(co-leader, Future New Zealand Party – open letter to the media
I'm dismayed that some in the media are saying that I quit United Future because I did not like Peter Dunne using his conscience vote to support the Anti-Smacking legislation. That is a gross misrepresentation of my position, and in particular my commitment to the primacy of a person's conscience.
I disagreed completely with Peter Dunne's decision to support the Anti-Smacking legislation. I debated the matter with him vigorously. However I also, on several occasions, specifically told him that it is my deeply held belief that any man or woman has the right to follow their own conscience.
In my resignation statement on the 16th of May I made it clear that I was resigning "for a number of reasons and, in particular, because I desire to be involved in a party which listens to the people and has a clear commitment to the repeal of the Anti-Smacking Bill". In answer to questions I made it clear that the United Future Party was unable to make a policy commitment to repeal because its Leader, Peter Dunne, was in favour of the legislation.
I'm glad, however, to have the opportunity to write to you on the central question of the primacy of conscience. The truth is that it has been the consistent refusal of the Prime Minister to allow her caucus members to vote with their conscience – thus overriding the primacy of conscience – on the Anti-Smacking Bill, my Marriage Bill and the appointment of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, which is the real story.
I have no doubt that if the Prime Minister had any regard for the primacy of human conscience, then the Anti-Smacking Bill would have been confined to the dustbin of history, it is likely that my Marriage Bill would have been successful, and the possibility was there for Dr. Ate Moala to replace Dr. Rosemary Fenwicke on the Abortion Supervisory Committee.
Gordon F. Copeland M.P.