Andrew Little 'committed' to adoption law reform next term, with support from National likely

Justice Minister Andrew Little has said today that the Labour Party is "very committed to a complete re-write and review of the Adoption Act", and that he will likely have support from National.

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Minister of Justice Andrew Little talked about New Zealand’s adoption laws, which he says need a total overhaul. Source: Breakfast

Little, speaking to TVNZ's Breakfast, said he had undertaken some work on the reform of the 1955 Adoption Act, which he described as a "highly moralistic piece of legislation".

"[It's] legislation that was born out of a time when there was huge stigma attached to young women having children out of wedlock," Little said.

"It was a property right - children as a property right - and ensuring that property rights and succession rights played out in a way that people could preserve and protect.

"The reality is, what people are doing now, in relation to providing care for children in a safe and secure environment, has got way past the law - the law has failed to catch up.

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"Māori have had a form of adoption - whāngai adoption - that has worked perfectly well, that we could model a whole heap of things on.

"It's not about people burying their history - it's actually about holding on to your history - but in the end, what it's really about is a safe place for children to grow up with love, be nurtured, but not forget who they are. That's the kind of framework we would be having."

Little said some work had been done on it during his term, but when it went to Cabinet, it did not get the required support to progress to a legislative stage.

Asked by Breakfast host John Campbell whether this was an issue blocked by coalition partner New Zealand First, Little was diplomatic, saying, "I'm not going to point the finger at anywhere.

"There are areas of social policy that this Government has struggled to get on top of and get work underway on - this is one of those areas," he said. 

"What I have done in the meantime is ask the ministry to start some preliminary work. I've asked the Law Commission to look at the issue of surrogacy - we have no real framework around surrogacy - so the Law Commission will start that work next year.

"Depending on what happens on the 17th of October, there may well be a reconsideration of the Adoption Act in the next Parliament.

Little said he had bumped into National Party leader and former Minister of Justice Judith Collins in the TVNZ green room between interviews - and said she had indicated that National would also support a reform of the act during the next term.

"That's the great thing about TVNZ green rooms - you can have amazing conversations," Little said.

"She is agreeable - they wanted to help if they are in a position to and that's the makeup of Parliament next time.

"She has more experience in this area than I do. We had a good conversation about it.

"I think there is enough support across the House that if we wanted to do something, we could do something."

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Little also said New Zealand's law is out of sync with the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"That is pretty clear about children knowing their identity and holding on to their identity - so our law, our 1955 law, does not stack up with things that we've signed up to and agreed to as a country since then. And it should change."