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Maxim Institute - No 208 8 June 2006

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 208 8 June 2006




Replacing "Mother" And "Father"

A new teaching manual available for use in some Australian schools has courted controversy, by advising teachers to scrap the words "mother" and "father", in favour of "carer" or "parent" when talking about families. The manual also advises the use of gender neutral toys, and books and activities which promote alternative family forms.

The manual, titled Learn to Include: Learning about diverse families in a primary school setting, is aimed at classes from Kindergarten to Year Three, and is funded by the crime prevention division of the New South Wales Attorney General's Department, in an attempt to increase children's sensitivity to a "diversity" of family forms.

The elimination of universally accepted concepts like "mother" and "father" in favour of the neutral "parent" or "carer" removes the essential element of relational connection which comes from being part of an intergenerational family, belonging to a mum and a dad. This approach ends up dismantling the normative framework in which children see family life.

In the first few years of school, children are formulating ideas about themselves, the world, and their place in it. Seeing oneself in relation to a mother and a father is a part of this. All children have a mother and a father, and the majority are still raised by their mum and dad. Attempting to hide this fact does a disservice to all children, regardless of their personal family background. In search of a spurious and artificial 'equality', the realities of life and the natural framework through which to view it can both be obscured.

Easing The Grievance

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) released an analysis this week, claiming that personal grievance cases against employers have risen 28 percent since 2004. Decrying the rise of a "grievance gravy train", the Association cites complicated and bureaucratic procedures as one reason for the increase. The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) on the other hand, says that grievance cases are a last resort for most workers.

The debate comes as MP Wayne Mapp's Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill is being considered by a Select Committee. The Bill would allow employers to take on employees for a 90 day trial period, to see if they suit, and to dismiss them during that period without risking a lengthy, and possibly expensive, grievance process. An employee's right not to be discriminated against would still apply, as would health and safety rules and other important entitlements such as sick leave.

Probationary periods would allow an employer to take a risk on an employee and look past appearances to see if the person can really do the job. Those with a criminal record, young or inexperienced workers, new migrants, the disabled, or people with limited qualifications, all stand to benefit from trial periods and the opportunity to prove themselves to an otherwise hesitant employer.

Rigid regulations, lengthy processes and bureaucracy discourage many employers from taking a risk, and so some of the most vulnerable workers miss out. Freeing employers from having to worry about grievance cases during a trial period is likely to help the most vulnerable get a foot in the door.

A Tale Of Cats And Dogs

Following the government's law change mandating the compulsory microchipping of dogs, from Lassie the farm dog to Fifi the poodle, other animals are on the agenda, as the government continues to implement its Wildlife Registration Strategy.

According to latest reports, cats will be microchipped by 2008, followed by rabbits, canaries, goldfish and 'other dangerous predators' by 2012.

"We are very concerned at the wanton and unregulated carnage going on in the environment, and we are determined to do something about it", said Ministry of Wildlife Affairs spokeswoman Bledin Hart.

"We will follow the same approach as dog microchipping" said the power-suited Ms. Hart brightly to Our Reporter, as she sat in her Wellington office,

"There is a very simple chain of logic here. The microchip will be designed to be read at a range of 2 inches. This means that, after the cat kills the baby kakapo, and if there's a DOC ranger around, and if the cat hasn't run away, and if we can catch it, then, well, provided we've got a machine, of course, then, we'll be able to see who the cat belongs to, and send the owner a very strongly worded letter indeed. A jolly good telling off, you might say." She laughs merrily, and pauses. "Unless the owner has been rather naughty, of course, and hasn't paid his registration fee".

Confederated Cat Owners spokesman A. Farmer, speaking at the Show in Gore, called the proposal "ridiculous", as "half of cat owners do not register their cats already. A $110 dollar fee is going to mean fewer registrations, all for a useless microchip that will not save one kakapo".

This does not phase Ms. Hart. "It's about interspecies partnership" she says, with an embracing gesture. "I'm sure it's going to be best for all the members of our ecological family in the long run".

In The News:

US Marriage Amendment Fails

The Marriage Protection Amendment has been on the table in the United States this week. The Senate debated the measure which would have amended the Constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman, and protect State defence of marriage laws from judicial interference. Despite a narrow majority backing the amendment (49-48), it failed to reach the required two thirds majority and supporters have vowed to try again. In a recent speech before a wide variety of community and religious leaders, President Bush supported the measure, calling marriage "the fundamental institution of civilization, which should not be redefined by activist judges". The US Constitution is rarely amended; the last amendment (1992) limited Congressional pay increases.

To read the full text of President Bush's speech, visit:


To read the text of the Federal Marriage Amendment, visit:


New Zealand Makes Progress On Child Trafficking

The government is hailing significant progress in stopping the commercial sexual exploitation of children following the latest US State Department Report on trafficking in persons. Steps the government has taken to reduce child trafficking include tougher penalties for trafficking and child pornography, increasing internet safety programmes in schools, and more comprehensive research into trafficking and the "sex industry".

To read a tabulated summary of progress over the last five years, visit:


To read the government's stocktake, visit:



On Thursday 8 June, Maxim Institute presented its oral submission to the Justice Select Committee on Sue Bradford's Bill to repeal s59 of the Crimes Act 1961. Maxim's Policy Manger and Legal Counsel presented an analysis of the legislation, the court cases where issues of discipline were raised and the unintended consequences of repeal. We concluded by examining some possible options for amendment and suggested what we believe is the best way forward.

To read Maxim Institute's supplementary material to our oral submission, please visit our website: www.maxim.org.nz .


On the weekend, the Green party elected Russell Norman as their new co-leader to replace the late Rod Donald, but Mr. Norman is not a Member of Parliament.

Should people who are not MPs be able to lead a political party represented in Parliament, and if not, why not?


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Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from 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.

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