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Editorial: The homophobic genesis of the Lange years

Tue 16 Aug 2005 In: Features

In a LGBT-related piece of political irony of Shakespearean proportions, the infamous Sir Robert Muldoon sowed the seeds of his own political destruction when he unwittingly paved the way for his nemesis, David Lange, to enter the political ring. It all started in July 1975 when a police officer spoke to the Hon. Colin Moyle, MP and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Science in the third Labour Government, after noticing him lingering suspiciously around a Harris Street, Wellington, public toilet - a well-known cruising beat in those pre-Homosexual Law Reform days. At the time Moyle's explanations for his presence changed from ‘meeting a friend from the nearby library' (the library had closed two hours earlier) to ‘researching homosexuality' in the lead-up to the unsuccessful Venn Young-sponsored decriminalisation bill. The ‘Moyle affair' broke in Parliament on November 4, 1976. Muldoon had first raised eyebrows by referring to Moyle's ‘effeminate giggling' in the house - though the ‘giggling' in question was actually another MP lampooning Muldoon's famous cackle. Muldoon then played his trump card, referring in Parliament to Moyle "being picked up by the police for homosexual activities." Moyle handled the affair badly, introducing two new explanations for his late night lurking. He told Parliament he had trailed a policeman because he thought he might be a cat burglar. He told enquiry head Sir Alfred North he was really there to meet an unknown man to discuss security leaks. As a result of North's report into what came to be known as the Moyle Affair, Colin Moyle resigned from Parliament in 1977. In 1981 he was elected to the Hunua seat and became Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries again in the fourth Labour government. He has never spoken publicly about the affair since. The irony in all this was that at the time of his resignation the beleaguered Moyle was MP for... Mangere. His departure paved the way for David Lange to be elected as the next MP for that south Auckland seat. Lange went onto become the only opposition MP who could consistently outwit the crafty and belligerent Muldoon in Parliament. By the time Muldoon lost the plot by throwing a snap election in 1984 David Lange had emerged as the charismatic leader of the Labour Party which proceded to trounce National and Muldoon. By callously playing the politically opportunistic homophobia card Sir Robert Muldoon contributed mightily to his own dismal demise and the ascendence of most popular and admired prime minister of a generation. Rest in peace David Lange, man of integrity, wit, humanity and vision. - Jay Bennie content editor Jay Bennie - 16th August 2005    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Tuesday, 16th August 2005 - 12:00pm

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