Politics teeming with hidden agendas

02:01, Nov 15 2012

Sophistry: the art of inventing a plausible excuse to mask an ulterior motive. There's a lot of it going around these days, particularly in terms of our politics - local body and central government. Wherever you look, issues are being hijacked by folk with hidden and not-so-hidden agendas. The ruckus over the proposed new high-rise in central Auckland, part of which will be used as a bordello, is merely the most recent example.

Lawyer Russell Bartlett neatly summed up the nonsense the other day. The man representing the Chow Bros' application at a resource consent hearing said it was time those who objected to the plans because they objected to prostitution realised they were attending the wrong forum. That they were wasting everyone's time. It wasn't a debate on the various activities proposed; that was settled back in 2003 with the Prostitution Reform Act.

Well said, that man. Now, if only the penny would drop. Prostitution is legal in New Zealand, the only issues up for debate at the hearing should be matters of compliance. Those who misuse these processes to air their personal greivances don't deserve the soap-box they stand on. Not only are they causing expensive delays on the basis of fraudulent claims, they're spreading misinformation and intolerance every time they open their mouths.

There's been a similar response to Louisa Wall's Marriage Equality Bill, the proposal that, if passed, will allow same sex marriage. And the most vociferous of opponents? As Wall noted the other day, they would have to be those who, because of religious convictions or plain bigotry, have never been able to get their heads around the 1986 Homosexual Reform Act. They still can't accept the equal rights of gays and lesbians are now enshrined in law.

In other words, most of these diehards don't have any specific objections to gay marriage as such; the truth is they're fundamentally opposed to any sort of homosexual behaviour. Wall is right, too - the ones who stick out the most are those who initially opposed civil unions on the basis of their anti-gay beliefs and are now supporting them, but only as a way of opposing marriage equality. That's right: more faces than Big Ben, yet they try to claim the moral high ground.

You also see it in the debate over abortion. Take those attempting to prevent pregnant women from testing for Down syndrome (on the grounds most of the mothers affected then choose to terminate). The vast majority are fundamentally opposed to abortion in general, let alone in specific case-studies. I mean, really; when you have anti-abortion extremists such as Right to Life in your corner, it's a stretch to suggest the issue is simply about Downs.

Same with the debate over the mandatory teaching of Te Reo in our schools. Broadly speaking, Te Reo dissenters can be split into two main groups. One, populated by those who refuse to recognise anything positive about the Maori culture and by definition its language, the other filled with conspiracy theorists; those convinced the entire proposal is a lefty plot to brainwash our children. It's not that they disagree with Te Reo, particularly. It's just that they hate all things Maori.

The one saving grace? Just that these folk are relatively easy to spot. Fundamentalists often are; they eventually can't help themselves. They might try to insist they're being reasonable or considerate but their true colours are invariably revealed. They are the real sad cases in this country; the people so completely in denial about the way the community is progressing, they'll try to do or say anything to drag us all back into the past.

Happily, no-one seems to be listening


» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.

» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.





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