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Liberty Belle: Last Week On Holmes

Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Last Week On Holmes

Last week I watched a 'Holmes' programme on a single mother in South Auckland, waiting for a state house and living in a garage with her three children and a dog.

I had to feel sorry for her. This is a miserable state of affairs when the weather's freezing cold and a family has no hot water. She'd made the best of a bad situation - the place looked cosy, the kids had a computer and television -no books that I could see - but it was far from ideal for small children.

Steve Maharey was given a grilling by Susan Wood: "This is not good enough! What are you going to do? Help this family immediately!" etc, etc.

But she didn't ask the obvious question - where is the father/husband/partner of this family?

I felt a bit of sympathy for Maharey. This interview proved a point I have made very strongly in my research into education, carried out at Cambridge University (soon to be published as a monograph). It is just not possible to address social problems in New Zealand - falling education standards, rising crime, increased spending on welfare - without linking these failings to the destruction of the traditional family.

But this has become the problem that dare not speak its name. Public commentators, journalists and academics - the 'bien pensant' elite - bend over backwards to avoid making the link between single parenthood and poverty, lest someone be offended. In a healthy, liberal debate offence may be taken, and that is often a consequence, however it is not the intention and should not result in the debate being closed down.

It's not a hard question for a journalist to ask: where is the father and why is he not providing shelter for this Mum and her children?

In this case he might well be. The Family Court might have driven him out of their lives. He might have just cleared out. He might have more children in another single-parent family. He might be a millionaire, he might be a beneficiary.

We don't know, but as taxpayers being demanded by Susan Wood - via the Minister - to provide a home for four people, we have a right to know. If people make the decision to break up the family unit and go on welfare, then the taxpayers are entitled to some answers. I expect if I turned up on Susan Wood's doorstep and asked her to give my children and me a bed for just one night, she'd want to know why?

My last feature story for North & South before I became an MP was called 'The Overpowering Importance of the Two-Parent Family', and it documented how governments' policies over the years have incrementally eroded the family unit until, I wrote; "If a marriage was too difficult, then divorce was an easy option. If small children made work difficult for a sole parent, then the DPB was there for financial support. The importance of fathers both as economic providers and as male role models was rapidly diminishing, but with little public debate or recognition."

Well there's still very little public debate. To raise the issue risks being labelled a beneficiary basher - stupid insults that get everybody nowhere.

Now this government wants to pass legislation, which will marginalise the traditional family even further - if that's possible. The Care of Children Bill will render fathers (male fathers, that is) ever more redundant because lesbian partners could be defined as fathers - a smack in the face to biological fathers denied access to their own children.

I don't actually have strong views against gays raising children together - so long as the children are unconditionally loved, are safe, and I'm not forced to pay, I don't see I have the right to tell them they can't have children. Trouble is, the Human Rights Act already prevents private fertility clinics from excluding artificial insemination from lesbian mothers. I presume the same laws prevent mothers who put their babies up for adoption from stipulating no homosexuals may take their babies.

I object to the fact that these people choose an abnormal relationship - abnormal in that it is different to the norm - then won't take the consequences for their choice. Instead, they rush to government to pass laws granting them special favours. We'll soon see more of this with legislation allowing 'same-sex marriages'.

Last year when Margaret Wilson's Bill was passed which essentially 'married' couples in a heterosexual de facto relationship, many couples affected were outraged. They felt they'd chosen a particular type of relationship - abnormal to be sure - which put them and their children outside the protection of matrimonial laws and it wasn't the business of government to interfere in their private decision.

They accepted responsibility for their choice and felt, in some cases, the onus was even greater to protect their children's social development by strengthening their emotional, intellectual and financial commitment to the traditional family unit.

I don't care what the modern legislators try to say - a normal family unit is Mum, Dad and the kids. Mum's a she, Dad's a he, and the kids are whatever results. I'm not saying anything else should be illegal, or should be banned from having children. Just don't try and pass it off as a normal family.

The traditional family's worth fighting for. Like Dads, they're fast becoming an endangered species.

Now there's a thought: perhaps if we declared traditional families a noxious pest, and put them in the care of Department of Conservation instead of the nonsensical Families Commission, they'd flourish like possums and rats on DOC land.

Yours in liberty, Deborah Coddington

Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington, Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand.

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