40,000+ Sign Petition Calling For End of School-Based Gender Indoctrination

Source: Family First

Media Release 2 April 2019 
Family First NZ is welcoming a petition which is being presented to Parliament today calling for an end to gender ideology indoctrination in primary and secondary schools.

The petition from mother and registered teacher Helen Houghton asks “That the House of Representatives urge the Ministry of Education to remove learning intentions for teaching gender diversity in the sexuality education guide and to remove the gender diversity teaching resources on the Te Kete Ipurangi website.” It has been signed by more than 40,000 people.

“This is a timely and significant petition. Parents are becoming increasingly concerned with how misguided school policies (including the school sex education curriculum and programmes such as InsideOut and Mates and Dates) might encourage their children to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. Schools are being pressured in to accepting gender ideology by groups such as the Human Rights Commission, Rainbow Youth and the Ministry of Education. These indoctrination programmes are simply confusing and stressing our children, and it’s starting to show,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“What children really need is affirmation of their unique personality and appropriate treatment for their unhappiness and other presenting emotional issues, and appropriate support for parents – but definitely not wide-spread gender confusion and indoctrination which denies biological reality,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“It’s time that the Education and Health Ministries placed priority on scientific evidence and sound medical practice, rather than bowing to ideology and special interest groups pushing a radical agenda.”

Recent polling by Curia Market Research found stronger support for children not to be taught that their gender can changed. 54% said children should not be taught this, 35% said they should, and a further 11% were unsure or refused to say.

“What is most disturbing is that our state education system is pushing gender ideology and assuming that children as young as five and six have the cognitive ability and maturity to somehow know that their biological sex is separate to their gender identity – a completely non-scientific construct,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“When advocacy groups and the Education Ministry are encouraging children to turn up to school confused about their gender and unsure whether to use the boys or girls toilet, it’s a recipe for disaster and confusion for all our children,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Family First released a report last year by an Australian paediatrician which sent a strong warning to New Zealand that allowing children to choose their gender has no scientific evidence in medical literature to support the massive interventions of the medical pathway, and that the most vulnerable of children will be at particular risk. The reportChildren Transitioning: Childhood gender dysphoria – A paediatrician’s warning to New Zealand” was written by Professor John Whitehall who is Foundation Chair and Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Sydney.

Dr Whitehall says that such a massive intervention into the minds and bodies of children could be expected to be based on a concrete body of scientific experimentation but, astonishingly, that is not the case. There is no biological basis to the confusion over gender: it has the hallmarks of a psychological fad, fanned by an uncritical, sensationalist media, given direction by private websites and even government funded programmes of ‘education’.

“Sadly, the most vulnerable of children appear to be at particular risk: numerous reviews reveal the majority of children confused about their gender also suffer from diagnosed mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Proponents of the medical pathway declare it is necessary to prevent suicide but, again, there is no evidence that gender dysphoria in children, per se, is associated with a higher risk of suicide. The accompanying mental and family disorders, however, are known to be associated with self-harm and, therefore, an affected child and family deserves close attention and compassion. Suicide may be prevented by compassionate ‘watchful waiting’ for the natural effects of puberty to orientate the child in the direction of its chromosomes, while applying standard therapy to the associated mental disorder,” says Dr Whitehall.

“There is also no scientific evidence in medical literature to support the massive interventions of the medical pathway. To the contrary, there are multiple expressions of the need for evidence, and lamentations about its lack. Society and governments are being led by so-called ‘expert opinion’. The medical pathway is based only on ideology, and claims of ‘success’ reflect beliefs, not science. Even worse, these beliefs are not negotiable: they have become coercive.”

READ the full Report
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Overwhelming Majority Tell MPs To Kill The Euthanasia Bill

Source: Family First

Media Release 31 March 2019 
Family First NZ, a member of the Care Alliance which has analysed the almost-39,000 submissions made regarding David Seymour’s assisted suicide bill, says that there is overwhelming opposition to the bill being considered by Parliament and that MPs should vote against the bill at 2nd Reading.

