Paradise Lost

Sunday Star Times “Sunday” Magazine 18 May 2008

Bob McCoskrie’s cellphone plays Don’t Worry, Be Happy while you wait for him to pick up. In reality, however, the national director of Auckland-based lobby group Family First is worried about many things. Most obviously, he is worried that the recent changes to the Crimes Act took away parents’ right to whack their children. But McCoskrie is also worried about the climbing rates of divorce and abortion, about unmarried or same-sex couples raising children, about childcare subsidies encouraging women to go out to work instead of staying home and nurturing their children.

He’s worried about violent and sexually explicit magazines and TV shows, about brothels setting up in his neighbourhood, about “sexualised” T-shirts for children and “inappropriate” advertising stunts, such as a Hell Pizza campaign where a “meat lover’s” pizza was promoted via free condoms. He objected to a 2004 episode of The Simpsons in which the little yellow family used the words “ass” and “w**ker”, though his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority was not upheld.

Reading the Family First website, you might be excused for thinking that New Zealand was hurtling down the highway to Hell, morally speaking. But McCoskrie himself is calm, considered, and not at all shrill in conversation, couching his more controversial opinions in genial generalities and nimbly side-stepping opportunities to appear too much of a wowser.