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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 136

Maxim Institute

real issues.
this week: No. 136, 11 NOVEMBER 2004

* Unknown Warrior symbolism ironic

* Human cloning ban

* Constitution inquiry coming soon

* Civil Unions rushed in before Christmas?

* Auckland Change Agent workshop

Unknown Warrior symbolism ironic

The remains of one of our soldiers from the Battle of the Somme (July-November 1916) have been returned. This highly symbolic gesture has met with public emotion as crowds of people have turned up to pay their respects to a fallen war hero.

The response is an extension of deeply felt sentiments that surface annually at ANZAC Day ceremonies. In a nation that has few public rituals (except those associated with Maori customs) there's an almost religious, certainly reverent, air to the spectacle. But it is deeply ironic that some politicians would bask in the reflected glory of this man's sacrifice. We are very confused over defence and military issues: we have a Minister of Defence but also one of Disarmament and Arms Control. History is important to the government, but only selected aspects. Our moral heritage for example, is conveniently discarded. The Unknown Warrior is being eulogized by a Parliament that is legally undermining what many men fought and gave their lives for - basic democratic freedoms, marriage, family, the importance and care of children, and moral and spiritual values.

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Human cloning ban

Legislation to ban human cloning was passed by Parliament last night, eight years after originally being introduced. The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Bill sponsored by Labour MP Dianne Yates passed by 102 to 18 on a conscience vote. The Bill sets out a legal framework to deal with new genetic and reproductive technologies. It aims to prevent cloning of human beings, but allows genetic modification research on human gametes and embryos, and the development of that technology.

Dianne Yates says the revised bill still leaves some highly controversial technologies to decisions to be made by a Ministerial Advisory Committee which will develop mere guidelines not regulations. Issues left to the committee to decide on include: embryo splitting, gametes (fertilised eggs) derived from deceased persons, and the import and export of 'in vitro' donated cells or embryos.

The possibility of a child having six 'parents' may be a good thing, especially at birthdays, says Dianne Yates. "A child could have a contracting mother and father, a sperm donor, an egg donor, a gestation mother and a social father. It might also be very confusing for the child. At least the present Bill insists on records being kept so that children can trace their heritage and we can monitor defective practices," she said.

Ms Yates notes that the risks associated with gene technology in humans are inter-generational. The legal, moral, ethical and social implications of developments in this area demand utmost caution. While the Bill has attempted to provide much needed controls it has opened the door to experimentation and committee decisions on the essence of human life itself.

To read Dianne Yates media release on the passing of the Bill visit: l

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Constitution inquiry coming soon

The Government is likely to announce at the Labour party conference this weekend, the establishment of an inquiry to review the constitution and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Green Party and Peter Dunne of United Future are both keen on the review and all parties may be represented on the committee.

The state is undoubtedly usurping more and more power, and a clear constitution is often seen as the answer to this. However, as long as the New Zealand government defines human rights as something given to oppressed groups by the state, people will not be protected from the state.

Common law (one of the main sources of New Zealand's constitutional framework) has given rise to a particular kind of freedom, i.e. we are free to do what we like until the law forbids us. This is incompatible with the new human rights perspective, where freedom is given by the state, instead of being protected by the state.

New Zealand currently has an uncodified constitution with several sources. The job of trying to codify this, or at least to examine in detail what it means, is not going to be an easy one. In a pluralist culture, where does one find authority for a constitution? What does one actually use for a foundation?

Unless the role of the state as 'protector', not 'giver', is understood, there is little hope that this inquiry will achieve much that is positive and it is unlikely that any consensus will be reached.

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Civil Unions rushed in before Christmas?

To avoid debate on the highly contentious Civil Union and Relationships Bills during next year's election campaign the government may be attempting to rush them through Parliament prior to Christmas. Currently the Justice and Electoral Select Committee are discussing the submissions made and considering amendments to the two Bills. It is possible that the committee chaired by Tim Barnett will report back earlier than expected, perhaps even by the end of November, so the Bills can be passed under urgency by the end of this year. If this scenario eventuates, the complete process from introduction to passing will have taken less than six months.

Further analysis by Maxim of the Relationships Bill, in which more than 100 Acts are being changed at the same time, shows that the omnibus approach is highly inappropriate. Any proposed changes must be considered in the context of the Statute being amended, which the omnibus approach fails to do. Maxim's oral submission to the select committee is now available on our website, along with additional information requested at the hearing.

To read these documents visit:

We encourage readers to write to MPs if you are concerned about the move to effectively create same-sex marriage and legislate equal treatment for 'de facto', civil union and marriage relationships.

Auckland Change Agent workshop

The Change Agent workshop in Auckland next Tuesday will be the last one for 2004. The seminar will address current issues such as civil unions, education and hate speech. It will also provide practical tools to help people engage in the public policy process and debate.

For more details visit:

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Horst Koehler (new German President)

My feeling is that a renaissance of the family is around the corner. (in his inauguration speech in the German Parliament, 1 July 2004)

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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.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society

Maxim Institute 49 Capehorn Road, Hillsborough, Auckland. Ph (09) 627 3261 74 Middleton Road, Riccarton, Christchurch. Ph. (03) 343 1570

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