Stealing the limelight!

April 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Clips of Mr Williamson’s speech have had 1.5 million views on YouTube, and there were now versions with Spanish and Chinese subtitles. It was tweeted about by celebrities including DeGeneres, Stephen Fry, Perez Hilton and Ronan Keating.

A spokesman for Mr Williamson said they were waiting to hear back from the show’s producers for more details.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Williamson, the long-standing MP for Pakuranga, made humorous references to “a big gay rainbow” over his electorate and said the Marriage Amendment Bill was a positive step.

He has since been getting accustomed to his newfound status as a poster boy for gay rights, for which he has received praise from the United Kingdom, Australia and America, offers to stand in as Governor in several states as well as appearances on various television shows.

The already married Mr Williamson said the New York Times called him one of the few “openly gay” MPs in New Zealand. “It’s gone a bit far,” he said. “My wife wanted to know whether the New York Times knew something more than I did.”

Green MP Kevin Hague, who helped Labour’s Louisa Wall with the bill, said there were no sour grapes that Mr Williamson was getting all the attention.

“Louisa and I – and this is tongue in cheek – gave pretty good speeches too but at every stage we’ve been upstaged by straight National Party men. There was Paul Hutchison in the first reading, Chris Auchinvole in the second reading and now Maurice Williamson. But there’s no resentment about that. It’s funny, that’s all.”

He said some people might have been surprised by Mr Williamson, but in Mr Hague’s time heading the Aids Foundation in the 1990s he had worked with Mr Williamson as Associate Health Minister. “He has always been progressive on issues like gay rights, including supporting needle and syringe exchange when it was not popular.”

It is ironic about Hutch, Auchie and Maurice being the stand out speakers at each reading. They have the following in common:

  • All heterosexual men
  • All married
  • All have children, nine between them
  • All are National MPs
  • All in their 60s

An unlikely trio to be poster boys for same sex marriage.   :-)

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Young on Auchinvole

March 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

Chris Auchinvole’s speech on gay marriage was widely hailed as one of the best given by a politician in the debate this week on the legislation.

MPs from across the House say it was the best speech of his parliamentary career.

But for thousands of people on social media, the question was: “Who is this Chris Auchinvole?”

He is a 68-year old West Coast-based list MP for National who, until this week, did not know what “trending” was – until he was told that his speech was a hit on Twitter.

His executive assistance printed off 40 pages of comments from Twitter on the speech and that was only 1 per cent of the feedback, he said. There wasn’t a single negative remark.

“Could you be my grandfather?” “Where have they been hiding him?” and “Chris Auchinvole for Emperor” were some of them.

You can see some of the comments here. It was a great speech, and I’m glad so many people got to see his sense of humour, and also his compassion.

Mr Auchinvole insists he had no position on gay marriage until he sat on the select committee considering Louisa Wall’s bill legalising it.

“Hand on heart. It would be quite wrong to say I have any particular sympathy for any particular group. I don’t think that would be honest.

“I know it’s a funny, old-fashioned way of approaching things but I think you have to go with an open mind and be persuaded by argument. That appeals to my Scottish nature. Even if I felt it were wrong, if it made good sense you have to go with it.”

He said there was a big generational difference in the submissions the select committee received, with generally the older submitters saying definitively, “You cannot do this”, and the younger submitters saying, “Why on Earth can’t you do this?”

Sums it up pretty well. But good to have an MP who listens to the submissions. It is very true that Chris went from luke-warm to ardently in favour on the basis of what he heard. It is a good message to submitters that they can make a difference.

Mr Auchinvole said he was sympathetic to the older submitters because they, like him, were taught that homosexuality was immoral, illegal, and criminal.

“People’s reputations could be lost on the basis that people thought they were homosexual, and I always thought that was an injustice.”

He said that at the boarding school he attended over five years, “we lost boys at school”.

Five of 120 boys committed suicide, invariably in the holidays, because, he believes, they were gay.

“They were good guys, and it was awful. We liked them all.”

