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Petition For Conscience Vote On Shared Parenting

Monday 24th Apr 2000
Dr Muriel Newman
Media Release -- Social Welfare

Parenting groups have today launched a petition at Parliament calling for MPs to take a conscience vote on the Shared Parenting Bill.

The Bill, sponsored by ACT MP Muriel Newman is due to come before Parliament on May 10. MPs will decide on that day whether to send the Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee for scrutiny.

Speaking at the launch, Muriel Newman said Government opposition to the Bill, that ensures the right of children to frequent and ongoing access to both parents following separation and divorce, is based on misinformation. “The Minister of Women’s Affairs has been poorly briefed on shared parenting. Laila Harre’s argument that shared parenting has not worked in the 48 states of America that have shared parenting in law was soundly disproved by US experts on joint custody who visited New Zealand last week,” said Muriel Newman.

“Rather than leading the world, New Zealand is around 20 years behind the US in protecting the rights of children during separation and divorce. This Bill gives us the chance to catch up,” she said.

“As an excuse for not supporting this Bill to put children first, the Government is promising reviews of the Guardianship Act and the Family Court. Neither of those will address this problem head on,” she said.

“In effect, we have a Government that sees property in relationships as more important than children. Rather than tackling the custody and access laws as this Bill does, the Government wants Parliament to change the Matrimonial Property Act. The priorities are wrong,” said Muriel Newman.

“The Government has recognised the need for a conscience vote on the Matrimonial Property legislation. MPs should be given the courtesy of a conscience vote on Shared Parenting,” she said.

“MPs know the system is not working for children. The legal fraternity know that Parliament has not looked into what is ‘in the best interests of children’ for some 20 years and they believe this Bill would provide a valuable opportunity to do so. The Bill should be supported to Select Committee so the serious problems surrounding custody and access can be addressed,” said Muriel Newman.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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