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Louisa Wall And Colin Craig on The Nation: Transcript

'The Nation'
Louisa Wall And Colin Craig
Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY

Rachel Your back with The Nation. I will – I won’t. It's up to MPs to decide whether they’ll support the Marriage Amendment Bill put forward by Labour's Louisa Wall. We proposed to a number of National MPs that they appear on the programme to debate the issue and one by one we were rejected and New Zealand First was coming on the programme and then late last night they pulled out as well. It seems a number of our politicians are a little nervous about which way they should swing on this issue. But we did engage Louisa Wall, she's with us, as is Colin Craig the Leader of the Conservative Party, welcome to you both.

Louisa I'll start with you I think. What's the difference to you between a civil union and marriage.

Louisa Wall – Labour MP
Fundamentally it's about choice, and fundamentally it's about New Zealand citizens being able to apply to the state for a marriage license. So what's driving me is about the equality of all people and the equality of everybody's citizenship in a modern democracy.

Rachel Is it a human rights issue to you?

Louisa It is. In face marriage is a human right, and so what my bill seeks to do is to allow two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity to marry within the institution of love that I think marriage is.

Rachel Okay Colin Craig do you believe that it's a human right marriage?

Colin Craig – Conservative Leader
I believe having a union is, and we recognise that with civil unions. I think marriage has an existing definition which all New Zealanders are stakeholders in, and I think if we're going to change it, it's gotta be something that has the support of New Zealanders through a referendum.

Louisa Can I say that in fact our Marriage Act doesn’t have a definition, which is why my bill is about defining it between two people, essentially who love each other. The churches have a different definition. The churches' definition is very different to the state's definition.

Colin I think we understand the definition's one that’s come through legal precedent, and that’s because in assessing what marriage meant, the court looked at what marriage traditionally has been and the concept of what we see it as a society.

Rachel Many would argue though Mr Craig that laws are made to be broken aren’t they?

Craig Well I like to think we make good laws that we don’t need to break, and we are talking about a law here which really does two things. Number one it redefines or defines if you like, clarified – what marriage is and the run on effect of that is it will impact on the Adoption Act and allow Gay couples to adopt children through the Adoption Act.

Rachel Is that he key issue for you here? Is this one of the reasons why you feel strongly about this, so that Gay couples can adopt?

Louisa No my primary motivator is the quality under the law for all New Zealanders. Marriage is the primary focus of this bill, but a consequence of being married is that you become a spouse, and in our Adoption Act, Section 3, by virtue of that definition married same sex couples will be able to jointly adopt. And it's a bit of an anomaly because individuals can marry, so if you're in a same sex relationship, as an individual you can marry, in fact I would have thought that it's better through the institution of marriage, that same sex couples have the same rights as other New Zealanders.

Rachel But haven’t you achieved equal rights though with civil unions and as Bill English less than eloquently put it, this is a problem that’s been solved surely. Have you not achieved equal rights under that?

Louisa No, because we created another entity. We had an existing entity, in fact if we go back to where this debate began in the mid 80s three Lesbian couples went to the local Registrar and asked for a marriage license. What happened from that we had a Court of Appeal process and Colin's right they threw it back to parliament and said under the existing law same sex couples can't marry. But what we should remember about civil unions that it doesn’t discriminate. So we actually have on average about 400 civil unions a year, 20% for heterosexual couples, so all New Zealanders have the right to the institution of civil union.

Craig Sure and I think the logic of civil unions was that it said marriage is already something that is, and that’s got traditional value, it's got associated with it man woman children for thousands of years. So when it came to the question of how we're going to recognise Gay couples and how we're gonna make sure their rights are looked after, no we didn’t take marriage and redefine it, we said let's create something that does deliver that, and we changed 160 pieces of legislation to make sure that we created that level playing field.

Louisa It's not level Colin and that’s the problem, and there was actually a dissenting view by Justice Thomas in that decision, and he actually said we have a Bill of Rights, we have a Human Rights Act, this contravenes it, but…

Craig And there will be dissenting views. But what I'm saying is we took the approach that said marriage is already something, it is already defined, it already has a standing, but we do need to attend to the issue of rights and equalities in making law changes and we did that. And I think civil unions was a very good compromise. Not everyone agreed with it of course, but I think it was a good compromise because it said we need to do something to recognise and bring the rights in, but at the same time if we're gonna redefine something that exists and so many people already have a stake in, suddenly it's about your rights moving on top of somebody else's.

Rachel Hasn’t the institution that is marriage changed though, in that many New Zealanders now don’t marry in churches, they don’t have religious elements written into their vows, they get married in gardens and you know ballrooms and various places. So it's not the big religious union if you like that it perhaps once was.

