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Keying Social Change?

Mon 9 Nov 2015 In: Politics and Religion View at NDHA

At a time when Labour is dampening down some of its 'controversial' social and economic policies, is National "managing" social change better? The Labour Party conference has just been and gone and Labour has abandoned some of its former keynote policies, involving their doomed Capital Gains Tax proposal, the joint Labour/Green New Zealand Power monopoly electricity purchaser and sidelining concerns such as government funding of gender reassignment surgery. Meanwhile, though, the Key administration seems to have quietly seized the initiative, at least on some issues. Granted, marriage equality wasn't wholly one of them- Key decided that bipartisan social liberalism was the better part of valour and gave his approval to Labour MP Louisa Walls' Marriage Amendment Act, enabling it to pass through its three parliamentary readings and select committee stages with expeditious speed and a wide victory margin. National's social liberal MPs dutifully followed their leader. Something similar appears to be happening with euthanasia reformism, although social conservative opponents of that measure are better organised than Bob McCoskrie's stagey pantomime of opposition to marriage equality. However, there is a difference as well- it is ACT MP David Seymour who is promoting the current End of Life Choices Bill, not a Labour MP this time, after current Labour leader Andrew Little put his foot down and ordered Palmerston North Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway to relinquish it. The End of Life Choices Bill seems to be undergoing a similar streamlined debate process- it began with the late Lecretia Seales' High Court case, continued with a nine-thousand signature Voluntary Euthanasia Society petition, and is now the subject of David Seymour's private members bill, which has the Prime Minister's approval. However, the Care Alliance, Maxim Institute and Euthanasia-Free New Zealand have also organised their opposition well in advance of any debate over the private members bill if it is pulled from the ballot box, which makes its ultimate fate anyone's guess. Much will depend on whether the New Zealand Medical Association and other professional opponents of the bill maintain their united front of opposition. If it does, the bill will probably be ultimately defeated- if not at its first reading, then perhaps at its select committee stage. David Seymour worked for a Canadian centre-right lobby group before entering the New Zealand Parliament and may second-guess his opponents tactics given that professional background, though. As for other forms of social change, much depends on the relative state of organisation or disorganisation that lobby groups or social movements present. The cannabis reform sector is still fragmented and shows no signs of unity when it comes to medicinal cannabis derivatives. The transgender community is prone to sororicidal vendettas against its leaders and has not yet resolved its personal differences and formed a unified lobby group focused on incremental objectives- first, get as much evidential verification for your particular political position as possible; secondly, do not neglect competitor monitoring; thirdly, focus attention on specific issues; fourthly, provide human interest accounts related to your issue; fifthly, choose your parliamentary liaison well; and last but not least, prepare for contingencies. Once those issues have been resolved, however, it will be plain sailing. As for the Labour Party, one suspects that the aforementioned incremental reforms have not been abandoned. At the recent Labour conference, Andrew Little focused on the positive objectives of the next New Zealand centre-left government and there was no disavowal of trans-inclusive antidiscrimination reforms or anti-bullying legislation during its term. However, there are also many negative aspects of the current Key administration that will erode its support given time- Serco, unanswered questions and ambiguities related to the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, charter school secrecy and related concerns. If I were Labour, I'd home in on abuse of the Official Information Act under the current government and focus its attention on unwanted disclosures- particularly related to Serco, a particularly vulnerable thorn in the government's side. What? These aren't LGBT issues? As I've noted, the TPPA may be problematic when it comes to pharmaceutical access for PLWHAs and Serco endangered transgender prisoner safety when it was entrusted with the newest Auckland correctional facility. Wrong. All of these are LGBT issues. Recommended: Labour Party: Lifechoices: Care Alliance: Euthanasia-Free New Zealand:http://www.euthanasiadebate. Parliament: Craig Young - 9th November 2015    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 9th November 2015 - 8:29am

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