Thursday, October 18, 2007

NZEEF Submission on Family Matters Bill

Dear Mr. Hill,

This is the submission of the New Zealand Equality Education Foundation on the Family Courts Matters Bill. I assume that this submission can be made by email, as I have done this often in the past. I do not wish to appear before the Committee in person.

The sole issue that the NZEEF wishes to address in this submission is the issue of the openness or otherwise of the Family Court.
You are aware that section 25 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA) guarantees the right to a public hearing in criminal matters, and that section 27 guarantees the right to natural justice in all matters before a court. The Family Court does not deal with criminal law, of course, but the spirit of section 25, taken together with section 27, should be interpreted, in my view, as importing a right to openness in the Family Court, because:

1) the detriments suffered by parents and children as a result of decisions made by the Family Court are not less serious than most of the detriments that a person can suffer at the hands of a criminal court; and

2) the only guarantee of natural justice is the opennesss of a court to
public scrutiny.

The changes in relation to openness that are at present in the Bill are insufficient, as are the provisions that are already in the Care of Children Act 2004. This is because the media are not -- any more than the judiciary, the legal profession, or the Law Commission -- representative of the full range of views within New Zealand society, and thus are capable of applying anti-male bias. The following is evidence of anti-male and left-wing bias in the media in Western countries:

- In his Canadian thesis at, Jim Boyce states "I examined coverage of gender and violence in 1242 headlines published in seven major Canadian dailies from 1989 to 1992.... Considering that statistics on violence typically show that men are at least as victimized as women, the contrast in the amount of coverage given to each was striking: Of the 540 headlines which directly referred to the gender of victims, 525 (97.2%) focused on women and 15 (2.8%) focused on men, a ratio of 35 to 1."

- An objective study at
by Tim Groseclose of the right-wing and left-wing sources quoted by United States media outlets, published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, found that "Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal."

- Former television insider Ian Wishart reveals in his book Eve's Bite ( ) that ""There were times when one would cover a stage-managed protest on some worthy liberal issue, with barely anyone there, but the point of the story was to give favourable publicity to the worthy liberal issue" (p. 32)...."TV news is heavily manipulated -- not overtly but by the social views of the journalists themselves -- and presents liberal views as orthodox, and conservatve views as quaint or outdated" (p. 33).

- I remember being refused entry to a journalism course at ATI in the 1970s -- apparently because I wore a suit and said I did not want to change the World -- whereas a Leftist female friend of mine (with less impressive academic qualifications) got in.

- I also refer the Committee to the chapter of my book on bias in the media and education system at the page

Therefore, I submit, the presence of "accredited media" is no substitute for full openness of the Family Court.

In relation to the countervailing issue of privacy, which must be balanced against the need for openness, I submit:

1) Privacy can be dealt with as it is in the criminal court, where issues of privacy are just as important -- i.e. by suppression orders, or by clearing the court, where such measures are necessary;

2) The increased emphasis on mediation means that it is possible for most couples to avoid Family Court hearings altogether.

The legal and judicial professions contain organisations and features in their professional education and professional associations which imply a commitment to the belief that women are disadvantaged, relative to men. This belief has never been tested in an objective fashion. Men, in the Family Court (and elsewhere in society), often believe that they are disadvantaged relative to women -- yet the profession that has all this power over them appears to assume the opposite. Likewise, the media is dominated by people,who have grown up with the same belief that women are disadvantaged,relative to men.
The Law Commission also seems to be dominated by people with this belief.

It is possible for both men and women to be disadvantaged in different ways, but denying men open justice in the Family Court seems to be a sure-fire way of ensuring the continuation of oppression by ideological prejudice.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Zohrab
Acting President
New Zealand Equality Education Foundation

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