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ACT leader outlines stance on lgbti issues

Fri 29 Aug 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News

Jamie Whyte speaking at last night's debate ACT Leader Jamie Whyte has reiterated his party’s standpoint that how people identify shouldn’t matter in policy, but also made it clear it believes the government should never discriminate, on any grounds. Whyte was among the party representative at last night’s AUSA Pride Election Debate at Auckland University. “The ACT Party is a party of liberalism. We are liberals, and we believe that the state should be completely neutral about citizens’ ways of life, the choices they make, how they want to live their lives, what they aim for, what their preferences are,” he told those gathered in a Clocktower lecture theatre. “The Government shouldn’t take sides. And that’s why on queer, rainbow issues, we’ve always been straight up about this stuff. We don’t want there to be any discrimination in the law against people’s sexual preferences, their lifestyle choices. We’ve always voted on the right side on those issues.” Whyte pointed to the smallish turnout at the debate and pre-election few meetings being held by the lgbti community as “a sign of something very good that has happened in New Zealand. We have got a very good legal regime concerning these issues. And we also have a society by and large, though there are some notable exceptions, which is increasingly tolerant of diversity. I think if that wasn’t true you’d see a bigger crowd here tonight and you’d see more of these meetings. So we are broadly happy with where things stand, but I understand there is some discrimination around adoption. In Parliament we would vote to eliminate that.” On the question of law changes when it comes to transgender people, Whyte said ACT believes how people identify shouldn't matter to policy - as in they believe the state should stay out of it. However he said “we absolutely believe that the government should never discriminate on any grounds, but should just treat everyone the same.” Whyte says he’d be concerned about legislating against private discrimination and would rather put faith in progress society is making in these areas. “It’s imperfect, it’s far from perfect, we’ve got a long way to go. But we have made a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time and I don’t think that progress was led by the government. I think governments catch up with the population.” When it came to issues beyond marriage equality which need to be sorted Whyte said he found himself in the "incredible position" of agreeing with the Greens’ Kevin Hague, who listed legal equality, the hostile social environment we face, health needs and ageing. The ACT Leader said Hague's words sounded "imminently sensible". Whyte said the government has a role in dealing with bullying in schools, "but indirectly". He gave the example of crime and aggravating factors. “Nobody should be assaulted or murdered. We don’t believe that the identity of the victim or the motivation of the perpetrator should be an aggravating factor. It’s just as bad to be beaten up for being a greedy businessman as it is to be beaten up for being gay. The law should stop people getting beaten up.” Whyte said no matter what the grounds, all kids should be protected from bullying at school. However he added that if there is a systematic ‘turning a blind eye’ to certain types of bullying then schools should be hauled up for it and it should be dealt with. “But I would think that about any source of bullying.” On a final question of the government’s role when it comes to the lgbti community, Whyte said ACT believes the Government shouldn't try to decide what constitutes a good life and try to engineer that for you, but was firm that state services must be non-discriminatory. He also agreed there should be wider access to HPV so it covers gay and bi men, agreeing with Hague that it should be available to all boys so no gay and bi youths are missed, as they may not be out yet or even realise they are attracted to the same-sex. He and Hague did disagree on numerous other areas though, such as charter schools, in which the Greens are concerned about the safety of lgbti youth, especially in those run by fundamentalist groups. Jamie Whyte is a former management consultant, foreign currency trader and philosophy lecturer who took over the ACT leadership in March. He recently described Colin Craig as “deluded and dangerous”. Check out our rundown from last night’s debate here     

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 29th August 2014 - 9:33am

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