The just-released report provides an analysis of 38,707 written submissions made to the Justice Select Committee, each of which was read by volunteers of the Care Alliance. They say that the submissions “represent the views and stories of a large, diverse and thoughtful cross-section of all New Zealanders; young and old (aged 8–94), different ethnicities (Maori, New Zealand European, Pasifika, Asian), different occupations and walks of life, religious and non-religious, conceptual and experiential. In short, the submissions paint a heart-felt and deeply human picture of the views held by many New Zealanders who have considered the implications of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide, and had sufficient strength of feeling to write in and make their views known.”

The analysis reveals the following:

  • Overall, 91.8% were opposed to the Bill
  • 93.5% of submissions received from doctors, nurses and other health care staff were opposed
  • 90.6% of organisations which submitted were opposed
  • 90.5% of submissions made no reference at all to religious arguments
  • all submissions made by churches were opposed, including a Buddhist group and a Muslim charitable organisation supported by 13 other Muslim welfare groups and organisations within NZ

“Assisted suicide is not a simple yes / no answer. Those who have taken time to consider the consequences and implications of assisted suicide quickly realise its major dangers – especially to the vulnerable, elderly and disabled. This nuance is difficult to capture with a simple yes / no phone survey, sometimes with leading questions,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“ACT MP David Seymour’s significant backdowns on his assisted suicide bill last year indicate just how weak and flawed the bill is. The backdowns are certainly in contrast to his earlier attacks on our justified concerns, including his statements that There’s just so much scaremongering that doesn’t stand up to evidence and One of the biggest obstacles are MPs who are not in touch with their electorates…and also MPs who may have been coloured by some of the scare-mongering from the other side. There was never any ‘scaremongering’. There was – and continues to be – opposition to this bill based on credible research internationally in jurisdictions that have euthanasia available, and from medical professionals in New Zealand who know the effect such a law would have on their work and on society.”

“(The Euthanasia Bill) is a political stunt that will give profile to David Seymour”- Dr David Clark – Minister of Health (June 2017)

The key arguments advanced by submitters opposed to the Bill fell into six main categories:

  1. Implementing the Bill would lead to multiple adverse societal impacts on vulnerable people including the terminally ill.
  2. Experience in the few overseas jurisdictions that have legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia is not reassuring, and it inevitably leads to broadened eligibility criteria.
  3. State-approval through legalisation sends a powerful message that assisted suicide and euthanasia are socially acceptable, undermining suicide prevention efforts.
  4. Ending patient lives is not a part of healthcare, medical treatment or what doctors are trained to do, and it will erode doctor-patient relationships and trust.
  5. Terminating a life through administering lethal drugs is contrary to a medical ethics tradition that can be traced back to the Hippocratic Oath in Greek times.
  6. Palliative care properly implemented and resourced adequately relieves suffering and demonstrates true compassion without loss of hope.

“Even if the bill was limited to just the terminally ill, some people will be euthanised on account of a disease they thought they had but did not. Prognosis is an uncertain procedure. Many people know or have heard of a person who, having been given a pessimistic prognosis, has lived for many years to tell the tale. There will be those who decide for euthanasia on the basis of an unduly pessimistic prognosis. There is also concrete evidence from those countries which have authorised euthanasia that the availability and application of euthanasia expands to situations never initially envisaged as indications for it.”

“The promotion of assisted suicide is a message that will be heard not just by those with a terminal illness but also by anyone tempted to think he or she can no longer cope with their suffering – whatever the nature of that suffering. This is the real risk to young and to vulnerable people, the disabled and the elderly people if NZ follows the path of promoting – and allowing – assisted suicide.”
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ASA says anti-cannabis billboard ‘socially responsible’

Source: Family First

Media Release 13 March 2019
Family First NZ is welcoming a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to uphold any of the complaints made against its ‘marijuana has a kids menu’ billboard.

There were seven complaints about the advertisement, with complainants arguing that the ad was misleading, made unsubstantiated claims and played on fear. But the Complaints Board has rejected those complaints, saying “the advertisement draws the public’s attention to some of the different types of cannabis products that might be available for sale in New Zealand, if recreational cannabis is made legal.” They said the advertisement “did not contain anything indecent, exploitative or degrading, did not cause fear or distress and was socially responsible.”

A separate complaint about the inappropriate use of the word ‘marijuana’ was also thrown out.

