Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 69
* World-class law? The Prostitution Reform Bill has passed by the smallest possible margin, but public awareness has only just begun.
* New tolerance campaign An initiative to promote racial tolerance is well-intended but based on a fuzzy foundation.
* Abortion statistics show inconsistency As a society we are not very consistent when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable.
Parliament voted last night by 60 votes to 59 to pass the Prostitution Reform Bill (PRB). While the new law is intended to improve conditions for women in prostitution, international experience shows it will fail in its aims. In Victoria (Australia), the number of brothels has almost quadrupled since legalisation in 1994. The expanded 'industry' has been accompanied by more crime, more violence and problems for the police and local councils. There is nothing to suggest that New Zealand will not head in the same direction. As Police Association President Greg O' Connor said yesterday, "this bill is police out, criminals in".
We were very disappointed with the decision, and while we hold grave fears for the safety of New Zealand's most vulnerable women and children, we are not despondent. This is a loss but not a defeat. Winning this debate was not the end goal. It was only a step in a much wider cultural battle for a Civil Society. We are even more determined now to see legislation that genuinely reforms prostitution.
Obviously the current parliament will not welcome such a move, but at the next election New Zealanders have the chance to change many of those MPs. For now the challenge is to continue building public awareness of the truth about prostitution. And not too many years from now, we believe, laws will be passed that declare our women and children are not for sale.
We sincerely thank all who rose to the task, took the time to get informed and got active. Many entered this debate only recently and just look at what the collective effort achieved. Against us were the Family Planning Association and the Prostitutes' Collective; both government-funded lobby groups (receiving $6.2 million and $500,000 a year, respectively). The Prostitutes' Collective has been on the campaign for nearly 9 years. The first reading of the bill had just 21 MPs voting against it - last night that had risen to 59.
Voting on the PRB
A 60 - 60 vote would have defeated the bill. This was a conscience vote meaning MPs were not bound by party loyalties. How they voted:
For – Against - Abstain
Labour 41 - 10 - 1
National l6 - 21
NZ First 0 - 13
United Future 0 - 8
Progressive 0 - 2
ACT 4 - 5
Green 9 - 0
Total 60 - 59 - 1
Some notable voting patterns were observed amongst Tim Barnett's Labour colleagues, namely: * all of the Labour cabinet and executive voted for the bill; * amongst Labour's list MPs, all voted for the bill except for Ashraf Choudhary who abstained; and * all 10 of the Labour MPs that voted against the bill are electorate MPs.
Maxim will continue to follow the issue and research the impact of the law. If you would like to receive regular email updates on the effects and initiatives to prevent women entering prostitution and assist them out, please email mailto:email@example.com with 'Prostitution Bill' in the subject line.
To see a clip of Greg Fleming explaining Maxim's response to the vote on TV One's Breakfast click on http://www.maxim.org.nz/video/
See how MPs voted: www.maxim.org.nz/ri/mpvotes.html
New tolerance campaign
An advertising campaign in the name of the Human Rights Commission has been launched this week to promote racial tolerance. $1.5 million will be spent to persuade people to be kinder to immigrants. The campaign shows the government is worried that despite the law, it has not yet managed to change human nature.
When the Human Rights Commission Act was passed in 1977, it outlawed discrimination on the grounds of race. Since then, the term "racist" has been used to stifle debate, and anti-racism has matured into "tolerance, diversity and inclusion", a new trinity that has assumed mantra-like status.
On the face of it, tolerance and inclusion are Good Things against which no-one can argue. But there's more going on. In order for the human rights version of tolerance to succeed, it has required changing the way we view w estern culture. Increasingly, we read history through the values and social policy ideals of the present. The past is 'bad', we have become ashamed of our heritage, and have lost confidence in it.
This does not mean we should ignore suffering or injustice that did occur, but history is about acknowledging and attempting to understand a complex human journey. Central to this is the need to honestly try to understand the past in terms of its own values and perspectives. Rather than politicised advertising campaigns and bureaucratic goals, a better way forward is to nurture community virtues - i.e. an organic bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach.
Abortion shows up inconsistencies
There were 17,400 abortions last year, a thousand more than the previous year. Women aged 20-24 had the highest abortion rate of any age group - 38.9 abortions per 1,000; followed by 25-29 year-olds at 26.9.
As a society we are not very consistent when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable; abortion is legalised; child abuse is not. We have an aggressive human rights culture, but have legalised prostitution, which effectively says that exploitation of women is also okay. We decry teenage suicide, but many want to legalise assisted suicide of the terminally ill (euthanasia).
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Willa Cather
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or woman.