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Maxim Institute - real issues this week: No. 153

real issues.
this week: No. 153, 21 APRIL 2005

* Liberals in crisis in Canada
* Parenthood isn`t getting any easier
* Prostitution Law Review Committee releases report
* The neutral myth of education
* Liberals in crisis in Canada

Canada has a lot of similarities to New Zealand. A centre-left liberal party has controlled Canada's government since 1993. Its leader, Paul Martin, confidently called an early election in June 2004 and won by a comfortable margin. The Liberals, though, are now in trouble, particularly because of corruption scandals, with a Conservative opposition likely to force a June election. One of the 133 Liberal MPs left the party last week to become an independent-is it too easy to recall Tariana Turia's defection from Labour?

But there the similarity ends-33 Liberals defied Mr Martin and voted with the Conservatives to kill a government bill recognising same-sex marriage.

The 'Culture War' is real and one of the key battles is about the nature of marriage. The Canadian Parliament understands this, the United States Congress knows it very well too, as indeed, do they in Canberra-but not in Wellington. Not only have we had government-led creation of civil unions, but also an insistence that marriage is no different from other human relationships. New Zealand moves one way and the US, Australia and Canada move another.

A question arises. What is going on with our traditional allies? Even Canada, that most liberal of countries, is showing signs of reacting against 1970s relativist liberalism. Why, in New Zealand, are we so far behind?

Parenthood isn`t getting any easier

On Wednesday the Law Commission released a report entitled "New Issues in Legal Parenthood". The report was concerned with tightening up the legal situation surrounding parenthood, especially for the very small number of children conceived through artificial reproductive technologies.

The report recommended that it be easier for a child to know the identity of his or her father. In cases where the identity of a child's father is debatable, a DNA test can resolve who the father is. Currently a child's mother may refuse consent to this DNA test. The Law Commission makes the positive recommendation that consent from either parent should be enough to obtain a test.

The report has also made recommendations that would allow a child to have three legal parents. It suggests that a sperm or egg donor should be deemed a parent if agreement is made between a couple and the donor. Such a move, if adopted by the government, would have far-reaching consequences in redefining family, parenthood and the nature of intergenerational connection.

The parenthood of a child has the potential to be further complicated by new technology highlighted in the report, which would make it possible for a child to be the result of combining three different sources of DNA-replacing the nucleus of an egg with one from another women. It is likely that in New Zealand in the near future we will have to decide whether or not to allow this procedure.

The problems arise because we have begun using technology before dealing with the ethical issues. Ethics are in danger of becoming subservient to human desire, rather than restraining it.

To read the Law Commission's report visit: http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/Documents/Publications/R88SOP.pdf

Prostitution Law Review Committee releases report

The Prostitution Law Review Committee has released figures which show that there were an estimated 6000 'sex workers' operating in New Zealand in June 2003. The Committee was established under the Prostitution Reform Act to review the operation of the Act and in particular the number of people working in prostitution. This information provides an important benchmark against which the impact of the decriminalisation of prostitution in New Zealand can be assessed in the future.

The second part of the Committee's report provides an analysis by the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective of the number of advertisements for sexual services. The report shows, that particularly in Auckland, there has been a rise in the number of advertisements for sexual services, which may indicate a growth in the industry since the introduction of the Act. It will be another three years though before the longer term impact of the Act can be accurately assessed.

A rise in prostitution following decriminalisation would be consistent with what has happened in other countries and states that have decriminalised or legalised prostitution, such as New South Wales and Victoria in Australia. By decriminalising prostitution, the law makes it easier for vulnerable women and children to enter into an industry characterised by violence and abuse.

To read the report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee visit: http://www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports/2005/nature-extent-sex-industry-in-nz-estimation/index.html

The neutral myth of education

The question of church schools teaching values has recently been up for discussion. No education is values free and we need to be mindful of this when we consider the issue of schooling.

To read an article by Maxim on this topic published in The Press this week, please visit:


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Reinhold Niebuhr ()

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

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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.

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