10 Aug 2021

National's factions strained over gay conversion therapy ban

From Checkpoint, 5:51 pm on 10 August 2021

The National Party's liberal and conservative factions are strained as the party reckons with voting against a ban on gay conversion therapy.

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 East Coast Bays MP Erica Stanford Photo:

National was the only political party that did not support the legislation through its first reading last week.

It was a caucus decision but it is now clear not all National MPs agreed on voting against the ban

When it comes to gay conversion therapy, National MPs believe it is wrong. 

But ask these same MPs about the government's proposed ban on conversion therapy and it is not so simple. 

East Coast Bays MP Erica Stanford states the caucus' position has always been that 'gay conversion therapy is abhorrent'.

The National Party's primary concern is that the proposed ban on gay conversion therapy could land some parents in court. 

Today, MPs were pressed on why the party didn't support the legislation through its first reading on principle, before using the select committee process to iron out the details. 

Stanford lays blame at the government's feet. 

"Kris Faafoi was the one who couldn't answer any of those questions when he was the one discussing his own bill so he's the one who set the cat among the pigeons in the public and politicians as well not being able to clearly say that parents would not be criminalised," she said.

Chris Penk - one of National's more conservative MPs - points out the legislation would have passed its first reading with or without National's support.

"It goes forward with or without us they've got the numbers already," he said.

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Chris Bishop. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Chris Bishop's voting preference was made public after a conversation on Twitter, in which he admitted he hated his vote on the conversion therapy ban, was published. 

However, he wouldn't repeat this on today's caucus run, reiterating his certainty the legislation can be shaped into a form National will support.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to get the bill into a shape where the caucus can support it in the second or third reading, National definitely does not support conversion therapy we do want it to be banned we just want it to be banned in the right way," he said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was very unlikely parents would be prosecuted for preventing their child from taking hormone blockers under the government's bill. 

"It is just simply not that simple and again you would have to have an attorney general decide that that prosecution is a good idea I see that as highly unlikely," she said.

Ardern said it was disappointing National was withholding its support over a minor part of the bill that can be worked through at Select Committee.