A royal commission into racism?

Al Gillespie, professor of law at Waikato University, suggests we need a royal commission type inquiry into ‘racism’. I have no idea how that might work let alone what it could achieve.

Stuff:  We need a royal commission on racism

To my mind, to ask the bigger questions is necessary because hate laws would not have stopped the murderer doing his heinous acts  in Christchurch. By the time he started killing, he was already fully radicalised and putrid with racial hatred. This means that if the goal is to stop the emergence of such evil in future, it is necessary to see if there was a swamp that nurtured him from which he emerged, or whether he was just an aberration.

Even within New Zealand few would argue that a new law on hate crimes should not be created.

I think that a lot of us would like to see a robust debate on this before any hate law is created.

However, many will argue about how to define “hate”. While most would agree that physically threatening and obscenely abusive language based around racism should be prohibited, any consensus will fall apart when debating whether simply offensive and/or insulting speech linked to different ethnic groups should also be considered “hate” and therefore prohibited.

If the country is about to descend into the debate foreshadowed in the above paragraph, and that discussion will replace a wider examination about racism and discrimination in New Zealand, then a serious mistake is about to occur.

This is a time to place the needs for hate-crime legislation within a much larger basket of issues and responses that are needed to improve this country on the particular consideration of racism overall, of which new laws on hate-speech, despite being important, are only one part of the puzzle.

For that to occur, I believe a public inquiry, or royal commission, on racism in New Zealand is necessary.

The truth of the matter is that neither side really knows definitively if there is a problem, and if so, its scale.

The only way to find answers to this is to have a public inquiry on racism. This needs to take stock of where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going. It needs to cover racism and discrimination, wherever it is found – or not – in the past, and in the present  (from the street, to the workplace to the internet) –for any New Zealand citizen.

 Any such inquiry then needs to show how these problems are avoided or created.  Successes need to be showcased, as much as failures. If failures are found, then the direct and indirect consequences of them need to be shown.

Finally, and most importantly, if more work is required to defeat the scourge of racism, exactly how this should be done, such as via targets and indicators which could be incorporated directly into law and policy, needs to be clearly set out.

This sounds more academic than realism.

How do you change deep seated prejudices in people via “targets and indicators”?

Racism, sexism, politics and religion are all very complex and personal, based on beliefs acquired over lifetimes. I don’t know how it would be possible to legislate to change any of them.

Leading by example would be a better place to start. What about a royal commission looking at the motives and behaviours of our politicians?

Is a referendum the best way to deal with cannabis law reform?

In theory letting the people decide on whether we liberalise our drug laws in relation to cannabis via a referendum sounds like a good democratic approach, but is it actually the best way to deal with it?

One problem is that our politicians do not have experience or a good history of letting the people decide. The flag debate and referendums were a shambles, in large part due to how our politicians stuffed things around.

Benedikt Fischer (Hugh Green Foundation Chair in Addiction Research and Professor, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, at the University of Auckland) looks at the cannabis issue –  NZ’s potential cannabis policy pitfalls

In New Zealand, the prospects of fundamental liberalising reform to cannabis prohibition are heading into an acute phase. In recent months, the Government has provided incremental clarification that the issues will be decided on through a public referendum to occur on general election day in 2020. Based on recent statements by the Prime Minister, this referendum will be based on a question on possible cannabis control reform to be drafted by Cabinet.

While a referendum is a legitimate means of decision-making on public policy, and has been applied in areas of drug control elsewhere, it is an approach that comes with distinct dynamics in terms of process – regardless of where one sits on the ‘opinion fence’.

Without question, dealing with cannabis control reform through a referendum is an unusual choice in the socio-political context of New Zealand, where few policy issues have been decided by direct democracy. Rather, New Zealand routinely develops or changes law or policy, including on many no-less fundamental or controversial topics, by relying on the standard procedures of its parliamentary democracy.

What makes cannabis control so unique or different that it requires such a special approach?

