The Dim-Post

August 9, 2012

Nicely timed

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:08 am

John Key showed a certain amount of political courage in supporting Louisa Wall’s Marriage Equality Bill – and it was a real windfall to conservative opposition MPs, who could vote against it knowing that the government would wear most of the backlash from conservative constituents. The only thing Labour could do to turn this triumph into a defeat was to have the caucus publicly split on whether they should withdraw their own bill, so that’s what they’ve done. The Herald reports:

MPs from the Labour Party’s South Auckland strongholds are divided over a bill which would legalise same-sex marriage, with two concerned it could seriously hurt the party’s support in its heartland electorates.

Labour MP for Mangere Su’a William Sio said he would oppose fellow MP Louisa Wall’s bill when it came up for a conscience vote, and called for it to be withdrawn.

Mangere was one of three crucial Labour electorates in South Auckland, and he felt the wide opposition from constituents to the bill, particularly from Pacific Islanders, could cost the party at the next election.

The ructions over the bill will put Labour leader David Shearer under pressure to make sure the issue does not cause damage or split the caucus. Mr Sio’s timing meant the issue overshadowed a major speech by Mr Shearer yesterday aimed at winning support from rural and provincial New Zealand.

Mr Shearer said yesterday MPs should not be “assassinated” for their voting choice, because a conscience vote allowed people to vote according to their beliefs or the will of their constituency.

(I note with interest that Bob McCoskrie has co-byline credit for that story.)

Anyway, MPs shouldn’t be ‘assassinated’ over opposing this bill, but it is a Labour bill, it’s (presumably) been debated and voted on by caucus. If an MP publicly condemns their own party’s legislation and predicts an election loss as a consequence (on the same day their leader is trying to raise his own profile), then they should probably receive a bit of  firm assassinating.


  1. Never underestimate the ability of the current Labour caucus to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a hall-mark of the last term under Goff, so it’s nice to finally see some consistency from them.

    Comment by Vanilla Eis — August 9, 2012 @ 8:20 am

  2. i’m beginning to miss Helen’s iron fist.

    Comment by petronious — August 9, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  3. I think the State should get out of regulating marriage altogether… create a civil contract that needs to be registered by couples, hetro or same-sex, then the couples can go perform whatever ceremony they want. This way same-sex couples will have the same rights proctected by the State, but also allows Christians to take back what they believe is their institution of marriage and define it in whatever way they like.

    Comment by Tasi — August 9, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  4. @Tasi

    That’s what the Civil Union’s bill did already, right?

    Comment by Phil — August 9, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  5. Indeed. Sio could have simply said he was voting against it. He didn’t have to publicly condemn it, call for it to be withdrawn, question Labour’s PI support, further exacerbate ructions in caucus…

    Comment by TC — August 9, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  6. Yes, but the State still regulates marriage. Get rid of State involvement in marriage.

    Comment by Tasi — August 9, 2012 @ 9:54 am

  7. @ Tasi

    If marriage was to be fully de-regulated, you have to ask the brides father for her invisible hand.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 9, 2012 @ 10:05 am

  8. It’s like they don’t actually *want* to be in government. Did too many of the current crop of Labour MPs have bad experiences when they were in government?

    My conspiracy theory of the day is that The Greens have been infiltrated by Farrar and are being persuaded to put all their effort into manipulating Labour’s selection process, resulting in a crop of dimwits running the party into the ground. The question is when will The Greens reveal that they’ve been running the same game against the National party?

    Comment by Moz in Oz — August 9, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  9. Funny old wedge issues. Imagine the brown people of south Auckland (very few of whom would be contemplating gay marriage) not voting for Labour because of gay marriage…..while their wages continue to be low and their working conditions deteriorate under National. When did New Zealand become as stupid as the United States..and vote against their own interest? Or was it always there…..waiting to be exploited by the cynical?

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — August 9, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  10. The people of Mangere didn’t stop voting for David Lange after his government legalized homosexuality.

    I don’t believe all Pasifica people are social conservatives – it’s more their self-styled, paternalistic “leaders”. Labour (and National) seems keen to treat anyone non-white (including, ironically, LGBT people) as a voting bloc that they can acquire by negotiations with “community leaders”, hence they wind up with people like Field and Sio onboard.

    Comment by Rich d'Rich (@rich_d_rich) — August 9, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  11. It just goes to show how much political affiliation can be random rather than to do with actually being liberal or conservative. If you divided up Labour and National and then re-arranged the chairs you could get one reasonable liberal party and one conservative party.

    Comment by NeilM — August 9, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  12. Fear of losing votes by doing the right thing is as old as politics itself.

    Trying to lose votes when polling clearly says you won’t, is less common. There’s a good reason for that.

    Sio isn’t being “pragmatic” or “expedient” or any of those necessary evils of politics – he’s just being very stupid.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 9, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  13. We all know Labour has never been as smooth as National when it comes to the shenanigans associated with their work and this is further evidence of that.

