Why MPs behave poorly in Parliament

One of the primary reasons why MPs behave poorly in Parliament is because political journalists feed the frenzy by giving the worst of parliament the most attention.

Claire Trevett illustrates this in Pokes and jokes hit and miss but Winston Peters still the master.

Peters may be the master of attention seeking but that doesn’t make it a healthy environment for democracy.

On Key:

To celebrate the occasion and the rare display of Black Caps sledging Australians, Key dedicated much of his speech at the start of Parliament to sledging his own opponents.

On Little:

Little was not bereft of comebacks. He welcomed back Michael Woodhouse – the overseer of health and safety reforms which listed worm farms as dangerous: “I am pleased that we have got through a summer with not a single worm farmer suffering a fatality or serious accident.”

He congratulated newly restored minister Judith Collins for making such a difference in such a short time, noting New Zealand had slipped two places in the corruption index in the two months she had been back.

On Shaw:

But then came poor old James Shaw, the newly minted Green Party co-leader. His caucus was not so well trained at laughing as National and Labour.

His valiant efforts met with a wall of silence.

The circus only rewards clowns.

Nobody was quite sure what he was banging on about, but happily the novice was followed by the master: NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Peters took his usual scatter gun approach to his targets, depending who heckled him.

The sensible leadership over Waitangi events has disappeared in Parliament.

Finally Seymour set about insisting closure of a charter school in Whangaruru was proof the schools worked.

It was all as incomprehensible as circling the desert of the real.

The most respectful and sensible speaker didn’t rate a mention – Peter Dunne. He began by paying a tribute to the late Rt Hon Bob Tizard. He acknowledged Annette King respectfully. And he closed with a welcome back to all members, with a special mention to new MP Maureen Pugh.

But that sort of thing doesn’t rate a mention. We have headline driven political coverage, which grotesquely distorts our democracy.

WHOOPS: And I forgot to mention Te Ururoa Flavell, who flies under the media radar because he’s one of the best behaved and respectful MPs in Parliament.

Leader’s opening speeches

I’ve posted John Key’s and Andrew Little’s opening speeches in Parliament separately:

Here are the rest of the party leaders’ speeches with opening and closing lines from the draft transcript:

James Shaw (Greens)

JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green): I would like to agree on behalf of the Green Party to the amendment placed by the Leader of the Opposition , Mr Andrew Little . The Prime Minister’s statement was notable only for its lack of notability. At least Auckland ratepayers do not have to fork out $4,500 to listen to that one! Today I would like to talk about leadership, and I would like to start by talking about a subject that many National MPs are going to become very familiar with next year. I would like to talk about retirement.

I think that that is the mistake that this Government has made. It is lost in a desert of the real. It is leading us in circles and telling us how far we have come. When I do retire and I look back on my time here, serving as a Green MP, I know that we will not have achieved everything that I want us to achieve because politics is hard and change is hard. But I do want to be able to say that we tried—that we took on and confronted the greatest challenges of our time and we tried to solve them; that we were brave enough to lead and not just follow the focus groups—because it is better to try and, if we fail, to learn from our mistakes and to try again than to do nothing. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Winston Peters (NZ First)

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): It is always wonderful to have applause before you start your speech. This is the Prime Minister’s statement put out today and it reads nothing like the pathetic speech that he made as the Prime Minister—very embarrassing in the extreme. In this document he says this, that the Government is “taking the public with us by clearly outlining our actions and policy priorities.” Is there any New Zealander, including the backbench of the National Party, who remotely thinks that that is true? There is not a Marama murmur, no confirmation at all, because they know it is false, demonstrably false. Look, he is taking us down the road to low wages against leading economies.

Oh, what about Treaty settlements? I tell you what we will do for the Māori people—I tell you what we will do for the Māori people—we will stay with housing, with health, with education, and First World wages, and we will leave Treaty settlements to the Māori Party and those academics who are having a most rich, wealthy, affluent life on the back of their own people’s numbers, and who have forgotten about their people. Go to Moerewa and ask any Māori up there: “What have you got out of the Treaty?” Go down to Ngāti Porou and ask the average Māori: “What have you got out of the Treaty?” And so here we are in a most un-Māori way seeing Māori members of Parliament screaming out when they hear common sense. It will not save them. Our message, as we close with this speech today, and as it was in the Northland by-election, and as it will be as soon as the flag option choice goes down in March, is for the New Zealand people to hang on a little bit longer. Do not give up, because help is on its way.

