Ryan Bridge calls Simon Bridges an 'old dinosaur' over National's conversion therapy vote

The AM Show's Ryan Bridge has called Simon Bridges an "old dinosaur" while discussing National's vote against a Bill banning conversion therapy.

The Bill, which intended to prohibit people performing conversion practices intended to change or suppress someone's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, passed its first reading in Parliament last week with the support of all parties but National.

Conversion practices have been widely discredited as they don't work and can cause harm to people subjected to them.

While National supports the "core intent" of the Bill, it is concerned parents may be prosecuted for stopping their children from taking puberty blockers. 

"There are legal opinions out there… let me give you one," Bridges said on The AM Show. "The Regulatory Impact Statement written by the Ministry of Justice lawyers entirely agrees with me. It says, not quite word for word, but fundamentally the same point." 

The statement says "conversion practices are attempts to change or suppress sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression". They are defined as practices directed towards another person "based on that person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and are performed with the intention, or purported intention, of changing or suppressing the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression".

One section says family interactions "would also be captured if they meet the definition of conversion practices".

"It would be a criminal offence for parents, or other members of a family, to attempt to change or suppress the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of children within the family."

Puberty blockers delay its onset, giving kids who haven't yet figured out their identity yet more time to understand where they sit on the spectrum. Supporters say they're fully reversible - as soon as their use is stopped, puberty will continue as normal. 

Bridges last week told The AM Show National wanted an exemption for parents. 

"The experience offshore - if you take the UK, what the courts over there are now saying are these medical treatments are innovative and experimental and there are long-term risks and consequences. We want a parental exemption, and if we get that actually we will be fully on board."

Simon Bridges.
Simon Bridges. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Bridge put it to the National MP that his concern was a small point in a well-intended Bill and that it could be hammered out at Select Committee. But Bridges said it was more significant than that and he didn't believe alterations would be made. 

The MP said the Select Committee had already shortened the public submission window on the Bill. 

"Yesterday at Select Committee, the Government members, obviously on instruction from the Government, say no, we need this passed by Christmas, we aren't going to have a full Select Committee process, we are whittling it right down. The notion that parents actually shouldn't be criminalised is pretty important to me."

Asked if he could rule out parents being criminalised for denying their children hormone blockers, Attorney-General David Parker, who appeared on The AM Show with Bridges, said he can't see it happening. 

"I am actually the Attorney-General and the legislation requires my approval be sought to any prosecution and I can't ever envisage the Attorney-General's approval would be given for such a prosecution."

Bridges called that a "fig leaf" and that "the Attorney-General has to follow the law and the law makes it quite clear parents won't be able to talk to and tell their children what to do".

Parker agreed with Bridge that National should have supported it going to Select Committee. 

"This was the first reading of the Bill. It is to be considered by the Select Committee. It is obviously an issue that will be paid attention by the Select Committee because it has been raised by Simon and by the media and other critics."

The Labour minister also agreed "a parent that is involved in a child's life should be involved in that decision" about puberty blockers.

"A separated parent who isn't involved in the life of a child who is blocking something that perhaps the other parent agrees with, well I am not sure that is quite so simple."

Bridge again asked the National MP: "Why not support the Bill, you look like an old dinosaur Simon".

Bridges replied, "Why don't they just amend the law to give the protection?"

Parker said that was up to the Select Committee, which is where the Young Nats wanted the Bill to go.

"We acknowledge that the Bill is not perfect. However, we believe it should proceed to Select Committee and be given the chance for a full and frank debate," the group tweeted on Thursday.

"We are deeply disappointed that the National caucus has decided to vote against the legislation, and believe they should commit to supporting it through the first reading and follow through by proposing workable amendments to the concerns raised.