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Maxim Institute real issues. No. Eighty-One

Maxim Institute real issues. No. Eighty-One

Contents: * The Supreme Court It's about more than just a new final appeal court.

* Care of Children Bill An anomaly surrounding abortion and parental knowledge needs to be addressed.

* Youth crime New figures show a surge of offending in the last decade. Is the government to blame?

Supreme Court Bill

Parliament's Justice and Electoral Select Committee has reported back on the Supreme Court Bill recommending it proceed, despite most submissions opposed to abolishing appeal to the Privy Council. The main argument in favour is that we need our own 'identity', to be 'mature', and be rid of any vestiges of 'colonialism'.

What we're seeing is not just a new court but a foundational shift in the basis of our constitutional framework and where its authority lies. This is the crux of the issue.

Our system of law, inherited from the British (Westminster) tradition, is based on centuries of hard-fought battles between the powers of the monarch and those of ordinary people expressed through parliament. The English Civil Wars (1642-48), for example, ended the old belief among monarchs that they had a 'divine right' to rule- that they could do as they wished without the consent of parliament. As British democracy evolved, the monarch came to be more of a figurehead, overseeing rather than dictating to parliament.

Powers of church and state became clearly separated, even though the highest official of the Anglican Church (the Archbishop of Canterbury), crowned the monarch. That was retained because he represented an authority above the state to whom all mortals were reminded they were accountable. This is symbolic, but it's an important symbolism concerning the nature of authority: the Deity - the Church - the Monarch - the Government (the people's representatives). Remove that structure and the potential exists for an abuse of power.

For an article on the implications of the Supreme Court along with notes and action points click on: www.maxim.org.nz/ri/supremecourtbill.html

Care of Children Bill

This bill presents an opportunity to change a scandalous piece of law that has been hanging around since 1977. The law - contained in the Guardianship Act - allows a girl of any age to have an abortion without her parents' knowledge. It is carried through into the new Care of Children Bill. In 2001, 66 girls aged between 11 and 14 had abortions. This may seem a small number, but the erosion of parental authority is real and goes well beyond the focus on teenage abortion.

Abortion is the only medical procedure which can be carried out without parental knowledge, and one has to ask why abortion is singled out for such treatment. Parents don't have to know but they are culpable if they are not providing proper care for their children. It puts them in a no-win situation, and, of course, the procedure is damaging for the girl. As many as 91 percent of all abortions cause severe psychological problems, both immediate and long-term. A paper in the British Medical Journal claims that the suicide rate after abortion was three times the general rate. And there is very strong evidence that women who have abortions are up to 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. For girls under 18 the risk rises by 150 percent.

Submissions on the Care of Children Bill close on 25 September. More information to make a submission is at: www.maxim.org.nz

Youth crime

This week the media stated that, 'a surge in violent crime committed by teens during the last 10 years has critics questioning the Government's commitment to reducing youth offending'. Commentators have attributed the doubling of violent crime cases for youth since 1992 to an increased availability of drugs, alcohol and violent entertainment. But who is really responsible?

Many of today's youth have a limited understanding of right and wrong, a reduced fear of punishment and a dulled sense of human life and dignity. These beliefs and ultimately behaviour are both taught and caught; they rarely develop in isolation. Parents have the primary responsibility for shaping children's character; they assume the most important role in raising them into mature adults and responsible citizens.

Society has an interest in supporting families in this task. The most important role for government then is to use law to encourage and support stable parenting. Anything else is remedial. The school curriculum promotes a confused and relative morality where right and wrong appeal to no higher authority than personal preference. Self control is valued less than self expression, and unfortunately, too many of our young people mistake that for licence to do whatever they like.

To reduce youth crime the state needs to support functioning families in law. Society should recognise that youth offenders must take responsibility for their own actions and that without a Policeman in every head we will need one on every street corner.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Martin Luther King Jnr

Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter.

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