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Election platform: Candidates address glbti issues

Posted in: Politics and Religion, Features
By Jay Bennie - 15th October 2011

This is a subject by subject run down of the views expressed by nine political candidates who spoke at the GABA Forum on Thursday evening, as part of the lead-up to the General Election.

As GayNZ.com is a glbti-focussed medium we have edited out the “the lives of glbt people will be better if we fix the eonomy” type of statements and instead concentrated on the specifics of being glbti and the ways in which politicians and governments can affect our lives.


The subjects are presented in the order in which they emerged during the evening and the speakers' order is based on the order in which they spoke on Thursday night - which was the result of a random draw.


Some candidates appeared to be seeking electorate more than party votes but we have not differentiated between their comments in this regard. To some degree they were all representing their political parties. However, we should note that the liberal views represented by all of these candidates statements may not always represent the general tenor of their actual parties.


Most, but not all, of the candidates are gay or lesbian. Some of their statements have been edited for clarity.


THE SPEAKERS:
1. Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Maori party was unable attend due to being at the opening of the Waka exhibition centre on Auckland's waterfront. His address was presented by Bronwyn Yates.
2. Kevin Hague is a Green party spokesperson on rainbow issues.
3. Nikki Kaye is the National MP for Auckland Central.
4. Claudette Hauiti, National, was the producer of the glbt TV programme Takataapui.
5. Damian Light, United Future, has a background in management and business studies.
6. Sue Bradford is the Mana party spokesperson for housing and issues of social wellbeing.
7. Maryan Street is a former Labour cabinet minister and is a past president of the Labour party.
8.    Charles Chauvel is a lawyer and Labour's Justice spokesperson.
9.    David Seymour of ACT has a background in engineering and as a commentator on public policy.

ADOPTION

Bronwyn Yates, Maori:

It is the whanau that should be the first port of call in adopting children. Adoption is a legal fiction in its assumption that the biological parents can be replaced. The connection we have to our geneological links, our whakapapa, should be protected. Whanau is where children find the strength and support to become caring, productive members of society. Whanau, regardless of sexual orientation, must be encouraged to care for our children within the family.

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Kevin Hague
Kevin Hague, Greens:
Changing the 1955 adoption law to put at its heart the interests of the child. All of the options for adoptive parents need to be on the table including same sex couples. We have been very active with the cross party working group on adoption issues.

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Claudette Hauiti
Claudette Hauiti, National:
The Adoption Act 1955 is outdated, antiquated  and discriminatory.

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Damian Light
Damian Light, United Future:
Adoption is not about the sexual orientation of the parents, the issue is whether the parents are suitable. United Future would support changed legislation to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

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Sue Bradford
Sue Bradford, Mana:
I am proposing that Mana support disposing of the Adoption Act 1955. We want to replace and update it with new legislation which takes into account many factors including whangai adoption, understanding that the rights and well-being of children should be paramount and acknowledging that homosexual couples should be granted the same status regarding adoption law and practice. I acknowledge Jacinda Adern's work in Parliament on this area and should I be voted into parliament I will be right there beside her working on adoption. It's a great passion of mine.

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David Seymour
David Seymour, ACT:
I can't understand why it's the role of government to decide what the gender composition of a couple adopting children should be.
 
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Maryan Street
Maryan Street, Labour:
Jacinda Adern MP took our adoption bill to Justice Minister Simon Power and he said that it wasn't going to happen under the Nats.


DISCRIMINATION AND EQUALITY


Bronwyn Yates, Maori:

The Maori party opposes any form of discrimination or prejudice. We will support measures and initiatives to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Kevin Hague, Green:

Our policy is based on total equality on our terms without having to compromise on who we are in order to gain that equality.
In relation to the To Be Who I Am report, we support its recommendations, in particular the addition of gender identity to the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited under the Human Rights Act and we acknowledge the work being done, largely by the transgender community, on health issues.
As a gay adult in 2011 my life is now immeasurably better than it would have been back in the 1970s when I was coming out. But for a 14-year old boy coming out in 2011 and starting to realise his difference, I don't believe that things are actually that much different. My greatest priority has been creating a supportive social environment for our young people to come out into.

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Nikki Kaye
Nikki Kaye, National:
A lot of people ask me why I am a National Party MP. It's because I believe in the equality of opportunity not of outcomes. As long as I am in Parliament I will vote progressively. That will mean sometimes supporting a Greens or Labour bill. We have more liberals coming through in National and I think that is a very good thing. The future of this country in strengthening our social fabric is having people across the political spectrum who progress these issues.
 
Damian Light, United Future:
As someone who has only recently come out I know that United Future is fair, open and believes in choice. United Future believes in removing barriers to create a more open society for all and out policies are driven by the strong belief in personal freedom as well as a collective strength. This room, this city, this country is filled with diversity and this is something we should celebrate. Our personal freedom to live as we wish is so important to us all. My generation enjoys more personal freedom than the last yet there is so much more that we need to do. Our policies include renaming the Ministry of Women's Affairs to the Ministry of Gender Affairs, recognising that gender equality is an issue that affects us all.

