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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Deconstructing 'Value Your Vote'

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 3rd October 2008

Value Your Vote: Family First's judgemental new website
Why doesn't the Value Your Vote website tally with Family First's obvious political orientation toward the National Party? Let me explain...

Looking at the Christian Right voters guide in question, there are two predominant focal subsites. One focuses on the extent of social conservatism and social liberalism within party leadership, while the other details the voting records of members of the 47th and 48th New Zealand Parliament (just risen).

Judging from this schema, Winston Peters emerges as the most socially conservative/ "moral" political leader, as one can only 'fault' him through his vote for the Electoral Finance Act. Given the role that the Exclusive Brethren played in assisting Bob Clarkson to win Tauranga, and then trying to split his party, the latter is only to be expected. However, apart from this 'blemish,' Peters has an otherwise 'immaculate' social conservative voting record.

As for New Zealand First, the mystery deepens, for only United Future has a 'better' record in social conservative terms, largely due to Judy Turner's 'perfect' social conservative score as half of the current UFNZ caucus. If one deleted the Electoral Finance Act from the equation, then Mr Peters would have a perfect score in terms of his social conservatism. Therefore, if more pragmatic fundamentalist voters decided to overlook the Electoral Finance Act as political baggage, they might feel impelled to vote for New Zealand First to maximise the representation of social conservatives within the next Parliament. Or, United Future, for that matter.

It's odd that the Kiwi and Pacific Parties should be treated as 'independents,' and not party leaders in this context, although understandable from the perspective of realpolitik. The Kiwi Party was only represented in the last Parliament because Larry Baldock and Gordon Copeland were political opportunists and jumped ship over the anti-belting bill when Peter Dunne dared to exercise his conscience on the issue. As for Taito Philip Field, the ultimate outcome of his ongoing legal woes remains to be seen.

Thus, one can see that the Christian Right is vulnerable to accusations of partisanship when it comes to this website, obviously. Labour and the Progressives could question why it is that their rather conservative joint drug policy wasn't regarded as a 'family' issue, especially when it comes to the criminalisation of P/crystal meth and BZP during the tenure of the last three Parliaments. Moreover, what about Labour's Working for Families and other assistance to low-income families?

Just as seriously, too, there's the question of whether the Electoral Finance Act neccessarily is a so-called "pro-family' issue, and whether opposition to it should be seen as 'anti-family.' Supporters of the Electoral Finance Act would argue that it promotes greater democratic accountability and transparency amongst political parties and lobby groups. Family First engaged in much partisan whingeing about the alleged 'suppression of free speech' involved in the 'failure' to distribute their pamphlet, but Bob McCoskrie appears to have 'authorised' the website, which suggests that Family First is complying with the EFA after all. So, where's the obstacle to free speech when it is perfectly accessible on the Internet, through conventional channels?

As for Peters and Fields' perfect scores, obviously that doesn't take into account ongoing investigations into Owen Glenn and others donations to New Zealand First, or the corruption trial that is still hanging over Field. Why isn't party spending and donor accountability regarded as a 'moral issue' in this context, and why doesn't Family First seem to care about the questions of propaganda and misrepresentation in this context-

especially given that deleting these concerns from its questionable website would assist Mr Peters as a 'spotless' social conservative?

In return for currying favour with any incoming Key administration, Family First seems to be cutting its own throat when it comes to aggregate social conservatism in the next Parliament...

Craig Young - 3rd October 2008