Cannabis legalisation polls and trends

Two recent polls suggested majorities opposing cannabis legislation, but one poll has a more supporting change, especially “When New Zealanders Have More Information”.

And data from Canada where cannabis is already legal suggests fewer young people are now using cannabis.

1 News (14 February): New Zealanders likely to vote against cannabis legalisation – 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll

Those polled were asked, ‘At this stage, do you think you will vote for cannabis to be legalised, or for cannabis to remain illegal?’

Remain illegal – 51%
Legalise cannabis – 39%
Will not vote – 1%
Don’t know / refused – 9%

The groups of people who were more likely than average to intend to vote against legalising cannabis were Asian New Zealanders, National Party supports and people aged 55 and over.

Those who were more likely to intend to vote for legalisation were Green Party supporters, women aged 18 to 34, Māori, people with annual household incomes between $30,001 to $70,000 and Labour Party supporters.

Between February 8 to 12, 1004 eligible voters were polled by landline (402) and mobile phone (602). The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level.

November/December 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll saw 49 per cent against legalisation and 43 per cent for, with the June 2019 poll seeing 52 per cent of people against and 39 per cent for legalisation.

In the October 2018 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, the results were slightly more in favour of legalisation than against, with nearly half wanting the drug to be legal. Forty-six per cent of Kiwis were in favour of legalisation and 41 per cent were against.

In the July 2017 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, 47 per cent were in favour of cannabis legalisation and 41 per cent were opposed.

Newshub (18 February): New poll shows support for both recreational cannabis and euthanasia dropping

The latest Newshub Reid-Research poll asked the referendum question the public will be asked in the referendum this election: do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • 39.4 percent said ‘yes’
  • 47.7 percent said ‘no ‘
  • 11.6 percent said ‘don’t know’

The Bill would make recreational cannabis legal for over 20s, with restrictions.

Since the last time Newshub polled on this in June, despite additional details released in December, more people have moved from the ‘yes’ camp to the ‘don’t knows’.

Very few voters will know what Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill actually proposes.

(Note that the euthanasia part of the headline is a bit misleading, the result was 61.9% in favour, 23.7% against).

NZ Drug Foundation (21 February): Poll Shows Support For Cannabis Legalisation When New Zealanders Have More Information

Survey results released today by the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation show that support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation.

When respondents were asked how they would vote in September’s referendum based on what they already know:

  • 46% said they would vote for the legalisation of cannabis
  • 44% said they would vote against it
  • 10% undecided

When people were then told more about the limits and restrictions on cannabis use and sale in the proposed legislation:

  • support for legalisation increased to 50%
  • opposition decreased to 42%
  • 8% undecided

Fieldwork for the survey was conducted between 22 January and 3 February 2020. The maximum sampling error for a sample size of 1000 at the 95% confidence level is ± 3.1%.

That looks promising for those wanting change, but there is likely to be a battle of information and misinformation.

“These results suggest New Zealanders are likely to support a sensible approach to cannabis harm reduction when they have accurate information about what is being proposed,” said Holly Walker, Deputy Director of the Helen Clark Foundation.

“The details matter. Armed with the facts, voters see that putting in place rules and enforcing these is better than the status quo.”

New Zealand Drug Foundation saw similar results in research commissioned in November last year. “When initially asked how they would vote, participants were evenly split, with around 14 percent undecided. Once the participants were given more information on the legislation, we saw stronger support for a yes vote,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation.

Over the last two months the proportion of undecided voters has dropped, following the release of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in December.

The draft legislation includes an age limit of 20, redistribution of tax into harm reduction, health and education programmes, a ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products, strict controls on the potency of cannabis, and other restrictions.

“When people learn about these proposed restrictions, they are more likely to support a law change,” said Ms Walker.

NZ Herald: Legalising cannabis: Supporters, opponents take swipes at each other as polls show knife-edge decision

The foundation said it showed more support for legalisation when voters were more informed, but Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said it was loaded to ask the same question either side of highlighting the proposed legal framework.

McCoskrie attributed the decline of the ‘yes’ vote to the strength of the ‘no’ campaign so far, including a 24-page pamphlet that had been delivered nationwide.

But Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the downward trend in ‘yes’ support was because of “well-funded and relentless opposition scaremongering”.

He has asked supporters to donate funds to the ‘yes’ campaign, which was putting together a strategy that included billboards, TV advertising and social media.

McCoskrie responded by saying he was giving the public the “facts”, adding that he had little faith in the Prime Minister’s expert advisory panel, headed by her Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard.

The panel is putting together publicly-available information about the impacts of cannabis use, what changes have occurred overseas, and how applicable that might be in New Zealand.

So McCoskrie doesn’t like people being informed when being polled, but is keen to ‘inform’ people against the legislation.

