Hard News by Russell Brown


Practically jokers

'There are other joke parties getting funding, like the Conservatives and ACT," quoth The Civilian Party's Ben Uffindell recently, in defence of his own party's receipt of electoral advertising funds. It was a cracking line. And, as the weekend's news indicated, not so far from the truth.

On The Nation this weekend, Conservative Party founder, leader and chief donor Colin Craig was tasked with policy questions by Patrick Gower. And you had to laugh:

This week we saw a moral issue raised by the Green party. Abortion. They effectively want to bring in a policy where it’s open to all women to get an abortion up to about 20 weeks. Do you agree with that?

 Nah, it’s a bit of an extreme policy. And I don’t think anybody, other than the Greens, was going there.

What would you do with abortion? What would the Conservatives do with abortion?

Well I think one of the things we could do is do what they do in Europe, which is to improve the advice that’s given around it, it’s called free and informed consent. And I think it would be a good move.

Basically a counsellor talking to the woman before…

Good, independent advice ahead of time. And I think it’s the independence that’s important.

So someone trying to persuade the woman not to have an abortion?

No, somebody presenting… in Europe it’s essentially got to be somebody who’s medically specialised and they have to be independent.

Like in Germany?

And they have to be independent. Oh, most countries, the Netherlands has got a very good system.

I've no idea what Craig meant by "independent", but does he think the doctors who approve abortion in New Zealand under our weird fudge of a system aren't "medically specialised"? Yet his fanciful characterisation of abortion law in the Netherlands versus the Greens' "extreme" policy was the really absurd part.

The Netherlands is regarded as being a country with easy access to abortion. Here's a short summary of the Netherlands' abortion policy. Any woman can obtain an abortion as of right up to 13 weeks. From 13 weeks until foetal viability (nominally 24 weeks) she must attest to "a state of distress", which is jointly defined by her and her doctor. Unlike in New Zealand, she won't have to claim to be mentally ill.

Effectively, no abortions are denied up to 22 weeks. There is a five-day waiting period, a doctor must confirm the decision isn't being made under duress and advice on contraception will be given. 

The Netherlands has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, which is presumably not unconnected with the country's provision of comprehensive sex education from primary school and free contraception. Universal free contraception has been in and out of the country's health coverage in the past decade, but it's a right for women up to the age of 21.

Which is something else Colin Craig is against. Remember when he complained about a $250,000 scheme to provide free contraception for women on benefits on this reasoning?

"Why should, say, a 70-year-old who's had one partner all their life be paying for a young woman to sleep around? We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all."

It presumably hasn't occured to Craig that decent married women also need to control their fertility -- or that women in New Zealand already have access to heavily subsidised contraception (some aren't subsidised, but most pills cost about $5 per month), via their doctors.

I look forward to Craig informing the women of New Zealand they should pay much more for their contraceptive pill so we can all "get back to the principles of personal responsibility and paying our own way."

But he won't say that. He's just another stupid bigot who hasn't thought it through.


Meanwhile, Act. Oh, Act. Yesterday's Herald on Sunday contained the most risible sort of rentaquote story on the naming of the new private prison being built at Wiri. It has a name: Kohuora. The name was put forward by the local iwi and translates as "coming out of the mist into the new world of the living", which the prison operator, Serco, says "resonates well with our focus on helping to prepare prisoners to lead constructive lives post-release and to reduce reoffending." It's also the name of a nearby volcanic cone.

The HoS's reporter, Russell Blackstock, presumably spotted this news in Serco's regular newsletter on the prison's construction and called the usual suspects in search of fulminating outrage. The Sensible Setencing Trust, of course, obliged and without a hint of irony described the naming as "political correctness gone mad". Meanwhile Act's deputy leader, Kenneth Wang, spluttered thus:

Law and order hardliner Kenneth Wang, deputy leader of the Act Party, said the idea was "bizarre".

"The authorities have already tried to reinvent prisons as 'correctional facilities' and now they are trying to give them another makeover. It is senseless."

Seriously? The term "correctional facilities" is creeping liberalism now? Somebody tell NWA!

And did Wang miss the part that it's not "the authorities" that adopted this name, but a private prison provider?

Perhaps he might have been happier with "Fort Doom", "Mordor" or simply "Hell". I'm sure there's an adolescent who could come up with something suitable.

A serious resonse from Wang might have run along the lines: "Act supports the use of private companies in the corrections system. We are less concerned with the name of an individual prison than with providing a strong deterrent to crime."

But these people aren't serious. They're idiots who clearly need a hobby to keep them out of trouble at the weekends.

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