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Why Coddington has joined ACT

Published: 7:54PM Sunday July 14, 2002

Journalist Deborah Coddington is Number 6 on ACT's party list, but is more famous for publishing a controversial paedophile index.

"I was an an anti-vietnam protestor and I was a hippy. I went up to Jerusalem and lived with James K, but not in the biblical sense."

James K Baxter, the iconic poet of New Zealand's alternative culture.

By her own admission, Deborah Coddington is driven. She has made her name as an award-winning advocacy journalist for 'North and South' magazine. The James Whakaruru story particularly affected her deeply.

In Hawkes Bay, 1999, little James was beaten to death with an electric jug cord by his stepfather.

"James died. What concerns me are the number of children that as we speak are being abused who don't die, that you and I don't report on."

That is why, in 1996, she published the names, occupations and suburbs of convicted paedophiles. Coddington badly underestimated the reaction.

"I didn't realise before I did it that I would get so much flak, that I would get death threats and I would upset so many people..."

Was it worth it?

"Yes, it was worth it. I've got the next addition coming out in about two months. I think people are now accepting that women, and men too, are entitled to information to keep themselves and their children safe."

Coddington deserted Lindsay Perigo and his Libertarianz party this year for the ACT party. In the past, ACT was a party Coddington has roundly castigated in the past.

"We were good firends and it's sad that he doesn't want to be my friend anymore. I find that very tribal."

She twice stood as a Libertarianz candidate. Now she is number six on the ACT list and contesting Auckland's North Shore.

She admits that she has been a bit rebellious. She ran away from school as a teenager and now she says she ran away from ACT and joined Lindsay and the Libertarians.

"I've said those are purest theories and you can't apply them. I've come home. To me it's a growth thing. Some people would see it as flip-flopping but I'm happy with the position that I take."

Will she be with ACT in three years time or will she be with another party?

"I'll be with ACT in three years time. I don't think I'll be going to the Greens or the Alliance."

With her husband, Alistair Taylor, equally rebellious publisher of 'The Little Red Schoolbook,' together they took on the 70's establishment. Deborah's still doing it, just more conventionally.

Says Alistair, "If one is wanting to affect change, one has to operate with different techniques."

"I'm not anti welfare. I'm pro. Act will always provide a safety net for those who really need it, but at the moment, 300,000 children in New Zealand are being raised on welfare. That is a thrid of our children. I don't think that's acceptable. I don't think it's evil to want those children to be well-educated, well-fed warm and happy."

As a journalist, crime has been a staple of Deborah Coddington's writing. Not crime for crime's sake, but as a focus for change. She is for zero tolerance for crime.

"I think what people have got to remember is, that it's not zero tolerance for criminals, it's zero tolerance for crime. So just as in your family, you'll say to your kids, I won't stand for that, don't do that again. But you don't necessarily send them to their bedroom for two hours for a minor misdemeanour

"It's the same sort of philosophy, especially with youth crime. We're not going tolerate any crime that you do. It's not saying to them we're going to lock you up and throw away the key."

She does not support capital punishment.

"Absolutely not. The state should not take lives."

At 49, Deborah Coddington has not got the time anymore, she says, to just carp on from the sidelines. She says she wants a safer future for kids, a national paedophiles register. She is swapping journalism for politics because if you 'can't beat 'em, join 'em'.

"They just keep saying we'll get officials to look at it and while their officials look, more children get abused and more women get raped. So I thought, 'dammit ... I'll get in there and I'll introduce the private member's bill and I'll damn well do my damndest to get one myself!"

But is not the pen mighier than backbench politics?

"Well ..we'll see. That's what a lot of people tell me, that I'm making a mistake, that the pen is mightier. I've always written stories to try and change things for the better and I'm hugely frustrated that that doesn't seem to happen.

"Nothing just seems to be done and so I'm going to see if I can do something from the inside..."