Meanwhile (NZH):

New data from the Youth Insights Survey, published yesterday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that between 2012 and 2018, the proportion of Year 10 students who had tried the drug fell by more than a quarter.

“This was predicted, since cannabis trends in this age group are strongly associated with tobacco trends, and it was already known that smoking in Year 10 students had continued to decline since 2012,” said the study’s Otago University authors.

However, the authors note that other research shows cannabis use is increasing among New Zealand adults generally.

Past year use increased from 9 per cent in 2012/13 to 15 per cent in 2018/19 overall – and from 19 per cent to 29 per cent among 15 to 24 year olds, the age group with the highest cannabis usage.

The authors said there were likely two key reasons for the conflicting trends.

“Firstly, the average age at which young people are initiating risk behaviours, including cannabis use, has increased in recent years,” they wrote.

“Secondly, normalisation of cannabis use has been counteracted by decreasing prevalence and frequency of smoking and drinking in this age group.

“The evidence suggests that adolescents’ willingness to try cannabis has increased, but their opportunities for doing so have decreased due to less face to face time with friends and fewer drinking and smoking occasions.”

But statistics from Canada shows the opposite has happened there, with youth use of cannabis dropping significantly since legalisation and regulation.

And:

 

2020 New Zealanders of the Year

JENNIFER WARD-LEALAND TE ATAMIRA – 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year

Jennifer Ward-Lealand is a pou of the performing arts community and a role model for all New Zealanders, demonstrating leadership and dedication in all walks of life. Her exceptional artistic talent has guided her to the pinnacle of the performing arts industry where she has amassed an impressive body of work as an actor and director alongside a lifetime of voluntary work, using her mana to advocate on important issues affecting the performing arts community.

In all these endeavors, she has shown an unparalleled commitment and passion for te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, showing the way to an authentic bi-cultural society.

Jennifer was gifted the name Te Atamira (The Stage) by Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and the late Dr Te Wharehuia Milroy for her championing of te reo throughout the performing arts community.

As a teacher, Jennifer is involved in all aspects of screen and theatre work and is a direct mentor to emerging actors, filmmakers and writers; she has been training and working as an intimacy coordinator on stage and screen where she is one of the pioneers of this important emerging field.

She is also President of Equity New Zealand, co-founder of Watershed Theatre, a co-founder of the drama school The Actors’ Program, a trust board member of The Actors Benevolent Fund, 2018 SPADA/Data Book Industry Champion, Patron of The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (since its inception in 2000), Patron of Q Theatre (since its inception in 2011) and patron of Theatre New Zealand (since 2019).

Bill Buckley – Buckly Systems LtdInnovator of the Year

Buckley Systems Ltd is the world’s leading supplier of precision electromagnets – used in the manufacture of silicon chips, flat-panel screens, high-end medical machinery and particle accelerators. The company totally dominates the world’s silicon chip manufacturing industry.

Buckley Systems supplies machinery used in the manufacture of more than 90 per cent of the world’s total output of chips. Now, Bill Buckley and his company, Neutron Therapeutics, have designed and built a BNCT (Boron Neutron Capture Therapy) machine which is a cancer treating machine.

The machine has been installed in Helsinki University Hospital in Finland with treatment trials due to commence in 2020. It is considered a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment.

Typically, with traditional treatments, a patient will have to go through 30 fractions of radiation which has significant physical implications and side effects. However, the BNCT machine does it in one fraction of radiation without the physical side effects and delivers the treatment much more accurately.

Dame Margaret Sparrow – Senior New Zealander of the Year

Dame Margaret Sparrow has made extraordinary contributions to the field of sexual and reproductive health and has been a trailblazer in the campaign for legal abortions in New Zealand.

Working in the student health centre at Victoria University in the late 1960s, she ignored the rules that allowed contraception to be given only to married couples, making information available to all students. The Wellington Family Planning Clinic is named after her.

Dame Margaret was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to medicine and the community, and in 1993 she was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.

In 2002 she was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to medicine and the community, and in 2009 she accepted re-designation as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. A two-time president of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, Dame Margaret continues to publish and lead Family Planning education in New Zealand.

Good Bitches Baking – Community of the Year

Good Bitches Baking (GBB) is a registered charity which delivers home baking to New Zealanders going through trauma or difficulty. In the past five years it has helped more than 650,000 people.

As a charity, it relies on public donations and its enterprise to keep running. GBB’s purpose is to make Aotearoa the ‘kindest place on earth’. The charity was founded by two Wellington women, Nicole Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick. Both women were recipients of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday awards in 2019.

The charity regards itself as a virtual community with 2100 volunteers throughout New Zealand, in 24 local chapters. GBB is volunteer driven – with only one part-time staff member for general administration.

The volunteers’ baking is distributed by the 170 other charities that GBB supports – organisations such as Women’s Refuge, mental health group homes, Rape Crisis, Age Concern, night shelters, missions, hospices and hospitals.