“We believe it is time to end the practice of illustrating all marijuana-related news stories and educational materials with the same overused photos of a marijuana plant and a joint being smoked. The public deserves to be informed about the wide variety of products and THC potencies sold in legal marijuana markets around the world. What is most concerning is that the marijuana industry is targeting young people with child-attractive child-friendly products,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“When people think about ‘cannabis’, they probably immediately think about a joint. But legalising marijuana will be far more than that. People will be popping it between classes, sucking on it while driving, drinking it before work, chewing on it while they talk to others, and eating it as a dessert. THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink. The potency of edibles (several times that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids have led to serious problems in legalised states like Colorado. THC-infused products include: coffee, ice-cream, baked goods, lolly-pops, fizzy drinks, water bottles, tea, hot cocoa, breath mints & spray, intimate oils, pills, lollies, chewing gum, marinara sauce, baklava, and many more. These new products can be delivered rectally, nasally, vaginally or squirted into the eye to reach the bloodstream faster and deliver a quicker high.”

“The public of New Zealand are not getting this information. Our billboard is designed to raise this inconvenient truth – and to provoke debate and discussion,” says Mr McCoskrie

Family First has other billboards in its campaign including “The new face of Big Tobacco”, “The Referendum is about legalising recreational cannabis. Medicinal is already legal” and “You can’t legalise cannabis and promote mental health”.
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Ideological Birth Certificate Proposal Rightly Deferred

Source: Family First

Media Release 25 February 2019 
Family First NZ is welcoming a decision by Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin to defer a bill that would make it easier to change gender on birth certificates. The Government and Administration select committee had recommended that birth certificates be based on the choice of the person, including the fact that no medical evidence is required for the change.

“The effect of this proposal would be to insert a biological lie. By choosing your own gender on your birth certificate, the certificates would become an object of unscientific gender ideology and effectively tell medical professionals that they got it wrong at time of birth,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“It is disturbing that some politicians want to ignore biological reality and, in the process, bring about confusion and ambiguity. A birth certificate is a historical record based on fact – not a political tool to further an ideology.”

Family First says it is also concerning that the bill continues to allow the birth certificate of an ‘eligible child’ to be changed to the ‘nominated’ sex simply through an application of ‘the guardian’. It is well-established today that the overwhelming majority of such children – from 75% to 98% – who experience gender dysphoria grow out of it by the time they reach puberty. It is not inborn. Thus, the leading clinics seeing such children – such as those in Canada and the Netherlands – do not recommend parents and schools facilitate gender changes in such children. The push in culture today to embrace and affirm such children’s wishes is founded more upon a political and parental ideology than it is in careful science and experience.

This latest decision follows on from the Department of Internal Affairs last year removing the need for fathers being recorded on birth certificates, also ignoring biological reality, and rendering birth certificates as manipulated and misleading.

“Removing the biological father – or the biological mother – from a document that records biological history is wrong. Biology tells a story – but the state seems dead-set to distort that story, and we should be concerned at that direction being taken.”

“For politicians and the state to be manipulating birth certificates in these ways is deeply concerning,” says Mr McCoskrie.

The Department of Internal Affairs website says – “A New Zealand Birth Certificate is an official document containing registered information about a person’s birth as at the date of issue. A birth certificate can only be used as evidence that an identity exists. The birth certificate should not be used as the sole form of evidence for asserting an individual’s identity, as it does not provide any link to the person presenting it.” (our emphasis added)

(This is the same select committee who almost attempted to remove husband and wife from marriage certificates during the same-sex marriage debate but were forced to backtrack.)

READ Family First’s Submission on the bill
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Students Get Green Light For Dangerous Drug Use

Source: Family First

Media Release 19 February 2019
Family First NZ says that allowing drug use and drug testing at university orientation weeks is flawed and dangerous, and is being used by drug-friendly groups and a government apparently soft-on-drugs as a wedge for the normalisation of drug use.

“The Otago Student’s University Association is confused when they say that they ‘in no way condones drug use of any kind’ and that this is a ‘proactive move against drug use’. To most thinking people, that is laughable. Promoting and requiring drug-free events (similar to alcohol and smoke-free events) is not a ‘hardline’ approach – it’s a health and safety approach based on best practice. Drug overdoses are a huge concern, and testing won’t protect users because there is no such thing as a safe drug,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Pill testing will be seen by many students as a clear endorsement of drug use. It sends a message that illicit drugs are acceptable and can be ‘safe’, and will worsen harmful drug use, so that more lives will be put at risk with the belief that the drug they are taking is somehow ‘safe’.”

