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Big News: Labour Did Not Campaign On Civil Unions

Big News with Dave Crampton

Labour Did Not Campaign On Relationship Recognition Or Civil Unions

Don Brash raised some interesting points in last Thursday's Herald about the way we have pushed through social changes - such as prostitution reform, civil unions, and the Property Relationships Act - and says that such issues should not be done with backroom MMP deals and conscience votes managed by the ninth floor of the beehive - as the prostitution and civil union votes were.

He questions MMP, saying the only benefit to MMP is the ethnic and gender balance - and suggests a referendum on our electoral system again, including SM- the supplementary member system, which cuts list MP's by half. In fact he wants to use referendums more widely than constitutional issues - like moral issues, for example. Brash wants accountability and consensus and sees MMP as a system that does not provide that. But I have to ask, who in New Zealand is he accountable to other than his own caucus and party? He is not elected by the people, does not represent the people, but if he is still the leader and wins the election this year he will have to lead the people.

Brash he wants to have a referendum on the way we eleect our politicians - and make it National Party policy.

Personally I support MMP over FPP, but I still think there are too many list MP's - and if there is a change of Government at the next election one of these MPs may well be the first unelected PM. The most recent poll I saw on MMP/FPP was last years NBR - Phillips Fox poll of 750 voters which showed that 43 per cent support MMP, while FPP was up to 40 per cent - its low was 29 per cent in early 1998.

Check out Jordan Carter's column on the issue. It's well written, but Jordan hasn't got it all correct.

People do not want to be ruled by referenda - any more than being ruled by a dictatorship. But most people do want to be governed in step with public opinion. Jordan implies that the Greens and Labour campaigned for same sex relationship recognition in 1999 and 2002 and therefore, as the Government, Labour had a mandate to push through civil unions. It didn't. For a start, civil unions wasn't Labour policy prior to the 1999 election.

The Civil Union Bill committee's first report wasn't until May 2001, and civil unions weren't mooted until after the 1999 election. It's rainbow policy was not up and running until just a few months before the 2002 election. Most people didn't even know it was policy until after the election. Jordan Carter surely knows that a vote for a party is not a vote for its entire manifesto. He says

"When you campaign on an issue and win an election, one assumes a mandate exists."

But Labour didn't campaign on the issue. The Labour campaign details were finalised before the policy was issued and the policy was snuck in at the end. It was about as much as a public mandate as the failed fart tax.

The Greens actually supported gay marriage, whereas Labour supported relationship equivalance. But "campaigning"? I don't think so - except perhaps in the gay media like Express, which most people don't read. The Government has never had a mandate to push through civil unions- and never heavily "campaigned " for equivalence of gay relationships prior to the election. In fact the responses to the Labour 1999 "same sex and the law" document showed an overwhelming proportion of submitters were against any of Labour's proposed social changes.

There are two reasons why Labour is still ahead in the polls: We have a good economy and Helen Clark is seen as a better Prime Minister than Don Brash - or anyone else in National - will be. The problem is, though, that Labour only supports and advocates for minorities that agree with a smaller minority - it's own caucus. I don't hear Labour advocating for Maori,Muslims - or any ethnic minority for that matter - Christians, paedophiles, the unemployed, migrants and refugees, or victims of NCEA.

Unless, of course they are gay, and preferably living with a partner.


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