Nick Loosely – Local Hero of the Year

Since Nick Loosley established Everybody Eats two years ago, he has saved more than 30 tonnes of good food from going into landfills and provided more than 30,000 restaurant-quality meals to people, most of whom could not afford to pay.

Everybody Eats is a registered charity but aims to cover most costs through the pay-as-you-feel model, rather than with grants and agency funding.

Nick has also been able to involve a diverse volunteer base to support the restaurants. These volunteers include chefs and those with restaurant experience through to home cooks and those who are just excited by and want to support his vision.

The point of difference at Everybody Eats is that this is not a regular soup kitchen. While its main reason for being is to feed those who are struggling financially, the restaurant is open to anyone. The volunteer-run restaurant promotes connection by using communal tables and breaks down social barriers with people from all walks of life, and different cultures all enjoying a meal together.

Georgia Hale Young New Zealander of the Year

Georgia Hale is a champion sportsperson who has represented New Zealand in four separate sports. She has used her sporting profile as a platform to create a huge community impact around New Zealand.

Georgia is one of the youngest-ever captains in New Zealand sport, captaining the Women’s Warriors Rugby League team when she was only 24. She has represented New Zealand in touch, tag, league nines and league thirteens.

Georgia has dedicated herself to supporting communities. She influences thousands of children by visiting schools around the country and teaching students how to live a healthy lifestyle. She has set up a number of community initiatives with the Warriors, including the Great Charity Day which raised more than $120,000 in its first two years.

She has also set up a number of initiatives through her platform to help young children, rural communities, the intellectually disabled, and a wide range of other charities. A role model to many, Georgia epitomises a young New Zealander who is striving to better herself and the communities around her.

 

Juana Atkins responsible for dirty ops at The BFD

SB/spanish bride/Juana Atkins has added to the vindictive assaults at The BFD, yesterday attacking myself and commenters here.

Pete George ( yes I know none of you have ever heard of him) likes to pretend that he has a higher standard of ethics than other bloggers but here is just a sample of the kinds of comments that he allows on his tumbleweed blog site where ex commenters from well-moderated websites go to bitch in a nice little circle jerk of nastiness . . .

Very ironic and funny, but the post looks to be some sort of a threat. Atkins hid the rest behind their paywall, so few will see it.

The post looked like it was on Lauda Finem – it even looks like an old photo from a post at LF five years ago was used. It’s actually protected by ODT copyright, Atkins would know that if she sourced it from there.

Since the NZ First/journalist photograph issue blew up following a past at The BFD there has been a series of attack posts there, targeting the journalists Guyon Espiner and Matt Shand. They even had a go at Sean Plunket – possibly to try and attract some publicity on talk back radio.

Journalism 101: a Remedial Primer for Sean Plunket was also posted under ‘SB’. Yesterday Plunket was targeted by ‘Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary’ in Rank Hypocrisy from the Media Party. They are in full on attack mode, except when they are running defence posts for Winston Peters and Jami-Lee Ross. What a combination.

While Cameron Slater has received renewed attention (and brought some attention on himself) over the past couple of weeks, Atkins looks like an integral part of The BFD operation.

She appears to have managed The BFD since they shifted to it from Whale Oil a year ago to try to avoid legal and financial problems.

Just before Slater declared himself bankrupt he handed over his shares in Social Media Consultants Limited to Atkins, leaving her as sole director and shareholder. Then that company was put into liquidation. From the Six Monthly Liquidators Report:

Action from that may still be pending. In the meantime, it looks like registration of the BFD website has changed.

Both the Registrant and Admin contact addresses are sb@thebfd.co.nz. And the Registrant Name and Admin Contact Name are Suva Media Company Limited.

This company was set up as Madas 117 Limited by an accountant on 25 February last year, around when The BFD was set up. The name was changed to Suva Media Company Limited a day later.

Atkins became a director on 6 March 2019, and the shareholding was transferred to her on 24 March. The initial director ceased on 7 August leaving Atkins as the sole director and shareholder.

While others may be acting as apparent agents of NZ First and Jami-Lee Ross on The BFD, attacking the National Party and it’s leadership in particular, and journalists who expose what they are doing, Atkins is clearly involved in the dirty politics too. And appears to hold financial and legal responsibility for the website.

NZ First, Jami-Lee Ross and The BFD seem destined for self-destruction, but will likely keep lashing out as they spiral downwards.

They should have learned by now, journalists like Espiner and Plunket, and I, won’t be intimidated into silence.

Jami-Lee Ross versus Barry Soper

After Jami-Lee Ross was revealed as one of the four people charged by the SFO over the National Party donations issue he released a statement saying he couldn’t say much, but it’s too long to repeat in full here. He headed it ‘Spoke Up Now Set Up’, and began:

Just like donations to political parties, the justice system should be open and transparent. That is what I believe and have sought.

