NZ leaders at sea over conversion therapy

Ben McKay
·2-min read

As Victoria moves to ban gay conversion therapy, the issue is causing political consternation in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an election commitment to outlaw the medically discredited practice of attempting to change a person's sexuality.

However, since winning re-election, Ms Ardern has yet to progress the ban, and has committed only to having legislation in parliament by the end of the year.

"We're working on the policy now, we'll be going out and consulting," Ms Ardern said in Whangarei on Friday.

"We know that conversion therapy has a harmful impact on our rainbow communities ... we have an obligation to fix the issue.

"If we don't get the law right we won't have the positive impact we need."

The Greens, which wants a ban and has signed a formal deal to support the government, have accused Labour of acting too slowly to enact the ban.

However, the opposition are at sea on the issue, unable to decide whether to support a ban or not.

National leader Judith Collins has spoken out against the practice, but the party holds concerns about whether criminalising it would work.

On Friday, former leader Simon Bridges raised eyebrows by saying banning the practice would be an attack on free speech.

"Everyone agrees that coercion, any sort of form of force is absolutely wrong," she said.

"I personally do have a wider concern here and that is freedom of speech.

"We have been very tolerant of different views ... with this and hate speech laws coming, we are moving down a track to a situation where it is actually cancel culture."

Speaking to AAP, Ms Collins said Mr Bridges' view confused her, saying she "didn't understand" his point, but he could make it at a caucus meeting to discuss the matter next Tuesday.

"It's a caucus decision. I see that Victoria's done it. I'll have a look at some of those debates too."