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Smith Devastated By Contempt Charge But Vows Fight

Hon Nick Smith
Nelson MP

16 July 2003

Smith Devastated By Contempt Charge But Vows To Fight

Nelson MP Nick Smith says he's devastated by the decision of the Solicitor General to prosecute him for Contempt of Court for calling for an inquiry into a case in which parents have been fighting for over three years in the Family Court for custody of their own child.

"I cannot believe that in a free and democratic country, I am being criminally charged for saying that a boy should be with his mum and dad.

"I will fight this with every bone in my body because the principles are so important. It is wrong that the powers of the state have been used to separate competent parents from their own child. The wrong is compounded when the state then uses its powers to silence those who question it."

Dr Smith found out from media yesterday that he was being prosecuted and had to phone the Solicitor Generals office to get a fax of the letter. The letter states that proceedings will be filed in the High Court for contempt against Dr Smith, TV3 and Radio New Zealand

Dr Smith has sought advice from the only other MP in New Zealand history to face contempt charges, John Banks, who successfully defended the charge. Mr Banks has advised that the cost of defence will be well over $100,000. Dr Smith is meeting with his lawyers this morning.

"The cost is the most horrifying part. I feel split between wanting to stand up for families and putting the financial security of my own young family at risk. I have had some generous offers of financial support for which I am very grateful. I accept that the bulk of the cost will come out of my own pocket and I will be raising a mortgage on my own home to do so.

"I have never publicly identified this family and maintain that I have not broken any laws. However, if I am found guilty I will not regret the action I have taken. This family has been done an injustice and as a constituent MP my job is to stand up for such people.

"While these charges are upsetting and a worry, it is incomparable to the hurt of the mother and father denied their own child for years for no good reason," says Dr Smith.


(Attached unedited copy of Hansard)


Yellow copy to be returned to the Hansard Office within I2 hours Green copy is for your retention

Turn(s) 19.2 Wednesday, II June 2003 3:55 PM

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National-Nelson): This goes to the core of the issues of our society, and what that Minister has just said is that it does not matter whether one is a father or a mother. I will quote social research after social research that says that children need fathers-and not female fathers. They need male fathers. I challenge any member opposite on that very point. I want to debate the issues that I have been putting in the public arena about the rights of parents, because the Family Court and this Government has got absolutely no respect for the rights and responsibilities of natural parents in this country. I am being threatened with my own career and my opportunity to speak freely about issues, because a family in my district has not been able to see their children for over 3 1/2 years. They have not been able to see their kids. There has been no report from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services regarding looking after their other children. I say that that is wrong, and I am going to go on saying that is wrong even if they want to throw me in jail and throw me out of this House, because a right of responsible parents is to be able to look after their children. I believe that passionately, and I am going to go on saying so. I want to know why responsible parents have to fight before the Family Court to have custody of their own children-because that is wrong. I want to know why a natural mother and father together have been denied for over 3 1/2 years the custody of their own children. I want to know why this Government is giving legal aid to fight people, fight parents being able to see and have access to their own children.

David Benson-Pope: Oh!

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Mr David Benson-Pope may not think that matters. People on this side of the House say that those issues do matter. I want to know why it is possible under this law and in practice for the Family Court in secret, without any notification to the natural parents, to grant custody to somebody else.

Hon Lianne DaIziel: Have you written to me?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The family has written to five Ministers - five Ministers in January last year. Five Ministers have been written to, and they have ignored it. I want to know this: why has it taken 3 1/2 years for a family to get a hearing over the custody of their own children?

David Benson-Pope: They went to the wrong MP for a start.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Actually, they went to the Maori Minister, for southern Maori I8 months ago, and he did nothing. That Maori family came to me out of desperation. I will fight for them and I will fight for them hard, because they have a right to the custody of their own children regardless of what political correctness they may get from the Family Court and from Government members. I want to know why we are paying a sole parents benefit for someone to care for a child when the mother and father are fit and able to do so? That is wrong, and I challenge any member of the Government to get to their feet and defend that sort of thing. I want to restate my call for an inquiry. I think that any New Zealander would say that that is wrong and that needs to be inquired into. Then we get this bill from the Minister, and it only further erodes the rights that parents have. This bill that the Minister has is about putting the State into every damn family in New Zealand. It is about socialism going to the extreme of having the State and the Family Court, which cannot deal even with basic issues like letting parents look after their own children, now dealing with all manner of things. I want to respond very specifically. How can clause I7 (2) say anything other than that a woman can be a father when it says this: "to avoid doubt in this Act, a father of a child is a reference to the same-sex partner of the mother of a child." That says that a woman can be a father, and that is a nonsense. It puts it in law. I ask the Minister this: why is there not a reverse provision that a man can be a mother? We on this side of the House say that that is a nonsense, but at least it would be logically consistent. I say that this Government's attack on the basis family unit and its failure to defend the rights of families is a tragedy


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