    Comment by Dan — August 9, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

  14. “…but it is a Labour Bill…”
    No it is not! It is a private member’s Bill, by Louisa Wall, who just happens to be a Labour electorate MP. So Labour do not *automatically* support this Bill as a party, though as they have policy in favour of gay marriage, they likely would support this Bill *if* they agreed to back it as a party. But they didn’t – Labour agreed to make this a conscience vote.

    Which raises the interesting question of democracy – why should MPs vote on *their* conscience? Why shouldn’t they vote according to the conscience of their electorates, or party supporters in the case of list MPs? Then they might actually BE democratic representatives. Instead of petty tyrants who get into power to exercise their personal opinions.

    So Su’a William Sio is doing his best to represent the views of his constituents, who tell him face to face they don’t want gay marriage (and who are less likely to answer palangi interviewers who ask them about sensitive issues like this on the street or at the door – been there, done that!).

    Unlike Danyl’s *politically courageous* John Key, who kept silent until he focus grouped the polls to death, and discovered it was safe for him to support gay marriage… on principle. Key also claimed he voted according to what he could discern as the wishes of his Helensville constituents (as he should to be a democrat); how many people actually believe Helensville voters want gay marriage? Seriously.

    @ Rich and Steve – south Aklders kept voting (in smaller and smaller numbers) for Labour despite legalising sodomy, not because of it! It is the cumulative effect of Labour pushing social liberal views down the throats of all NZ, while ignoring economic issues like wages that eventually sees voters ditch Labour.

    Legalising prostitution, civil unions, gay marriage – all pushed from above by Labour/Green MPs, but boy was it a struggle (from below, from Unite Union and activists) to get support from Labour or Greens for GST of fresh fruit & veges, or raising the minimum wage (done, but what a struggle).

    But what would I know – I’m just a lefty voter from South Akld (no, not Bob McCoskrie) against gay marriage. Clearly the liberals from Labour HQ know better…

    Comment by bob — August 9, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  15. @bob

    Legalising prostitution, civil unions, gay marriage – all pushed from above by Labour/Green MPs, but boy was it a struggle (from below, from Unite Union and activists) to get support from Labour or Greens for GST of fresh fruit & veges, or raising the minimum wage (done, but what a struggle).

    It was struggle to get the GP to support a minimum wage hike? I understood they proposed the Minimum Wage Remuneration Amendment bill in ’06 (which got knocked back).

    I think the reason that there was sluggish uptake on the GST issue is that it was dumb sideshow, being that the price is set by what the market will bear, not taxation.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 9, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

  16. Surely as a Labour MP Wall would have had to receive Labour caucus approval before putting her Bill into the ballot?

    Comment by SHG — August 9, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  17. SHG: Yes. All Labour member’s bills must be pre-approved by caucus.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant (@norightturnnz) — August 9, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

  18. @ SHG & I/S – Wall may have a majority of Labour caucus approval, but the price of that was clearly that opponents of gay marriage within the Labour caucus could vote against it, ie a conscience vote (which is not normal Labour behaviour – they usually vote as a bloc).

    So my point stands – Danyl was wrong to imply Su’a William Sio was undermining Shearer or Labour by voicing public criticism of Wall’s gay mariage Bill. He had freedom from the Labour caucus to do so. Besides, when was Sio supposed to speak out – after the Bill passed?

    @ Gregor – without wanting to threadjack, you agree the Greens were ‘sluggish’ (ie last movers) on GST off veges & fruit, because they believe in the purity & power of the free market. The same free market causing so much environmental damage – how ironic. And while Bradford pushed a minimum wage rise through, with union backing, it spoke volumes of how long that took, and how hard it was to get vocal, public campaigning from the Green MPs, as opposed to quietly putting it in their policy basket and ignoring it. The Greens increasingly position themselves as ‘better managers’ of free market capitalism than Labour or National. Tragic.

    If Sio is lying about his voters opinion on gay marriage, why not put it to a referendum at next years council elections? Cheap and quick way to get public view on the issue. Surely all liberals would support the public having their say, right?

    Comment by bob — August 9, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  19. “Surely all liberals would support the public having their say, right?”

    In a representative democracy, the public has its say in general elections and through the public sphere. In New Zealand, referendums are traditionally used to drive wedge issues against governments, or to change or confirm some aspects of the constitutional arrangements. So if you think you can damage the credibility of the National government by having a referendum on gay marriage then by all means go and collect the signatures. But you won’t be doing what you think you’re doing.

