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Tuesday 13 October 2015

Unmasking the Conservative Party?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 3rd September 2014

One troubling 3 News (27.08.2014) opinion poll had the Conservative Party within distance of MMP's five percent threshold. There are some things voters needs to know about Colin Craig and his entourage.

After he was cut loose in East Coast Bays, Colin Craig redeployed Christine Rankin to Epsom, and dialed up the volume on the controversial Crafar Farms deal. The Conservatives aren't doing too well in Epsom, because it is an urban liberal electorate. As long as National or ACT are sensible enough to select a social liberal MP as its election candidate, then that candidate will go on to win the seat. In the case of National and ACT, though, both made bad choices when they selected Richard Worth and John Banks as their candidates. These were remedied by ACT's choice of resolute centre-right social liberal Rodney Hide and their current choices, Paul Goldsmith (National) and David Seymour (ACT). It's all very well milking the Banks scandal for all it was worth, but Banks cut himself loose from his former party some time ago and ACT prudently selected a new party leader and Epsom candidate well before the election date. Rankin is struggling for traction in Epsom and television news opinion polls suggest a two-horse race between Goldsmith and Seymour. Even if the Banks mayoral donation scandal has finished off ACT once and for all, Goldsmith will be the one who wins the seat.Rankin cannot.

As for Colin Craig, the microparty leader suddenly remembered that his party theoretically opposed asset sales and decided to oppose Chinese purchase of an Auckland rural property. Whether Colin Craig can keep his former Chinese and East Asian immigrant New Citizens Party supporters after pandering to anti-Asian racism in this manner is a moot point. One suspects that Craig is trying to co-opt New Zealand First's anti-immigrant racist contingent through this display of clumsy opportunism. It probably also further estranged them from National, given that the mainstream centre-right has been most assiduous in pursuing Chinese and East Asian immigrant professional and managerial votes. Meanwhile, they've claimed another populist fellow traveler- Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust. McVicar has been a keynote speaker at the 2013 and 2014 annual Conservative Party conferences. In our case, McVicar aroused disdain and revulsion for his submission against the Marriage Equality Bill, where he made wild and unsubstantiated claims about same-sex parenting, accusing our communities of 'deviant' and 'drug-centred' lifestyles.

Diana Wichtel profiled the would be Napier Conservative Party candidate in a recent Listener (16.08.2014) article. The Sensible Sentencing Trust dates from 2001, when McVicar provided moral support to Mark Middleton, the father of murdered schoolgirl Karla Cardno after the bereaved and grieving father threatened to kill Paul Dally, her killer. SST has been accused of fearmongering vigilante tactics, although it is careful to stay within the rule of law. Although SST is supposed to stand for 'victims rights' in the context of violent crime, McVicar supported disgraced former ACT List MP David Garrett over the latter's historic identity fraud case of misappropriating the identity of a dead child as well as Bruce Emery, who stabbed Pihama Cameron (15) after the latter had tagged his property. McVicar has never apologised for his vitriolic and unsubstantiated attack on same-sex parenting back in 2013. In fact, not only is the elderly farmer unapologetic about his earlier outburst, he also associated homosexuality with pedophilia in the context of Wichtel's article, implying that LGBT rights "leads" to situations like the unconscionable remarks of the Australian judge who opined that the 'general public' "accepted" pedophilia and incest due to liberalised public opinion. And the Conservative Party expects us to believe that they're not homophobes after this latest outburst?! Does McVicar have any realistic chance of winning Napier? Probably not. Erstwhile incumbent National MP Chris Tremain won it off Labour's Geoff Fairbrother in 2005, but he's stepping down at the current election. Electoral return data and local media suggest that a Napier/Hastings local body demarcation dispute may well lead Napier to revert to Labour's Stuart Nash on September 20, against National candidate Wayne Wolford. However, no newspaper or television network has micropolled Napier as has been the case with Epsom. Certainly, other social conservative zealots like National Business Review columnist Stephen Franks are talking up McVicar's chances, but have no substantive proof to point to.

Moreover, McVicar may have crippled the Trust through his defection to the Conservative Party. When he returns after electoral defeat as a former candidate for an unsuccessful microparty, how will he be able to market his pressure group as "neutral" and "non-partisan" if he is still in charge? Or will current interim (?) SST chief Ruth Money suggest that the elderly McVicar should retire and leave the cause of victim's rights to a younger cohort of more cautious and mainstream law and order activists?

But Garth McVicar isn't the only problem with the Conservative Party. Just as it did with the Auckland local body elections, it is deliberately not publicising the extent of unrepresentative fundamentalist domination of the organisational and parliamentary candidate arms of that party. I decided to analyse the Conservative Party's published list details against Facebook. This is what I found. We know about the prior preferences of Craig, Rankin and McVicar, but what about the others? Whatever his professional qualifications, Dr Edward Saafi (3) also has some interesting Facebook content. This includes a mugshot of conservative African-American neurosurgeon Dr Ben Carson c/o the US Christian Right "Focus on the Family" website; a LOLshot with the words "See, Totally Normal" inscribed over a photograph of John Key and a drag queen, presumably at "Big Day Out." To head that off, Dr Saafi's website also parrots Family First when it comes to attacking transgender rights legislation as "bathroom bills."