“Pill testing also does not – and cannot – guarantee that the drug being taken will not cause any physical or mental harm or death to the individual consumer. It also cannot account for the individual’s physiological response to each drug.”

“It is being promoted by drug friendly groups – which says it all.”

Drug-Free Australia has provided research showing that according to the medical literature the accelerating number of Australian deaths from ecstasy are mostly not from overdosing, nor, according to coroners’ reports, are they due to impurities in party pills – but rather from individual reactions to drugs.

The President of Drug Free Australia recently sent an Open Letter to NZ politicians, saying
“We are urging you, as a parliamentarian who makes evidence-based decisions for the well-being of your nation’s individuals, to totally reject any further discussion on pill testing in New Zealand until such time as its advocates have demonstrated from available NZ Coroners’ reports that

  1. it is NOT the substance MDMA, or MDMA in a polydrug use context, which is chiefly responsible for the many NZ deaths; or
  2. that most of the deaths are alternately from MDMA consumed in amounts beyond what is considered normal for recreational use.”

“If pill testing is pursued with government approval, the inevitable result will be more people willing to use the substance on the false assumption that they are now safe.”

“This is simply another ‘facilitated’ ill-informed decision to consume illicit drugs. Students should enjoy orientation week and stop playing Russian Roulette with drugs and with their lives.”

“Advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false and potentially fatal sense of security about illicit drugs.”
Victorian government spokesman, Jan 2019.

Public statements made by politicians that the trial would help ‘keep people safe’ were potentially misleading. MDMA is not a safe drug… The whole concept is based on the false assumption that if you do know what you’re taking, it is safe – something that is absolutely untrue.”
Toxicologist Andrew Leibie, from Safework Laboratories, Oct 2017
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NZ Mental Health Will Worsen If Dope Legalised

Source: Family First

Media Release 14 February 2019 
Family First NZ says that the latest study on the effects of marijuana prove that New Zealand would be foolish to legalise marijuana in any way, and that the illegality of the drug and other drugs is vital as we fight the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general.

The study, published in the latest edition of JAMA Psychiatry summarised 11 studies comprising 23,317 individuals. The research said, “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern.”

This is consistent with the Christchurch Health and Development Study research which has shown that the use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users and could not be explained by social demographic and contextual factors associated with cannabis use. Regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.

Research led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, the study found.

Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since the legalisation of marijuana. This disturbing trend is, unfortunately, not surprising, as daily marijuana use among youth who begin before the age of 17 significantly increases the risk of suicide attempts.

“A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and mental well-being. People should always come before profits.””

If the government is in to a ‘well-being’ budget, legalising marijuana should be nowhere on the agenda.
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Billboard Campaign Encourages Nope To Dope

Source: Family First

Media Release 10 February 2019
A billboard campaign is warning families and encouraging them to think deeply about the possible legalisation of marijuana, and to vote against the proposal in the 2020 referendum. The first billboard has been put up in Christchurch, with further billboards to be used around the country.

Family First NZ has also released a 24-page Briefing for Families, and there are also 1-page Briefing Sheets on specific issues.

Topics covered include:

  • what are the known health harms of marijuana?
  • why is the referendum much more than just being able to ‘smoke a joint’?
  • the problems with statements like “the war on drugs has failed” and “it’s a health issue, not a legal issue”
  • what effect will legalisation have in the workplace, on road safety, with pregnant mums and young people, on family violence & child abuse, and will it really get rid of the ‘black market’ and gang involvement?
  • is growing marijuana ‘green’?
  • what’s the next step in this drug agenda?

“Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana. Portugal has seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) in the last five years,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Families simply don’t want marijuana plants being grown next door by dope dealers in view of the children, tinnie houses on street corners and pot shops in local shopping areas, an increase in drugged driving, or marijuana being disguised as lollies and edibles as has happened overseas. Colorado, for example, has more marijuana businesses than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.”

