Greens accuse Labour of dragging chain on banning conversion therapy

The Government is being challenged to fulfil its election promise to ban conversion therapy, with the Greens accusing Labour of dragging the chain. 

Meanwhile National MP Simon Bridges has defended the controversial practice, saying banning it would be an attack on freedom of speech. 

The Greens are questioning why one of Labour's prized policies has been held up, saying if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern really wanted to ban conversion therapy, it would happen. 

"There's no excuse," said Green Party rainbow issues spokesperson Dr Elizabeth Kerekere. "We've seen over COVID that decisions can be made fast in COVID, if that's the political will. Conversion therapy is a form of torture."

The so-called therapy is junk science. It attempts to suppress or change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Jim Marjoram was subjected to it, and tells Newshub it was torture. 

"My entire Christian life was spent trying to become straight and I ended up a mess, constantly suicidal and depressed, and it was a very subtle and insidious form of torture," he said. 

The practice has been banned in the likes of Germany, Ecuador, Brazil and a number of other territories. The Australian state of Victoria banned it on Friday. But it is yet to be banned in New Zealand. 

"I want to see that legislation in the House this year," Ardern said on Friday. 

But Dr Kerekere isn't convinced. 

"I'm not sure why something that was such a high priority for them in the campaign when they were hoping rainbow people would vote for them is now suddenly off the table," she said. "We'll certainly be ousting that."

Labour MP Marja Lubeck already has a Members' Bill seeking to ban conversion therapy, but it's sitting there domant - waiting to be pulled from the Members' Bill ballot. A petition supporting it has been to select committee. The Government could adopt Lubeck's Bill to push through, but hasn't. 

Asked if Labour is dragging the chain, Dr Kerekere said: "They've decided not to progress at this stage so we'll be pushing them on that."

Ardern says the Government wants to get it right and isn't dragging the chain. 

"Not at all," she said. "We've committed to reform in this area but I want to get it right."

National doesn't yet have a position on it. They're rushing to discuss that on Tuesday as a caucus, perhaps because Bridges jumped the gun and defended it. 

"That is freedom of speech," he told The AM Show. "It is actually cancel culture. If we don't like it we are going to criminalise it and I do worry about that."

Ardern disagreed that the ban would impede on freedom of speech.

"Absolutely not," she said. "We know that conversion therapy has a harmful impact on our rainbow community."

Dr Kerekere rejected Bridges' remarks.

"Disingenuous at best, ill-informed and a bit ugly to suggest what is torture, and manipulate who they are, is freedom of speech."