Minister denies support for polygamy

Last updated 23:19 12/08/2008

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Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson says the Government has no plans to recognise multi-partner relationships, despite speech notes in her name suggesting it was moving to recognise "triples".

The speech, which was removed from the Government's Beehive website last Friday after inquiries by Investigate magazine, was listed as being delivered by Dyson at Victoria University on May 6.

The speech notes say that the Government is moving the focus of its policy delivery from social welfare to social development, including recognising communities within the population that do not meet the definition of a traditional family group.

"We must cater for diversity; we know it exists. By this I mean the range of relationships from single, couples, triples, blended, de facto, and so on. That's where we're going with social policy," the speech notes say.

Dyson said yesterday that she did not deliver the speech and had "no idea" what the term "triples" referred to.

The speech should never have been posted on the Government's website, she said.

"It's entirely my responsibility what goes out under my name, so it's my fault that I didn't know that a speech that I hadn't given had been put on the website," Dyson said.

"I get speeches a lot that I don't give. I don't want to be too critical of people who draft my speeches, but I get a lot of speeches, in draft, that I never use. They have no relationship with what I say."

She "didn't have a clue" what the speech notes meant nor what they were referring to.

"I haven't bothered asking because I'm not interested in it," she said.

Asked what the Government's policy on polygamous relationships was, Dyson said: "The social security legislation is very clear about what a relationship is you're either single or a couple. A couple is in the nature of marriage, which includes civil union and de facto.

"It's been the same for years. It's been tested in court. There's no interest in changing it."

She did not know who wrote the speech or whether it was written in her office or the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

"I get draft speeches from the department all the time. Sometimes it's MSD, sometimes it's DOL (Department of Labour), sometimes it's health, sometimes it's education it depends what the speech is," Dyson said.

"I've got no idea. I'm sort of not interested because I didn't say it and it's not our policy."

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Asked how one of her speechwriters could have thought recognising "triples" was part of Government policy, Dyson said: "There would be nobody in MSD who is under any illusion that that is Government policy."

Dyson said the speechwriter could have copied the phrase from somewhere else. "The quality of speechwriting in some places isn't great."

National welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins said she did not believe Dyson was not aware of the contents of the speech.

"It sounds like a secret agenda to me. I don't think that speeches miraculously appear on the Government's website without anyone knowing who put them there," Collins said. "I know what she would be saying if it was us."

Collins said she was "intrigued" that the Government's new social development model "now includes something called triples, and my mind just boggles".

Asked for her view on Government recognition of polygamy, Collins said: "I don't worry about what consenting adults get up to. I just don't expect the taxpayer to pay for it."

- The Press

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