    Comment by Mackey — August 9, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

  20. Bob wrote: “how many people actually believe Helensville voters want gay marriage? Seriously”

    I have one friend from Helensville. She supports same-sex marriage, and so do both of her mums

    Comment by kahikatea — August 9, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

  21. I’m just a lefty voter from South Akld (no, not Bob McCoskrie) against gay marriage.


    Comment by PJ — August 10, 2012 @ 12:33 am

  22. As a Pacific Island Christian, I believe hetro-sexual and same-sex couples should have the same rights under the law of a secular government. But modern day NZ marriage is based on the Christian institution of marriage (otherwise why would the Courts have ruled the 1977 law makers did not intend for marriage to include same-sex couples). It should be Christians who define their own institutions, not the State.

    Comment by Tasi — August 10, 2012 @ 9:20 am

  23. @bob

    you agree the Greens were ‘sluggish’ (ie last movers) on GST off veges & fruit, because they believe in the purity & power of the free market.

    No. I agree that the GP were rightly skeptical because the proposition is stupid.
    Bananas that cost $1/kilo with GST one day will cost $1/kilo without GST the next. It’s got to do with the reality of the free market not “belief in it’s purity”.
    The alternative is price controls on goods + services – something that might have it’s own merits under certain conditions but not anything that was proposed.

    The GP had actually proposed a sensible alternative in 2010 (a Supermarket code of Conduct) which would have looked at both current duopoly’s gouging at both the supply and consumption ends of the chain.

    And while Bradford pushed a minimum wage rise through, with union backing, it spoke volumes of how long that took,…

    Firstly, are you saying that the GP calling for minimum wage legislation was prompted only by union agitation?
    Secondly, given that it’s been policy for at least 5-6 years, how exactly are the GP (who haven’t been in government lets and don’t have a commanding number of seats ) “taken too long”, particularly given that the party of the unions over their tenure did bugger when they were in Govt?

    For whatever reason, I think you’ve set your sights on the wrong target, bob.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 10, 2012 @ 9:40 am

  24. Tasi: “It should be Christians who define their own institutions, not the State.”

    But marriage is NOT a Christian institution anymore. I married my wife in a registry office in front of a court official with nary a mention of God, then had a redo on a Marae in front of family and friends with my sister acting as “celebrant”. As we’re both atheists, it would be extremely silly to say we’ve entered a Whatever historical connection marriage once may have had with the Church (a connection that has never been particularly strong in NZ), it has long since been broken. So you don’t get a veto over this issue – sorry.

    Further, exactly which “Christians” get to say what marriage is – the Anglicans (who may be about to allow gay unions to take place)? The Catholics (in which case, no gay marriage … but no divorce for anyone either)? The Mormons (no gay marriage … but guys get lots of wives!)?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 10, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  25. @ Andrew, that’s why the State should get out of regulating marriage.

    In that way, everyone, Christian: Mormon, Catholic, same-sex, atheists, can all go and register their union with the State, and then perform whatever ceremony they want afterwards.

    Christians can have Christian marriage ceremonies according to their own beliefs, and atheists can go to the marae according to their own beliefs.

    But because the State regulates marriage, it IS/WILL/CAN redefine marriage for ALL citizens, against what some groups may believe in.

    Comment by Tasi — August 10, 2012 @ 11:46 am

  26. Tasi,

    No real problem with that here … but I think you’ll find the horse has long ago bolted on the use of the term “marriage”, in that a large majority of NZers see the institution in purely civil terms. So any attempt to “reclaim” it for the churches is, I think, doomed to failure.

    But, as I say, I have no principled problem with what you suggest.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — August 10, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

  27. Andrew, and I think that’s all the more reason why many Christian churches are opposing the redefinition of “marriage” because for Christians, the institution and the values behind it have stayed the same for them.

    (I personally don’t have a problem with same-sex “marriages”, but understand why my fellow bretheren do.)

    Comment by Tasi — August 10, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

  28. Tasi, while you’re bravely saving the word “marriage”, perhaps you could save the word “gay” as well? And want their asses back from the Americans: they are offering “fanny” in return. (Could you sort out the Australian’s use of the word “thong”, too?)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 10, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  29. Technically, in terms of the ideal response from politicians regarding this issue, it should be that New Zealand is a Christian country and therefore can not allow something that is so definitely not a part of Christian values to become law.

    Unfortunately, as evidenced by one of the Labour politicians who is quite clearly gay and is now using his position as a politician to advance a possible music career, politicians aren’t like that these days. Our very own PM wouldn’t support this Bill if he weren’t taking cues from Barack Obama.

    So I’m in support of legislation being introduced that will redefine when there is a need for a Referendum to be held. All controversial social issues (gay marriage, euthanasia, decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis), in my view, should be put to a binding Referendum. Democracy at its very best.

    Comment by Dan — August 10, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

  30. Dan, what about a binding referendum on stoning adulterers?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 11, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

  31. Clunking Fist

    Only if they are also benefit recipients and fail their drug test three or more times

    Comment by Daniel Lang — August 14, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

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