“Legalising marijuana and the rise of Big Marijuana is the wrong path if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people. There are too many health risks including the effect of marijuana on cognitive ability, cardiac function and psychosis.”

“It remains highly ironic that at the same time as we tear the labelling off cigarette packets, price them out of existence, and ban them from being smoked within breathing space of any living creature, supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed for far too long about tobacco – that marijuana is harmless. But of course, a new business market is all very exciting – especially one based on addiction. Could our current mental health services cope? They can’t even cope now.”

www.SayNopeToDope.org.nz will inform families about the attempts to legalise marijuana, and to help them speak up in the public debate.
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Taxpayer Should Not Fund Sex Change Operations – Poll

Source: Family First

Media Release 10 February 2019 
Independent polling by Curia Market Research has found strong opposition to taxpayer funding of sex change procedures.

In the poll of 1,000 New Zealanders surveyed, respondents were asked “Do you think the taxpayer should fund surgery and hormone treatments for people who wish to change their sex?”

63% opposed taxpayer funding, 27% supported it, and a further 11% were unsure or refused to say.

The strongest opposition came from males, younger people, those in high deprivation areas, and NZ First & National voters.

“Taxpayers seem to be strongly of the view that the health budget should be focused on hip operations, unilateral mastectomies, treatment of endometriosis, cardiovascular disease, and prostate cancer procedures, amongst others,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“As stated in the recent reportChildren Transitioning: Childhood gender dysphoria – A paediatrician’s warning to New Zealand” written by Professor John Whitehall who is Foundation Chair and Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Sydney, there is no scientific evidence in medical literature to support the massive interventions of the medical pathway. To the contrary, there are multiple expressions of the need for evidence, and lamentations about its lack. The medical pathway is based only on ideology, and claims of ‘success’ reflect beliefs, not science. Even worse, these beliefs are not negotiable: they have become coercive. And the government appears to have become a victim of this ideology and its coercion.”

The government recently lifted the cap on gender reassignment surgery. Under the previous National government, the state funded three male-to-female surgeries and one female-to-male every two years. Associate Health Minister and Green MP Julie Anne Genter announced that this will now be the minimum number of surgeries to be performed every two years.

New Zealand’s chief medical officer has said there were 111 people waiting for surgery: 84 male to female, and 27 female to male. Ministry of Health figures put the average cost of male-to-female surgery at $53,382, with individual surgeries costing between $25,587 at their lowest up to $81,975. The costs for female-to-male surgery are higher, averaging $218,892, with a range of $45,169 to $525,034.

The nationwide poll was carried out during December and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

READ THE FULL POLL RESULT
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1 in 3 Support Families Opting In, Not Out, For Sex Ed

Source: Family First

Media Release 7 February 2019
A third of parents have expressed support for children only being given sex education at schools if the parents specifically ‘opt in’ to the programme. Currently, parents have to notify schools if they want their children excluded, but many families have complained that they have not been aware of the programmes taking place until after it has been presented, and have been concerned by its content.

In the independent poll of 1,000 New Zealanders by Curia Market Research, respondents were asked: “Some schools teach sex education. Would you prefer that the law be that this is to be taught to children unless their parents opt out, or that it only be taught to children whose parents opt in?”

34% said they wanted parents to “opt in”, just over half of respondents were happy with the status quo, and 11% were unsure or refused to say. Those in low socio-economic areas were almost evenly split on whether parents should be able to opt in or out.

This poll follows on from a poll in 2016 that found that almost four out of five parents are confident of their ability to teach their own children about sex and sexuality issues, and 2/3’rds believe that parents should be dictating any school-based teaching, not the government or groups such as Family Planning and Rainbow Youth.

“Parents have rightly been horrified at groups coming in to schools and undermining the role and values of families with sex education resources targeted at children as young as five which fail to take into account the emotional and physical development of each child and the values of the family. We believe that the number of parents wanting the right to opt-in will actually be much bigger when offered the opportunity,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“There seems to be a basic and ironic assumption that parents know nothing about sex and that only groups like Family Planning and Rainbow Youth do. This is a myth and is rejected by Kiwi parents – and it seems that an increasing number of parents are wanting a default setting of not having sex education for their children.”

