Friday, February 23, 2007

Jim Hopkins writes another good column

NB: this column is unashamedly stolen from here

Insofar as a supposedly moral Government can be propped up by the vote of an immoral and unethical member, it is clearly as foolhardy to expect consistency from politicians as it would to put al Qaeda in charge of airport security.

Well, maybe not quite as foolhardy but certainly pretty daft. Whoever designed politicians obviously didn't regard consistency as an important part of their makeup.

And, by and large, we accept that compromise, equivocation and U-turns are an inevitable part of The Parliamentary Idol show.

It is, after all, a popularity contest - just like its musical equivalent - so any politician hoping to go to the top of the Twit Parade will likely change their tune whenever they suspect the listeners are switching off.

But there are exceptions to the rule, most notably the exercise of a conscience vote. In those instances - and Sue Bradford's private members bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act is one such - our MPs are expected to cast a ballot consistent with their own beliefs. That's why it's called a conscience vote.

Yet even here, inconsistency applies. It's been reported the Government is whipping its members to support Ms Bradford's bill, which seems an odd thing to do when its aim is to abolish smacking.

But be that as it may; the whipping is, after all, metaphorical. And apparently, acceptable too. No Government member has objected to having their convictions nationalised, shall we say.

Although they should. If a parliamentarian doesn't own their own conscience, they own nothing. And we owe them nothing either. Not loyalty, or respect.

Any MP prepared to surrender their conscience in a conscience vote has betrayed themselves. And us.

Such folk would be wise to borrow a spine from a jellyfish and spend the rest of their lives doing something commensurate with their principles - like winding back odometers.

They won't, of course. They'll just carry on, voting as they're told and banking their cheques and, who knows, perhaps eventually tottering off to some High Commission somewhere to slop a little more gravy funded from the public purse, while we wrestle with the consequences of the laws they've passed, including, it seems, Ms Bradford's bill.

Which is itself a glaring example of inconsistency.

There's no disputing the fact that beating our babies is a vile thing. But a beating is not the same as a smack, despite Ms Bradford's rhetorical attempts to make them synonymous. People know this, and say so emphatically.

What hasn't been said to date is that any morally consistent campaign to eliminate violence against our babies - as Sue Bradford repeatedly calls them - must begin where the violence is worst. And it must begin at the beginning.

By all means pass a law preventing us from beating our babies. But only after you've passed a law preventing us from aborting those babies.

Immediately, the argument will be that it's not a baby who's aborted, it's a fetus. But that is sophistry, intended to justify our legal arrangements.

The distinction is false and merely stills the qualms of the uncomfortable.

A fetus is a baby who hasn't been born yet and we do ourselves no credit denying that fact.

All the arguments of vulnerability, helplessness and dependence advanced to justify protecting our babies applies equally to those still in the womb, indeed, more so for they are even more dependent and vulnerable. And at much greater risk.

By any measure, aborting an unborn baby is more violent - certainly in terms of consequence - than smacking the hand of a baby that hasn't been aborted.

However, the fact that abortion is a violent act hasn't persuaded our parliamentarians to proscribe it.

1 comment:

Andy Moore said...

Good to see Jim Hopkins standing up for the family.

Kiwis want to keep Section 59

This website helps you to email the MPs, and also has updates on the Section 59 debate.