Our politicians have avoided addressing dysfunctional drug laws for decades. They have been sort of forced into doing something, but may see a referendum as a way of either sabotaging the process. CGT policy was dumped without going to an election with it as promised.

Yet irrespective of these general queries, and embracing the possible benefits of direct decision-making on cannabis legalisation ‘by the people’, there are various issues or possible pitfalls to consider.

First, in order for a referendum on cannabis reform to work and produce meaningful results, it needs to occur on the basis of a concise and clear question. This question, however, requires comprehensive foundational clarity regarding what overall cannabis reform plan the Government exactly intends to propose and implement. And this involves many devils hidden in many details.

For example, a legalisation model in which cannabis use, availability, production and product, advertising, etcetera, are only loosely regulated is very different from one where these essential parameters are tightly controlled and restricted.

One of several key challenges here will be to clearly convey the difference between ‘decriminalisation’ and ‘legalisation’ reforms for cannabis. Notwithstanding many – including leading politicians – viewing and using these concepts as if interchangeable, they are fundamentally different: While the former typically softens the punitive consequences for illegal drug use or sales, and commonly relies on ‘diversion’ measures like education or treatment programs, it retains their formal illegality. In contrast, ‘legalisation’ renders use and availability truly legal in principle, and relies mainly on regulatory measures for control and restrictions.

Public referenda, especially on controversial value issues with implications for society at large, like drug control, can be tricky undertakings.

But why are they tricky? Politicians have a habit of making things seem tricky when they don’;t want to take responsibility and do anything. I hope they surprise me, but I fear that the public will end up being manipulated and let down.

A referendum gives our politicians scope for messing up the decision making and then handing the blame to voters.

New Zealand trying to lead crackdown on social media

Without knowing any details I don’t know whether the be pleased or concerned about attempts by the New Zealand Government to lead a crackdown on social media.

It is too easy for people and organisations to spread false and damaging information via social media, but attempts to deal with this could easily lurch too far in limiting freedom of expression.

NZ Herald – Social media crackdown: How New Zealand is leading the global charge

Steps towards global regulation of social media companies to rein in harmful content looks likely, with the Government set to take a lead role in a global initiative, the Herald has learned.

The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka, where Facebook and Instagram were temporarily shut down in that country to stop the spread of false news reports.

Following the Christchurch terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been working towards a global co-ordinated response that would make the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter more responsible for the content they host.

The social media companies should be held to account for what they enable, but it’s a very tricky thing to address without squashing rights and freedoms.

Currently multinational social media companies have to comply with New Zealand law, but they also have an out-clause – called the safe harbour provisions – that means they may not be legally liable for what users publish on their sites, though these were not used in relation to the livestream video of the massacre in Christchurch.

Other countries, including Australia, are taking a more hardline approach that puts more onus on these companies to block harmful content, but the Government has decided a global response would be more effective, given the companies’ global reach.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism for what many see as its failure to immediately take down the livestream and minimise its spread; Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack within 24 hours.

They were too ineffective and too slow – that they took down one and a half million copies shows how quickly the video spread before action was taken.

Ardern has said this wasn’t good enough, saying shortly after the Christchurch terror attack: “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published.”

Among those adding their voices to this sentiment were the bosses of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees and the managers of five government-related funds, who all called on social media companies to do more to combat harmful content.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has also been scathing, calling Facebook “morally bankrupt” and saying it should take immediate action to make its services safe.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said that existing laws and protections were not enough to stop the online proliferation of the gunman’s video.

He doubted that changing any New Zealand laws would be effective, and echoed Ardern in saying that a global solution was ideal.

But it is generally much harder to get international agreement on restrictive laws, so a global solution may be very difficult to achieve. Actually there is never likely to be ‘a solution’, all they can do is make it harder for bad stuff to proliferate.

The UK is currently considering a white paper on online harms that proposes a “statutory duty of care” for online content hosts.

Rules would be set up and enforced by an independent regulator, which would demand illegal content to be blocked within “an expedient timeframe”. Failure to comply could lead to substantial fines or even shutting down the service.

