Search Browse On This Day Map Quotations Timeline Research Free Datasets Remembered About Contact

Gutter politics: Opposition plays "the Muldoon card"

Wed 27 Apr 2005 In: Features

MP Matt Robson MP Matt Robson, the Progressive Party's spokesperson on human rights issues, responds to questions regarding threats from National leader Don Brash that his party may make civil unions an election issue, as well as a series of other Opposition attacks on the GLBT community in recent weeks. ON CIVIL UNIONS BEING MADE INTO AN ELECTION ISSUE: It is beyond the powers of Don Brash to make civil unions into a major election issue. The best he can do is to try and ride politically on the coat-tails of those diehard conservatives who cannot accept that this battle has been lost by them. Surveys show very clearly that most people are either supportive of or indifferent to this change. The Progressive Party would be very happy to have Dr Brash concentrate on what he defines as “the issues which affect most people's lives.” These include the economy (unprecedented sustainable economic growth over the last three years at least in all of our regions) and employment (the lowest level for over twenty years coupled with a high labour force participation rate). But you can bet your bottom dollar that these issues are the last ones that Dr Brash wants to debate. The Labour Progressive government has been far too successful in dealing with them. That's why he's so keen to go for issues where he thinks he can get some traction with, such as trying to mobilise grumpy rednecks on civil unions. ON "SOCIAL ENGINEERING": The expression “social engineering” is more or less meaningless. All it is, is right wing code for anything the political Right don't like. Whenever I hear someone refer to “social engineering” I know that they're bereft of ideas and are reaching for their slogans. Other expressions in the same category are “the homosexual agenda” and “politically correct” which are similarly meaningless codes for things the Right don't like. ON CIVIL UNIONS BEING A MAJOR CHANGE IN CIVIL SOCIETY: Civil unions are not a major change in civil society as Dr Brash claims. From the moment that human rights legislation outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (a move which took place under National over a decade ago) there were going to be significant changes to a raft of specific legislation. It would be ridiculous and hypocritical to outlaw discrimination in principle but to do nothing in practise to effect that. Civil unions are a part of that process. That it's complex is illustrated by the decade and more it took to identify the laws involved, a process which is still not complete. Dr Brash knows all of that perfectly well. His claims are an attempt to disguise his flip flop on this issue when he thought he could make some political capital out of it. ON CIVIL UNIONS BEING PUT TO A REFERENDUM: Human rights should not be the subject of a referendum. Ethical and moral issues cannot be decided by counting heads but by thorough debating of the issues and then by a conscience vote in parliament. Plebiscites are the instrument of choice of moral and political dictators. It's fairly certain that a majority of Germans disapproved of Jewish people in 1938 and endorsed discriminatory action against them. Did that justify it? I don't think so. ON "GAYS AND WOMEN HAVING TOO MUCH POWER": Attacks on people because they belong to a social category are cowardly and never justified. Who are these women and gays who are supposed to have too much power? If people want to attack others for political reasons, that's fine, but they should name them, the specific acts which allegedly offend, and say why they think so. Blindly hitting out achieves nothing. People might just as well attack giraffes. But it's also more cynical than that. The New Zealand Right know that they can't fault the government on its economic record and so they're trying to play the Muldoon card. Get a handle on something socially divisive and see what you can do to exploit it. They're aware that there are a lot of people out there who have been negatively affected by the massive changes which our society has been going through over the last three decades as we've tried to adjust to a wholly new set of international trading and political realities. Some of them are bruised and bewildered by what has happened and they're looking for scapegoats. Gays and women will do. National, ACT and New Zealand First are trying to mobilise the votes of these people. It's an old trick but politically speaking New Zealanders deserve better than this sort of gutter politics. NB: In addition to the Progressives, contacted the Greens, National leader Don Brash and the Prime Minister with questions on the issues discussed above. We received responses from all except Brash, whose comments sparked our enquiries in the first place. Matt Robson - 27th April 2005    

Credit: Matt Robson

First published: Wednesday, 27th April 2005 - 12:00pm

Rights Information

This page displays a version of a article that was automatically harvested before the website closed. All of the formatting and images have been removed and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly. The article is provided here for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us