Such tragedies.

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The Same Sex Marriage Second Reading

March 14th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tired and delighted that the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed its second reading by 77 votes to 44. That means 64% of MPs voted for it and 36% against. Four MPs swapped from yes to no (Brownlee, McCully, Coleman, McKelvie) and Huo went from abstain/absent to a yes (he explains why here).

I expect that the third reading will be by much the same number. Second reading is the stage where normally some people may shift their vote based on what has happened during the select committee process.

So let’s cover the evening from the beginning. I have to say I really love Parliament when it is debating a conscience issue – you get MPs speaking with passion about what they really believe and think, a massive difference from most bill debates which are relatively pro-forma. It really is Parliament at its best.

Due to the unexpected need to debate the Budget Policy Statement, it was far from clear at the beginning of the day if the marriage bill would conclude its second reading. To do so Parliament had to get through question time, the Budget Policy Statement, a third reading, a committee stage, half a second reading and then the marriage bill second reading.

Few people wanted to have the debate cut in half where it starts yesterday and concludes in two weeks, so with some astute MPs taking shorter calls than they could on earlier debates, the marriage bill debate started just after 8 pm.

The gallery was packed. And I mean packed – there was a queue to get in forming around 7 pm, and they ran out of seats so allowed many to just stand at the back of the public galleries. I wasn’t sure how many were supporters and how many were opponents, but noticed that the vast majority were young Kiwis. This is very rare in the gallery, and great to see.

I may have joked that probably all the women there were lesbians or fundamentalist Christians, which reduced my chances of scoring. A lesbian friend consoled me with the thought that there may be some bisexuals there :-)

There were 12 speakers on the bill. They were in order:

  1. Louisa Wall (Lab) – in favour
  2. Tim Macindoe (Nat) against
  3. Ruth Dyson (Lab) – in favour
  4. Chris Auchinvole (Nat) – in favour
  5. Trevor Mallard (Lab) – in favour
  6. Winston Peters (NZF) – against, sought to send to referendum
  7. Kevin Hague (Green) – in favour
  8. Kanwaljit Bakshi (Nat) – against
  9. Lianne Dalziel (Lab) – in favour
  10. Tau Henare (Nat) – in favour
  11. Jan Logie (Green) – in favour
  12. Chester Borrows (Nat) against

There were two common themes in the speeches. The first was that MPs were generally very respectful of the passionate views on this issue. Those in favour spoke of their desire to respect religious views and the safeguards that had been placed in the bill to help with that. Those against spoke of how touching some of the testimony had been, but what their concerns were with the change. There was, for the main part, no name calling or insinuations about motives. It was a good debate.

The second theme was about how the communications from some of those oppossed to the bill had not helped their cause – and that came from MPs who were against the bill. There was a strong message there.

The draft Hansard is here. I could quote and critique every speech, but will just touch on a couple. Tim Macindoe said:

A common theme of many emails from the bill’s supporters, given that my Christian faith was and remains the main reason for my position, was that ours is a secular society and my faith should be left out of the debate. I understand that view but in matters of conscience one must fall back on firm foundations. To ignore what I perceive to be God’s will in this debate would therefore be unthinkable, even though I acknowledge that not all Christians think as one in this matter and I agree with Glyn Carpenter in the New Zealand Christian Network that Christians must approach this matter graciously and with respect.

It’s good that Tim was explicit that he voted against because he thinks it goes against God’s will. The question for me is whether what some people interpret to be God’s will should be a reason to impose that view through legislation. That is a slippery slope that leads to (for example) sharia law in some countries, based on what their MPs think is God’s will. Until such a time as God speaks for himself on such issues, I can’t agree with laws based on God’s will.

Last year I indicated that a principal reason for my opposition was my concern that Parliament is moving ahead of the churches on this issue.

If Parliament didn’t move ahead of churches on various issues, we’d be in the dark ages. The churches wanted homosexuality to effectively remain a criminal offence. The 1986 law change was well ahead of the churches – yet almost no one today says that law change was wrong.

