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Maxim: No. 138,

Maxim: No. 138, 25 NOVEMBER 2004

Civil Union Bill rushed and dishonest

NCEA tests loyalty to government policy

Select group rewrite Charities Bill

Compass conference speakers confirmed

Civil Union Bill rushed and dishonest

Two weeks ago we suggested that the government would attempt to rush the Civil Union Bill through Parliament before Christmas. Despite denials from government MPs that it was a rush and that the select committee had not been asked to report back early, it has been confirmed that the Second Reading will be held next Thursday, 2 December. The select committee report will be released next Monday and is likely to make some significant changes which further emphasise that this Bill effectively creates same-sex marriage in New Zealand.

Amongst recommendations expected by the majority of Labour MPs and a Green MP is a clause that describe civil unions as being 'lifelong and exclusive', a term not even used in the Marriage Act. However, there isn't likely to be any penalty for breaking this. This is an attempt to add a social understanding of marriage into civil union law. The bill will also retain a highly controversial clause that allows a heterosexual couple to transfer a civil union to marriage and vice versa. This shows that a civil union and marriage are in fact interchangeable, although same-sex couples will not be eligible. It is almost certain this will be contested in the High Court on the grounds it is discriminatory. It is also possible that in response to a few submissions a new provision will be added that allows same-sex marriages and civil unions registered overseas to be recognised in New Zealand.

If the Civil Union Bill passes the second vote next week, it appears the government will use urgency to push it through its final stages a week later. This will make it the fastest same-sex marriage law in the world - less than six months from start to finish. As a conscience vote, it is simply too contentious and important to be rushed. To help prevent this law being passed by Christmas, please call your MP and ask them to vote against it. Maxim's website has been updated with new information and analysis on the Bills, along with simple steps to take action - just visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/civilunions

NCEA tests loyalty to government policy

The latest NCEA level 3 (seventh form) economics examination provides a startling insight into what our students are being taught and tested on at high school.

The introduction to question 4 (b) stated: "New Zealand Government policies in the last twenty years have been more "free market". In the same period, inequality has increased and the gap between rich and poor has grown wider." Students were asked to, "explain why using 'free market' policies causes income inequality." Are pupils also being taught the political implications of such a question? If income inequality is treated as an example of 'market failure' which needs to be fixed by government regulation (rather than simply a reality of life), it becomes a political position rather than an economic one.

The exam also asked pupils to explain why the 'free' state education provided by the New Zealand government "results in a better resource allocation than the free market..." It suggests that 'resource allocation', as defined by the curriculum, is more important than other values, such as parental access and responsibility, and freedom for local schools to respond to the needs of their community.

Learning how to argue both sides of a proposition is helpful, and understanding differing viewpoints on an issue is important, especially when it comes to the compulsory national curriculum. When pupils are tested on such politically loaded questions, one has to question whether this is state education or state indoctrination.

Select group rewrite Charities Bill

Another controversial piece of legislation being ushered through Parliament is the Charities Commission Bill, which is now being substantially rewritten following consultation with a select group of organisations.

When the Bill was released, it attracted around 750 submissions, most of them from charitable organisations strongly opposed. The government realised a rewrite was necessary, and said it would consult with organisations over this. It nominated 30 organisations it would consult with, and allocated just two sessions, the second one on Monday this week.

Although the process has barely begun and the Select Committee has yet to see the rewrite, the new Bill is due to be reported back to Parliament on 10 December. None of the charities will be given the opportunity to see the new version, or to make further submissions. There is also concern that the Bill will be passed under urgency before Christmas.

The original Bill contained many draconian provisions, including the threat of deregistration if a charitable organisation engaged in political lobbying. There has been no indication from the government it will alter this in the revised version.

Compass conference speakers confirmed

Maxim Institute staff will be among the local and international speakers presenting to over 100 young leaders from around New Zealand in January at the Compass summer conference.

Topics that Maxim will be presenting include: The role of law in society, Hate speech and language control, the New Zealand political spectrum, the role of the family in society, and feminism.

To see the full speaker list, visit: http://www.compass.org.nz/events/speaker.php

To find out more about the conference visit: http://www.compass.org.nz

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Helen Keller (1880-1968)

I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

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