Te Ururoa Flavell (Maori Party)

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare. The last speaker talked about something like: “Help is on its way.” The Māori Party says: “Do not wait! Help is here. Right now! Help is here right now. The Māori Party is in the House.” Just yesterday many of us enjoyed some time to commemorate and think about Waitangi Day and the change to the legislation allowing for public holidays—awesome. In fact, those workers at the AFFCO meatworks in Rangiuru managed to get over the line to have a holiday despite having to challenge legally that issue, so I want to give a big ups to them for taking that take on. Waitangi is a day when you see the good, not-so-good, the confused, the theatrical. Everybody gets a chance to express their views. I suppose get an understanding of our country’s founding document, our history, and the challenges that face us. The conversations about te Tiriti o Waitangi means to us an ongoing dialogue.

I want to close by simply saying that as we commemorate that Treaty partnership, it is timely to remind my ministerial colleagues that I am but one cog in the machinery of the State. As part of the broader response of fulfilling our Treaty obligations, I will be encouraging my ministerial colleagues to embrace Māori development and Māori approaches as a core object of their portfolios. I am looking forward to the great amount of work that we are going to carry out this year, and to the outcomes that may come to Māori communities. Transformative gains require alignment of policy and services with Māori needs and aspirations. We are definitely heading in that direction. It is going to be a great year and I am looking forward to the work.

Peter Dunne (UnitedFuture)

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future): I want to begin by paying a tribute to the late Rt Hon Bob Tizard, who died just a few weeks ago. I am one of the very few members in the House today who had the privilege of being here when he was a member. I see the Hon Annette King, and I acknowledge her. And I am sure she will agree with me that Bob gave the appearance of being permanently irascible. As someone once said, he was the most balanced man in the House; he had chips on both shoulders. But that actually belied a considerable intellect, terrific ability, and a form of warmth that meant that he did have a very strong sense of compassion for the underdog. I think he was a parliamentarian of an era that we no longer have, and I think it is important to pay tribute to people like that—to span in Parliament from Walter Nash through to Mike Moore as Prime Minister. As a parliamentary candidate, he first stood in the 1951 waterfront election, so I pay my tribute to him and express my sympathy to his family on their sad loss, and my appreciation, for one, at his tremendous contribution to our country. The debate on the Prime Minister’s statement is a chance to talk about the direction that the country is heading in over the coming 12 months, and it is very difficult to do that without reflecting upon the immediate past, the last few days—the events at Waitangi. The debate on the Prime Minister’s statement is a chance to talk about the direction that the country is heading in over the coming 12 months, and it is very difficult to do that without reflecting upon the immediate past, the last few days—the events at Waitangi. I want to say this: I believe that commemorating the events that happened on 6 February 1840 is extremely important and is foundational to understanding this country’s past and contributing to its future, but I am also minded of the words that Norman Kirk uttered at a time when the Waitangi commemoration first became a national holiday, in 1973. He said: “This is a day for all New Zealanders, not just the people of Northland, to celebrate the unique gifts we possess by virtue of the fact that we are New Zealanders.”

I simply conclude by welcoming all members back to the House. I welcome Maureen Pugh to the House, and I am sure we will all have many robust debates over the next 12 months.

David Seymour (ACT Party)

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): It is great to be back, and in the spirit of the beginning of the year, I would like to begin with some agreement. I agree with Andrew Little that the National Party is, by and large, managing the policies that Labour put in place, but I want to agree with the Prime Minister that the National Party is managing those policies so much better. Such is the history of these two parties over the time that they have governed our country. I want to pay tribute to the outgoing member, Tim Groser, and the fantastic job that he has done with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is extraordinary that a small economy of $240 billion at the bottom of the world has managed, over the period of a decade, to draw in 11 other economies with a collective GDP of $27 trillion and create a free-trade zone and an agreement that will have inestimable benefits for New Zealanders and New Zealand exporters. I say “inestimable” because the argument for free trade is often very much like the argument for freedom generally. The reason that we want freedom is that we do not know exactly how people will use it, and how big the advantages of having freedom, including freedom to trade, will be.

