National MP Simon Bridges calls for more time to consider over 100,000 submissions on conversion therapy law

National MP Simon Bridges wants more time for Parliament to consider over 100,000 submissions made on the Government's proposed law banning controversial conversion practices. 

Bridges, who sits on Parliament's Justice Select Committee, says it was revealed during a meeting on Thursday closed to the public that more than 100,000 submissions have been made on the legislation. 

Bridges now wants more time for the Justice Select Committee to consider the law change, given Labour opted to shorten the submissions period to under four weeks from the usual six, so that it could be passed by Christmas. 

"Labour's earlier decision to railroad this law through Parliament by the end of the year without any amendments would mean many of these submissions won't be able to be considered," Bridges said. 

"Due to the COVID-19 lockdown and the unprecedented numbers who want to be heard, the submission process should be extended to take until at least the end of the year, and it may in fact have to go into 2022 to make sure the work is done properly."

National stood alone in Parliament last month as the only party to oppose the law, which would ban conversion practices intended to change or suppress someone's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. 

The Greens, ACT and the Māori Party all supported the legislation through its first reading, to then hash out any concerns during the select committee process. But National opposed it over concerns parents could face charges. 

"We want to make it really clear to the Government and their anti-parenting type behaviour, that we will not stand by and allow this to happen without making such a song and dance about it, that the whole of the public knows," National leader Judith Collins told Magic Talk

"No one would be talking about it now if we hadn't stood up for parents."

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

It came after Justice Minister Kris Faafoi was unable to confirm if the ban would apply to parents stopping their kids from taking puberty blockers, medication that delays unwanted physical changes that don't match someone's gender identity. 

"The likelihood is that a majority of these are critical of the flawed Bill and these numbers, in and of themselves, would be more submissions than any other Bill has ever received historically," Bridges said on Thursday. 

"Parents aren't trying to harm their children, but decisions around medical transition are very serious and this law would cause unreasonable levels of fear in parents who are only trying to navigate the best outcomes for their child.

"It is our hope that constructive conversation with the Government can be had by both submitters and National so that we can ensure this legislation doesn't demonise good parents who are looking out for their kids."

Faafoi has since made it clear that it's unlikely parents would face charges under the circumstances raised by National MPs. 

"The Bill does not change the current law around decisions concerning the healthcare of children. The prescription of puberty blockers is a healthcare matter decided between health professionals, patients, and their families," Faafoi told RNZ

"The language of the Bill is focused on deliberate actions and courses of conduct that are directed at and performed on people. Omissions or failures to act would not be captured.

"Without taking some further action, a parent refusing to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers during a health assessment would not meet the requirements of the criminal offenses in the Bill, nor would a failure to help a child access a health practitioner for that assessment to take place."