Craig Absolutely and the way people do marriage in a church or a garden or wherever else, yes that has changed. What I'm aware of and what I believe is in fact that the man woman component of that hasn’t changed. I think the majority of New Zealanders still want marriage to be man and woman, but the majority of New Zealanders think that civil unions has done the job. Now I know it's a tough debate, and I know that it's split along generational lines.

Louisa Well actually the statistics don’t support what you’ve just said. I mean in 2004 when civil unions came to be, 40% of New Zealanders agreed with marriage equality, 54% against. So at its time I think civil unions did serve a purpose. We've move on very quickly in a matter of eight years and now 63% of New Zealanders agree with marriage equality, but the under 34 year olds, the 18 to 34 year old cohort, nearly 80% of that generation agree with marriage equality, because it is about the dignity of every human being Colin, and the right for every New Zealand citizen to be able to marry the person they love.

Craig Preserving the traditional meaning and standing in marriage is not taking away dignity from anybody.

Louisa Churches will retain that right Colin to define for themselves what marriage is, and I'm not going to limit their ability within the context of a particular church, a congregation, in fact the religious institution. If they define marriage between a man and a woman this bill will not compel them or make it mandatory for them to marry same sex couples.

Craig I'm not making any religious argument, what I'm simply saying here is that there is a standing definition, and that’s what New Zealanders are invested in.

Louisa These are conventions. But that definition could change.

Craig Well it could change.

Louisa It has changed. It has changed, and it's changing internationally.

Craig I've had calls and still do saying that this is an issue that should in fact go to New Zealanders as a referenda. This is a big decision about ….

Louisa So what form of referendum – are you wanting the Prime Minister to initiate a government, or a citizen's initiated?

Craig No my preference would be that parliament says look this is an issue that all New Zealanders are invested in, let's put it out, as a binding referenda to the public.

Louisa So you have to enact legislation first and actually we have an opportunity, I put a bill in the ballot and it's been selected. The public of New Zealand do have an opportunity to have a say.

Rachel You say Mr Craig that you want a referendum, that’s the same position as New Zealand First, have you spoken with New Zealand First about taking this stance?

Craig No, not at all. Although I'm pleased that they did come out and say yes they'd support what I had said, because it is written into their policy I believe that this is the way they should go. But a lot of politicians – you start of by saying it's true, a lot of politicians are out to lunch on this, they're diving for cover and they don’t want to make their views known, and I think that’s a shame because this is a big and important issue, and I think that the public would like to know where their representatives stand.

Rachel What do you make then on the National MPs who won’t give a position?

Craig I think some of them are actually far too timid, I think they do know what they think. Louisa may agree with me or not. I think they just don’t want to be seen to be entering into what can at times become a heated debate. Now I'm quite happy to put my views forward and to say why I think what I think, and I respect Louisa for doing the same. I think leadership is about standing up and saying this is what I think we should do for the country and this is why, and I think we'd like to see more of our politicians coming out and talking to the issue.

Louisa And I'd just like to add that actually this is about leadership. So I want to acknowledge not only my leader but the Prime Minister who's come out very strongly. I don’t underestimate his support, but also leaders of other political parties. We've got Mana's leader, we've got United Futures Leader, and we've got the Maori Party, and it's really interesting when you look at Tariana Turia, Peter Dunne and the Right Honourable John Key. They voted against civil union, but they are supportive.

Rachel And that wasn't easy for the Maori Party was it?

Louisa No it wasn't but I think for them it's a recognition that in modern society we have families that define themselves, and who are we as a state to deny that right to all New Zealand citizens.

Rachel Are you fearful Mr Craig that if Gay marriage is legalised, this bill becomes law, do you think that could in some way encourage homosexuality?

Craig Well I have the view that people make their own choices, and if people choose to be homosexual…

Louisa Homosexuality isn't a choice Colin. People are born the way they're born and everyone has the right in our society to be what they are, and this is a very important issue for our young people, because we have high rates of youth suicide in New Zealand because our young people aren’t empowered to be who they are. This is a critical issue for our country.

Craig Coming back to that – because I support people's freedom to be who they are, because I disagree I think there are many factors not just genetics.

Louisa Why do you choose to be discriminating against Colin and marginalised.

Craig The human genome project which has studied this says, genetics can predispose, but in itself it does not predestine. It's like being dealt – genetics is like being dealt a hand of cards, how you choose to …

Rachel So you think someone becomes Gay as opposed to is born Gay?

Craig I think most people recognise that there are other influences such as upbringing, such as events in life, such as role models, and look everybody's life story is different, and coming back to the original question….

Louisa My parents are heterosexual by the way Colin, and I have two brothers and a sister.

