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Comment: Pro-Family versus

Thu 11 Jan 2007 In: Comment

Recently, the Christian Right "Family First Lobby" released its list of top five so-called 'pro-family' policies. However, they fall short of benefiting all New Zealand families. Predictably, top of the list is the Christian Right's current bete noire, Sue Bradford's Section 59 Repeal Bill. Frankly, I can't see how eliminating parental corporal punishment of kids is going to seriously impact on family wellbeing. Granted, there should be more money spent on parenting education andsupport programmes,and government departments and community welfare groups that assist children at risk of family violence from violent, abusive and dysfunctional parents. However, this is a necessary reform. For far too long, unfit violent abusers have been allowed to get away with child battery under the nebulous "reasonable force" exemption of the Crimes Act. The Bradford Bill will halt this. Secondly, the next item is shamelessly elitist, urgingadditional rights and privileges for those wealthy middle class families who can afford to exist on only one parental income. Fine, but I didn't grow up in that sort of family, and neither did most people I know from working class backgrounds, where two parental incomes are necessary to insure an adequate standard of living. To be frank, I resent this attack on families from my own class background, and I applaud government initiatives like the WorkingFor Families programme. Incidentally, why dump on solo mums who consciously chose not to have an abortion, forthat matter? As far as I'm concerned, it's long past time that the Domestic Purposes Benefit was increased for women and men in that situation. To say nothing of LGBT families, and our needs. As a community, we need to sit down and discuss income support and maintenance needs for our particular family situations, whether dual or solo parent models. Then there's the plea to institute more restrictive censorship legislation. Sorry, but it isn't media imagery that provokes violent and dysfunctional and abusive behaviour, it is far more likely to be dysfunctional, violent and abusive parenting, so why does Family First oppose repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act? And finally, there are the usual inane references to parents, families and marriage. Excuse me, my own dad's siblings all married in church, and mum and dad are the only ones in that generational cohort still together. My partner, our daughter and I are blissfully happy, but my sister's marriage broke up after only a year, and her ratbag of a deadbeat dad Aussie ex can't be bothered paying his child support on time, nor does he keep arranged visiting appointments with his three year old kid. Fortunately, my nephew does have strong male role models who love and cherish him- namely, a doting granddad and uncle. Marriage is a ritual and ceremony, and it doesn't confer some sort of magical protection on couples so bonded- straight, lesbian or gay for that matter. Moreover, I've really had a gutsful of these continual New Right and Christian Right attacks on solo mums and LGBT-led families, most of whom make sacrifices and place a strong emphasis on their parental responsibilities. To say nothing of dual income working class families like the one I grew up in. About the only thing I do agree with Family First about is increased expenditure on alcohol and drug education. However, there we part company. I want far more evidence-based education programmes and funding for intervention programmes against crystal meth/pure methamphetamine and other Class A drugs. I'm afraid that while I think there should be an R18 age restriction if there's any cannabis decriminalisation, I have yet to be convinced that criminalising party pills is the best move, rather than increased regulation and attention to risk reduction, harm minimisation and other proven drug management policies. Of course kids shouldn't be exposed to pot, but neither should they face the ravages of intergenerational alcohol abuse either, and we forget that booze is a far more deadly drug than pot. So why criticise this government? At least it had the guts to actually amend our drug laws to declare crystal meth/P a Class A drug, unlike its predecessor. And what about some even-handed criticism, for a change? Won't National's draconian anti-welfare policies fuel the rise of an underground drug economy in economically deprived areas, leading precisely to the situation where there is an upsurge in meth-fuelled assaults, murders and family disruption? "Pro-family?" Come back when you've actually thought about the welfare of real New Zealand families in all their diversity, instead of a tiny elite subsection of affluent single-income parents and their children, Bob and co. At least this government tries to do its best for all families, not some fantasy model from selectively cited social conservative sociologists and mythology. Not Recommended: Family First Lobby: Craig Young - 11th January 2007    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 11th January 2007 - 12:00pm

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