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Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. 120


Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. 120

Contents:

* Civil Union Bills create new discrimination

* The faster you go the bigger the mess

* How far does freedom of speech extend?

* Change Agent workshops in Nelson and Napier

Civil Union Bills create new discrimination

It is claimed that the purpose of the Civil Union Bills is to remove 'unjust' discrimination suffered by couples who are not married. But the Bills actually create a new kind of discrimination.

Under the proposed legislation a civil union will be subject to the same legal requirements and have the same privileges as marriage. But couples in a de facto relationship will gain the benefits of marriage without many of the responsibilities. For example, they will not be subject to the same dissolution (divorce) procedures or maintenance requirements. So the benefits and privileges of marriage will be available to people who have made no public commitment whatsoever.

This would discriminate against married couples and those in a civil union.

This reality exposes the fundamental flaw at the heart of the legislation. In legally treating all sexual relationships as equivalent, every type of relationship will be considered to have the same value to society, whether or not the couple buy into civil unions or marriage.

The government's stated objective to have 'neutral' laws on relationships. This is only possible, however, if the relationships themselves are the same.

In the attempt to create a level playing field, the measuring rod (i.e. marriage), is rendered meaningless. The government is dismissing marriage as offering any special value to society by treating all relationships the same as if they were marriage.

Submissions on the Civil Union and Relationships Bills are due in two weeks on 6 August. A simple guide to making a submission and information sheet on the Bills is available at: www.maxim.org.nz/cu/cu_active.html

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=120.1

The faster you go the bigger the mess

The Prime Minister's response to the accusation of speeding is more significant than the accusation itself: "It wasn't Helen Clark, private citizen, rushing to a rugby match. It was Helen Clark as Prime Minister with a set of public engagements for the day."

But Helen Clark or any other MP is not above the law, either as a private citizen, or an elected representative. Along with the police, they must obey the law like everybody else. That is fundamental to the social contract and the rule of law. There are exceptions; when life or property is in serious danger; but neither of these was the case last Saturday.

There are two serious issues here. The first is obvious. Helen Clark and the police have allegedly broken the law apparently for no just cause. The second is even more serious but less obvious.

The law exists for everyone's protection. Laws that do not get the public's respect will ultimately fail to work. In a democracy, public respect for law is absolutely critical. In the midst of an ongoing campaign to cut down speed on the roads this incident undermines that respect. While probably not intentional, the Prime Minister looks like she is placing herself above the law in light of her comment suggesting this was more acceptable because of her office, than as a private citizen.

Quite the reverse is true. The Prime Minister does not carry extra privileges but it might well be that the highest government office carries extra responsibilities.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=120.2

How far does freedom of speech extend?

David Irving, the highly controversial pro-Nazi historian wants to visit New Zealand to voice his extreme views, and already the call is out for the government to deny him entry.

The question is not whether his views are despicable, but whether, among citizens who claim freedom of speech as a fundamental human right, he should be allowed to have his say.

In stable societies, extreme viewpoints have a way of losing traction when they are exposed to rational scrutiny by many people. By saying that Irving's views are so dangerous that he must not be heard at all, do we give him more credit than he deserves?

With all the talk about hate speech and the need for legislation to prevent this, we need to ask ourselves as a society: When is it appropriate to limit someone's right to voice their opinion?

A quote from Noam Chomsky is food for thought, "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=120.3

Change Agent workshops in Nelson and Napier

Are you concerned about the direction of policy and culture in New Zealand? Change Agents workshops will address current issues such as Civil Unions, education, prostitution and political correctness, as well as providing practical tips on how to effectively engage in processes of public policy and debate.

Workshops will be held in Napier on Monday 26 July and in Nelson on 4 August. For details visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/whatson_page/whatson.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - James Q. Wilson

In the long run, the public interest depends on private virtue.

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