The best speech of the night was National MP Chris Auchinvole. I’ve embedded the speech below and recommend it highly for a great listen. Just as Paul Hutchison was the stand out of the first reading, Auchie was the stand out of the second reading. Interestingly while generally support for allowing same sex marriage is greater amongst younegr New Zealanders and less so amongst over 60s, it is worth noting Hutch is 65 and Auchie 67.

A couple of quotes:

Although I cannot imagine, if the bill passes, that a particularly large percentage of the population will suddenly take the opportunity to engage in same-gender marriages, I also cannot imagine that any number would make one iota of difference to the 41 years of marriage that my wife and I have enjoyed, or to anybody else’s heterosexual marriage. I cannot see it. I have thought deeply about this and cannot believe that the social impact of the bill would herald the demise and collapse of the wider societal values in New Zealand. I respect the right of those who wish to hold to that view, but I cannot give it currency in coming to a defined position on this bill.

Having a few more married couples in New Zealand will be good for society in my view!

Another grouping held a perception that this is counter to religious views and practices and represents State interference in religious practice, beliefs, and dogma. The select committee listened very carefully and sincerely to the concerns expressed. As someone who had 5 years as a lay minister for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa / New Zealand and was a member of the council of assembly for the Presbyterian Church, I had a particular interest in this aspect of the discussion. It became clear through listening that the overriding concern is that the clergy and those authorised by religious bodies to conduct marriages would be obliged—indeed, forced—to conduct ceremonies for same-gender couples should the bill be passed.

And the amendments make clear this can not happen.

The third consideration—we have heard it spoken by my colleague and friend Tim Macindoe this evening—is that marriage is an institution: time honoured, never changing, and having the essential components of one man and one woman common to all countries and civilisations throughout the millennia until death do them part.

It ain’t necessarily so. I am privileged to have my wife in the gallery tonight. My wife and I married on 11 March, 41 years ago last Monday, and lived happily ever after. But the question that exercises the upper echelons of ecclesiastic minds in those days was whether or not the bride should take a vow of obedience to her husband. If you are marrying a red-headed West Coast girl from a West Coast aristocratic family, some hope. During that same time, to have children born out of wedlock was a hamper to church marriage, as was a divorce, or indeed wanting to marry someone of a different religion. Banns of marriage were called from pulpits, advising that people were intending marriage, and others were invited to give reasons why that marriage should not proceed or to forever hold their peace. Marriage is not an unchanging institution, and although most of its institutional aspects have been laudable for men, they have often been less than favourable for women.

And other speakers touched on how just a few decades ago some states in the US banned inter-racial marriage.

The last two aspects I wish to touch on are the matter of conscience and the question of family coming first. In terms of conscience, I have given much, much thought to this. I am acquainted with guilt. Being a Presbyterian, one goes through life thinking that one has not worked hard enough, has not done enough, and has not reached the requirement that life’s opportunities offer, and you will always get other members who will tell you that, as one did this evening. To assuage my conscience on this issue, I delved back in my life to the age of understanding, which I think those of Catholic persuasion tell me the Jesuits determine it is at 7 years old, when I was a boy. I looked at catechismic values—learning the catechism by rote in Glasgow: “Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to know him and love him.” The third question: “What image did God make you in?” The answer: “God made me in his own image.” Every 7-year-old boy and girl said the same, and believed it was true. They did not have to add: “as long as I conform to being heterosexual, and not to loving anyone of the same gender as myself.” My conscience is very clear on this issue. Every person has the same spiritual claim as one another, to being made in the image of God, and it will take a braver person than I am to deny that.

Wonderfully said.

So, in dealing with the legacy of discriminatory prejudice, and I would not want that to be a deciding feature, I prayerfully ask to be able to internalise and resolve this complicated situation in my head, in my heart, and in my soul.

Heh.

