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Genuine and Stable Relationships are Important

November 22 2004

Genuine and Stable Relationships are Important

Lianne Dalziel, MP for Christchurch East, responds to the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards.

I appreciate Scoop giving me a right of reply to the article submitted by David Lane from the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards. I will ignore the personal attack Mr Lane has chosen to launch on me, but rather deal with the issues he has raised.

It is correct that I support the Civil Union Bill and Relationships (Statutory References) Bill, however, it is incorrect to imply that I do not take seriously my role as a member of the Justice & Electoral Select Committee, which is considering these Bills. We have all listened carefully to the submissions and are now working through the issues. I am confident that the Committee as a whole will improve the Bills.

It was interesting to listen to those who defended the institution of marriage regardless of the nature of the marriage. The question I posed to Mr Lane was one that I posed to others. In essence it asked whether it was better for a child to be raised in a violent and abusive home environment where the parents were married or in a loving and supportive environment where the couple was not married. He was the only one who refused to answer the question by attacking the question. Even those who were just as adamant as he about the need to promote marriage were willing to concede that the quality of the relationship between the parents and with their children was important. No-one else was prepared to leave hanging the possibility of children remaining in a violent and abusive household even if the parents were married. No-one else was prepared to deny the reality that children would be better off in a loving environment, even if the two adults who loved and cared for them were in a same-sex relationship.

The point that I have made throughout the debate on the Civil Union Bill is that there are children who live in such households now; i.e. where they are being raised by people in same-sex relationships. The evidence that we were referred to by those who oppose the Bill actually says that children suffer from the prejudice that is leveled at their parents and guardians and that recognising their relationships would go some way to improving the lives of the children. The Civil Union Bill does not allow same-sex couples to marry, but it does allow their relationships to be recognised.

With respect to the linking of the Immigration Partnership policy to the current legislation, there is no such link. If Mr Lane was so upset by the changes to the immigration policy, why did he not raise it at the time? It was a very public change to the policy when it was announced just over a year ago.

The bottom line is that it suits Mr Lane’s argument, but lacks any analysis of the reality of immigration policy. As a result it is fundamentally flawed. Mr Lane believes that a marriage certificate should be sufficient evidence to support a residence application, but my four years’ experience as a Minister of Immigration says that cannot be enough. The reason is that an unquestioning acceptance of the marriage certificate makes it a marketable commodity.

Although the vast majority of marriages are genuine, it is true that thousands of dollars are paid to support residence applications with false marriages. But what’s even worse than a false marriage, where one buys and the other sells their marriage vows, and that is when ordinary Kiwis are conned into believing that the person who has proposed marriage loves them and is entering into a genuine marriage. As soon as the non-New Zealander obtains residence or citizenship, they are gone. And that is the first time that the New Zealander realises they have been duped. It is gut-wrenching to find that you have been used in this way.

There are people (men and women) who will say and do anything to obtain residence in this country, but when they con someone into believing that their commitment is genuine when it is not, then I believe the crime that they commit is worse. And even worse still is the situation where children are born to these one-sided relationships, where Mum or Dad, whichever the case may be, only parents a child in order to prove the genuine nature of the marriage, but are planning to separate that child from its mother or father once the residency or citizenship comes through.

These are crimes against humanity in my opinion and yet the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards criticises me for being the Minister who said enough was enough.

In my time as Minister, I received many letters from ordinary Kiwi men and women whose lives have been turned upside down by these manipulative individuals, who have no right to be in our country. But getting rid of someone who has married a Kiwi with a false promise, when the innocent party didn’t know that it was false at the time, is very difficult. I remember being written to by a New Zealand woman asking me to deport her husband, who had abandoned her once he got residence, but when I looked at the file, she had previously written to berate the Immigration Service for declining her husband entry to New Zealand, and saying she had a right to bring him here (they met and married in Australia).

The difficulty the Immigration Service had was how to prove that the marriage was not genuine when it was entered into. In order to reduce the risk in this area, the government not only introduced a 12 month living together requirement, but also introduced a new provision that reversed the onus of proof. Any relationship has to be genuine and stable in order to sustain a residence application, but the burden of proof now sits with the applicant to prove the relationship is genuine and stable, and not with the NZIS to prove that it is not.

Mr Lane’s unwillingness to differentiate on the quality of the relationship leaves him defending false marriages, abusive marriages, violent marriages and marriages where only one spouse is committed to the other. That is something I was not prepared to do and I have no apology for wanting every child brought up in a loving, stable, committed environment and for every residence application to be based on a genuine and stable relationship.


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