Simon Bridges on euthanasia, cannabis, abortion

The AM Show 19/11/2018

When Simon Bridges took over the reins of the National Party, he promised generational change and an "evolved" National Party. 

While many read this as Mr Bridges taking the party in a more liberal direction than his predecessor Bill English, just how liberal is Mr Bridges really?

On Monday morning AM Show host Duncan Garner quizzed the 42-year-old on a few thorny topics currently before Parliament, and found while he might be a generation younger than Mr English, he might also just be a chip off the old block.

Euthanasia

The End of Life Choice Bill from ACT leader David Seymour is currently in select committee after passing its first reading in November last year. Mr Seymour says it will allow eligible people to "end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones".

Mr Bridges voted against the Bill even being read, but didn't vote on whether it should go to select committee. When it comes up for its second reading, Mr Bridges says he's "likely to vote against it".

"It's simply because I do believe life's important," he told Garner.

"What's also true is I've looked around and I've seen research on what's happened in other parts of the world, and it is a bit of a thin edge of the wedge in my view.

"That is you start narrow, but you see people who perhaps aren't at that very serious end of pain and suffering and illness receiving it, and I worry about that."

Different forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in various European countries and US states, Canada, Japan and Colombia.

Photo: File

Cannabis

The Government is expected to hold a referendum on the recreational use of cannabis by, or at, the 2020 election. The exact question is yet to be decided, let alone what form a Bill would take.

Mr Bridges says he's unlikely to vote in favour of legalising recreational use of marijuana.

"I've done the trials, I've seen the eastern Bay of Plenty, I've seen Northland, I do see the harm that is there. I do think also there is a very clear link to mental health issues, which we rightly worry so much about today."

He said it doesn't matter if that puts him on the wrong side of public opinion.

"What is important on these issues is you do what's your conscience."

Abortion

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the biggest wedge issues between liberals and conservatives is the one Mr Bridges seems most likely to back change.

Justice Minister Andrew Little wants abortion taken out of the Crimes Act.

"It attaches a pretty heavy stigma to a woman who is considering an abortion and taking advice about it, for her to think that she's committing a crime, but she just has to go through these hoops and she's okay," he told Newshub Nation in October. "That's not a good starting point."

The Law Commission has come up with three possible replacements for the current law, which dates back to 1961.

Mr Bridges says he wants to see which the Government decides on before he makes up his mind which way to vote.

"I think what we need to see is what Andrew Little is going to propose. He hasn't put the legislation forward. I think he needs to do that.

"He's said he's going to take his time, and so I want to too. I do want to see what specific proposals he has are, treat them pretty seriously. So I don't know."

Photo: The AM Show

Bridges stakes his claim

Mr Bridges said potentially voting against three moves to liberalise New Zealand law doesn't mean he's not a liberal. In his view, his party's work "with the Government" on child poverty and climate change shows he's taking the National Party in a new direction.

"I think actually I'm showing the way to the future."

Watch the full interview with Simon Bridges above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

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