Rachel What events in life do you think, what are you saying?

Craig Look we obviously - there's statistics around some of these things, so for homosexual men, they are statistically far more likely to have suffered child abuses as a child, and that’s one of the tragedies about our country.

Rachel Is that the sole determinant?

Craig Of course not.

Rachel That fuels homosexuality you think child abuse?

Craig It certainly can make a difference in someone's choices in life, there's no question about that in my mind. Role modelling, the people you get involved with, the type of relationship, the type of life you live. All of these things are inputs into our choices. Genetics is one, but you see I don’t believe it is the sole determinant, I think life's more complex than that, I think it's a big of a narrow minded view to say well it's all genetics. I just don’t believe it is. The original question was, am I worried that this would somehow fuel homosexuality. That’s not a worry for me because I believe in people's personal choice. The issue here is where that choice is going to be rewriting what marriage is, and when it's going to impact on adoption, and we're trying to make the very best choices for children in terms of placing them for adoption. Those issues are not about Louisa's rights, they're crossing over into other people's rights and that’s why I believe it's a slightly different issue from say civil unions.

Rachel If there is a referendum and overwhelmingly it supports the right for Gay marriage to become law, what would you do then?

Craig I as a representative would accept that and move forward with that, because that’s what I believe. I believe we should be representative, and I'm confident that a referendum is the right way to go, and if it came out with that decision then I would move absolutely forward with it.

Rachel You'd accept it?

Craig Because that’s the direction of the people and that’s what's most important to me.

Rachel Overwhelmingly though it already shows that’s the direction of the people.

Craig No, if we look at that, it's how you ask the question. So if you look at the findings a year ago the question was asked should marriage be between a man and a woman you’ve got 50% saying yes, 40% saying no, the other 10% undecided. So it's how the question is asked, and also the other thing is if we look at experiences overseas, as the debate happens and around a referenda people tend to go back more to the traditional view and say yeah you know what …

Rachel Do you want a referendum?

Louisa A referendum is very expensive, we had one at the last election with MMP, it cost just under eleven million dollars. I don’t think we need to get a consensus around how this issue is going to be relevant to New Zealanders.

Craig Changing marriage as it has been for thousands of years, we're talking about quite a big issue here.

Louisa We are, and actually well you should implore other MPs to support my bill at first reading, because in fact what that will enable is New Zealanders to have a say about how relevant marriage equality is to them, which is what I'm asking for in the first instance.

Craig A referendum guarantees that what New Zealanders say counts, and that’s I think important here.

Louisa And New Zealanders' say will count, New Zealanders have MPs they have people that they can speak to.

Rachel Are you confident the outcome of a referendum would support your bill?

Louisa I am confident it will given the will of the people but I think it takes time and it takes money. Now I actually think we should just enable New Zealanders to be part of what is a global conversation. It's happening in Australia and the UK and France. We don’t need to waste more time and spend more money.

Craig I think a referendum would give us one really important thing. It would give us an absolute mandate and it would give us a direction for the people, and on an issue like this it's got the opportunity to move forward together, and I think it's important that we do that on these issues. We've got other big issues in this country to address, and a referendum is a good way to bring everybody in.

Louisa Absolutely, which is why this is a private member's bill. Colin do you know when women got the right to vote in Switzerland?

Craig Ah, no I don’t.

Louisa 1971, and do you know why they got the right to vote? Cos they had to wait for a referendum. So in New Zealand women got the vote in 1893, referendum, there are some biases in referenda, I've looked at some of the research, and minority groups are discriminated against because there is a tyranny of the majority. Now we don’t have to – as I said before – waste time and money – we have a consensus I believe.

Craig It's not a waste of time and money.

Louisa I believe that New Zealanders want to have the conversation. A bill was in the ballot, it's been chosen, it's been drawn, and in fact after the first reading if you want the country to have a debate Colin you will be supporting people you know to vote for my bill at first reading.

Craig Look the referendum will give us a chance not just to have a debate but it will give a chance for New Zealanders to have their say, and ensure that their say counts.

Louisa So this is not a priority for the government, so are you trying to use this as a conversation tool with the Prime Minister?

Craig No, not at all, what I'm saying is a referenda's the right way to make a decision here on an issue of such significance that affect almost every New Zealander in some way or another.

Louisa And I have faith in our democratic system, and I believe the Select Committee process will enable that.

Craig Look at the way the MPs have responded, I have not the confidence that you do. Half of them are out to lunch on the issue.

Louisa In our democracy?

Craig Half of our politicians are out to lunch…

Rachel Alright, Colin Craig, Leader of the Conservatives and Louisa Wall, very much appreciate your time in this this morning.


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