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Tuesday 10 April 2012

Virtuous Circles?

Posted in: Comment, Features
By Craig Young - 11th November 2011

Labour and the Greens probably have the inside running for most New Zealand LGBT votes, and for good reason- beyond the obvious reasons.

There's the 'old alliance' factor to consider. It was the Lange Labour administration that finally passed homosexual law reform in 1985-86, while civil unions were achieved in 2004, lesbian and gay relationship equality in 2005, and attempted pre-emptive prohibition of same-sex marriage proper failed in 2005. Granted, the Bolger administration is an exception, given that it passed the Human Rights Act in 1993. Furthermore, Labour and the Greens have five out of six LGBT list and constituency MPs and both parties have Rainbow Labour and Greens branches. Labour and the Greens are both proactive in terms of the remaining legislative reform issues, especially inclusive adoption reform, which is within Labour's rainbow policy manifesto, and the Greens even jumped the gun on the issue, with an attempted amendment of the Care of Children Act to alter adoption laws beforehand. As for the Key administration, outgoing Justice Minister Simon Power reportedly sat on the issue, obstructed and delayed any action. As the recent Herald Digipoll indicated (2 November), it is getting seriously out of phase with public opinion over that issue.

Even beyond these incentives, there are other reasons to vote Labour and Green as well. It is undeniable that Labour leader Phil Goff has had problems with media management and timely response to Key administration policies, while the media has downplayed innovative policies like the Capital Gains Tax proposal. Goff has been badly let down by internal party organisational problems with media management and timely response to Key administration policies, but his real strengths have been overlooked or downplayed- like policy development, caucus rejuvenation and promotion of capable newcomers. Charles Chauvel and Grant Robertson have benefited from this, which suggests that Goff is no homophobe. There have been some blips- given the clear intent of Key's administration to emulate the British Conservatives and exploit excessive personal parliamentary expenditure at a time of recession, Chris Carter was reckless and deserved his demotion and expulsion. Judith Tizard should have kept quiet about party list adjustment to bring in Louisa Wall as well. Moreover, the centre-left itself has been silent when it comes to critical analysis of Key's media management and spin mastery while in office. This will decay as incumbency fatigue sets in, but there's no danger in accelerating the process through deconstructing it first.

As for the Greens, I don't see them in competition for Labour's votes at all. They are a solid, reliable social liberal voting bloc. To date, they are the only other party to recruit, promote and retain LGBT MPs. On current polling, Kevin Hague will be joined by Jan Logie, who will become the first Green lesbian MP. Strategies differ. Kevin Hague has been working on a cross-party network for inclusive adoption reform, while within the Labour caucus, Jacinta Ardern has been developing the Care of Children Law Reform Bill to advance that reform. Neither step is mutually inclusive, and both will play their part in eventual introduction and passage of that legislation.

There are other reasons to vote Labour/Green. They include the ninety day provisional employment and weakened unfair dismissal protection laws in terms of industrial relations policy under the current government, which impede use of lesbian/gay workplace rights under antidiscrimination laws. Voluntary student unionism was passed despite widespread community opposition and the decline and collapse of ACT, and will affect LGBT tertiary student safety. There's also the matter of government funds lavished on Christian Right organisations like Parents Inc and Destiny Social Services, while the government cries poverty on public sector maintenance and staffing levels. Against this, there is only the ambiguous repeal of the provocation defence under this government.

Phil Goff should not be written off. Like Helen Clark before him, he is performing well during the cut and thrust of a formal general election campaign. And if the worst happens, there is a wealth of caucus talent- Andrew Little, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson come to mind. However, that assumes that Labour will lose.

There are some potential fish-hooks. In 2010, Cameron's Conservatives failed to achieve an absolute majority at the British general elections partly due to the selfish sectarian outbursts of Tory religious conservative candidates and LGBT voter backlash. No doubt campaign co-ordinator Murray McCully will insure caucus discipline under those circumstances.

However, in the case of the current government, risks and inertia outweigh the single, ambiguously positive development of provocation law repeal.

Voting Labour and/or Green is safer and proactive for our communities.


Craig Young - 11th November 2011

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