Saturday, August 07, 2021

Stupid games should fool no one

A bill to ban anti-LGBTQ “conversion therapy” used against minors passed its first reading in Parliament Thursday, no thanks to the New Zealand National Party. The party’s leaders claim to support the ban, but want changes. Seriously. Do they think we’re stupid, or are they?

In case it’s the latter, here’s a brief reminder for their MPs, who perhaps don’t understand how Parliament works: The first reading of a bill is only the start of the legislative process. If a party supports what the bill is for, they vote in favour of it at the first reading so it can go to select committee where hearings are held, feedback given, and amendments are considered. THAT is where MPs dig in their heels if they think a bill they genuinely support in most respects needs to be changed, not at the first reading.

I don’t seriously think they’re too stupid to know that’s how Parliament works—they’re just playing political games. We know this because ALL the political parties in Parliament, regardless of ideology, supported the first reading except National. They knew their votes were irrelevant and the bill would pass the first reading without them, and that gave them a good opportunity to wage more of their divisive culture war bullshit, which is what their stunt was really all about.

Simon Bridges, who was dumped as party leader well before the last election, is now their “justice” spokesperson. He used his speech [Read: Full transcript of the debate] to spread disinformation to present the sort of typical rightwing nonsense arguments against a ban that have been used in other countries—despite the fact that his disinformation was also completely irrelevant to a ban on conversion therapy. Worse, he also flat out lied.

He said that the bill would mean “that good parenting will be criminalised”, and he added that a parent advising their trans child not to take puberty blockers could be prosecuted. It seems to me that he was either deliberately lying or else he doesn’t understand what “conversion therapy” actually is.

Do Bridges and National seriously mean to suggest that a “good parent” is one who would subject their child to electric shock treatment, forced fasting, sleep deprivation, drugs, psychological manipulation, and the other extreme techniques often used in “conversion therapy”? By definition, a real good parent would never subject their child to such harm, and so, they would never face prosecution. Ever. But even bad parents who would choose “conversion therapy” wouldn’t face prosecution unless they were also practitioners who conducted the sessions themselves. From what Bridges actually said in Parliament, apparently any parents willing to personally effectively torture their own children would be what National thinks are “good parents”.

Also worrying is that the party’s youth wing, the Young Nationals, had urged the party’s caucus to support the bill, and when the entire caucus failed to do so, the Young Nationals said they were “very disappointed” in their own party’s caucus. Maybe the National Party just doesn’t care about the views of young people, even when they’re stalwart supporters of the party?

The National Party has become more and more disgusting in recent months. They had a disastrous loss in 2020, and they’ve apparently decided their salvation lies in divisiveness, like rightwing populists around the world. Their leader has been spouting rank racist rhetoric, like the other day when the National Party Leader said there should be a taxpayer-funded referendum on banning the use of New Zealand’s Māori name, Aotearoa, by government agencies. That came a day after one of her MPs floated the idea of banning it.

The reality for me is that I have problems with, and criticisms of, every party in Parliament, without exception. That’s perfectly normal in a democracy. But when a party’s behaviour becomes so disgusting that it becomes an object of contempt, that’s not normal—and it’s definitely not okay. National’s problems go beyond their leader and senior MPs: For example, they apparently may be about to dump their party president. If the National Party doesn’t reverse its slide into rightwing, racist, culture warrior populism, they’ll deserve to lose in another landslide at the next election.

This is a revised and greatly expanded version of something I posted to my personal Facebook yesterday,

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