This will be an important year for New Zealand. They all are, but this is an important one. In this year this Government, the John Key Government, will focus on building the opportunities for New Zealand, growing the skills, growing the innovation, building our infrastructure, improving our natural resources allocation, attracting investment in this country, and, most important , providing export access to our farmers and to our businesses to be able to sell overseas. That is crucially important, so for any naysayer on the other side who has a speech-writer trying to write up stories about this Government having a vision, I say: look in the mirror, it is you who are playing politics and have no vision for this country. Thank you.

Proposed RMA reforms

The National Government have wanted to make significant changes to the Resource Management Act, in part to streamline and speed up RMA applications for developments.

In particular they want to make it easier to make land for subdivisions more readily available in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand where there are housing shortages and rampant proprty inflation.

At the beginning of their third term National had two problems, United Future leader Peter Dunne and National MP Mike Sabin.

Because of their slim majority in Parliament National needed Dunne’s vote and Dunne didn’t want to budge on core environmental protections in the RMA. Then Sabin suddenly resigned, just after the election. And then National lost Sabin’s Northland electorate in a by election, cutting their majority by one.

So now National had two problems – Peter Dunne still, and also the Maori Party because National need both  their votes plus Dunne’s to pass RMA reform. And the Maori Party have also insisted on retaining the core environmental protections that are a feature of the RMA.

I think it is important, like Dunne and the Maori Party, to retain strong environmental protections in the RMA, and reform the Act’s processes to speed things up, and to standardise more across the country.

National have had to put their pragmatism hats on and have negotiated with the Maori Party to get a promise of their vote to get the RMA amendment bill at least to the committee stages.

The Goverment’s announcement Resource legislation introduced to Parliament:

The Government introduced to Parliament today its substantive Bill overhauling the Resource Management Act (RMA) to support business growth and housing development while also ensuring more effective environmental management, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“This Bill is about reducing the bureaucracy that gets in the way of creating jobs, building houses, and good environmental management. It provides for greater national consistency, more responsive planning, simplified consenting and better alignment with other laws,” Dr Smith says.

The 180-page Resource Legislation Amendment Bill comprises 40 changes contained in 235 clauses and eight schedules. It makes changes to the Resource Management Act 1991, the Reserves Act 1977, the Public Works Act 1981, the Conservation Act 1987, the Environmental Protection Authority Act 2011, and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.

“The Bill addresses the significant problems with the cumbersome planning processes of the Resource Management Act highlighted in recent reports by the OECD, Local Government New Zealand, the Rules Reduction Taskforce and the Productivity Commission. Standard planning templates will be introduced so we don’t have every council reinventing the wheel and having dozens of different ways of measuring the height of a building. Plan-making, which currently take six years, will be sped up and made more flexible. A new collaborative planning process will encourage different interests to work with councils on finding solutions to local resource problems,” Dr Smith says.

“The Bill simplifies the consenting process. It narrows the parties that must be consulted to those directly affected – meaning a homeowner extending a deck only has to consult the affected neighbour. Councils will have discretion to not require resource consent for minor issues. A new 10-day fast-track consent will be available for simple issues. Councils will be required to have fixed fees for standard consents so that homeowners have certainty over costs. Consents will no longer be required for activities that are already properly regulated by other Acts. These measures will reduce the number of consents required each year by thousands.

“This Bill will deliver improved environmental management. It will enable national regulations that require stock like dairy cows to be fenced out of rivers and lakes, with instant fines for breaches. It strengthens the requirements for managing natural hazards like earthquakes and sea level rise from climate change. It requires decommissioning plans for offshore oil and gas rigs. It will improve the transparency of New Zealand’s clean, green brand by ensuring consistency in council environmental reporting on issues like air and water quality.