The problem is an effective timeframe has to be just about instant.

In Australia a law was recently passed that requires hosting services to “remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously” or face up to three years’ jail or fines in the millions of dollars.

Germany also has a law that gives social media companies an hour to remove “manifestly unlawful” posts such as hate speech, or face a fine up to 50 million Euros.

And the European Union is considering regulations that would give social media platforms an hour to remove or disable online terrorist content.

In New Zealand multiple laws – including the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Human Rights Act, and the Crimes Act – dictate what can and cannot be published on social media platforms.

While Ardern has ruled out a model such as Australia’s, changes to New Zealand law could still happen following the current review of hate speech.

Legally defining ‘hate speech’ wil be difficult enough, and applying laws governing speech will require decisions and judgements to be made by people. That could be very difficult to do effectively.

 

 

Katie Hopkins (and others) ridiculous attacks on Ardern

There were ridiculous criticisms of and attacks on Jacinda Ardern after the Christchurch mosque attacks, for what she said and what she wore in sympathy, support and solidarity with New Zealand Muslims. She (and the media) were attacked for not giving equal condemnation to an earlier attack inn a long running civil war situation in Nigeria.

This has risen to new levels of absurdity after the suicide bomb attack on hotels and Christian churches in Sri Lanka in the weekend.

One of those leading the over-reaction alt right brigade attacks is Katie Hopkins, from the UK.

There are a number of ridiculous things about that stupidity, particularly considering an unprecedented attack in your own country is quite different for a Prime Minister than an attack somewhere else in the world where there is a history of terrorism.

Ardern did quickly send condolences to Sri Lanka – Prime Minister sends condolences to Sri Lanka:

“New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism, and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil on the 15th of March. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating.

“New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely. Collectively we must find the will and the answers to end such violence.’’

She expressed similar sympathy and condemnation in person, this was widely reported by New Zealand media.

NZ Herald reported on Hopkins’ attack: Outspoken British columnist Katie Hopkins tries to roast Jacinda Ardern over Sri Lanka attacks

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is ignoring a swipe by a British columnist over yesterday’s attacks in Sri Lanka which have left hundreds dead.

Katie Hopkins, a columnist and former contestant in the 2007 The Apprentice TV show, has hit out at Ardern, saying she now expects her to be “dressed as the pope, ringing church bells across #NZ and praying in Latin in Parliament by noon”.

But many Kiwis have come to her defence with one replying, “whatever the Prime Minister does will be immeasurably more welcome and useful than anything you have ever said,” while another tweeted “if this dreadful event had happened in NZ … then our PM would be leading the nation through its grieving and empathising with the victims’ families.”

Hopkins sprayed her bile around the UK too.

Is Hopkins trying to dictate what Prime Ministers should say in reaction to international atrocities? I doubt that’s her intention, it looks more like she is trying to drive up intolerance and hate of Muslims, by playing a ‘poor me’ Christian card.

Hopkins hasn’t been alone in this sort of stupidity. from comments on a Kiwiblog post Christians slaughtered in Sri Lanka yesterday:

sooty:

Cindy will be covering her ears and singing,
LA, LA, LA LAA!

Engelbert Humperdink:

So, Cindy’s gonna wear a big cross to show solidarity, and post armed guards on the churches in NZ? Yeah, right.

All the world’s majority Muslim country leaders gonna speak out against this attack on Christians? Yeah, right.

Will there be indifference shown to the deceased and injured – even though they are people of color – by leftists because, after all, it’s ‘just something some people did’ and ‘it’s part and parcel of living in a big city’? Yes, there will be, as per Ilhan Omar and Sadiq Khan.

Ultima:

Obviously Christianity is the cause of of this terrorist act, Cindy should urge the Sri Lankan govt to ban Christianity and semi-Christianity.

Commenters at Kiwiblog and Whale Oil childishly call Ardern Cindy because (I think) she said she didn’t like being called that.

