Parliament - the House of Representatives (even for the childless)

Parliament is supposed to be just that, the House of Representatives, its members a proxy for each and every one of us, warts and all. So sometimes we have to tolerate debates about subjects we might think are frivolous

The late Sir Robert Muldoon, I'm told, never forgot this. When he was often criticised about the calibre, or lack of it, of some of his caucus, he explained that he didn't wish to fill his benches with cabinet minister material. "Some members are content to be just that, and so they should be," he explained. "It doesn't pay to have all your MPs ambitious to take on portfolios. You need the ones just to carry on sitting on the backbenches, doing the ordinary everyday work, happy to be out of the limelight.

"This is, remember, the House of Representatives. These MPs you think are useless, they represent those ordinary folk out there, and they can relate to them."

I was reminded of this a few months back when John Key said words to the effect that he thought Parliament's time could be spent debating more important issues than adoption by gay couples. Not that he opposed it, but that the country had more pressing things to get on with.

He's probably right - child poverty, debt repayment, SOE share issues, ACC privacy breaches, NCEA problems, to name but a few. But to those childless people desperate to have a baby, who are legally unable to adopt, Key's words would have stung.

Parliament is there to represent them, too. Key should not have forgotten them. He is their Prime Minister also.

On a personal level, because I am one of the 'class of 2003' I like and admire Key. It's not political, I have the same feelings about others in parties of the left who entered Parliament the same year. Key's grit, his extraordinary ability to relate to a wide strata of society, are good qualities. But I've also seen a cutting side of him. He once told me he never cries, and I can believe that (though I bet he would in private if anything happened to his family), and of late he's looked close to it over episodes in our nation's disasters - Pike River, Christchurch, Afghanistan's war dead.

And I think this comment about Parliament's time debating adoption by couples in a civil union was thoughtlessly cruel, although interestingly, if same-sex marriage becomes legal, civil union adoption will probably become redundant.

But now Jacinda Adern's Member's Bill has been drawn from the ballot last week, the Care of Children Law Reform Bill, these people have a small ray of hope.

Her Bill will direct the Law Commission to have another look at the legislation, which is crazily convoluted and outdated. No doubt the habitual bigots will come out of the woodwork with their usual shonky evidence about gays adopting babies just so they can abuse them (those nutters were around when I was in Parliament).

The best that can be said about these people is at least they're out in the open, where we can see them and debate with them.

Nikki Kaye, National, and the Green Party's Kevin Hague were also drafting a Bill similar to Adern's, so presumably both these parties will vote in favour of Adern's Bill proceeding through the House, if not to Select Committee.

So, a waste of Parliament's time? No, of course not. Key said, "Less (sic) than 200 non-family adoptions take place in New Zealand at the moment," but didn't specify why. My guess is the reason it's so low is the same as for family adoptions - there just aren't enough babies to go around. That is, more and more women elect to keep their babies, rather than put them up for adoption.

And so the heartbreak of those parents, heterosexual couples, gay couples, single or whatever, who long for a child of their own, by IVF, by adoption, by hook or by crook, but can't have one, goes on.

Anyone who's belted out babies no trouble at all, has no idea of the desperation people go through to produce. To them, Parliamentary debates on asset sales, charter schools, tax reform, and Winston's endless poindsorvorda are probably a waste of time.

The laws need to be changed. Well done Jacinda Adern for front-footing this. Parliament can at last offer some hope for parents-to-be.