Last night, I attended the regional meeting of the party at Bowen House, Lambton Quay, Wellington. I have been a loyal and active member of the party for many years, so my invitation was not a surprise. What was a surprise was the fact that only a dozen of us bothered to attend.
I should probably explain my position within the party. I am the Liaison Officer for the Faith-Based Communites Network of the Ohariu-Belmont electorate. So, it is known and expected that I speak to and for some Christians and others, which form a minority base of the party.
All day I agonised over how I would tackle the issue of Peter’s vote for Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking bill. I prepared some notes. I knew I would probably only get a 2 minute slot at the end of the meeting, so I wanted to go in prepared to make a good impression.
For completeness sake, I will detail here my version of the meeting minutes. (I did not collude with my preparation with anybody else, and the meeting was not a closed door event, so I see nothing wrong with presenting my thoughts here.)
New party vice-president Murray Lawn took a brief workshop where we brain-stormed "who are our constituents, and how do we increase their numbers?"
New party preseident Denise Krum spoke to "what has the Board been up to?" She also showed us the new logo and new brand we are going for. A caring, feeling brand.
Our leader, Peter Dunne answered "what have the MP’s been up to?" as did Judy Turner and Gordon Copeland.
It was at this point that Lance (surname withheld to protect the innocent, and because I forget!) opened up the topic of the anti-smacking bill. As I had been prepared to do this also, I was not upset to find I had some support on this issue.
Here are the six points I raised and Peter’s counter-arguments:
We are family. I see an issue that will hurt us severely. Let’s work together to resolve this problem.
Sue’s bill is not a make-or-break issue.
You don’t just represent your own conscience. You also represent the conscience of the 80% of pollers who don’t want this.
"In my own family, we have never smacked. I cannot conceive of any situation where it is warranted."
Chester Burrow’s ammendment is bad. Smacking shouldn’t be with the hand. The hand is for blessing. The act of the parent getting up to go to the flexible instrument is part of the cooling down period so that punishment may be applied rationally.
We are going to vote for his ammendment (although we don’t think it has the numbers to pass).
You are not being consistent with your own position in the past on the issues of tobacco and alcohol. On those, you said "less government involved in the personal lives of people."
"You’re reading from a script"
You have the opportunity to take the lead and be the only party against this bad law.
It is a higher good that we exercise our right to a conscience vote (unlike Labour are doing). Also, we always raise our ammendment on all conscience votes, that the passing bar should be 60%.
Organisations like Plunket are going to lose support, because parents are going to be afraid that they will be reported.
No they won’t.
My final thoughts:
Unfortunately, Peter’s first point has two negative connotations:
Either he’s wrong, in which case 1000’s of voters will leave the party; or
If he’s right, it means Christians and others can’t think outside their wallets to put the votes where they matter.
I find it incredible, that just because he successfully raised a good family without smacking, he can’t see others might need or want the option.
Chester Burrow’s ammendment is Nero fiddling while Rome burns.
Peter did not answer my point about his former position on tobacco and alcohol. He diverted it with an accusation I was reading from a script (and consequently insinuating that I had help and/or these were not my own thoughts). Typical politician behaviour. Not what I expected from a friend.
So, in my opinion, Sue’s bill will pass.
So, the only course of action left available to us is Larry Baldock’s petition for a Referendum.