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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 78

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 78

* Care of Children Bill While claiming to promote children's 'best interests' this bill also presents an opportunity to undermine marriage and family.

* The muddied waters of secular education A state funded mosque is to open at a Christchurch school raising important questions about the nature of secular education.

* 'Rainbow Desk' unjustified The Government is planning to set-up a helpline for homosexuals feeling discriminated against.

* Where does Maxim get its money from?

Care of Children Bill

Associate Justice Minister Lianne Dalziel yesterday said the Government will back-down from the controversial clause in this bill that would have seen lesbian partners become 'fathers'. However, it is a change to the language only, rather than the fact; the partner of a lesbian woman can still be a parent - she just won't be called 'father'.

This is one of the profound changes to marriage and family in this bill. The primary concerns are children whose parents have separated or divorced and the powers of the Family Court. But while dealing with practical needs, it also presents an opportunity to redefine 'marriage' and 'family'. 'Family' is replaced in favour of a diversity of groupings. 'Husband and wife' are deleted from the Family Proceedings Act in favour of 'spouse or de facto partners'. 'Marriage' remains, but 'de facto relationship' has full equivalence.

As the new definitions get carried into future legislation, the agenda to deconstruct what we've always understood by 'marriage' and 'family' will continue apace.

The Care of Children Bill provides the most comprehensive list of parental responsibilities so far outlined in New Zealand legislation, but parents no longer have 'custody' of children, only 'day to day care'. While it is logical that if parents have responsibilities, they should also have rights to carry them out, nowhere are these comprehensively spelled-out. In fact, one section of the bill wipes parental rights; a girl of any age can consent to an abortion without her parents' knowledge.

Parents are in a no-win situation. If there are post-abortion medical or psychological problems, the parent may not know why, and yet still be liable for not providing adequate protection for the child. In addition, privacy laws mean that the male who got the underage girl pregnant will probably escape punishment.

Submissions on the Care of Children Bill will be heard by Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee. They close on September 25. The full text of the bill can be viewed at: http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpprint/docs/bills/20030541.txt

The muddied waters of secular education

The Ministry of Education has funded the building of a mosque at Hagley Community College in Christchurch. With 120 Muslim migrant students, Hagley will provide the country's first purpose-built mosque in a public school.

Is it reasonable to use taxpayer's money to invest in a place of worship for a particular religion? To do so would appear to contravene the 'secular' basis of state schooling going back to the 1877 Education Act. There are of course, options for parents seeking religious schooling. The Integration Act of 1975 provides for special (religious) character schools to receive state funding for operations and teacher salaries; and there are private or independent schools, most of which are linked to Christian churches and specific denominations.

In the interests of preserving a clear separation of all churches and religious expressions from the state, the secular clause makes sense, especially when there are the options of integration, independent schools, and an amount of local discretion eg. ('Bible in School' programmes). Funding the Hagley mosque goes beyond these options though, and muddies the waters of an important constitutional separation.

Rainbow Desk unjustified

'Gay or transsexual and feeling picked on? Phone the government', says the Dominion Post in revealing plans by the Ministry of Social Development to set up a 'Rainbow Desk' as a telephone helpline for homosexuals who may experience discrimination. Documents released under the Official Information Act to ACT MP Muriel Newman shows the Rainbow Desk would cost $127,000 for the one person service.

The papers say the proposed service will make sure the views of special interest groups are heard and taken into consideration when providing advice to Ministers on social policy. A spokesman for the Social Development Minister Steve Maharey says the policy ties in with Labour's promise to amend all remaining laws that cause unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Dr Newman makes the point that the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which receives $5 million a year, already does the same thing and called it a "politically correct duplication of services". The proportion of enquiries and complaints to the HRC for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are however nominal. In the year to 30 June 2002, just 2 percent of complaints of discrimination received by the Commission were on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Results of a 2003 survey of perceived discrimination by the HRC and UMR Research show that Asian people (79 percent) were subject to a great deal or some discrimination, the highest for any group. They were followed by immigrants (77 percent) and refugees (72 percent). As a group gays and lesbians were less likely to be the targets of discrimination than three years ago, ranking 7th (61 percent) in 2003 after beneficiaries and overweight people.

When will the government establish a helpline service for possible cases of discrimination against Asian people, those on welfare or those who are overweight?

Where does Maxim get its money from?

The answer is not Minister of Finance, Dr Cullen. Neither is it any political organisation. Maxim Institute is an independent charitable trust. We are funded entirely by donations from people who are concerned about what is happening in our society and share a vision for a better New Zealand. Our goals are: to inform and inspire New Zealanders to be active in their community and in the democratic process; to promote the principles of a Civil Society; and to train and equip a new generation of leaders.

With your regular financial support we can continue to make a difference and plan with confidence. Automatic payment forms are at: www.maxim.org.nz/ri/maxim_ap_form.pdf (Requires the free Acrobat Reader programme which you can download from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html )

You can also make a one-off donation or set-up a monthly contribution by credit card at: https://secure.marketing.co.nz/ada/maxim For more information on how you can support Maxim please contact Amanda tel. 09-627 3261 or email: amanda.mcgrail@maxim.org.nz

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Will Rogers (1879-1935)

I don't make jokes - I just watch the government and report the facts.

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