Until now, however, I have been unable to make a public statement regarding these allegations, despite wanting to do so.

That is because at the end of January, the three people responsible for the donations to the National Party in 2017 and 2018 made an urgent application for suppression of their names and any details that might identify them. I was not aware of their application at the time. I made no application for suppression of my own name or details.

While shocked that I had been targeted by the SFO, I had no intention of hiding away. I always wanted to make it very clear that as the whistle blower on this deception, it was outrageous that I was then charged and that others were seeking to implicate me, making me their expendable scape goat.

However, I couldn’t speak up, as I needed to respect the right of those three people to seek name suppression. Further, even though I made no application for name suppression, the same protection was extended to me by the Court despite me not wanting that.

I have complied with the court’s orders to date, as is expected of any person in my position. The public could rightly be outraged, if I did not respect the court’s decision, or if I sought to abuse my freedom of speech in the Parliament to circumvent that decision.

However, in later court documents my lawyers have made it clear that I never sought name suppression and that I do not want it. I have therefore proactively sought to have the suppression orders lifted so that I can make this statement.

Barry Soper has a different take on things: If Ross didn’t want name suppression why did he threaten me?

Surely this came from a man who was muzzled against his will, from a person who blew the whistle that’s now rendered him deaf.

That’s what Jami-Lee Ross, one of the four defendants to the Serious Fraud Office charges which go before the Auckland District Court next week, would have us believe.

The other three, Chinese businessmen who donated two hundred grand to the National Party over two years when Ross was the bagman, made an urgent application for name suppression when the charges were laid, he tells us in a statement where he’s painted himself as very much the victim.

And just to reinforce his muzzled state because of their actions, he says he was unaware an application for suppression was being made and his lawyers didn’t make one for him. He goes on, he had no intention of hiding away but he couldn’t speak up because of the actions his three co-defendants had taken.

The court suppressed his name despite the fact that he didn’t want it, he claims. Furthermore, Ross said the public could be rightly outraged if he didn’t respect the court’s decision, or if he sought to abuse his freedom of speech in Parliament to circumvent the decision.

Then he went on to protest his innocence, vowing to fight the charges just as the three donors have.

For an accused who so desperately wanted to speak out it’s a little difficult to gel that with his lawyers’ reaction to my publicly naming him as one of the defendants on the day the Serious Fraud Office said it was laying charges.

In a text exchange they were blunt to say the least, telling me I was in contempt – the matter is before the court. They told me action would be taken the following day unless his name was taken down from our website: “You are on notice,” they warned.

It was pointed out to them the matter hadn’t been to court yet and maybe they should have been quicker off the mark if they wanted suppression of their client’s name.

“Charges are laid, it’s before the court – we can’t seek suppression till then. The SFO will be in contact. They are also very angry as it now risks the case.

“This contempt is actionable and worse for you, now admitted by you as intentional – ring your lawyers.”

And just to add a final threatening slap, after I said Ross had been named in the public interest, the text read: “I don’t want any crap Barry – but this was silly.”

David Farrar makes a similar claim:

Of course Ross goes on to claim he is innocent, has been set up and Simon Bridges is the Villain. He may be hoping the trial won’t happen until after the election in September.

I’ll wait until the court case reveals what actual evidence there is.

Ross claims to have new evidence  that will turn the legal tide – but like Cameron Slater (who has backed Ross against National) and Winston Peters (who Slater has backed against National)  often make ‘we have evidence’ but fail to produce it. Or at least we are still waiting for them to come up with it.

Claire Trevett: Jami-Lee Ross SFO charges – blowing the whistle NZ politics’ greatest own goal

That’s behind the NZH pay wall, but the headline probably says it all.

Winston Peters has more explanations than photos

Explanations from Winston Peters over who took photos and video of journalists and gave them to The BFD attack blog continue to change.

He originally said on Magic Talk Radio “we took the photographs”…”to prove that was the sort of behaviour going on”.

He later tweeted a different variation:

“NZF has no interest in following Mr Espiner or any other journalists. The very reverse applies. No private investigators have been engaged to follow Mr Espiner or anyone else. A supporter thought it odd seeing ex-president Lester Grey with Mr Espiner so took a photo. Simple.”

Yesterday he tweeted what appeared to be emphatic, but it didn’t actually refute the “we” and “a supporter” claims.

Let there be no doubt that after caucus today I can confirm no NZ First Minister or MP sent any photos to any website.

I think that no one thought that a Minister or MP was directly involved in taking the photos or giving them to The BFD, so this is nothing but (typical) bluster from Peters.

From NZ First Leader Winston Peters denies his MPs sent covert photos to far-right blog (NZH):

This morning, Peters would not answer media questions about the photos.