It appears that Sunday Star Times journalists Steve Kilgallon and Paul Easton had the same idea that I did. They note that Dr. Saafi has said that youth suicide is "linked" to the parental corporal punishment ban, sex work and even sexually transmitted infections. Notably, the address in question was provided to Tongan churches. It's "common sense", according to Dr Saafi, whose doctorate is in biomedicine, not pediatrics and developmental psychology, or reproductive and sexual health. Youthline's Stephen Bell challenged this, and noted that youth suicide has been trending downward since the Clark administration passed the parental corporal punishment ban in 2007. Dr. Monique Faleafa, from LeVa, a Pasifika suicide prevention programme, stated that there were many reasons behind the tragedy of Pasifika youth suicide and that one reason was family violence within Pasifika communities. But that's not the only disturbing thing on Dr Saafi's website. It includes a link to David Roberts, who seems to be quite a hardline anti-abortionist, given that an enlarged photograph of an aborted fetus with an attack on the Green Party's decriminalisation of abortion stance.

As established beforehand, Callum Blair is a member of the Mormon Church. Mel Taylor (6) is fairly clearly an evangelical Christian, although a specialist caregiver at Child Youth and Family Northland, judging from her profile. Steve Taylor (7) is a fairly shrill fundamentalist zealot who runs the Auckland 'counselling' and psychotherapeutic practice "24/7", which has funded several past Family First "Forum on the Family" events. His organisation is listed in Forum on the Family's donor lists on their website. Again, the Sunday Star Times (31.08.2014) had some more information to impart about the controversial figure. Taylor has stated that he will use parliamentary privilege tgo name offenders given name suppression by the courts if elected. Taylor apparently runs a retinue of front websites, including one that targets the Family Court. He also has the Accident Compensation Corporation, mental health services, professional counselling organisations and (inevitably) the Family Court.

John Stringer (13) used to be involved with the National Party as co-ordinator of "Christian Voice," a fundamentalist special interest group, and stood unsuccessfully against Tim Barnett. Not a bad bloke in some ways, though. A.J Heijns (14) is listed as a minister at an Auckland fundamentalist church, Doxa Deo, as well as being the convenor of the "Young Conservatives". He has also had past affiliations to the fundamentalist men's group, "Promise Keepers." According to his blogsite, he's also a creationist. He also shared an antigay article criticising a progay book from an evangelical publisher, originally published in Charisma News. Deborah Cunliffe (17) lists Bob McCoskrie (Family First) as a 'friend' and other friends attended fundamentalist Tauranga teacher training institute "Bethlehem College" and "Faith Bible College." Neville Hudson (19) lists Bob McCoskrie and Ian Wishart as "friends." Elliot Ewen Pasione Ikilei (20) has a biblical verse in his personal details section, and includes a considerable number of fundamentalist likes in that section. He's friends with the aforementioned David Roberts, Bob McCoskrie, Terries Heaven ("Spreading God's Word"), Grace to Excel Ministries, His Amazing Glory Ministries, Elim Christian College, Horizon Church, Nelson Bays Church, fundamentalist National Manurewa candidate Simeon Brown, Hebron Christian College and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. His likes include Bill Subritzky (Auckland Pentecostal and past antigay hatemonger), Promise Keepers New Zealand, the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Life TV and Choose Life (anti-abortion), Decision magazine (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), "NZ Men Fed Up With the New Zealand Family Court", "Politically Incorrect NZ", The Gate Church, Harvest Christian Church, Family First, Investigate magazine, Empowered Ministries and Horizon Church. Amongst his likes is the right-wing Centre for Political Research- yet he also seems to belong to an action group against the Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty, usually viewed as a leftist cause. One commends Mr Ikillei for his candour and honesty, at least-which seems to be sorely lacking amidst some of his colleagues, insofar as their fundamentalist and Christian Right affiliations go.

Twelve out of twenty Conservative Party list candidates have some sort of fundamentalist or conservative Christian religious interest.

Otago University political scientist and National Business Review columnist Dr Bryce Edwards advises voters to carefully and critically peruse the substantive content of political party links. To be fair to the Conservatives, they're not the only one with questionable candidates- one Internet-Mana candidate was named as being a convicted fraudster from 2006. That's quite a fair criticism and I've always done that- ever since 2002, when the rise of United Future blindsided me. Poorly vetted party lists can mean that political parties can import somewhat suspect elements into Parliament, such as virtually the entire United Future caucus on Peter Dunne's list from that year.

Steve Kilgallon and Paul Easton: "Smacking ban's suicide link" Sunday Star Times: 31.08.2014: A4
Steve Kilgallon: "Would-be MP to name criminals" Sunday Star Times: 31.08.2014: A4
Diana Wichtel: "The World According to Garth" Listener: 16.08.2014: 32-35.

Craig Young - 3rd September 2014

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