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Politics in Full Sentences – 1 July 2019

aEnd of Life Choice Bill

Last week, the End of Life Choice Bill passed its Second Reading by a margin of 70 to 50. David Seymour gave up a ministerial role in the Key/English Government to continue to sponsor this legislation. Why? Because ACT exists to improve public policy, not collect baubles. We believe in choice and compassion for those facing intolerable suffering at the end of their lives. A majority of MPs agree with us, but there is still a long way to go.

The Israel Folau saga

In being fired, booted off GoFundMe, and publicly harassed, has Israel Folau been denied his right to freedom of speech? No, the issues are in private contracts. It is up to the courts to determine whether Folau has breached his contract and whether Rugby Australia acted lawfully. Modern rugby players who believe their jobs end when they step off the field don’t understand what they signed up for. It’s up to private companies like GoFundMe to determine who can use their platforms, and consumers will judge them in turn.

A distasteful pile on

We still believe the way Folau has been treated is despicable. The pile on even extended to his partner Maria Folau and threatened her career as a netballer. Of course, individuals and businesses should be allowed speak, or associate with people like the Folaus, as they wish, just as we exercise our right to say the Folaus’ persecution by the mob has been a disgrace and reflects badly on a number of actors involved in it.

The effect of hate speech laws

The Folau issue would be a very different story if Australia had UK-style hate speech laws and sexuality was a ‘protected characteristic.’ Police might have shown up on Folau’s doorstep and detained him. He would be a free speech martyr with an even bigger platform than now. Using the power of the state against Folau wouldn’t have changed his mind, however. This is the kind of situation ACT is trying to avoid in New Zealand. It is why we have proposed the Freedom to Speak Bill. If we don’t define the free speech debate our opponents will.

Ignoring experts

ACT is proud to be the only political party to have voted against the Government’s gun legislation. We opposed the legislation because it was rushed and ill-thought-out. Last week, we found out that experts had just five hours to price every banned gun in New Zealand. The Police Minister said he believed it was fair that only a few hours were set aside to create a price list for a potentially $1 billion gun buyback. This exemplifies the high-handed approach of the Government.

Government should change course

The Government needs to realise that, in order to make the buyback a success, it needs the gun community onside. By rushing the process, ignoring the advice of experts, and paying gun owners a fraction of what their firearms are worth, the Government risks a situation where firearms go underground, creating a larger black market. The Government could slow down, consult with the gun community and experts, and compensate people properly, but it won’t. The Prime Minister promised to act as quickly as she could and has too much pride to admit she got it wrong.

Public relations over policy

Jacinda Ardern runs the Government like a PR firm. She has manufactured a series of incredibly successful marketing campaigns. Meeting the Queen in a korowai. Neve’s first birthday. Travelling to Paris to demand social media bosses clean up their platforms. The gun buyback. Despite the marketing, there’s still no delivery. KiwiBuild is a fantastic example. You couldn’t get a better Kiwiana publicity stunt than Dave Dobbyn playing ‘Welcome Home’ to launch the policy. There's just one problem: No houses!

The intolerant mob

What ties Folau and the gun buyback together is the intolerant mob. Intolerance is found on both sides of politics, but mob culture is increasingly located on the Left. The mob don’t want to disagree with their political opponents, but completely shut them down and hound them out of public life. Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of pouring milkshakes on right-wing politicians.

Silencing opponents

The Left didn’t need to pile on the Folaus. It could have debated or ridiculed them. Instead, it tried to silence them. After Christchurch, the Government, its supporters, and even some on the Right, didn’t need to make the gun community an enemy. Firearm owners could have been welcomed inside the tent to help find a solution. Instead, the most vocal elements of the gun community were invited in front of television cameras and maligned by every party except one. Instead of trying to silence our opponents, we need to do a better job of disagreeing productively.

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