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Real Issues No. Forty Three

real issues. this week: No. Forty-Three 21 NOVEMBER 2002

We have had to modify a number of words due to email filters rejecting certain words. If you wish to read the original document please see http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/current_page/current_realissues.html

Contents: * UNICEF report - Child poverty is blamed on the 'New Right' ideology of the eighties, but a more significant factor we suggest has been widespread social and legal change.

* Prostitution survey - Results from a new Colmar Brunton survey show marked support for prosecuting buyers of s_ex.

* National's new direction - Leader Bill English is talking straight about ethics in government.

* 'S_ex in the Park' - A Crown Health initiative for Christchurch teens is actually promoting what it says it is not.

* THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Ronald Reagan

UNICEF report on child poverty - a predictable result

A UNICEF report into child poverty in New Zealand was released this week. Authored by academics from the School of Social and Cultural Studies (Massey University), it looks into the impact on children of the market reforms which began with the Labour Government of the 1980s and continued with the National-led administration of the early 1990s. It found households with children are more likely to be in the bottom two-fifths of income and that as a consequence of these reforms, child poverty in New Zealand was exacerbated. The assumptions and conclusions are overwhelmingly supportive of a "social democratic" perspective and do not consider the broader context of social change critical in a discussion of children's welfare.

The title, The Invisible Hand that Rocks the Cradle: New Zealand Children in a Time of Change, is a not-so-subtle paraphrase of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand", referring to the market in The Wealth of Nations. The reforms of 1980s and 90s did represent the ideology of the market. The pace of change created genuine hardship for some and it was an economic idea that fell down in its presumption of a co-existing and strong social ethic, which we did not have. However, only passing reference is made to the fact that in that same period (1984-1993) we began to experience enormous social change, most of which was evident before the reforms: no-fault divorce, an escalation in sole parent families, teenage pregnancies, the advent of "s_exuality" education and further s_exual liberation. The report takes a structural view accentuating the role of government. It was not the economy that primarily created child hardship in those years; it was a devolving social fabric that undermined social order, particularly natural families.

To view an article by Maxim Director Bruce Logan in response to the report, click on: www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/unicef.html

Support for prosecuting buyers of s_ex - new survey results

A high proportion of New Zealanders want prostitution reform, but according to a new Colmar Brunton survey, there is marked support for a law change so buyers of s_exual services are prosecuted. This approach is similar to a Swedish law introduced in 1999 and contrasts with a proposal currently before Parliament that would decriminalise the 's_ex industry'.

Considering there has been little debate on the issue, there was surprising support for a law to prosecute purchasers. Fewer than half overall were opposed to the buyer of s_ex being prosecuted, while 51 percent were either in favour or undecided. As might be expected, support around the country was stronger among women, with 44 percent in favour of a law, and only 41 percent opposed. This was also reflected among homemakers, many of whom are obviously concerned at the effect that prostitution has on marriage. There was also very high support from "non-working" people such as students and beneficiaries, with 61 percent supporting the Swedish law model. But the highest levels of support came from a surprising quarter: young people. Nearly three-quarters of teenagers questioned by Colmar Brunton were in favour of prosecuting the buyers of s_ex, and nearly half of all those aged under 30.

The survey of 1,000 people aged 18 and above was carried out by Colmar Brunton Research on behalf of Maxim Institute between 23 October and 4 November.

A media release on the survey can be seen by clicking on: www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/prbrelease3.html

National - from pragmatism to principle?

Bill English said this week that New Zealand doesn't face a crisis; but something more worrying - a gradual erosion of ethics in government. He is right, of course: the scope of government is not the sole issue, but also its character. Mr English's statement is in response to the desperate need for the National Party to state what it stands for. For one thing, it needs to leave pragmatism behind and embrace principle. But what will stop that ethical erosion to which Mr English alludes? National, we are told, "stands for enterprise, personal responsibility, strong families, freedom and choice and personal security."

Great principles, but what is the underlying philosophy that will give these fine aspirations traction? National needs to develop and explain the role of the state in a liberal democracy. For example, just what is its attitude to Maori seats in Parliament in view of its opposition to special Maori seats on local authorities? What are the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi? How do these influence the creation of "one standard of citizenship?"

Will we see a return to tough and open moral debate? The National Party has never wanted to be seen as "moralising". But ironically that is what commitment to principle demands. A community deserving of the name always and inevitably rests on a moral framework and to demand no moralising (as the media tends to do) is to demand no community. So we wait with anticipation for Mr English to define his party's philosophy and perhaps start debate on an alternative framework for understanding politics.

'S_ex in the Park' - adolescent hedonism dressed up as health

Christchurch teenagers will soon be enjoying "S_ex in the Park", according to a press release this week. Organised by Crown Public Health, the event will offer on-site chlamydia testing and s_exual health "warrants of fitness", as well as "lube wrestling", games of "s_ex and ladders", stalls and live bands. Crown Public Health promoter Dianne Shannon said the name of the event was controversial, but the play on the title of the popular TV series ("S_ex in the City") was an effective way to get the message to teenagers.

"It's a catchy title [Ms Shannon said] but it has a serious message. We're not encouraging people to have s_ex in the park, of course. S_ex is mainly about how HIV is spread in the world, and the event's being held in the park." December 1 is also World AIDS Day. To earn a s_exual health warrant, participants will have to demonstrate their knowledge in a written questionnaire, answer verbal questions correctly, and sit a practical test that includes putting a condom on a model.

The notion of a "s_exual health warrant" is absurd. Does this mean that young people can show it to their partner and claim to be free of disease (at least on the day of the "warrant")? What's actually happening is a deliberate undermining of natural inhibitions; despite what Ms Shannon says, this is not promoting health at all, but promiscuity - at taxpayers' expense. But at a deeper level, what we're also seeing is a reductionist view of s_exual activity. The message is duplicitous; on the one hand the claim is made that this sort of event will encourage s_exual behaviour that is responsible, but nowhere is there research to confirm this. Human nature being what it is, events like this create further awakening and the result is more, not less of the behaviour. As well as this, parents are being devalued and their role in guidance and instruction diminished. S_exual behaviour is not viewed as the consequence of a committed relationship, but as a mechanical exercise to be performed with whoever - "safely", of course.


Our leaders must remember that education doesn't begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington. Education begins in the home, where it is a parental right and responsibility.

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