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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 139

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 139

Maxim Institute

real issues. ============ this week: No. 139, 2 December 2004

Contents: --------- * Why the Civil Union Bill is being rushed

* State endorsement of 'same-sex marriage'?

* Universities fear loss of freedom

* Compass Summer Conference - enrol now

Why the Civil Union Bill is being rushed

The government has put the Civil Union Bill on the top of its Christmas priority list. It is likely to pass its second reading tonight with a thin majority; however, amendments and further debate will see many MPs reconsider their support for this controversial bill. Why the rush, given that the Civil Union and the companion Relationships Bill are being separated? The first possible reason is that support for Civil Unions is waning and being exposed as shallow. Second, the government wants as much time between the first 'same-sex wedding' and the election as possible. Third, New Zealanders are starting to realise that the bill and arguments used to promote it are dishonest and that this is same-sex marriage by another name.

On Monday the select committee released its report on the Bill, which acknowledged that 'the design of the Marriage Act and the bill are parallel'. Despite 90 percent of an unprecedented number of public submissions opposing the legislation, the majority of the committee ignored the concerns and made a few cosmetic changes. What remains in the Bill is the clause to 'convert' a civil union to marriage (and vice versa), although it doesn't apply to same-sex couples and is now called 'changing form of relationship'. It will also allow overseas same-sex marriages and civil unions to be recognised in New Zealand as a civil union. If passed, the Civil Union Act would be law from 26 April next year.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=139.1

State endorsement of 'same-sex marriage'?

Bill sponsor David Benson-Pope has come under fire for misrepresenting the Civil Union Bill. It has been dishonestly promoted as providing greater protection and rights for couples who have a civil union, when in fact it does nothing of the sort. United Future leader Peter Dunne says Benson-Pope's stance "continues a pattern of attempts to obfuscate the actual intent of the legislation... Either he [Benson-Pope] doesn't understand the Bill or is being deliberately misleading." It is the Relationships Bill that will provide entitlements equivalent to marriage, and this is still being considered by the select committee. So MPs won't even know what rights and obligations apply to a Civil Union until the Relationships Bill is reported back.

The real issue to be debated is whether or not we should establish 'same-sex marriage' in New Zealand. The select committee report notes that a majority of people polled opposed 'gay marriage', while polls indicate slightly more are in favour of civil unions than opposed. The only difference is in the name and it is this deception that the government is relying on to pass the Bill. An astute analysis of the intent of this legislation was made by Act MP Stephen Franks in the report, when he said: "the bill is essentially designed to confer state endorsement of same-sex relationships in the nature of marriage." Before MPs cast their conscience votes, the question they must answer is whether this is the role of law.

Following a second vote tonight, the government will attempt to pass the final stages under urgency early next week. With a number of amendments to be voted on MPs will still be considering their position on the final form of the Bill. We still encourage readers to call MPs and ask them to vote against the final reading of the Civil Union Bill. Because it is being rushed, MPs will vote without knowing what rights will be conferred to civil unions, and lack the time needed to properly consider the alternatives. For more information and a list of how MPs voted browse to: http://www.maxim.org.nz/letter/cu_letter.php

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=139.2

Universities fear loss of freedom

The vice-chancellors of New Zealand’s universities have united to condemn what they call a "control freak government". They fear their independence and academic freedom will be stifled. The particular threat comes in the form of the Public Finance (State Sector Management) Bill, which defines Crown entities as "organisations in which the government has a controlling interest".

As Crown entities, Universities are responsible to a governing Minister. This means that University council members could be dismissed by the minister for "just cause" and the minister would also have the ability to conduct inquiries into the academic affairs of universities.

This is just one in a series of moves the government has made to further control the tertiary sector. Others have included the Fee Maxima scheme, performance-based funding, investigations into the need for particular types of courses, and a threat to remove the ability of universities to set their own pay and benefit rates. One of the dangers of increasing interference could be an adverse impact on the international standing of New Zealand university education. The vice-chancellors say the new Bill is an attack on the cornerstones of democracy - "No nation in the western world has universities under state control."

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=139.3

Compass Summer Conference - enrol now ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Maxim staff will join other leading international and local speakers for ten days that will challenge and inspire the next generation of leaders. Get your application in now for the Compass Summer Conference. Places are filling up fast. For information an application forms call Roshan on Tel. (09) 627 3261 or visit http://www.compass.org.nz/events/summer.php

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - G.K. Chesterton ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Tolerance is the virtue of the man without conviction.


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