“The Bill contains dozens of provisions that will improve the process of resource management decisions. There will be millions of dollars in savings from simpler, plain language public notices that enable the detailed information on plans and consents to be accessed on the web. The Bill recognises email communications and online filing. It also encourages early dispute resolution on cases appealed to the Environment Court.”

The introduction of this Bill has the support of the Māori Party after intensive discussions over several months. Some reform proposals, including changes to sections six and seven, are not in the Bill. The proposals consulted on publicly in 2013 on improved Māori participation in resource management have been included in response to the Māori Party’s strong advocacy. Discussions between the National and Māori Parties will continue in response to public submissions and debate as the Bill progresses through Parliament. National will also be seeking the support of other parties in Parliament, noting that all but the Greens have publicly stated that they recognise the need for reform.

“This is a moderate reform Bill that will reduce the cost and delays for homeowners and businesses, as well as improve New Zealand’s planning and environmental controls. I thank the Māori Party for their support that will enable this large and complex Bill to pass its first reading and be referred to select committee. We look forward to hearing public submissions on the detail so we can deliver on our shared objective of reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, while ensuring we have good systems to protect the environment,” Dr Smith concluded.

Related Documents

Radio NZ – Govt gets Maori Party backing for RMA amendment bill

A compromise on new resource management legislation is necessary for the government to progress a significant overhaul of the current law, the Environment Minister says.

The Maori Party has agreed to back proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) through to the select committee stage, finally giving the government the numbers to progress long-awaited legislative changes.

Afterwards, the party said it would continue to work with the government in good faith.

The Maori Party said iwi were not looking to introduce more barriers to development or planning, but wanted to be involved from the outset to avoid problems later down the track.

The party’s co-leader Marama Fox gave the example of the Whaitua project in the Wairarapa.

“The Ruamahanga River has suffered… so iwi were consulted after the fact, and then that consultation was ignored about the use of the water and the local council’s decisions about the use of that water. They now have come at great length to an agreement to clean up that river with regional council.

“But if they’d been included in the planning at the beginning we could have avoided the level of deterioration in that river right now, and the involvement of the iwi at the beginning could have ensured a better planning process going forward.”

Yesterday Peter Dunne reiterated his position:

DunneRMA

Labour response: RMA changes must protect the environment

RMA changes must protect the environment

A Government bill to reform the RMA must not be used as a chance to tinker with its key role of protecting the environment, says Labour’s Environmental spokesperson Megan Woods.

“We will have to look at the proposed changes carefully as there are 200 pages in this Bill. We will be watching to make sure there is a decent chance for people to have their say through the select committee stage over what will clearly be a complex piece of legislation.

“The RMA is New Zealand’s core environmental protection and those protections must remain. That is our bottom line.

“Our offer to work together on sensible reforms is still on the table. This offer stands.

“We will be concerned at any changes around appeals to the Environment Court or any undermining of case law around the environment.

“We will be looking to see if the Bill elevates private property rights above wider community interests.

“This new Bill must meet these environmental bottom lines. We will be looking carefully at the Government’s intentions,” says Megan Woods.

Also from Labour: RMA changes skim surface for Maori participation

Protecting the environment and getting the right balance for sustainable development will be a core test of the proposed RMA changes, says Labour’s Maori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta.

Related coverage:

Green Party response: RMA changes must not risk what we hold dear

Proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) appear on first reading to be a boon for seabed miners and property developers, the Green Party said today.

The National Government today released a new Bill which proposes changes to the RMA, laws governing conservation lands, and the Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The Government has repeatedly attacked the RMA to weaken its environmental protection, reduce public participation, and fast track high impact development. The more than 200 proposed changes in the Bill need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure New Zealand’s natural environment and sustainable urban development are not compromised for short-term financial gains,” said Green Party Environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The Bill appears to significantly increase the Minister’s powers at the expense of local councils and to further politicise environmental decision making by having the Minister, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency, appoint hearing panels for developments in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” she said.

“The Bill risks having a chilling effect on councils’ ability to regulate in the community’s interest. For example, under proposed changes, councils could be reluctant to protect native plants and trees on private land as the Environment Court could require the council to purchase affected land if protections were deemed to put an ‘unfair and unreasonable burden’ on landholders.

The Greens are always going to strongly oppose the use of many natural resources.