What I learnt from listening to the submissions, colleagues, was that in fact each homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person appearing before us was not to be seen just as an individual, not to be identified just by gender preference, but in fact seen as a mother’s son or a daughter, and a father’s daughter or son, as siblings to their brothers and sisters, grandchildren to their grandparents, nephews and nieces to their uncles and aunts, and uncles and aunts to their nephews and nieces, and cousins to their cousins. They are all family, along with their heterosexual friends and relations, and all are an integral part of the New Zealand family, and all are part—in my mind, in my heart, and in my conscience—of God’s family. I now realise that this bill seeks to put first something that critics have accused it of undermining, and that isempt to b the family. We as parliamentarians should not simply look past the interests of the applicants for this bill. We should not simply look at their interests. We should, and we must, look after their interests. We should pass this bill.

I’m so glad I was in the House (galleries) for this speech. Television doesn’t do justice to the atmosphere. The sympathetic nods from around the House, the claps and smiles, the laughter, the intense interest. It was again my favourite speech of the night.

One saw this also with the next speech by Winston Peters. As he was calling for a referendum, he railed against “politicians who think they know best” and said “There is nothing more odious, more loathsome, than politicians who think they know best”. What wouldn’t have been captured by cameras is that there was spontaneous laughter from almost the entire public galleries as Winston was railing against politicians who think they know best, as it was self-evident to everyone that Winston is of course the classic politician who always thinks he knows best. The laughter wasn’t deliberate or an attempt to be disrespectful – it was just a spontaneous outbreak as his speech almost became self-parody unwittingly.

Anyway we got to the votes at around 9.45 pm. There were actually three votes. They were:

  1. To accept the select committee report and proposed amendments.
  2. Winston’s amendment to the second reading motion proposing a referendum at the next general election in place of reading the bill a second time.
  3. The motion that the bill be read a second time and proceed

The first vote passed 66 to 21. I think the whips may have been unaware that there are always two distinct votes at second readings and they only had proxy votes to cover the second reading vote but not to cover the accept the select committee report vote.

The amendment by Peters for a referendum went down 33 to 83. It was an interesting quirk of standing orders that while you can not amend a bill at second reading, you can amend the motion for it to pass its second reading.

The final vote was the key one, and the Assistant Speaker announced it passed 77-44. There was a round of applause but fairly muted as the galleries had been warned not to participate in the business of the House. However once the House was adjourned the entire public galleries rose spontaneously to give a sustained standing ovation to the House and MPs. It was quite electric, and I suddenly realised as I looked around the galleries that I think every single person there was in fact a supporter of the bill as they were all standing and applauding.

Afterwards had a great time celebrating, which David Cunliffe had fun facebooking photos of :-)

Got to sleep around 2.30 am.  Will finish this post with a quote from Chester Borrows who in fact voted against the bill. But he made a good point:

As a Christian—a conservative Christian—I find it abhorrent the way that Christians have entered into this debate, and the threatening nature with which they have emailed colleagues. I know of colleagues who have set out thinking they will vote against this bill and who have changed their mind because of the way they have been treated by Christians, supposedly worshipping in their daily lives and witness a loving God. If they profess to worship that God, then it is a different God whom I worship and whom I believe in, because they have shown nothing of that love—that all-encompassing love—in the way that they have conducted themselves in this debate. It is unfortunate that in every debate where fundamentalist Christians get involved in lobbying one side or another, they always bring out the worst, and seek to have those people who do not hold to our faith shove us into a pigeon-hole that would brand us all in the same way. I think that is a despicable way for people of faith to behave.

I know a number of MPs whose support for the bill was lukewarm, but they became more staunch in support of the bill due to some of the appalling e-mails they got from some opponents.

Luckily it will hopefully all be over in April.

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A recreational function

November 24th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Heh, I had to laugh at this quote from National MP Chris Auchinvole on the Marriage Bill:

National MP Chris Auchinvole said he understood the importance of pro-creation but could not see how gay marriage was a threat to that.

”Sexual activity is a recreational and emotional function as well as just procreation,” he said.

