Chlöe Swarbrick berates Judith Collins over the National Party having 'no position' on gay conversion therapy

Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick has admonished Opposition leader Judith Collins for saying the National Party does not have a position on conversion therapy, a harmful practice that attempts to change or suppress an individual's sexual orientation.

The pseudoscientific treatment, which has been linked to severe mental health issues, uses psychological or physical interventions in an effort to convert an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity - primarily used within religious sectors where the LGBTQI+ community is opposed and frequently condemned. 

During a stand-up on the second day of National's caucus retreat in Wellington, Collins - who has previously spoken out against conversion therapy - was dismissive when presented with a series of questions regarding the practice. A reporter asked if Collins had researched the technique, referencing a comment made by the Opposition leader during the election campaign last October.

"No, I have not," she said.

The reporter then asked for Collins' stance on conversion therapy, to which she responded: "I don't know why anyone would want to do conversion therapy." When asked if she wanted to see the Government ban the technique, she replied: "I want to see them actually be held to account for the promises they make."

The journalist then pressed the MP if the National Party has a position on the practice. 

"No, we have not."

Collins' response has been berated by Swarbrick, a Green Party MP who took over the Auckland Central seat in an unprecedented win during October's general election. 

"Here's why lived experience matters in what's supposed to be representative politics," Swarbrick said on Wednesday morning, retweeting a post by a Newshub reporter confirming that Collins and National had "no position" on conversion therapy. 

"You don't get to have 'no position' on something that hurts your community," she continued.

"It's almost like literal diversity is actually important for that lauded diversity of thought, aye."

In a statement to Newshub on Wednesday, Collins' office doubled-down on the comment, reiterating that National "does not currently have a position" on conversion therapy.

"The National Party caucus has not discussed the topic of banning conversion therapy, and does not currently have a position on it. 

"Until we have seen proposed legislation from the Government and discussed the details of this legislation as a caucus, Judith Collins has no further comment to make."

Judith Collins said the National Party does not have a position on conversion therapy.
Judith Collins said the National Party does not have a position on conversion therapy. Photo credit: Getty

In the lead-up to the general election, the Labour Government pledged to ban conversion therapy, but has since remained tight-lipped on when the legislation will be rolled out.

During The Press' election debate in October, Collins publicly opposed the practice, saying, "You are who you are, isn't it?"

During the debate, held the day after Labour announced its promise to prohibit the practice, Collins was asked if National would also commit to introducing the legislation if the party came to power.

"My advice to any parents who are worried about their kids, because it is clearly parents who are organising this, is actually just be grateful your kids are alive," she said.

Following the debate, Collins told reporters she would not commit to vetoing the practice, saying she'd have to know "more about what actually goes on".

"It seems to me that anybody who holds someone against their will is breaking the law anyway, so I don't understand why anyone would want to do conversion therapy," she said, adding that she would research the technique.

During Tuesday's stand-up, the reporter also questioned Collins on the Government's silence regarding when the legislation can be expected. 

"I'd say it's just another broken promise from a Government that's very good at making promises and never delivering," she said.

On Monday, the office of Justice Minister Kris Faafoi told Stuff it couldn't provide a timeframe on when the legislation for the ban would be published and introduced.