Labour MP accuses NZ First of trying to distract from Government's 'unpopular' decisions with controversial bathroom Bill

A Labour MP is accusing New Zealand First of using its controversial bathroom Bill as a way to distract from the Government's "unpopular" decisions.  

On Friday NZ First announced its 'Fair Access to Bathrooms' Members' Bill which would require new non-domestic publicly accessible buildings to provide "separate, clearly demarcated, unisex and single-sex bathrooms".  

If passed the Bill would also introduce a fine under the Summary Offences Act for "anyone who uses a single-sex toilet and is not of the sex for which that toilet has been designated".  

Labour's spokesperson for Rainbow Issues Shanan Halbert told AM the divisive Bill is meant to distract people from NZ First's performance in government.   

"It's 2024 and rhetoric like this from political leaders doesn't really have a place in Aotearoa New Zealand," Halbert told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green.  

"I just want to take the time to acknowledge the fear this does create in the rainbow community and let them know that we are here standing up for them, representing them in New Zealand and that they do have a place in our community.   

"It's important to acknowledge that this is only a Members' Bill, it's an idea at this stage. But it's actually just a distraction from the unpopular things NZ First and this government are doing." 

He went on to accuse NZ First of wanting "nothing more than for this to turn into a big culture war".  

"It's a distraction," he added.  

Halbert said the Government has to govern for everyone including women and transgender women.   

He also questioned how the Bill would be policed unless the Government created and introduced a gender register – instead of allowing people to self-report their gender which they currently can.   

"Therein lies some of the challenges... of implementing such a Bill," he said.   

It's a view shared by Labour leader Chris Hipkins who called it "absolutely ridiculous".   

"The country has bigger issues to worry about than Winston Peters' homophobia or transphobia," Hipkins told reporters.  

"How on earth are they going to police that, how on earth are they going to enforce it?"  

Green Party spokesperson for rainbow communities Kahurangi Carter accused Peters of "undermining the mana of rainbow people, who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity".  

"This Bill is a blatant attack on our transgender whanau. Time and time again, New Zealand First has shown that it is more than happy to spread fear and stoke division for political gain," Carter said.  

"Christopher Luxon will have to reflect on whether he is fit to continue showing up at Pride events if he chooses to remain affiliated to a party actively undermining rainbow peoples."  

Last year, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said there was no need for laws specifying which toilets people could use.  

A spokesperson for Te Pāti Māori said they would not support the Bill.  

Peters meanwhile said the Bill was about defending "the right to privacy, personal safety, and freedom from harm for all New Zealanders, and this Bill demonstrates a much-needed commonsense solution to an issue that has often been overshadowed by ideology".