A very polite way of saying sex is damn enjoyable :-)

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The four members’ bills

June 29th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

My column in the Herald (now published Thursdays) was on the members’ bill ballot. This was timed with four bills being drawn from the ballot. They are:

50 Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill Dr Russel Norman
24 Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill Chris Auchinvole
35 Local Government (Salary Moderation) Amendment Bill Hon Annette King
52 Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill Todd McClay

Dr Norman’s bill would ban foreign ownership of “sensitive land”. This is any non-urban land greater than 0.05 square kilometers!

Chris Auchinvole’s bill implements some recommendations from the Law Commission on  habeas corpus applications. Mainly seems to be giving Judges slightly more discretion in dealing with them.

Annette King’s would require the State Services Commissioner to approve local authority CEO remuneration packages, as they do for government departments. Technically a bit of a breach of the independence of local bodies, but worth supporting at least for first reading as may be a useful tool for keeping relativity between central and local government.

Todd McClay’s would ban gang insignia being displayed within government (central and local) premises.

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The Upper South Island Seats

November 13th, 2008 at 10:16 pm by David Farrar

The birthplace of Labour, West Coast-Tasman went to National on the party vote by 11%. In 2005 the had a 3% margin. Damien O’Connor had a 1,500 majority and lost to Chris Auchinvole by 1,000 votes. Auchinvole (who once famously told Parliament you pronounce his name like it was Dock in Cole or a rude version that is easy to work out) wan a strong campaign with 160 hoardings and a large campaign team. O’Connor is first in on the Labour List, so if Michael Cullen retires he will be back as a List MP.

National finally won the party vote in Nelson. Labour won it by 6% in 2005 but National has a 5% lead in 2008. And no one was surprised that Nick retained his seat, although his majority did shrink from 9,500 to 7,900.

Kaikoura was marginal in 2002 and today the party vote was won by 23%, up from 9% in 2005. Colin King doubled his 4,700 mJority to 10,100.

Clayton Cosgrove did well to hold on in Waimakariri with 500 votes against the competent and hard working Kate Wilkinson. National won the party vote by 15%, up from a 0.3% margin in 2005. Cosgrove’s 2005 majority on new boundaries was 5,000.

Christchurch East remains red with 45% party vote Labour to 36% for National. However that 9% gap is a lot less than 24% in 2005. Dalziel’s 11,000 majority halved to 5,500 – still very safe. However National now has a List MP in the seat and will have hopes for when Lianne retires.

Christchurch Central was a great battle. Labour won the party vote by 1.4% and held the seat by 900 votes only. Nicky Wagner ran a very strong campaign but seats ending in Central are very hard to win for National. In 2005 the party vote margin was 22% and the majority for Barnett was 7,800.

Ilam has National 53% to 27% on the party vote. Gerry Brownlee also drives his majority from 5,500 to 10,800. This may finally stop Gerry from referring to his seat as marginal :-)

Wigram saw Labour win the party vote by just 2%. In 2005 it was 12%. And Jim Anderton scored a fairly safe 4,500 majority despite new boundaries.

Finally we have Port Hills. National won the party vote by 16%, yet Ruth Dyson held the seat by 3,100. In 2005 Labour won the party vote by 12% so there was a massive swing there, yet Dyson’s majority shrank from just 3,600 to 3,100.

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Electorate Polls

November 2nd, 2008 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged over on curiablog the results fo several recent electorate polls, including tonight’s one in Tauranga. The topline results are:

  • Tauranga – Bridges 26% ahead of Peters. Labour’s Pankhurst in 4th place at 5%. NZ First Party Vote down from 13% in 2005 to 6%.
  • Palmerston North – National candidate Malcolm Plimmer ahead by 3%
  • Ikaroa-Rawhiti – Parekura Horomia 5.4% ahead of Derek Fox
  • Nelson – Nick Smith 36% ahead of Maryan Street
  • West Coast-Tasman – Damien O’Connor 3.5% ahead of Chris Auchinvole
  • Te Tai Tonga – Maori TV/TNS has Mahara Okeroa ahead of Rahui Katene by 10% – 49% to 39%. However Marae Digipoll has Okeroa bejind by 6% – 40% to 46%
  • Hauraki-Waikato – Nanaia Mahuta ahead of Angeline Greensill by 0.6%

