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ACT supports equal rights for men

Dr Muriel Newman

Speech to the Christchurch Mens Political Forum, Christchurch Community Law Centre, 7pm.

Today we are being asked what our parties would do for New Zealand men. For a long time I have been extremely concerned about government policies, which disadvantage men and marginalise fathers. Since entering Parliament, ACT has consistently campaigned to right the balance in our laws.

As a priority, ACT would reform family law to introduce shared parenting. This means that in the event of a family breakdown children would have the support of their mother and father, as well as both sets of grandparents and wider family. It is disgraceful that in spite of a Private Members Bill to introduce shared parenting having twice been debated in Parliament, the Labour party, the Progressives, the Greens and New Zealand First failed to consider the issue important enough to send it to a Select Committee.

As a consequence of the present system, which gives the custody of children almost exclusively to mothers – and tolerates the frequent use of false allegations against the fathers of the children — many fathers lose contact with their children. That not only causes intense heartbreak and trauma for children, fathers and grandparents, but it leads to far higher levels of non-compliance with child support orders than would be the case if dads were able to take part in parenting.

The Child Support Act has been problematic since its inception. It is in urgent need of a complete overhaul from the bottom up and it is extremely disappointing that Labour and National have both failed to instigate the necessary changes.

ACT would review the Child Support Act, basing payments on a realistic measure of the cost of raising a child, ensuring that the payments go directly to the children not the IRD and properly adjusting payment levels to take account of the contributions already made by the non-custodial parent as they share in the raising of their children.

The fact that uncollected child support has now reached almost $1billion demonstrates the lack of commitment by Labour to unfair and unjust laws that affect fathers.

But the real victims of Labour’s unfair laws are children.

The Labour party has been driven by a radical feminist agenda for thirty years, which regards traditional marriage and the family as a means of oppressing women. That’s why they introduced laws to encourage single parenthood as a way of life, why they promote family diversity at the expense of marriage and why they are incentivising women to leave their three month-old babies and return to the workforce.

With a quarter of a million children living in homes without their biological father — for Maori the situation is much worse with three out of four babies under 12 months old living in a family without a father — the situation, as the OECD recently pointed out is disastrous.

Research – both from New Zealand and overseas is unequivocal — children raised in homes without a father are much more likely to become involved in crime, drugs, teen pregnancy and abortion, youth suicide and school truancy.

Many mothers, of course, have no choice but to try and raise their children as best they can because the fathers have walked away, abdicating their responsibility for proper love, discipline, support and protection. But not all fathers are separated from their children voluntarily — many are the victims of our archaic family laws.

Whatever the reason for the separation, one of the awful consequences is the escalation in child abuse that is now affecting more and more of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children. Over the last twelve months the number of cases of established child abuse being investigated by the Department of Child Youth and Family has skyrocketed 45 percent to 13,017. This is a direct result of family instability, sole parenthood and welfare dependency.

ACT would seek to address the problem by curbing the incentives that create sole parenthood: Abolishing the Domestic Purposes Benefit as a long term benefit in favour of a temporary benefit to support sole parents into work, so they can become the breadwinner of their children. By doing that, much of the damaging impact that long-term welfare has been shown to have on the children of sole parents, would be reduced. Such a change would also act to strengthen marriage — if a couple are having relationship difficulties and the option for the parent most likely to be awarded custody of the children is a benefit leading to work, instead of the present situation of income support for life, then that parent is far more likely to put more effort into making the relationship work.

There are many other things where the balance needs to be put right — encouraging more men to consider primary school teaching would be a good start — but there is one area in the health field that I would like to mention.

In particular, it is wrong that a national screening programme for prostate cancer has not been given the proper consideration it deserves. Six times more men die of prostate cancer a year than women die of cervical cancer, yet women not only have a cervical cancer screening programme but a breast screening programme as well. The false positives for prostate cancer screening are the same as for breast cancer screening and the number of deaths from those two types of cancer are about the same.

I am collecting signatures for a petition to Parliament to consider the introduction of a national prostate cancer screening programme. If you support that — and would like to see the balance in law tilted back towards men’s rights instead of exclusively focussing on women’s rights — then I urge you to gather as many signatures for the petition as you can.

Of all the parties in Parliament, ACT has never swerved from our commitment to create a better balance in law for men. Abolishing the Ministry of Women’s Affairs — a hotbed of radical feminism — is still an important first step. Reforming family law to introduce shared parenting, replacing the present child support system in favour of one that is fair, abolishing the Domestic Purposes Benefit as we know it and replacing it with a benefit that encourages work and introducing a better balance in our legislative system to support the rights of men, are important steps in the way to once again properly respect the vital contribution that men make to a well-functioning society. If you want to support ACT in our commitment to equal rights for men, then you will need to give ACT your party vote at the election.