“The state is promoting a curriculum where children are indoctrinated on ‘gender identity’ ideology and the harms of gender stereotypes, and given dangerous messages that they’re sexual from birth, that the proper time for sexual activity is when they feel ready, and that they have rights to pleasure, birth control, and abortion. Most schools, along with parents in that school community, are rejecting the extreme elements of the new sexuality education guidelines released at the end of 2015.”

“Studies show that the biggest protective factors for coping with puberty and sexual involvement are married parents, family values, parental supervision, and parental expectations for behaviour. What happens at home is the greatest determinant of the outcomes for the young person.”

Family First released a report in 2013 “R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand – A Critical Review” by US psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman which warned that the sex education resources fail to tell the full facts and compromise the concerns and wishes of parents, and the safety of young people.

The nationwide poll was carried out during December and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

READ FULL POLL RESULTS
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Jakarta Post: Free radical cleric linked to Bali bombing – why now?

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir … controversy over presidential plan for his early release. Image: YouTube still

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says a radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings would only be released from jail if he pledged loyalty to the state and its ideology, following news he would be freed unconditionally sparked criticism – including a stinging editorial in the country’s national English language daily.

President Widodo had declared last week that Abu Bakar Bashir, 81, would be freed on humanitarian grounds, citing his age and poor health.

But a presidential statement said yesterday it would be a “conditional release”.

READ MORE: Indonesia backtracks on ‘unconditional’ release of Bashir

Condemning the release decision, The Jakarta Post said: “The timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.”

Bashir was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws for links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for 15 years.

-Partners-

Although linked to the Bali attacks and a bombing at Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel in 2003, Bashir was never convicted for them and denied those ties.

The Jakarta Post’s editorial board published the following opinion article:

‘Wrong on so many levels’
“There is nothing wrong with granting an old and ailing felon conditional release or even a pardon on humanitarian grounds. But President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s decision to approve the early release of 81-year-old terror convict and firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is wrong on so many levels.

“It is not impossible to pardon the ailing cleric on humanitarian grounds, but the timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.

“The call came only months before the April presidential election in which Jokowi will square off against his old rival, Prabowo Subianto, in a bid to secure a second term.

“Prabowo has been touted as the more Islamic candidate by hardline Islamists, while Jokowi is struggling to convince voters he is not a communist, even after naming the leader of the nation’s most influential Islamic institution as his running mate.

“Given the political backdrop, it is too easy to believe the move was just another attempt by Jokowi to win Muslim votes.

“Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the lawyer for the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin campaign, has dismissed such speculation. Mahendradatta, Bashir lawyer, has also claimed that his client’s release has nothing to do with politics, that it is not a ‘political gift’ from Jokowi.

“The claim is hardly convincing. Bashir’s lawyers had long cited Bashir’s deteriorating health as the primary reason for his release, or him being put under house arrest. The government had ignored the request. So why the change now?

“Moreover, the Jokowi administration has been far from transparent in explaining the legal basis for Bashir’s release.

“Days after the decision was made public, officials said it was unclear if Bashir was pardoned or granted conditional release. It is hard to say which.

Presidential pardon not sought
“Neither the cleric nor his lawyer have ever sought presidential pardon. The cleric is neither eligible for conditional release, despite having served two thirds of his prison sentence, because he refused to sign a letter of loyalty to the state ideology Pancasila — a requirement for all terror convicts.

“Yusril argued Jokowi could just change or ‘ignore’ the policy, as it is only stipulated in a ministerial regulation, not a law. While it is possible to tweak the regulation, one wonders why Jokowi needs to go through all that for Bashir.

“This leads to another issue: fairness.

“The President has often pledged to not interfere with the law. Only recently, Jokowi cited the exact argument to reject calls for him to grant clemency to a housewife jailed for inadvertently exposing the man accused of sexually abusing her.

“Jokowi is also merciless to drug convicts. Last July, a terminally ill Pakistani drug convict on death row died in prison. The man claimed innocence and Jokowi refused to free him despite his health condition and plea for justice.

“The President has the prerogative to pardon convicts, but he is obliged to justify his action before citizens. His decision on Bashir was poorly timed, legally flawed and insensitive. It sent all the wrong messages to many of his supporters as well as the international community.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