All three Maori seats held by Labour are highly competitive. In two seats Labour is ahead and in the seat with conflcitign results, an averaging of them out would see Labour ahead. This means that the Maori Party may not have much of an overhang at all – in fact they could even gain a List MP if they got 4% or so party vote.

Palmerston North is the only Labour held seat that a public poll has shown National ahead in, so far. Due to boundary changes Taupo and Rotorua are technically National’s on paper.

Based on boundary changes and public polls (and note this is not a personal prediction) the electorate seats would be:

  1. National 35
  2. Labour 28
  3. Maori 4
  4. ACT 1
  5. United Future 1
  6. Progressive 1

Labour will in one sense be very pleased to be ahead in all three Maori seats. However this does lessen their chances of winning via overhang.

And the Tauranga result is superb. With only 5% voting Labour on the electorate vote anyway, it means no amount of tactical voting in Tauranga can put Winston back in that way.

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Four more decisions from the Electoral Commission

October 9th, 2008 at 8:39 pm by David Farrar

The Electoral Commision has released four more decisons – all quite interesting.

  1. Display of anti-national banners by Clinton Smith was complained about by Cameron Slater. The Commission found that the banner and associated leaflets were election advertisements under the EFA. Smith claimed to have made a verbal promoter statement of authorisation. The Commission rejected this as being adequate and said tangible items can not have merely verbal authorisation statements. Therefore they found the items contravened s63(2) of the Electoral Finance Act. However they will not ask the Police to investigate Smith for an illegal practice as they found his breach was not wilful as he thought what he had done was necessary. And if does not constitute an illegal practice unless done wilfully.
  2. A Pete Hodgson fundraising letter for Labour. This was found to be an election advertisement in breach of s63(2) of not having an authorisation statement and 65(1) of not having been formally approved by the Labour Party. However once again they found the breach was not wilful and again no referral to the Police as it is not an illegal practice unless done willfuly.
  3. National MP Eric Roy’s advertisments in the Southland Express were complained about by Labour MP Lesley Soper. The EC made said “The Electoral Commission believes it is essential to democratic elections that parties can inform the public of the policies which will be implemented if elected and that, particularly in light of New Zealand Bill of Rights Act considerations, it would not be reasonable to regard mere statements of policy as election advertisements and subject to the restraints of the Electoral Finance Act.” They also said “Therefore the Commission is of the view that items which are accounts or reasoned criticisms of policy, or accounts or reasoned criticisms of actions or inactions, generally are not “reasonably” regarded as election advertisements as they are essential to informed democratic elections.“So what can’t you say? “The Electoral Commission considers that accompanying identification of the proponents of such items does not of itself convert the items into election advertisements, but disproportionate display of photographs, names or logos could do so. Other matters that might bring such items within the definition of an election advertisement include the addition of persuasive content which lack an information base such as party slogans, self promotion or unreasoned criticism of opponents, and exhortations to vote in a particular manner.” They cocnluded that Eric Roy’s advertisements were not election advertisements under the EFA.
  4. National MP Chris Auchinvole’s website was complained about by Oliver Woods. With similiar reasoning to above, the Electoral Commission found the website was not an election advertisement. So National continues to be one of the few parties to have never broken the new law.

In both the first two cases, illegal advertisements were published and the law was broken. But the finding of a lack of intent means no liability for the two individuals concerned.

Also of interest to some may be the news that as Kotahitanga Te Manamotu Hake Tiriti o Waitangi, the New Zealand Liberals, and the South Island Party all failed to register for the election, their $30,000 of broadcasting allocations was redistributed to all the smaller parties

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