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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 87

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 87


* Back to the future? National's new leader says he wants to re-assert a centre-right position.

* Nearly a cure-all According to a new study, marriage comes close to beating poverty.

* 'Have your say' A referendum to repeal the Prostitution Reform Act gets the official go-ahead.

Back to the future?

Don Brash's appointment has prompted much discussion about the direction of the National Party. Dr Brash, however, has re-asserted National's centre-right position; he knows - as do strategists in Labour - that disclosing support for the far left or right tends to frighten the New Zealand electorate.

Dr Brash favours minimal state intervention and free trade as incentives for growth. His stated desire however is to go back to the party's roots. Unity is going to be his most compelling task. It is nevertheless, enlightening to consider what National stood for when formed in May 1936. At that time it adopted a number of objectives including:

* To maintain an efficient system of national defence.

* To formulate and carry out policies designed to benefit the community as a whole, irrespective of sectional interests: particularly to bring about co-operation between country and city interests, and between employers and employees.

* To arouse and maintain interest in political matters, to advocate the policy of the party, and to oppose subversive and other doctrines which are contrary to the principles and policy of the party.

An interesting brochure from a couple of years later entitled 'Your Future' has come to hand. It's a revealing insight into the National Party's first election campaign in 1938. Most striking is the clear separation of the political left and right. The turn of phrase is dated, but certain lines have an uncanny relevance to 2003, eg. in relation to education: where the state controls it never considers the wishes of parents. That's true - state control can not come to terms with the justice of parental choice. On defence: peace today is only guaranteed by strong defence. In 1938, National clearly understood that defence of the realm is a primary responsibility of government. Contrast this with the appeasement stance of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who, in that same year, promised 'peace in our time' as the solution to the Nazi threat; and of course, Helen Clark's current day UN-led multilateralism.

New Zealand has certainly changed since the late 1930s and time will tell how successfully Dr Brash will be in revitalising basic principles. Underpinning the clarity of National's position back then was a moral distinction which confidently grasped right and wrong. Despite the complexities of a nuclear and post-modern world, we still need to understand this distinction. Is the contemporary National Party up to it?

Nearly a cure-all

Social scientists seldom endorse any social arrangement as a cure-all. Nonetheless, when researchers from Pennsylvania State and Ohio State Universities recently addressed the question, "Is Marriage a Panacea?" they came remarkably close to answering with a simple 'yes'.

Writing in the American journal Social Problems, the researchers remark that "promoting marriage among low-income single mothers is increasingly v iewed as a public policy strategy to reduce welfare dependency and encourage economic self-sufficiency." The authors of the study set out to measure how marriage actually helps the economic plight of disadvantaged women. They examined social and economic data collected in 1995 from a national sample of 10,847 women aged 15 to 44. The results provide strong indications that policymakers who are promoting marriage are indeed serving the public good.

Compared to never-married peers, "ever-married women are substantially less likely to be poor, regardless of race, family disadvantage, non-marital birth status, or high school dropout." The researchers calculated that "ever-married women have a poverty rate roughly one-third lower than the rate experienced by never-married women." Also, "the deleterious effect associated with a disadvantaged family background is completely offset by marrying and staying married (i.e. disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged women who marry have similarly low odds of poverty)." This means that "marriage ... offers a way out of poverty for disadvantaged women." In a committed marriage, the couple work together to overcome a range of issues, including financial pressures and stresses.

When marriage is devalued it becomes easier to rely on the state, especially when children are involved. This is certainly the trend in New Zealand since the mid-1970s. Currently in New Zealand, approximately 91 percent of sole parents with dependent children are receiving state support, and half of all children start life in a state-dependent household. The all-up cost of the DPB, along with accommodation supplement, family support, special benefit, childcare subsidies, etc., amounts to around $2.3 billion. This creates enormous stress on state agencies and increasing demands on taxpayers. Encouraging marriage would not only lighten the burden on society, but would also benefit women and their children.

'Have your say'

A Citizens Initiated Referendum (CIR) asking whether "...the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 be repealed", has now been officially gazetted. This means that the petition, launched by United Future MP's Larry Baldock and Gordon Copeland, must now collect 310,000 signatures within twelve months in order to have the question included on the ballot at the 2005 general election as a referendum.

To assist in this campaign by collecting signatures, please download both the: Information letter www.maxim.org.nz/prb/referendum_letter.doc and the Petition form www.maxim.org.nz/prb/cir_petition.xls

Submissions to the Auckland City Council on the Prostitution Bylaws close next Thursday, November 6. Visit www.maxim.org.nz/prb/bylaw.html for more information, and to have your say.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Lord Samuel (1870 - 1963)

It takes two to make a marriage a success and only one a failure.

(A Book of Quotations, 1947)

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