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Monday 10 April 2017


RW Forum: Maurice Williamson

Posted in: Features
By Jacqui Stanford - 8th August 2014

Maurice_Williamson_RW_Forum.jpg

While Labour and the Greens representatives were able to speak on behalf of their parties, National’s Maurice Williamson basically reiterated his personal pro-lgbti views and pledged we’ll have his vote on conscience issues.

To be fair though, he was a last minute “ring in”, stepping in to speak at the Rainbow Wellington forum at St Andrew’s on the Terrace after the quick demise of lesbian MP Claudette Hauiti as a 2014 Election candidate.

Williamson is a long-time National MP who of course burst into our consciousness with his famous ‘big gay rainbow’ speech which went viral during the marriage equality campaign. He’s pretty fond of reciting facts and figures about its impact, and before he sped off to his next engagement he told the audience it screened in 59 countries was translated into 19 languages and had a cumulative audience through news reports of just over 1.1 billion.

In addressing the list of issues put forward by Rainbow Wellington, such as transgender law reform, homophobic bullying in schools, adoption, homophobia and transphobia in sport and the disappearance of the Government’s ‘Rainbow Desk’, he spoke about the change in societal attitudes over the time he’s been in Parliament. Williamson said the audience may not like it, but “politicians won’t fix most of this. Society has to actually change. The speed at which it’s been changing over recent years is so fantastic that it’s pretty much going to solve itself.”

Williamson said the Government has to do some things, as it has to make sure its human rights obligations are met.

“There is stuff with the adoption law that dramatically needs an overhaul. I’ve got three adopted kids and when we tried to adopt them we were put to hell in a hand basket, and we’re a straight couple, so God knows what it’s like for anybody other than that trying to do it, it’s just hopeless.”

Williamson says a lot of the issues were conscience issues, rather than party issues. “I think that was the incredible thing about the gay marriage debate – we passed the gay marriage bill and then we went off and had dinner. In Paris they passed the gay marriage bill and had three weeks of rioting in the streets …"

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Picture - David Hindley
He said it was so very different to Homosexual Law Reform in 1986, “when I was threatened by other members of my caucus and threatened by people in the party ‘if you support Fran Wilde in her homosexual decriminalisation stuff you’ll never see the light of day as an MP’.”

The MP said some of things said during that debate “would make your blood curdle,” and “was just filth” adding “for example John Banks said some things that were just despicable, and yet there he was in 2013 voting for gay marriage. If you said to me back in 1986, he in 27 years’ time will be voting for gay marriage I would have said that’s just not possible.”

Williamson recalled how people thought Sunday shopping would be the end of religion and the “end of the world as we know it”, but pointed out it’s actually one of the best times he has with his family, “going down to the mall, having lunch and buying a pair of jeans and a sweater”.

Back on the topics at hand, he said the issues raised by Rainbow Wellington would either fall into a government policy bin or be put forward as members’ bills. He said if there was a conscience vote on adoption, he’d be very supportive.

Williamson explained he is a true libertarian, and believes governments have no rights in the bedrooms of the nation. “As long as it’s between consenting adults and there is no force being applied or it’s not with people under the age of consent, you can stand upside down with a cucumber in your ear singing Annie Laurie if you want to, I don’t care. I think that’s your right, and the Government shouldn’t in anyway interfere with those rights, at all”.

He added “you can count on me if there is free voting. You can count on me if there is a vote inside our caucus on whether we have a party view on things, to persuade a whole lot of our team.” He believes he brought a number across the line on marriage equality, as did the Prime Minister’s stance.

Williamson expressed confidence in the work National is doing when it comes to bullying in schools. “Bullying in my view is just despicable. What’s interesting is that I’ve been on the rough end of it through so many of these bills. People come to me and start threatening to me that I am going to burn in the fires of hell if I support this legislation.”

He said he believed he was more likely to rot in a grave or go straight up the furnace at the end of his funeral service … while apologising a little for saying so in a church building.

Williamson was asked why he voted against civil unions, and said he made it clear at the time that he felt they were a cop out which made gay people second class citizens, and we should have gone the whole way. He says Helen Clark told him we wouldn’t have same-sex marriage for another decade, “and she was dead right”.

When he was questioned about National’s removal of Parliament’s Rainbow Desk he said “good public services are really important for everybody and it shouldn’t be that one group or another feels they need to have something advocating for them in a better way. We should have better public services for every New Zealander, no matter who they are.”

He said he believes the best thing that could happen in New Zealand would be “your sexuality should almost be transparent to the issue that you’re dealing with. You should not have to face any barriers or go through a special way to get something. That’s a personal view. But I actually don’t know why abolished the Rainbow Desk … I’m not well enough briefed on it.”

When it came to getting transgender rights protected clearly and specifically under the Human Rights Act, he said he asked a researcher to flick him a handful of notes as soon as he was asked earlier in the day to speak at the forum. He said the recommendations of the Transgender Inquiry To Be Who I Am were listed as not a priority, “but we do look at our United Nations obligations under the Human Rights Charter and so on and we regularly update laws in this country to make sure we are compliant with those obligations.  It’s likely to come via a private member’s bill, or if maybe the government of the days sees it as a priority. But I haven’t had it raised with me as a priority.

In a nutshell:

  • He believes most of the issues will be sorted out in time with social change
  • He personally believes adoption laws need a major overhaul
  • Confident solid work is being done to address bullying in schools
  • Says he will vote for lgbti reforms, and encourage colleagues to do so
  • Doesn't necessarily think we need a Rainbow Desk
  • Transgender Inquiry recommendations not listed as a priority, but UN obligations are important

 

 


Jacqui Stanford - 8th August 2014

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