Sue Bradford, Mana:

Our draft rainbow policy, which I hope will be adopted, is about bringing rangatiratanga to the poor, the powerless and the dispossessed. Many people that have a gender identity that is different to the mainstream live on the margins of society and, as we know, suffer multiple disadvantage. And all those in the Rainbow communities, whatever their economic position, continue to face legal, institutional and social discrimination in Aotearoa today. Mana is committed to respecting the rights and dignity of everyone in this country including everyone who is part of our rainbow communities.
I'd like to see our government legislating for a third intersex gender option on all official documentation including passports in line with recent moves in Australia and India.

Maryan Street, Labour:

Our policies are based on three principles, equality, safety, and dignity... that's all and that's everything. We believe in equality of human rights and no difference on the basis of sexual orientation. And we believe in sticking up for glbti rights, safety and dignity around the world, in those countries where people are beaten, tortured, killed, imprisoned because of their sexuality. There is a global responsibility as well as a local one.

David Seymour, ACT:

I believe we should have freedom of choice in all aspects of life.

Niki Kaye, National:

[Asked how long it will take for the 2007 To Be Who I Am report to be implemented] One of the things I have found heartbreaking as an MP is the number of transgender people who come through my office who have been discriminated against. Within National these issues are conscience votes. However, I believe that we need to progress these issues and the issues surrounding transgender people specifically are crucial. I support implementation of that report.


HOMOPHOBIA & BULLYING IN SCHOOLS


Bronwyn Yates, Maori:

As associate minister of Education Pita Sharples has introduced the concept of cultural competency which requires people to be aware of their own cultural locatedness as a prerequisite to relating to other cultures.

Nikki Kaye, National:

I progressed the Auckland Pride concept which is about homophobia in this country. We have to change views and we will not change those views until we raise awareness and I am very proud of my role in that. I hope as many people as possible will get behind Auckland Pride to reduce homophobia.

Claudette Hauiti, National:

The National government has made a $60 million investment in the Positive Behaviour for Learning action plan. This is part of a response to bullying in schools including of takataapui which the National party finds particularly abhorrent. Positive Behaviour for Learning is part of a wider initiative for youth mental health and vulnerable children are a particular focus for this National-led government. Many of our whanau who are welfare-dependant and have been for consecutive generations are very vulnerable. Tackling the needs of children, including those in poverty, requires a whole of government approach.

Maryan Street, Labour:

When I was a teacher I had a boy in my 4th form class who... well, you could tell from five hundred paces, he was a camp as a row of tents. And he spotted me. His gaydar was working well. He was in my form class and we got to know each other quite well... and we never talked about our sexuality. This was in the 1980s and we never talked about it. A few years after he left school his good friend told me that he had committed suicide. What did I not do that could have made that boy feel safe, that he had dignity, that he was alright?
And so in Nelson I work with Q-Youth and the Queer-Straight Alliance which has become a nationwide movement and we now have them in all schools in Nelson, we have NAGS and WAGS and GALS and all these acronyms in schools at the top of the south. And we are trying to create safe spaces for young people who grow up questioning their sexuality. Who knows where they'll land, I don't care where they land as long as they know they are safe and they can express their dignity.


GLBT REPRESENTATION IN PARTIES


Kevin Hague, Green:

Since the very beginning of the Green party lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex people have been involved as members, staff and candidates. Creating inclusiveness and modeling that within our party is incredibly important to us. In our party list this time two of the top ten are from our rainbow communities.

Sue Bradford, Mana:

We have many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people within the Mana movement and as I am sure you know many Maori are in these communities and many of these people are inside Mana. Mana hasn't officially endorsed a rainbow policy yet as we have been in a race against time trying to form our policies. I have drafted a Rainbow policy for Mana and I am championing it with backing from my friends inside Mana.

Maryan Street, Labour:

I'd like to introduce the Labour candidates who have come along to this Gay Auckland Business Association tonight: Please stand up Charles Chauvel, Louisa Wall, Jordan Carter, Richard Hills, Jacinda Adern, and also David Parker who may be the only heterosexual man here tonight. Grant Robertson, our gay MP from Wellington Central couldn't be here tonight as he had an electorate function to attend.

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Charles Chauvel
Charles Chauvel, Labour:
The Labour caucus looks like the rest of New Zealand. It's more representative... we had the first openly gay MPs, Carter and Barnett, we had the first transgender member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer. We had the first openly lesbian member elected to Parliament, Maryan Street who become the first lesbian cabinet minister, as well as the first openly gay cabinet minister, Chris Carter. We have six members of the rainbow caucus now and we have six more openly gay candidates standing in this election. There was no political advantage in pushing for Civil Unions, we did it because it was the right thing to do. We will do it again for adoption law reform with relationship policy. I promise you that.