Instead, he directed reporters to an interview he did with Magic Talk earlier that day.

“I don’t know anything about it, and I’m not responsible for it,” he said of the photos.

This sounds similar to his claims he knew nothing about the NZ First Foundation but also claimed to know exactly how they had handled donations.

Speaking to Magic Talk again today, Peters said he had “no idea” how the photos and the videos ended up on the blog.

“I’m a busy man, I’m flat out – I’m not wasting my time with this. I have no idea who did what or when.”

So another variation. Of course he doesn’t want to answer questions about this. But fudging and playing music clips and trying to make a joke of it doesn’t reduce the seriousness of NZ First connections to The BFD.

It’s been obvious that Whale Oil and it’s replacement The BFD have been shilling for Peters and NZ First for three years, since before the last election.

Prior to being a Peters promoter Cameron Slater had been a dirty critic of Peters and NZ First. The sudden switch to doing dirty work for NZ First of course raises suspicions of why.

It’s also well known that Winston’s friend, NZ First Party lawyer and NZ First Foundation trustee Brian Henry represented Slater in defamation proceedings and will have clocked up big legal bills of some sort. That raises some obvious (unanswered) questions.

The “dirty Politics’ book provided evidence that Whale Oil was paid to attack a variety of people in the past, and that Simon Lusk was involved both in making payments to Whale Oil, and ghost writing attack posts that appeared under Slater’s name.

Since the journalist photos were used in an attack post both Slater and Lusk have suddenly been named several times at The BFD, they seem to be bragging about finally getting some media attention for one of their hit jobs.

But their ongoing attacks just draw attention to how the core Dirty Politics crew are back in action, how compromised Peters and NZ First are over this connection. No amount of shifting stories and shifty non-explanations will reduce the dirty stench.

The ongoing antics at The BFD, apart from keeping the ‘look at how dirty we are’ in the spotlight’, keeps emphasising their complicity with NZ First, which keeps Peters squirming and ducking.


And on cue Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary has just posted again, revisiting Hager and Dirty Politics and attacking media yet again. He mentions ‘Media Party’ more often than Peters did recently.

At least the National party has finally found a willing coalition partner, the Media Party, led by Guyon Espiner with Sean Plunket as the communications director.

All they need now is some candidates and a logo.

That’s very funny from someone who, sort of anonymously, is openly now doing the dirty work for a party that already has a logo and candidates.

Is he out of control? Or is this all with the approval of Peters? Either way it’s a political cluster fuck.

Three people want name suppression lifted, two don’t

Three of the four people charged by the SFO over donations to the National party want their identities revealed. That means one doesn’t.

And the Labour youth camp assaulter wants his identity kept secret, although the judge has hinted that suppression may end after the election.

NZ Herald: National Party donations accused want suppression lifted

Three of four men facing Serious Fraud Office charges over two $100,000 donations to the National Party have applied for a judge to lift their name suppression.

The change of heart comes after the men brought an urgent application for suppression on January 31, just two days after the SFO filed charges against the group.

Judge Eddie Paul granted all four temporary secrecy and said in his judgment the hearing was rushed through after 5pm in the Auckland District Court after journalists indicated they would identify the accused in the next 24 hours.

“It seems to me the Criminal Procedure Act anticipates that there is some restraint exercised by the media until the first appearance so that the proper exercise of defendant’s rights can be exercised. Publication now would, in my view, abrogate those rights and that simply cannot be permitted.”

However, three of the men have today asked a judge to revoke the order, according to a public relations firm hired by the trio.

“Three of the four defendants appearing in court next week following a Serious Fraud Office investigation into National Party donations have applied to have the name suppression orders associated with the case lifted,” a statement by Pead PR reads.

“Legal counsel for the three defendants confirmed the application is before the Auckland District Court and is currently being considered by a judge.”

Obviously that leaves one still wanting to remain unidentified. One could presume that’s the one charged with supplying false information to the SFO but that’s not necessarily so.

The Labour youth camp assault is back in court over ongoing name suppression.

NZ Herald: Young man fights for secrecy in Labour Party summer camp scandal

A young man who pleaded guilty to assaulting two others at a drunken Labour Party summer camp argues his identity should be kept forever hidden.

The High Court judge considering the appeal has also contemplated suppressing his name until after this year’s general election as the case is kicked about like a political football.

Suppression dependant on an election is a bit concerning.

The now 22-year-old was discharged without conviction but also declined permanent name suppression by Judge Russell Collins at his sentencing last November.

His lawyer Emma Priest today appealed the decision in the High Court at Auckland before Justice Christian Whata.

Priest said there had been “extreme media” coverage of the case, and the trial was “highly politicised”.

During last year’s trial, the young man reached a deal with prosecutors after facing five charges of indecent assault, which related to four people: two men and two women.

