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Shared parenting as a divisive political football

Media Statement
David Jacobs
21 April 2000

Act is using shared parenting as a divisive political football

Last night I was stopped from speaking and asked to leave at a public meeting on Shared Parenting dominated by the Act MP Muriel Newman.

The meeting was hosted by Men’s Centre North Shore and was billed as an opportunity to hear from two visiting experts on the issue from the USA.

It was in fact a platform for Muriel Newman. She spoke at length both before and after the visiting speakers and used both of her speaking opportunities to foster division over the issue.

She claimed that Shared Parenting is a non-partisan issue but she demonstrated otherwise. She repeatedly attacked other political parties who are concerned about the issue but want to consider it in a wider context than that afforded by her Shared Parenting Bill.

It was clear that Act wants exclusive ownership of the issue of shared parenting. They are upset by the government’s recent commitment to a detailed and considered approach to the issue in its reviews of both child welfare issues and the Guardianship Act. Instead of welcoming that commitment Muriel resents it.

After the interval when contributions from the floor were invited I attempted to speak. I introduced myself as a separated parent who shares in the parenting of his children and as a Labour Party member who cares about the issue.

I tried to ask Muriel not to use the issue of shared parenting as a political football. My point was that the issue itself is more important than her bill and that members of all political parties need to work constructively over the issue.

Rather than being allowed to make my point I was asked to stop speaking and encouraged to leave to leave the meeting. Muriel didn’t lift a finger to prevent such suppression of debate. I left before things had a chance to get any nastier. The hatred towards me was quite palpable.

I regard what happens in the parenting of children when their parents separate as an issue which urgently needs to be addressed by our government. We need legislation and Family Court procedures to ensure that parenting arrangements are in the best interests of our children. It is clear to me that shared parenting is generally (although not always) in the best interests of our children.

I am aware that there is much anger in New Zealand among separated fathers. I believe that the anger is sometimes justified. I am appalled that Act appears to be more interested in the anger than in the issue. I am also appalled at the anti-democratic political exclusiveness of the meeting I attended. Whipping up anger and suppressing debate is a familiar combination of the hard right.

I will not be signing the petition in support of Muriel’s bill. Although I am concerned about the issue of shared parenting I do not wish to support Act’s cynical and manipulative approach to it. I urge other New Zealanders who are concerned about this issue not to sign the petition. Signing the petition will only serve Act’s socially divisive purposes.

I hope that men’s groups like Men’s Centre North Shore will enter into constructive dialogue with the government over the issue of shared parenting. I hope they will resist the strategy of the hard right to plunge New Zealand into divisive confrontation over the issue. By acting as Muriel’s Mob they will only discredit their case.

Contact: David Jacobs on (09) 631 5151 or (021) 631 151

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