3 Aug 2021

ACT, National warn of conversion therapy bill 'risk'

8:04 pm on 3 August 2021

ACT leader David Seymour is betting his party will not continue to support the government's bill banning conversion therapy, while National is refusing to support it without changes.

ACT Party leader David Seymour

ACT Party leader David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The government introduced its bill on Friday, with Justice Minister Kris Faafoi saying the harmful and widely-discredited practice had no justification.

ACT this afternoon said it would support the bill at its first reading, but had "serious concerns" about it in its current form. National's Justice spokesperson Simon Bridges said the party supported the intent of the bill, but it would need amendment.

Heading into the debating chamber, Seymour said it was "very unlikely" the party would continue to support it - although the majority Labour government will have little trouble getting the bill passed.

"If I was taking odds at the TAB I wouldn't want to bet on ACT voting for this further on," Seymour said.

"We're gonna vote for it at the first reading because we believe that people deserve to have a say at select committee."

He said the key problem was with the definitions, a problem Faafoi himself struggled with in an interview in the hours after the announcement.

Minister Kris Faafoi addresses media.

Minister Kris Faafoi speaks to media after introducing the bill to outlaw conversion therapy practices. Photo: Marika Khabazi

Seymour said there was a risk the law would end up affecting "normal conversations" between parents and children - particularly under the Human Rights Act civil law provisions.

"They're gonna have to argue very hard to show that this piece of legislation isn't going to inadvertently criminalise conversations between parents and their children."

He said churches were an important source of guidance for some people, and it was important not to chill conversation between parents and children.

"Are we gonna have police in the church hall deciding whether people are saying the right things? That's where this gets incredibly messy."

Bridges' concerns were similar, though his approach was the opposite - urge changes now, support later.

"It is important that we consider sexual orientation and gender identity or expression separately," Bridges said in a statement.

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Simon Bridges Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"Sexual orientation requires no medical intervention, whereas when it comes to gender identity/expression, parents are naturally concerned about being able to make decisions about their children being given puberty blockers and hormones ... parents should be allowed to be parents."

He said National would be willing to support the bill if Faafoi would tighten up some of the definitions, and add in a clause exempting parents from prosecution.

"We really do not want to go down the route of state intervention every time there are complex medical or wellbeing matters to be discussed in families."

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill is set for its first reading on Thursday.

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