He pleaded guilty to two amended charges of assault under the Summary Offences Act for the events at the young Labour event near Waihi in February 2018.

The assault charges were for the allegations against the two men. The charges against the two women were dismissed.

But victims aren’t happy.

After the sentencing, one of the victims was interviewed by Newstalk ZB, which Priest said today was not a “fair statement of what happened in the court”.

In the interview, the victim said the case had became a political football.

“If I’ve gone through this without justice, what about everyone else that goes through the system?” he said.

“I would have liked for him to actually have been given a consequence that reflects his behaviour.”

But I’d be surprised if a suppression decision can be based on charges that were withdrawn.

But Priest said her client did not want to engage in defamation proceedings or go to the Media Council.

“He just wants it all to go away.”

Most people who have been in court due to illegal actions would like it all to ‘go away”.

However, Justice Whata told Priest: “What you’re asking the court to do is suppress something that is highly topical.

“Actually, that’s why we have freedom of speech.”

He said public discussion of the case might be deemed as unfair to the offender but could also be seen to be unfair to the complainants.

Justice Whata said he was conscious there should not be any perceived special treatment for anyone in political parties.

He contemplated continuing suppression until after this year’s election.

“We’ve got an election coming up, and dollars to doughnuts this will be all over that and his face associated with it.”

Justice Whata reserved his decision on suppression and said he couldn’t promise a result in the near future as he “gave it careful consideration”.

Sounds like the judge is tending towards lifting suppression, but is inclined towards kicking the can down the road for a while, possibly until after the election.

But this could have an effect on suppression in the above donations case, where I think it is important that everything is out in the open.

 

SFO charges involve two $100k National donations

Newsroom: Not one, but two $100k donations to National in court

Court charging documents released to the media by order of Auckland District Court Judge Edwin Paul today show that three of the four defendants – whose names are suppressed ahead of a hearing next week – each face two joint charges of deception over a sum of $100,000 donated to National in 2017 and $100,050 donated to the party in 2018. The maximum penalty if convicted on the charge is seven years’ imprisonment.

The fourth person is charged jointly with the others only over the second $100,050 donation – but also faces one charge of providing misleading information to the SFO.

The SFO’s wording for the joint deception charges says: “By deception or without claim of right directly or indirectly obtained for the National Party possession of, or control over, any property, namely a $100,050 [for the 2018 charge] donation made to the National Party between June 1, 2018 and June 8, 2018 (“the 2018 donation”) in circumstances where the identity of the donor was not disclosed in the National Party’s Annual Return of Party Donations.”

The SFO describes the offending over the donations in these words: “The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem whereby the … donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000 and transferred into bank accounts of eight different people before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party.”

For the fourth person’s charge of misleading the SFO, the charging document says: “In the course of complying with a requirement … of the Serious Fraud Act 1990 supplied information knowing it was false or misleading in a material particular.”

The SFO says of that charge that this defendant told investigators a $100,000 sum transferred to their account was a deposit for a building on another person’s property – when the money had been intended as a donation to the National Party. Further, in 2019 the defendant created, signed and back-dated a contract to that end, when no real contract for that work existed. The office alleges the made-up contract copied wording from an unrelated contract.

While none of the four charged are directly connected to the National Party (according to National), and it’s possible National are innocent recipients of the donations, at best this still doesn’t look good for National, and could still get much worse.

Will National pay both donations back? If so that will drain their coffers somewhat.

Bridges botches tax plan accouncement

Simon Bridges launched an economic plan today that was high on rhetoric but low on specifics. The lack of detail left a vacuum that has been quickly filled with a focus on a sloppy (at best) statement on average earnings tax rates.

In his speech:  National’s economic plan for 2020

We will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.

People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.

People on ‘the average wage’ have little or none of their earnings taxed at a rate of 33%. Many others have pointed out that average wage earners are taxed closer to 17% overall on earnings.

Alex Brae at The Spinoff:  Good news for Simon Bridges: his big tax idea is already happening

Bridges said during the announcement that in a future announcement he “will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.” So let that be announced.

And then he declared: “People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.”

So what is the average wage then? Stats NZ figures from last year put the median weekly income at $1016, which added up per annum comes to a shade under $53,000.

So what is the effective tax rate for someone on the median wage? Fortunately, IRD has a calculator which can tell you exactly this information. Here it is:

Calculated out, someone on the median wage ends up paying about 17% of their income in income tax.

There is another potential way of calculating it though, which could bring it closer to the mark. Stats NZ’s latest Quarterly Employment Survey shows an average income of $1,243 a week, or $64,650 a year. The difference is over ‘medians’ or ‘means’ – either the middle number selected in a set of numbers, or the sum total of a collection of numbers which is then divided by the number of numbers, which can be heavily skewed by upper outliers.

Such a figure would create a whole new share of tax being paid – you can see that here:


So in either case no earnings are taxed at 33%, let alone all of them.

