Young Nats clash with Simon Bridges again, this time over conversion therapy

National's youth wing has come out in favour of a Bill seeking to ban conversion therapy, putting it at odds with the party's MPs. 

The Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill has its first reading today. Its goal is to "prohibit conversion practices that seek to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression".

It will easily pass its first reading thanks to Labour's majority, and backing from ACT and the Green Party. 

National is opposed, justice spokesperson Simon Bridges saying they support the "intent" of the Bill, but not in its current form. 

But the Young Nats want them to vote for the Bill, at least at its first reading.

"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.

"New Zealanders deserve the chance to discuss the legislation in-depth and hear expert testimony on the topic."

The Young Nats claimed credit for the party's support of a ban on gay conversion therapy - the pseudoscientific practise of changing person's sexual orientation or gender identity that's been linked to poor mental health outcomes. 

Earlier this year Bridges said he opposed a ban over "free speech" concerns, while party leader Judith Collins said she had "no position". Collins came out against it after using "this thing called Google to find out more about it". 

But the party is voting against Justice Minister Faafoi's Bill over fears parents might be prosecuted if they try to stop their children taking puberty blockers, which allow young people struggling with their gender identity to delay puberty - and the development of secondary sex characteristics such as breasts and facial hair - until they're sure. 

"Conversion therapy does not work, yet it causes irreparable harm to those within our rainbow communities," said the Young Nats. "The Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill seeks to address this harm and is worthy of further consideration and debate before the House."

The Young Nats are typically more socially liberal than the wider party. Last year they clashed with Bridges on another issue - supporting pill-testing at festivals, which the former party leader said would result in more deaths. 

While ACT is voting for the Bill at its first reading, justice spokesperson Nicole McKee says it "overreaches" and opens parents up to prosecution if they try to stop their kids taking puberty blockers. 

Bridges told Newshub regardless of the youth wing's position, the party "cannot support the Bill as it is".

"We understand the disappointment that the Young Nats have expressed. We share their disappointment as we too expected to be able to support the Bill. It is disappointing that Minister Faafoi has presented legislation that even he himself cannot answer hypotheticals about.

"We are a party that doesn’t shy away from debate and disagreement and we support our young members’ right to express their opinion. Unfortunately it would not be responsible for us to support flawed legislation and so we have had to oppose it at first reading. 

We are hopeful that the Government will be able to amend the legislation to fix the issues and allow us to support it in the future."