Sludge Report #41 – A Festering Scab Of A Bill
IN THIS EDITION: A Festering Scab Of A Bill - Margaret Wilson Gifts Youth Vote To Opposition - A Peace Gift For Wellington From Ariel Sharon? - Mass Confusion In Florida Lacks Credibility
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Nandor – Our Only Hope!
Sludge Report #41
A Festering Scab Of A Bill – Margaret Wilson’s Gift Of The Youth Vote To The Opposition
Attorney General Margaret Wilson’s Property Relations Bill had its second reading in Parliament yesterday. While technically a free vote, Parliament as expected split along party lines, and the bill is progressing rapidly to become law.
Sludge has long been an opponent of this bill for reasons which have been resolutely ignored by the Wilson legislative bull-dozer, and which, while Sludge is loath to agree with Tony Ryall, deserve a thorough airing.
At its most basic level the Relationship Property Bill fails to achieve its aims in a remotely sensible fashion.
The bill is aimed primarily at two injustices in the present law: The lack of legal recognition of same sex relationships; The lack of protection for spurned de-facto partners – particularly those with children who have been living in a “relationship-in-the-nature-of-marriage”.
The problem is that rather than try to fix these very real problems directly the bill presented by Minister Wilson instead changes the law for all the rest of us.
Contrary to the understanding of most Government MPs the bill does not even enable same sex marriages. Sometime ago Transexual MP Georgina Beyer explained that the reason for this is that – in the wisdom of Wilson – the electorate is not ready for that yet.
She meant, Sludge presumes, to say that the electorate is ready for this. Think again Georgina.
Not only will 130,000 couples (250,000 people) currently in de-facto relationships be effectively married by this bill – but everybody who is married is having their marriage contract effectively rewritten. Certainty and comfort levels of married people concerning the outcomes of any breakup - enjoyed for some time under what everyone appears to consider to be relatively good law - are being taken away.
There has been much discussion of the technical
flaws in the bill: how the bill will result in a litigation
avalanche; how it can be very difficult to define exactly
what a “relationship-in-the-nature-of-marriage”is. For those
interested in this aspect of the bill Simon Upton’s
deconstruction of the bill is required reading. (See…http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/PA0011/S00054.htm
Upton-on-line November 3rd)
Sludge meanwhile would like to address the likely political impacts of the bill.
Politically probably the most significant aspect of the bill is when it comes into effect - early 2002 – the beginning of election year. Meanwhile, at the moment, as the bill is being passed in seemingly obscene haste, most of those affected by the bill – all adults in relationships – remain largely uninformed about what is in store for them.
What this means is that after the bill has been passed it will sit on the books – festering - for 15 or so months, as people find out what it means for them.
In Sludge’s opinion a better method of gifting the youth vote to the opposition could not be conceived of if one was trying very very hard.
While young people at present remain largely ignorant of the plans, over the coming 15 months they will inevitably end up finding out, if only because the opposition will tell them. And when they do find out what has happened they will be pissed off. They will talk about it. And they will be angry.
“Why should I have to go off to my lawyer to draw up a pre-nuptial agreement when I am not even married?” They will ask. “Why was this done?” “Why weren’t we asked or consulted?”
Ditto at least one half of all married couples who are in the process of breaking up, or who have broken up already but are yet to straighten out property matters, will intensely resent the interference in their lives created by this bill.
If there is one thing that Sludge has learned about politics it is this. Voters do not appreciate politicians interfering in their personal affairs without very good cause.
In the case of this bill we have legislation which is designed to assist two oppressed minorities, but which in fixing these problems changes the rights and obligations of an overwhelming majority of the adult population – without asking them! It is, in short, without doubt the most foolish piece of legislation that Sludge has ever come across.
Politically then there is much hay to be made here.
Arguably the greatest political opportunity present in the passage of this bill is sitting there for the Green Party to pluck. The Greens already have an unprecedented amount of the vote among those aged under 30 – the group who are the most directly affected by this bill - and whose interests are not being represented at all well in Parliament.
But unfortunately thus far the Greens appear to have decided to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Keith Locke, who lives in a stable defacto relationship (with no legal protection) is want to go on and on about how this bill will set things right in his relationship. Sludge wonders why he doesn’t just get married?
Other Green MPs (Nandor?) are presumably less wedded to it. As several free Green votes are needed to pass this bill some reconsideration of the lay of the land could well be in order.
But in the absence of a change of heart by free thinking Greens, Labour and Alliance MPs the National Party would seem the inevitable beneficiaries of this festering scab of a bill.
A Peace Gift For Wellington From Ariel Sharon?
A “Strategic Adviser” to right wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon (who arguably sparked the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land during his visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount) is coming to Wellington to plant an olive tree for peace. The planting ceremony scheduled for tomorrow morning will mark the 5th anniversary of the assassination of former Israeli PM Yitzak Rabin by an Israeli extremist. Whether this was in mind when Sharon’s adviser was invited to plant the tree here in Wellintgon is not known. Scoop plans to be there to record the occasion so watch this space. In case you were wondering Sludge understands that Wellington is not being singled out in this exercise, and that peace trees are being planted all over the world. Here’s hoping they help. Help is definitely needed.
Indecision 2000 - Mass Confusion In Florida Lacks Credibility
As Indecision 2000 continues to unfold across the Pacific Sludge cannot help thinking that there is one aspect of recent events in Florida which has been far from adequately explained by CNN. In two counties (at least) it appears that a total of around 36,000 voters had their ballot papers discarded because they punched their ballots twice.
In Palm Beach County a confusing – and now notorious - “butterfly” ballot has received the blame. Across the state in it is alleged that the ballots were already punched before voters got a hold of them.
Now – call Sludge a conspiracy theorist if you like – but for me the idea that 19,000 people could accidentally vote twice without complaining, and without election supervisors noticing, is far-fetched in the extreme.
Far more likely, Sludge reckons, there is some form jiggery-pokery going on here involving pre-punched ballots.
And then when you add in the fact that a close buddy of Dubya’s brother Jeb Bush - the Secretary of State for Florida – now seems prematurely anxious to prevent a proper examination of what really happened in the ballot (the vote remains open till Friday anyway!), and all the hallmarks of large scale electoral fraud are coming into focus.
Maybe Dubya may even end up going to jail rather than the White House! After all, isn’t this the same candidate whose campaign featured a subliminal message inserted into a campaign advert and whose father headed the most famous of all deceitful organisations for a considerable period of time, the CIA.