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Gay Nat talks insurance, blood and bullying

Sat 3 May 2008 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Rainbow Wellington's event with the National party's 'out' MP Chris Finlayson on Thursday was a chance for the LGBT advocacy network to find out more about their Vice Patron, and ask him about National's policies on gay issues. National MP Chris Finlayson Speaking to a group of about twenty members and friends of Rainbow Wellington at Kitty O'Shea's Irish Bar on Courtenay Place, Finlayson confirmed that his key interests in politics are Treaty Negotiations, legislative reforms, and Arts and Culture. He described himself as an "odd fish" - being a liberal conservative politically, openly gay and Catholic, and he jokingly reckoned he was looking forward to dying, just to see where he ends up. Finlayson then explained that National's former leader Don Brash had given him an article written by his father Alan Brash when he was moderator of the Presbyterian Church, about the Bible and homosexuality correcting negative misconceptions that some church people held. He told the meeting that the only jibes he had faced since going into Parliament have been from a few Labour MPs. As far as National Party policy was concerned, Finlayson could not reveal much, explaining that their policies were "still being fine-tuned." Questions put to the MP from Rainbow Wellington's members touched on issues with insurance policies, blood donations and adoption. As a single man over 40, Finlayson said he had personally experienced questioning by insurance companies that he found offensive. He agreed with the recent statement of the British Insurers that questions about sexuality are inappropriate and unnecessary, and suggested that such questions in New Zealand might breach the Human Rights Act. He would continue to encourage concerned individuals to take a case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, he said. Finlayson said he had strong views about blood donations dating back to his time as a teacher, when one of his students - who was a haemophiliac - received a dose of bad blood and subsequently died of HIV/AIDS. Testing is now much better, and so the MP thinks there is a case for the NZ Blood Service reviewing its exclusion of sexually active gay men from donating blood. If he was in a position of power after the election, Finlayson promised he would look at the issue - but could not give a commitment to action at this stage. Turning to the issue of adoption, the MP said he believes that New Zealand's law which dates back to 1955 needs to be reviewed. Personally he would have no difficulty with a law change - his key concern would be what is in the best interest of the children. Finlayson responded to a query about bullying by saying that "bullying in schools needed to be treated with zealotry." If he gains a role in Cabinet later in the year he would be pleased to help with practical things, and with legislation. Another question from the crowd: "What about cyberbullying and social networking sites?" Cyberbullying is hard to control, relplied Finlayson, especially if the young people are lacking in parental guidance. He was then questioned about Bill English's response to's revelation last year that one of his sons had vicious homophobic comments on his Bebo page. The MP answered by saying that the young man is his godson, is a very nice boy and he hadn't meant any harm by the comments. It was just a minor mistake and it was blown up out of proportion, he stated. Another person suggested a new approach is needed to address aggressor-based violence - it shouldn't be about who to protect, but how to address the bullying and deal with the perpetrator. There is a big problem in the Armed Forces with bullying of young trainees aged between 18 to 25, they said. Some army personnel still cling to the idea of an initiation being necessary for young recruits. Finlayson seemed to agree that it was a problem without offering solutions. The next question focused on the mixed nature of the National caucus. Finlayson describes himself as a liberal conservative, but not all National Party MPs are like that. In Britain, Catholic schools have put up strong opposition to anti-homophobic initiatives as being counter to their religious character, and the concern is that some National MPs may share their views. Bullying is a disciplinary issue and that there is no excuse for it, the MP responded. While Education is not his portfolio, he would support measures to address the problem being included in the Education Act. He thinks that all the members of his Party would agree that there is no basis for homophobia preventing human rights legislation. Rainbow Wellington chairperson Tony Simpson tells that the intention of the evening with Finlayson was to seek information on a range of issues of concern to LGBT people, "and to find out if the National Party had a view on these matters - and if so, what it was. "We certainly got Chris's viewpoint which was generally favourable to a gay perspective, but whether or not we would see change on those issues under a National government remains a moot point," he concludes. News Staff - 3rd May 2008    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Saturday, 3rd May 2008 - 2:22pm

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