From Interest.co.nz: The New Zealand Initiative’s Jason Krupp argues that Nick Smith should visit Montreal to see how shifting infrastructure costs can improve housing affordability

In the cut and thrust of politics it was no surprise that Environment Minister Nick Smith denounced the Labour Party’s new housing policy. After all, while it is the opposition’s job to oppose government policies, it is just as much the incumbent’s job to shoot down ideas coming from across the house.

Scoop: RMA Reform Underwhelming And a Broken Promise

“Underwhelming” sums up the initial impression of the Taxpayers’ Union to the Government’s reform legislation of the Resource Management Act, introduced this afternoon. Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“The RMA is the largest regulatory tax on innovation, growth and living standards currently on the books. Our lawyers are still trawling through the detail, but it appears that rather than the promised reform this would be better described as ‘tinkering around the edges’.”

No party’s election policies and proposals can be regarded as ‘promises’ for the simple reason that Parliament works on majority votes and not on election promises.

All a party can do is promise that if they can get sufficient votes they promise to introduce legislation. That is MMP 101, so anyone claiming that election promises have been broken when compromises have to be made to succeed in getting legislation introduced is either ignorant or deliberately overstating their criticism.

Thanks to Mefrostate for providing links for this post.

Dunne on Labour, Little and poll responds

In his weekly blog post Peter Dunne has criticised Labour for being too negative and having lost their soul.

Sadly, today’s Labour Party is but a shadow of its bold predecessors. There is no sense of future direction or purpose, and even in its rare positive moments, the Party’s best offerings seem to be a hankering for yesteryear.

The boldness in politics is now coming from the National Party – formed primarily to oppose the first Labour government – with no more striking example than its Budget decision this year to lift basic benefit payments, the first such upward adjustment in over 40 years(including the 3rd to 5th Labour Governments). Labour, the traditional friend of the beneficiary, was left gasping in its wake.

Labour’s challenge today is to recover its soul and its place. In this post market age, there is a still a role for a radical reforming party of the left, if it is prepared to be bold.

There is the opportunity to pull together the threads of the Labour heroes and promote a new commitment based around strengthening New Zealand’s national identity through constitutional and social reform, and encouraging diversity.

There is still a place for a progressive party promising a new, more co-operative economic approach in today’s globally digitally and free trade connected world. And there is still a place for a progressive party to promote new, innovative approaches to education and social services.

But rather than grasp these opportunities, Labour has become predeterminedly negative. While it supports a new New Zealand flag, it opposes the current referendum process, essentially because it is a National Prime Minister’s idea.

Its approach to economic policy is stalled because it cannot make up its mind on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Its stigmatising of people with Chinese sounding names buying property in Auckland has robbed it of any credibility in the diversity stakes, and its capacity to champion meaningful education reform is zero while it remains the plaything of the PPTA.

Andrew Little responded – Stuff reports Little says Labour’s job is to ‘contest and challenge’ the Government:

Little rubbished Dunne’s comments saying in Opposition there was a job to be done and that is to “contest and challenge what the Government of the day is doing”.

“This is from a man who left the Labour Party and is now a party of one,” he said from Sydney where he is visiting New Zealand-born detainees at Villawood Detention Centre.

“You’ve got a job also to come up with the alternative ideas but you’ve got situations like this, a bunch of Kiwis who are looking for a voice, and somebody’s got to step in,” Little said.

And Dunne responded to that on Twitter:

Poor old angry Andy, just proves my point

And Stuff have run an online poll (take with a grain of salt):

Has Labour lost it’s way?

  • Yes, it’s too negative 26%
  • Yes, It’s not innovative or bold enough 12%
  • Yes, both of the above 41%
  • No, it’s fine 21%

 

Help drug users learn safe limits?

Rather than just saying no to recreational drug use Peter Dunne is exploring the use of government experts to help drug users learn safe limits to minimise harm.

This seems a pragamatic approach to drug use.

Stuff reported on Friday: Illegal drug-users could get government-backed expert advice to get high safely

Experts could one day advise Kiwi drug-users on how to get high without harming their health.

