The End of Life Choice Bill is being treated by Labour and National as a conscience vote. New Zealand First, the Green Party and ACT apparently intend to back it, but Labour and National will leave it to the consciences of their individual MPs.
Simon Bridges had the gall to call out NZ First and Greens for voting along party lines, when it is the conscience vote that is the real cop out here. I have absolutely no faith that the consciences of those elected representatives will represent the will of the public. This is because so many of their consciences are directed by their personal religious beliefs.
Now don’t get me wrong, religion is fine – as long as you keep it to yourself. There is no place for using Parliament as a platform to push any religion onto other people. That is why, in New Zealand, we have a clear separation of church and state.
MPs are supposed to represent the people. They are not there to listen to their own inner voices (or those of their preacher), which may be of completely out of step with the moral decisions desired by the public.
There are Far Better Ways To Make a Decision
Conscience voting may have made sense in the 20th century. Back then, it was expensive to find out what people think or involve them in decision-making. But things have come a long way since then.
Nowadays, we have plenty of well-established ways of gauging public opinion. All political parties poll heavily. We already have a referendum on cannabis in the offing, we could even add the end of life issue to that poll (which is the NZ First position).
The Opportunities Party thinks there are even better ways to resolve this question. We would set up a Citizen’s Assembly, run by a representative group of citizens who are exposed to all the expert arguments and make a call. This overcomes the problem with referenda (and arguably Parliament generally) where so many people vote about something they aren’t informed on.
Putting Beliefs Aside and Representing the People
National Party MPs in particular seem to be most at risk of voting this Bill down at the second reading, despite its popularity with the public.
Yes, there are still some problems in the legislation, but even David Seymour recognises them and plans to make the required changes after the Second Reading.
Voting down this Bill would be a pretty cynical move by National’s more conservative MPs. Most shocking is that some MPs, such as Paulo Garcia, Maggie Barry, and Simon O’Connor appear to openly reject the Bill on religious grounds. Do they represent their constituents or their church? To her credit, Judith Collins opposed the Bill on the first reading but has apparently since consulted her electorate (though it isn’t clear how).
MPs should put their personal beliefs aside and represent the people. A great non-political example of this is Melinda Gates who has put aside her Catholic beliefs on contraception to deliver much-needed solutions for women in Africa. It would be great to have more leaders like this.