HISTORICAL RECORDS


Kevin Hague, Green:

All of the Green party MPs, at every opportunity they have had to vote on issues of importance to our communities, have voted for those issues. Every one, every time... and that's our ongoing commitment.

Charles Chauvel, Labour:

In 1985 I felt it was afe to come out because people were talking about what it was to be gay. That was because a Labour MP named Fran Wilde had moved a bill to repeal the crimininalisation of homosexuality. After Homosexual Law Reform was passed some of you may remember we turned to immigration law reorm under the fourth Labour government. We were the first government to make sure that people in same-sex relationships could bring their partners into New Zealand on a recogised basis. And then there were the great reforms under the Clark government. Some of the people in this room worked on the Civil Unions movement and I remember how hard that battle was. And we got relationship reform legislation in place at the same time.
It's good that so many of us can be here not expressing homophobic views, that's what so many of us have fought for for a long time. But my friend on the panel from United Future has forgotten to mention that [UF leader] Peter Dunne voted against Civil Unions. My friend from the ACT party probably doesn't know that most of his party voted for the [anti-same-sex marriage] Defence of Marriage Act moved by Gordon Copeland.

David Seymour, ACT:

The ACT party voted 5-4 in favour of Civil Unions in 2004 and if I had been an MP it would have been 6-3.


MARRIAGE


Kevin Hague, Green:

The Green party supports same sex marriage and every Green MP will vote for a bill on same sex marriage.

Sue Bradford, Mana:

I am advocating to the Mana party that we should be supporting full legal equality in marriage and de-facto relationships, in arrangements for partnerships and for care of children including absolute equality for those in homosexual and heterosexual relationships. No ifs and buts.

Maryan Street, Labour:

We are in favour of same-sex marriage and it is time it came about. That, in the end, becomes an issue of human rights and what we do as a society to recognise equality before the law.

David Seymour, ACT:

I can't understand why it would be the role of government to decide what  gender constitution of a marriage. We should not be worried about having gay marriage in New Zealand and there should not be opposition to that.

Kevin Hague, Greens:

There should be absolute equality so if marriage is available as a state sanctioning of relationships to couples then it should be available to same-sex couples also. All Green party MPs will vote for that. I actually don't mind whether that's achieved by extending the marriage act to same-sex couples or repealing the marriage act and making Civil Unions the way the state recognises relationships... and leaving weddings to churches if they want to do that.

Bronwyn Yates, Maori:

I don't know why anyone needs to get married.


GLBT SUPPORT ORGANISATIONS

Nikki Kaye, National: I am very proud that for the first time, under this government, we have a contract with Body Positive. The sustainability of  funding for lgbt support organisations is one of the biggest issues in this community. That's why I have promoted the Auckland Pride festival, because the future of that is to get some funding that is sustainable for this community. Out of our Community response fund we have to do more in the voluntary and community sector

David Seymour, ACT:

[On voluntary student union membership] I don't believe the UniQ cause requires the compulsion of every other student of the university to fund it.

Charles Chauvel, Labour:

The first financial support that came to any glbti groups came under Labour governments, and they came first under the rubric of HIV but after that they came more widely. We have recognised the need to fund glbti welfare groups and we've done that expressly in our policy, expressly mentioning youth. I want to see groups like Rainbow Youth well supported to do their job. But it isn't just about youth and that's why we've made the pledge ensuring that at the centre of Government planning for  service delivery is a glbti perspective.


YOUTH


Kevin Hague, Green:

We commissioned from an Intern at the University of Waikato entitled how do we make it better. The origin of that was the fantastic It Gets Better project that I recorded a video for. Then Blake Skjellerup said to me: 'Wouldn't it be good if it was better right now?' So that report is about how can we catalyse a community response around those recommendations.

Sue Bradford, Mana:

I'm seeking the adequate provision of on-going funding for organisations that provide support and encourage participation by and for particular groups including, for example, support groups for young gay and lesbian and others inside our schools, and also for groups that provide health, employment and other support to those in the rainbow community who have particular needs. Mana will increase the visibility of voice of disadvantaged young  Maori gay, lesbian, bi transgender and intersex peoples in the institutions of local and central government including DHBs and educational bodies.

Nicki Kaye, National:

The prime Minister John Key has mentioned that we will be reviewing youth suicide. One of the things that I feel very strongly about and that I will be advocating about is that young lgbt people in this country re over-represented in youth suicide. So I will be taking that forward if I am re-elected.


AGEING


Charles Chauvel, Labour:

As I creep through my 40s I am aware that I don't want to end up in a rest home cared for by a well-meaning carer who's never had an interaction with a gay person before. Obviously we have to have safety in the services going forward as well as safety in services we get now.


Jay Bennie - 15th October 2011

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