strongly supports comprehensive anti-bullying programs 5. Is your party committed to abandoning the legislation (present initiatives) to end the compulsory student levy for membership of student associations? [Note: This Bill became law at the end of September] ACT ACT M P Heather Roy is the sponsor of the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill and the ACT Party strongly supports this legislation. Freedom of association is protected by S.17 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act so it is appalling that students are forced to join a students’ association.. Students’ associations are not just welfare organisations; they frequently make political statements and lobby on behalf of their members just like workers’ unions. No New Zealanders should be forced to join and pay money to a political organisation. Some students’ associations do provide popular services, including support for gay and lesbian students, and if those are high quality services students will be lining up to voluntarily join. I would point you to Rainbow Wellington as an excellent example of an effective but voluntary gay lobby group. All your great work would be undermined if people were forced to join. Greens The Green Party has been strongly opposed to the VSM Bill, in part because of the marginalisation of minority groups which would likely result. Labour Labour is opposed to the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill because it removes the right of student to choose via referendum whether association membership should by compulsory. Voluntary student membership will severely curtail student services like media, welfare, clubs and orientation as well as destroy the student advocacy. Labour has put forward several options for a compromise on this bill which would have led to an enduring and fair solution but National and Act are driven by ideology and have refused to cooperate. If this Bill passes, when Labour is returned to government it is our intention to move to repeal this legislation. Māori Party The Māori Party worked closely with NZUSA to reduce the impact of the Voluntary Student Membership Bill, including proposing a Supplementary Order Paper to the bill which would have delayed the enforcement of the bill to give student unions the chance to better transition into the new situation. We voted against this bill and would be open to reversing it. National The Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill seeks to ensure that no student is compelled or unduly pressured to join students’ associations. It aims to uphold the right of students to freedom of association. This Bill is about choice. The National Party believes in freedom of association and encouraging personal choices. In no other sector of New Zealand is union membership compulsory, we are hoping to remove this anomaly. Student associations will still be able to support students, tender for commercial contracts from institutions, and advocate on behalf of their members. Their rights will be unchanged. This Bill will not destroy unions. They will still be able to offer all the services they currently do, including advocacy/ lobbying; they just have to attract members on merit, not legal force. United Future United Future supports voluntary student union membership 6. Will you vote to repeal the provision of 90 day no appeal workplace legislation if you become a part of the government after the election? Act Act strongly supports the 90 day probationary period for new employees. It gives people who would otherwise be on the unemployed scrap heap (such as some school leavers or those with convictions) a chance to prove themselves in the workplace. The vast majority of employers act in god faith and treat their employees fairly. Importantly, the ninety day trial period has to be agreed by both employer and employee; it is not mandatory and has to be negotiated in good faith. Also, employees who feel they have been discriminated against due to their sexual orientation during the 90 day period can still bring a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act 2000. Greens The Greens are completely against the 90 day workplace legislation, would vote to repeal it, and won’t allow any of their parliamentary or party staff to be placed under such a contract. Labour Labour believes that the Employment Law changes that took effect earlier this year whereby every wage and salary earner who starts a new job are now subjected to a 90 day no-rights trial period, are unfair, unnecessary and will do nothing help the nations’ stalling economy and bleak outlook for jobs. They allow employers to fire staff without having to give any reasons for dismissal and the worker has no means of challenging the decision. Labour believes that this law erodes the protection of all New Zealander workers and will disproportionately impact on those already disadvantaged in the labour market – the un-unionised, low paid, women, Māori, Pacific, younger and older workers. A Labour-led Government will move to repeal this legislation as soon as possible. Māori Party We voted against this legislation because it penalised those who need the most support – the unskilled and the unqualified. We will continue to support any measure that will help protect the most vulnerable members in society. National The Government is committed to creating more jobs and lifting the long term performance of our economy. We want to see New Zealanders in work. We want them to be successful and we back them to make the right decisions for their families. Our introduction and extension of 90 day trials is pragmatic, credible and effective. It’s one more on the road to growing the economy, helping New Zealanders find work, and encouraging employers to hire new staff. Trial periods have brought opportunities to many New Zealanders and we want to see more people benefit from this great policy. New Zealanders deserve every opportunity they can get and we want families to succeed. That’s why we extended trial periods to all businesses on April 1. We expect to see increased hiring as larger businesses provide more opportunities for job seekers through the 90 day trial period. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report last year found that 13,000 New Zealanders got jobs in small businesses they otherwise wouldn’t have. United Future United Future supports the status quo 7. Will your party return to the status quo ante of the right of prison inmates to vote in accordance with our international commitments if in government following the election? ACT Voting is an important right but it also comes with responsibility. ACT supported the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced prisoners) Amendment Bill because we feel those who have committed crimes serious enough to warrant a prison sentence have broken the social contract, and should forfeit the right to vote for the duration of their incarceration. Prisoners sentenced to a term longer than three years have not had the right to vote for some time and this legislation simply extended that to all prisoners. The right to vote is returned upon release of course, and ACT believes that that should always be the case. Greens The Green Party opposed this when the Bill passed. We believe prisoners should have the right to vote and would vote to return to the status quo ante if the opportunity arises. The Bill constitutes an unjustified violation of the right to vote in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (noted by the Attorney General in his report on the Bill), is contrary to Article 25 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which New Zealand has ratified, and is out of line with international law on this subject. Labour Labour opposed the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill when it went through Parliament last year. Given the bill amended electoral law, it would have been far more appropriate for it to have been referred to the Electoral Legislation Committee, or at least the Justice and Electoral Committee in the first place. Furthermore, the Department of Corrections was assigned as the advising agency for the bill, even though the Department of Corrections does not have any experience with electoral law. Labour and Green members on the Law and Order committee asked that the Ministry of Justice also be invited to provide advice on this bill, given that the Ministry of Justice is the agency that deals with electoral law. However that request was blocked by the National and ACT majority on the Committee. A Labour-led Government will repeal this legislation. Māori Party We opposed this bill and support the reversal of this law National The government has no plans to reverse the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act United Future United Future has no policy in this area 8. Does your party intend to proceed with the change to the right to silence in alleged criminal matters under proposed legislation if in government after the election? ACT ACT strongly believes that the state must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt in all criminal cases. The ACT Party is committed to the retention of the right to silence. Greens The Green Party was the only party to oppose the Criminal Procedures (Reform and Modernisation) Bill at First Reading. In fact, the Bill substantially reverses a number of the fundamental bases of our criminal justice tradition. We are strongly opposed to these changes and will work to reverse them if they become law. Labour The Labour Party wrote a strongly argued minority report (  

Credit: Rainbow Wellington

First published: Monday, 3rd October 2011 - 2:42pm

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