The government says it’s open to considering the idea, amid criticism that it’s not doing enough to keep users of illegal drugs safe.

Unlike with alcohol – where there are government-endorsed guidelines on standard drinks and safe consumption – no safety advice exists in New Zealand on how to take drugs while minimising the harm.

It’s an area that Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the Ministry of Health could explore.

“I think particularly around some of the more serious drugs, there is some capacity to look at whether the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs might give us a recommendation around that,” he said.

“You wouldn’t want to be encouraging [drug use], but on the other hand, you could give some guidance about what, in those circumstances, might be safe behaviour.”

Dunne said he sees the issue in a similar light to the Needle Exchange programme, which provides sterile needles for users of injectable drugs.

Global Drug Survey founder Dr Adam Winstock said…

…instead of banning drugs, governments should be helping users learn their limits.

While the only way to avoid all harm was to avoid drugs, the risk could be “massively reduced for most people” if they followed the right health advice, Winstock said.

“The problem is there aren’t really any sensible guidelines on how many drugs you can do in any space of time without running a high risk of ruining your life.”

And today Jane Bowron gives her opinion in Treat drugs as a health issue, not a moral one.

Last week’s announcement by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne that government experts may be able to offer advice on recreational drug-taking will probably go down like a cup of cold sick with conservative Kiwis.

More important is how it might be viewed by conservative National Party MPs.

The floating of Dunne’s latest idea for government experts to help drug users learn safe limits to minimise harm is a hard call for any politician in government to make.

And it signals how far attitudes have changed since Nixon declared war on drugs and Reagan instigated his hypocritical “Just Say No” campaign (during Reagan’s administration the CIA were accomplices to a large narcotics smuggling ring to the US by the Contras, a counter-revolutionary group fighting against the Sandinistas to return the corrupt US-backed Somoza regime to power in Nicaragua).

Dunne wants to look at using the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to offer the kind of government-endorsed guidelines existing for standard alcohol drinks and safe consumption and apply it to more serious drugs.

Historically the success of the government-backed needle exchange programme providing sterile for intravenous drug users dramatically reducing the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C infections, and is an excellent example of a common sense approach to the problems of illegal drug use.

While some may view the government dishing out of tips on how to get high safely as cynical and degenerate, surely this is a health issue rather than a moral one?

Dunne’s suggestion that the Government might support a drug-checking service at night club and festival venues, where users can have their pills and liquids tested, is enlightened and would protect young experimenters.

Is there a down side?

On the flip side, in the law of unintended consequences it could be argued that drug-checking services might encourage indulgence in drug use because it had a government testing safety net.

I think that is a weak argument. I doubt that needle exchanges create drug addicts. Giving sensible drug taking advice is more likely to reduce the “stuff the law/government” attitude on recreational drug use

Dunne’s proposal for government guidelines is welcome – and unexpected from a Government that has, along with previous administrations, removed all support from rehabilitation treatment centres such as the world renowned facility at Hanmer Springs.

Better to be at the top of the cliff offering expert advice than carting off the comatose corpses at the bottom.

Dunne has recently promoted a more pragmatic approach to dealing with drug use. The legal high law change was ground breaking but National panicked when media highlighted the sadder side of legal high retailers. He has been cautiously pushing for more consideration of access to medicinal cannabis products.

Too much alcohol is harmful in many ways and creates many problems in our society, so we have laws and guidelines on what is relatively safe to consume.

The same approach with other relatively low harm recreational drugs seems very sensible. Can the current Government back this?

Dunne on Christmas Island

Peter Dunne is not on Christmas Island, but he’s written a reasonable assessment of how things have been and what should be done from thbis side of the Tasman.

Somewhere along the way this week the plot got well and truly lost. Uproar in Parliament, walk-outs, protests and people shouting at and over each other may be all good theatre, a modern form of gladiators in the arena if you like, but after it is over, the fact remains, nothing has changed as a result.

