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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 116


Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 116

real issues. this week: No. 116, 24 JUNE 2004

Contents:

* Families Commission - Commissioners Announced

* The Civil Union Bill - Marriage by another name?

* Education - Australia leading the way

* Manipulating Language - Who's the husband and who's the wife?

* Change Agent Workshop - Southland this weekend

Families Commission - Commissioners Announced

After much waiting, Families Commissioners have finally been appointed and $28 million has been provided for the Commission over the next four years.

Six Commissioners have been appointed, bringing a variety of advocacy and governance skills to their roles. Members of the initial Commission are: Dr Rajen Prasad, Chief Commissioner (full-time appointment), bioethics specialist Sharron Cole (Deputy Chief Commissioner) psychiatrist Prof Mason Durie, legal expert Sandra Alofivae, former Human Rights Commissioner Carolynn Bull, and long-time family advocate Lyn Campbell.

It's an impressive line-up, and as Peter Dunne says, middle New Zealand does seem to be represented. Let us hope that the Commission delivers on United Future's core election platform by putting "families first".

Dr Prasad seems to understand the task ahead. And what is that task? Well, it must involve lots of research to discover just what is happening to the family in New Zealand. It must also mean that the government learns that the family is the primary mediating institution in civil society. Without the family as the nucleus of social order it is difficult to see how society can work effectively, or even work at all. Consequently it is very significant to observe that the Families Commission comes into existence on the same day parliament votes on the Civil Union and Relationship Bills (first readings). How will it attend to what the Prime Minister calls a "level playing field", i.e. all sexual relationships are equivalent?

Nevertheless, Maxim looks forward to a huge advance in New Zealand in our understanding of marriage and family as an indissoluble pair; and of course a blueprint for assistance for those families in trouble.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=116.1

The Civil Union Bill - Marriage by another name?

Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope has been walking a tightrope this week. He's tried to convince marriage advocates that the Civil Union Bill is not the same as marriage, yet at the same time assure the bills supporters that it provides same-sex couples with a legal equivalent to marriage.

The Prime Minister Helen Clark told National Radio's Linda Clark early this week, that the Bill is all about providing choices, and eliminating discrimination. Earlier this year though, she let the cat out of the bag when she told the homosexual newspaper Express that it's the government's overall intention to make all relationships equivalent to marriage. "The Omnibus Bill [the Civil Union's companion Bill] will take out any discrimination, so the Marriage Act will not have any practical effect."

The explanatory note for the Civil Union Bill says "The provisions in the Bill are based on the provisions for marriage but have been modernised to reflect current law, policy, and practice". Other than the name, the only difference between marriage and a civil union are the terms (and presence of both a) 'husband' and 'wife'. Young people aged sixteen and seventeen are eligible to marry with parental permission or a court order. They will also be able to enter a civil union through a court order if a parent refuses permission, whether same-sex or opposite sex.

On its own, the Civil Union Bill does not confer the legal privileges of marriage to civil unions. Therefore without the Relationships Bill, couples in a civil union will not have the same rights as those who are married. However, if both bills pass into law, civil unions will be afforded the same legal treatment as marriage, along with all relationships which the state deems to be in the "nature of marriage." Ironically the spin of "celebrating diversity" is in reality the state forcing all couples into the same legal box.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=116.2

Education - Australia leading the way

Wouldn't it be great if the competitive streak between New Zealand and Australia went beyond rugby? Australia's new education policy announced by Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday contains many aspects of a winning education system and New Zealand would do well to compete.

The new education policy focuses on greater autonomy for principals, professional standards for teachers, as well as better information and a greater role for parents. All of these reforms will benefit students and ultimately society.

By giving principals greater freedom in decision making, the policy will allow principals to focus on the achievement of their students and the vision for the school, rather than paper work and bureaucracy. By treating teachers as professionals and introducing professional reviews and training, it is hoped that fewer teachers will quit teaching and more bright young people will be attracted to the profession. When you consider that in New Zealand, of the 1999 teaching graduates 34% had left the profession within two years, Australia's policy seems more and more sensible.

Under the policy, parents will be informed of a school's performance against national benchmarks in literacy and numeracy, as well as pupil attendance rates and staff turnover. Parents are the primary educators of their children and reforms that aim to give parents more information and more involvement in their children's education should be encouraged. Other key planks of the new education policy include removing "political correctness" from school reports, a requirement that schools fly the Australian flag and a greater emphasis on values and civic responsibilities.

To read a Maxim Institute submission to the Ministry of Education which advocates the teaching of civic responsibility and a focus on virtue in schooling, see http://www.maxim.org.nz/ed/schooling_strategy.rtf

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=116.3

Manipulating Language - Who's the husband and who's the wife?

When you bring in something like a civil union for same-sex couples, you have to start fudging things a lot. You have to wrench language into new meanings.

Take, for example, Section 42 of the Civil Union Bill, which amends the Family Proceedings Act 1980. Under the definitions to be changed, a "husband" will be defined as "one of the parties to a civil union", and a "wife" as "the other party to a civil union.

So by definition, a woman in a heterosexual civil union could choose to call herself the husband. In a same-sex civil union, one of the males becomes the wife (and presumably a widow when his/her partner dies).

This, from the same people who in the Care of Children Bill deemed that a lesbian woman could be called the father of her partner's children, and in the Families Commission Bill that a family could be any group of people with a significant psychological attachment.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=116.4

Change Agent Workshop - Southland this weekend

Workshops will be held in Gore and Invercargill this weekend to inform locals about the Civil Union Bills, education and prostitution - providing practical tips on understanding the legislative process, making effective submissions to Parliament and effective broadcasting and advertising complaints. For event details see http://www.maxim.org.nz/ca/deep_south.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - T.S. Eliot

By far the most important channel of transmission of culture remains the family; and when family life fails to play its part, we must expect our culture to deteriorate.

'Notes Towards the Definition of Culture', 1948

To subscribe send a blank email to: realissues@maxim.org.nz

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/about_page/about_keyprinciples.html


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