Luke Piewalker:

Of course we will see a tearful handwringing Ardern holding a cross … nah didn’t think so

vand:

Will this be said?
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the best help she could provide in the wake of the Sri lanka attacks would be sympathy and love for Christian communities.

burt:

Christian prayers on national radio it will be then with the platitudes of ‘They are us’.

I posted Ardern’s statement to show that she had condemned the attacks, and that was downticked by 22 people (as of now).

Rachael Memberry responded:

i don’t agree, we have had CHCH shoved in our face for the last month, since Jacinda has so much political capital, especially now that she hasn’t expended any for the CGT she, as the leader that we are told that she is, should be contacting members of the Muslim community to decry terrorist attacks, not just when they are the victims of them but when they are the perpetrators also.

The Muslim community in New Zealand are not the perpetrators.

Engelbert Humperdink:

As a globalist shouldn’t she be expecting the practice of what she preaches locally to take place everywhere? Shouldn’t she now be calling for the suppression of a group of brown supremacists, and the banning of their manifesto, their Koran? if you think that’s absurd, I agree with you it’s a reach, but is not absurd. Absurd is what she did; absurd is where she set the bar. Of course all of her apologists don’t expected to be judged by the standards she set. That’s why she has to keep getting tongue-bathed by the New Zealand media (one example: recent social media resurrections, which I suppose is fitting for Easter time) to kKeep her popularity high enough / stay in office.

burt:

Are there different degrees of concern with regard to mass murder?

Obviously there are differences depending on what occurred and where it occurred. I’m fairly sure that burt and and others at Kiwiblog don’t show equal concern for all attacks around the world – they tend to ignore other attacks on Muslims.

It was worse at Whale Oil, with Hopkins tweet put up as a post (by the gutlessly anonymous ‘Whaleoil staff’) – Tweet of the day. This fed some predictable responses.

ibdkiwi:

But wait…hold the presses, this is breaking news: someone just told me the Prime Minister is donating $300M to Sri-Lanka to buy-back all the bombs, well; not all of them, just the assault-bombs, ‘so this sort of thing can never happen again’. Can anyone confirm if this story is true?

Smoke & Mirrors:

Has she mentioned ‘Christians’ yet?

BlokeinAuckland:

Nope. Or that it was muslims as perpetrators.

If Only:

Excellent comment but Katie forgets its still an Easter Holiday in NZ and our PM never works during the holidays – she is a member of a union after all. Perhaps we shall see her play dress up and ring bells tomorrow.

Nutta:

To be fair, JA put out comment condemning the terrorist act yesterday, not long after the event. No, I’m not even remotely a cheerleader.

Dave:

Not really, more likely her office put out a Press Release yesterday

I saw Ardern personally condemning the attacks on TV news. A lot of this is petty uninformed dissing. And it went on.

At least ‘SB’ put her pseudonym initials to another post feeding a string of more nonsense – Facebook comment of the day. The most recent comment:

Surprisingly, Jacinda hasn’t offered to pay for all the funeral expenses!

Sadly this is the stupid level of much of the discussion on terrorist atrocities, deliberately stoked by Katie Hopkins.

Media watch – Tuesday

23 April 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Social chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Social only, no politics, issues or debate.

Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Tuesday

23 April 2019

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

World view – Tuesday

Monday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Pre-happiness x 2 and happiness

Twitter sometimes delivers some gems.

No sign of Zero Carbon Bill yet

A Zero Carbon act was supposed to be in force this month, but a draft bill hasn’t even been presented to Parliament yet.

This was the number one item in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Sustainable Economy

  1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050,
    with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form,
    energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent
    Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions
    and industries.

a.   Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
b.   All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.
c.   A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.
d.   A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

So an April introduction of the bill is now ‘mid-2019’.

There has been speculation that the Zero Carbon Bill may be progressed as a quid pro quo for NZ First stopping any CGT. James Shaw has denied this – see James Shaw on “do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?” – but as Shaw seems to have been shut out of discussions over the CGT he may not know what Ardern and Peters may have agreed on.