Moreover, the issue itself seems to have become secondary to the noise it has generated. And the issue here is simple: Australia is treating people in its detention camps – in the main New Zealanders awaiting deportation – in a way that is appalling, no matter which way you look at it. Yes, there are definitely very evil people amongst them who have committed unspeakable crimes, with whom we would not usually wish to associate, but they still have the same basic human rights as the rest of us. The argument should be focussing on how these rights are being upheld in the detention camps. On the strong face of it, the detainees are now worse off than when they were in prison, even though they have presumably paid for their crimes in Australia. This cannot be just.

And that is the real issue here. Are these detainees being justly treated, and if not, what can we in New Zealand reasonably do about it? There has always been a more frontier approach to justice in Australia, as the treatment of their indigenous people has shown, and the current treatment of boat refugees continues to show. I suspect most New Zealanders are far from comfortable with the notion of holding such people captive on offshore islands, and would not let a New Zealand government even consider doing so.

That different approach is where our focus needs to be. The modern concentration camp approach Australia has taken is simply wrong. It was wrong when the British tried it in Northern Ireland in the 1970s; it is wrong in Guantanomo Bay, or in Israel today. Australia is no different. The right to due process and fair and open trials is inalienable. So New Zealand needs to be asserting basic human rights and freedoms, not stooping to the name-calling and abuse that has passed for debate over the last week.
Australia is a sovereign state. We cannot automatically require it to change its laws, just because they affront us. The Prime Minister is right on that score. But we can, and should, be speaking out as loudly and frequently as we can against abhorrent practices, especially given the mantle of family the Australians like to drape upon us. After all, most families are blunt with each other and speak out about what they do not like. We should be as well.

The political civil war of the last week has done nothing at all for any of the detainees on Christmas Island. Rather than turning their guns on each other to pointless effect, the Government and the Opposition need to be turning on the real villains of the piece – Ministers like Peter Dutton and others in the Australian Government who continue to promote and support such savage and inhumane policies.

John Key may or may not doing as much as he can to quietly push for better treatment of New Zealanders in Australia, but more should be seen to being done.

It may be that Key is not wanting to put the building of realtionshiops with yet another Australian Prime Minister at risk but his first priority should be the well being of New Zealanders.

Dunne, Hager, Westpac and ‘greater good’

Peter Dunne’s weekly blog post looks at the issue if Westpac giving Nicky Hager’s banking data to the Police when they were investigating Rawshark – Dunne Speaks: Westpac’s Strike Against Personal Privacy.

In it he says:

The Westpac case is a good example of what happens when either systems fail, or more likely, the people operating them seek to make a moral judgement about the worth of the information they hold and how it might contribute to what they see as a greater good.

While is fair to question Westpac’s willingness to hand over data without a court order the Privacy Act may allow for what they did.

And Dunne raises an interesting issue.

Westpac may have justified handing over the data for ‘greater good’.

There are many claims that Hager wrote up and published the Cameron Slater data that seems to have been unquestionably illegal obtained by the hacker, whoever that was, and in fact Hager may have received stolen property and made a pecuniary gain through his actions. Some of his supporters claim a ‘greater good’ or public interest defence.

So how do these two actions compare.?

Cannabis Party versus Peter Dunne

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford has taken issue with things Peter Dunne said on Q & A on Sunday – in fact he claims Dunne lied.

Dunne and UIC ‘misleading the public’

The Cannabis Party is accusing Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne of misleading the public over medical cannabis.

Dunne told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that although “we talk about medicinal cannabis, actually there’s no such thing”.

Cannabis Party leader Julian Crawford said Dunne was lying when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal unless it was packaged into a pharmaceutical product.

“In 23 States of the US they have legalised medical cannabis in its raw form, without the need for any involvement from the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in keeping medical cannabis illegal,” Crawford said.

“Peter Dunne has deliberately deceived the New Zealand public when he claimed that raw cannabis was not medicinal. In reality around 40% of New Zealand’s cannabis users are using it for medical reasons. Even when smoked it has medicinal benefits.”

The Cannabis Party are calling for patients and their caregivers to be able to form non-profit organisations to grow and dispense medical cannabis in New Zealand, without all the delays and costs involved with clinical trials.

“Dunne is simply a glove puppet of the pharmaceutical lobby, he has not softened his stance one bit regarding the medical use of cannabis in its natural form,” Crawford said.

