Nats to give cash from family body to churches

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The National Party plans to abolish the Families Commission and give the savings to community-based organisations and church groups, leader John Key has told a Family First forum.

The commission was established by the Labour-led Government as part of its supply and confidence agreement with the United Future Party, which is a potential coalition partner for National after this year's election.

Key yesterday gained loud applause for telling the forum he did not support the commission.

"I don't think that's working very well. There's a huge amount of bureaucracy and a ton of money being spent on it.

"What would you rather do? Pick up that money and give it to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), or more bureaucrats telling you what constitutes a family in New Zealand? I want to give it to those NGOs."

Key said he liked the work of Parents Inc, run by evangelical Christian Ian Grant.

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"The current Government won't touch them because they've got a Christian-based perspective," Key said.

"I personally think they happen to deliver fantastic results, and I'm going to make sure they get some money to run their programmes far and wide."

Key faced questions on social and conscience issues and told Family First that while it did important work, "we don't necessarily agree on every issue".

"National's door will always be open to you (Family First), because we know you have insights into issues that a government may not see or understand," he said.

"I don't pretend today that we will respond to every issue you raise with us, but we will always listen."

Key was questioned on section 59 of the Crimes Act, which removed the defence of reasonable force for parents who hit their children.

National supported the legislation but has been under pressure from lobby groups such as Family First to repeal it.

Key said he sought a compromise on section 59 because it was clear Labour was going to force the bill through.

He repeated his pledge that if he saw evidence the legislation was not working he would repeal it. "To this point I haven't seen such evidence."

If the referendum before Parliament, which calls for parental correction through a smack to be lawful, gave a strong mandate for a change, a future government would need to listen to the result, he said.

United Future leader Peter Dunne, who proposed the Families Commission as a concession for supporting the Government six years ago, said he was "surprised" by Key's comments on the commission.

"It has more than fulfilled my vision ... It would be a terrible mistake to shut it down now, just as the appointment of new commissioners promises to give it a new lease of life."

Key also said abortion was a conscience issue, but he did not support change to current law.

"I recognise issues are there. There are too many unwanted pregnancies. My focus is going to be on that," he said.

The Press