This is either highly ignorant of Bridges, or the alternate assumption is that he has tried to deliberately mislead.

The National media release:  National’s economic plan for 2020 and beyond

National Leader Simon Bridges has today outlined National’s economic plan heading into election 2020.

“National understands the economy and how it impacts on New Zealanders day to day lives.”

Big whoops.

Either way it looks poor, and is an embarrassing way to try to present National as competent on economic matters.

Here are their bullet points.

Only National has a strong economic plan. This includes;

  • Keeping taxes low
  • Keeping debt low and being responsible managers of the economy
  • Growing incomes and lowering the cost of living
  • Investing more in core public services
  • Creating more jobs and opportunities for all New Zealanders.

The Measures we will use to hold ourselves accountable include;

  • Lifting New Zealand’s economic growth back to at least three per cent per annum
  • Lifting New Zealand’s GDP per capita growth to the top ten in the OECD
  • Reducing the after-tax income tax gap with Australia
  • Reducing the number of New Zealander’s who feel they have to leave for opportunities overseas
  • Reviving business confidence so that businesses feel like they can take more risks and create opportunities for you and your family.

“National will release a full package of policies leading up to the election which will address tax, regulation, infrastructure, small business and families.

A lot more care will need to be taken over the full package, but today’s announcement has set things off badly for Bridges.

Labour opposition leaders have been slammed in the past for fluffing economic policy announcements, by media and by National.

Bridges deserves similar scrutiny and criticism on this performance.

 

 

Edgeler on hate speech laws

There are calls for ‘hate speech’ laws in New Zealand, and also warnings against laws restricting speech that often includes extreme examples from another country.

We already have general laws that can be applied to what is considered to be hate speech, so do we need more specific laws? And if we do get hate speech laws that are used would more damage potentially be done than if we didn’t have them?

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler, who claims to be “among the most pro-free speech people I know”, discusses hate speech and related laws at Public Address: On the possibility of laws further regulating hate speech

His general views on freedom of speech and criminal consequences that can themselves be harmful.

My support for freedom of expression seems to come from a slightly different place than it does for most of people who are prominent in New Zealand in their advocate of free speech: I’m not sure I actually agree that free speech enables the marketplace of ideas, that good ideas will beat out bad ones by force of argument, but I generally oppose laws limiting speech anyway, because of a belief that the imposition of criminal consequences is often more harmful than the harms we might seek to prevent by passing criminal laws.

Not only is convicting someone harmful, but prosecuting someone is harmful. Arresting someone is harmful. Arguing that we need to pass a criminalising some conduct to “send a message” is good way to ensure I will reflexively oppose it. We should pass criminal laws because we consider that the conduct engaged in can be so bad, that when people engage in it we are willing to say to their children: you can’t have your parent around for a while, and your life should be made meaningfully worse in a way which increases your risk to society. Some conduct is that bad, but it’s a damn high test.

But we already have alternatives to criminal consequences.

Much of the general public understanding of the regulation of hate speech comes from high-ish profile examples from the United Kingdom, where criminal law has been the predominant tool. This is not the only option.

Defamation law limits speech, but does not impose criminal penalties. It is easy to imagine a law being enacted where hate speech was subject to civil damages, not fines or imprisonment. In fact, that is already the law in New Zealand.

There are at least two “hate speech” provisions in the Human Rights Act:

(1) a criminal offence around publishing threatening, abusive, or insulting material, with the intention of exciting hostility or ill-will against, or bringing into contempt or ridicule, any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins; and also

(2) a civil prohibition on publishing such words where they are likely to have that effect (this is an objective test, so the effect need not be intended, which is required for the criminal offence).

The criminal offence is punishable by conviction and a fine of up to $7000, or up to 3 months’ imprisonment. The civil prohibition is enforced by someone suing in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, for civil damages.

A recent example of the civil approach being used in a case:

This civil process was most recently used by Labour MP Louisa Wall, who sued Fairfax, the Marlborough Express and the Christchurch Press over the publication of two editorial cartoons by Al Nisbet found to be insulting to Māori and objectively offensive. The case, and an appeal from it, ultimately failed on the basis that the publication of the cartoons was not likely to excite hostility toward Māori. But they are useful to showing what laws we currently have, and that a criminal offence is not the only option.

It was claimed that the cartoon potentially harmed a group of people.

I can think of an example of another criminal option – criminal harassment law. In 2018 Dermot Nottingham was convicted on five counts of criminal harassment for causing significant harm to five people as well as families in online and real life campaigns against them. The sentence was increased on appeal – NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019].

But I have already said that I am not wholly opposed to all new regulation of hate speech, so the question I ought address is what sort of law might find my favour. It is helpful to consider what sorts of restrictions on freedom of expression there are, and which are justifiable.