The Cannabis Party has denied that it wants to use the medical cannabis issue as a backdoor for recreational use.

“The party wants medical cannabis in its natural form available now so that thousands of patients with hundreds of illnesses can find some relief,” Crawford said.

“Dunne and United in Compassion have muddied the waters with misinformation that is preventing meaningful dialogue around the medical cannabis laws.”

TVNZ press release of the interview with Dunne:

Health Minister open to medicinal marijuana

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told TVOne’s Q+A programme that he’s open to the possibilities cannabis based medicines offer.

“I think it would be a really good thing if we could get clinical trials in New Zealand, because that way we can work through exactly what the formulations might be, what the product should look like and who the patients who it will benefit could be, because at the moment we’ve got very general talk. We talk about medicinal cannabis. Actually, there’s no such thing. There’s medicinal cannabis products. And I think it would be very, very good to get some much more specific and scientific evidence about the efficacy before we can make decisions,” said Mr Dunne.

Both Mr Dunne and campaigner Toni-Marie Matich said there was still a stigma attached to cannabis based products:

Absolutely. We’ve written to and approached 300 organisations this year to have really logical, responsible discussion for their patients said Toni-Marie Matich. Look, it took six months and three banks to get a bank account she said.

Video of interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)

Asking for medicinal cannabis

The Dominion Post had an article yesterday on The patients asking for medicinal cannabis.

Huhana Hickey has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair since 1996. She is in pain every day.

“I’m on tramadol, morphine, Paramax and codeine.”

The medicines she takes for her condition make her tired, so now she has weaned herself off most of them.

“I’ve had to come off it, but I got all the withdrawals.”

“The tramadol gets me through that bad time and then I get on with it.”

“I’ve got a headache today, I know I’m going to be exhausted tonight, and I know that I’m going to need to take some morphine just to have a break from the pain tonight.”

“I don’t like it, I don’t want to, but I have to, because there isn’t the alternative.”

The alternative, Hickey says, is cannabis.

Her doctors have told her medicinal cannabis could help.

“They are all in favour of it, my neurologist, my pain specialist, they all want it to be legal,” Hickey says.

Under current law they could ask the Ministry of Health to be able to use it.

There is now a powerful lobby seeking more widespread public access to medicinal cannabis. It includes Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, a paediatrician, who saw a dramatic change in one patient with intractable epilepsy after she got access through her mother to cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

“The child had a 50 per cent reduction in seizures as well as a substantial improvement in quality of life,” Wills told The Dominion Post.

Patients report that cannabis and medicinal cannabis not only relieve pain and stop seizures, they can transform their quality of life.

But Wills –  and the Government – are cautious. The science of medicinal  marijuana “is still in its infancy,” says Wills.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says the issue is about giving people “access to a high quality, pharmaceutical product that is safe, reliable and that will alleviate their ailments.”

Dunne tweeted a couple of corrections about the article.

Generally good piece on medicinal cannabis in today, but with two gating errors: my approval is not required for Sativex and 1/2

Australia has not legalised medicinal cannabis – they have merely announced they will permit clinical trials, something already ok here

There will be an interview with Dunne on Q & A this morning about medicinal cannabis, along with CEO of United in Compassion, Toni-Marie Matich

Do you think more New Zealanders should have access to medicinal marijuana?

We interview Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne and Toni-Marie Matich, a mother who has started a campaign for medical trials and better cannabis based medicines.

Watch Sunday 9am on TVOne

Matich has been working heroically for a sensible approach to enabling the use of medical cannabis in New Zealand.

Is it too much to ask for medicinal cannabis? As long as it proves to be safe enough then no. It should be a given.

A link to the interview: Dunne open to Medicinal marijuana (13:19)

ACT in Ohariu?

In their Free Press newsletter ACT say:

ACT to Contest Ohariu?
Like Epsom, Ohariu voters are aspirational, successful, and understand the power of using their candidate vote to get an extra MP into Parliament.  The voters there might well be open to an energetic ACT candidate.  National might be open to cooperating with a candidate who actually believes in the National Party’s values.

With the possibility that Dunne is just about ready to retire anyway this could be a smart move by ACT. And National probably wouldn’t be unhappy.

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