When the state proposes to limit a right like freedom of expression, it ought to be able to point to a compelling government interest. Often, this is easy: the interest in prohibiting criminal activity is a compelling reason to make conspiracy to commit a crime illegal, especially where the crime is serious: getting together with others, and forming a common intention (through words alone) to murder someone, or to import methamphetamine, is illegal, even though the offending hasn’t even reached a stage of eg attempted murder.

Other times it is harder: our current defamation laws protect reputation even in the absence of other loss, and even in circumstances where publication has not in fact been shown to have diminished a person’s reputation.

Laws against threats are justified:

Back on the clearly justified side: people shouldn’t feel threatened, so laws against threats, and against stalking are justified.

This last example is helpful in a discussion around hate speech. A part of the problem of stalking is the sense of unease it creates, and the fear and worry it can induce in people. It can have real limit on a person’s ability to live their life. People who have been stalked, like people who have been in situations of domestic violence, can be affected in all facets of their life. Sometimes it could manifest in a fear of being out in public. Other times, it may require a person to limit their profile, for example, not engaging in political advocacy in a way in which they may like to, for fear of being recognised, and re-victimised.

Or threatening journalists to try to deter them from investigating issues of public interest.

Certain types of hate speech may have a similar effect. Much of this hate speech is already illegal, including death threats, and other threats of violence or of sexual assault. For some other harmful speech, it is less obviously so. Sometimes it can be prosecuted by general laws, but this can be inconsistent. It does not seem necessarily unreasonable that the law would act to ensure that people should are able to go about their lives.

In general that seems like a good test.

Examples are easy to imagine. A Muslim mother wishes to take her children to the beach on hot summer day. Her beliefs dictate that she should be modestly dressed in public, but she still wants to swim with her kids, so wears a burkini. At the beach, she’s verbally accosted by someone yelling “Go Back to Islam”, and other derogatory comments indicating she doesn’t belong in New Zealand. Now, maybe this is the type of speech we have to live with in a pluralistic society. But we shouldn’t pretend there is no harm. Her kids have heard it. Maybe they were worried for her safety, in the same way that some who hears a threat may fear for someone’s safety. Maybe they’re now scared to go to the beach, in case that bad man (or someone like him) is there.

Bullying can cause people to fear going to school, or to work.

This might well already be illegal. In 2013, a man was convicted for offensive language for crossing the street to tell two men “you’ve got Aids” and “you’re a poofter”. But the same law has also been used to convict someone for saying a war commemoration should commemorate the dead on both sides of the conflict and not just our dead, and a related law was used to arrest Tiki Taane for performing N.W.A.s protest song “Fuck the Police”. As much as there may be victims of hateful speech, there is also a risk there will be victims of hate speech laws.

There is the danger taking offence at relatively minor speech can be used as a way of trying to shut down views opinions that are merely disagreed with.

But even if we reject expanding hate speech laws, we should not ignore the fact that speech which causes someone to change their public life – not going to the beach because their kids are scared of being accosted; or driving to the supermarket, instead of walking because someone on the direct route yells out the n-word or the (other) f-word every time they walk past – is harmful.

Of course, we can address a lot of this harm without specific hate speech laws. And that may be the preferable approach: for example, instead of a specific hate speech law, you could instead expand the offence of intimidation to more clearly cover off speech which has the effect of diminishing public utility. Or we could expand civil laws – although that too comes with risk (is the threat of bankruptcy, and the lower standard of proof justified?). And, of course, the risks of criminalising hate speech may still be too great, but some of the factors that might mean I am less likely to oppose a proposal around a law designed to address hate speech where that law targets:

  • individualised speech, and not generalised speech
  • directed speech, and not non-directed speech
  • aggressive speech
  • speech which provably inhibits a person’s ability to be in public spaces, or participate in public life

Generalised group targets are different to personalised targets (but attacks against individuals can impact on others in a similar grouping of people).

What would cause me to oppose a new hate speech law? The fear than such a law would be disproportionately used against poor and brown people, like most public order offences are. And that still might be enough. It is a very real concern that anyone proposing a law in this area need to address. I’m not sure I’ve really seen anyone attempt it yet.

That’s a valid fear. But I think we also need to be careful in how far we might go with any free speech laws that target other demographics, like white male racists who think they are superior and attack specific ethnicities and religions. They can potentially do a lot of harm, but harm could be done with laws that are too draconian.

We don’t have much to worry about, yet. Concerns will depend on what our politicians may try to do in addressing hate speech laws in the future – but as long as laws don’t restrict the expression of hate of bad laws then we should be able to at least grizzle about them.

 

 

Links between NZ First and The BFD journalist threat agenda

David Garrett at Kiwiblog suggested I also post this here. Thanks for your advice David. Funny to see you playing interference for NZ First and The BFD.


In response to a post at Kiwiblog on The mute PM