The pre-budget political circus symptom of a bigger problem

The politically created and media stoked pre-budget circus over insecure Treasury data was a symptom of a growing problem.

Treasury, the Government (in particular Grant Robertson), and the National opposition all came out looking worse to the public.

The circus demonstrated how out of touch with ordinary New Zealand politicians and the media are getting.

Bernard Hickey suggests: Our political metabolic rate is way, way too fast

No one comes out the Budget 2019 ‘hack’ with any credit, Bernard Hickey argues. The ‘scandal’ is symptomatic of an accelerating and more extremist form of politics in a social media-driven age of snap judgments and tribal barracking.

I turned on Radio New Zealand’s First at 5 programme, expecting and wanting to hear the latest burp and fart in the saga.

Instead, I heard presenter Indira Stewart asking some year 13 students at Tamaki College in South Auckland about what they wanted from the Budget, and comments from the tuck shop lady Nanny Barb about the kids at the school arriving hungry and needing breakfast. Listen to it here.

It stopped me in my tracks.

Year 13 students Lu Faaui, Uili Tumanuvao, Sela Tukia, Francis Nimo and Efi Gaono thanked Nanny Barb for their meal. They talked about what they wanted from the Budget. They had been forced to move out of state houses in Glen Innes (Tamaki Regeneration Company) to South Auckland and their parents were working multiple jobs to pay for private rentals.

They were paying $40 a week to travel across Auckland each day to Tamaki College.

“Just like Sela said, it’s forced us to move out of GI (Glen Innes) and yeah my family just decides to cope with it. It’s made my Dad work even more hours. My mum gets two jobs, my sister gets two jobs. I mean, money is money you know,” said Lu.

What they didn’t care about

They didn’t care about how an Opposition researcher had done 2,000 searches on a Treasury website to try to find Budget 2019 information four days ahead of its release.

Or that Simon Bridges had then recreated 22 pages of Budget information and released it to the public to highlight Treasury’s IT system flaws and embarrass the Government. They didn’t care or even know that the Treasury Secretary had jumped to the conclusion the information was ‘hacked’ and needed to be referred to the police.

Or that Grant Robertson had made the mistake of trusting Makhlouf and leapt to lash back at Bridges by suggesting illegal activity. Or that Bridges had then accused Robertson of lying and the Treasury of being incompetent, and that it was a deliberate smear and a threat to democracy.

They did not hear the Opposition Leader jump the shark by saying: “This is the most contemptible moment in New Zealand politics.”

Really? Worse than Muldoon outing Colin Moyle? Or the Dirty Politics revelations? Or Jami-Lee Ross’ allegations?

All those teenagers wanted was affordable and convenient housing and transport so they could easily go to school and their parents didn’t have to work so hard.

That sort of thing is reality for many people who don’t care for posturing and point scoring, which turns most people off politics.

This is how politics works now

If I had time and they were still interested in talking to me, I’d explain how politicians and the media operate now.

I’d show them my twitter feed and how news and commentary have ramped up into a blur of headlines, memes, click-bait, extreme views, abuse and a desperate game of trying to grab the attention of a distracted media and whip their own social media bubbles into a frenzy.

The best example of how this increased metabolic rate of politics has warped the public debate is to point to what has happened in America and Europe, where increasingly polarised politicians shout at each other from their own bubbles of supporters and nothing changes. Meanwhile, other forces keep screwing the scrum of democracy to further their own interests.

The end result is a disengaged public, policy paralysis, a lot of noise and not much light.

It isn’t unusual for politicians to be out of touch with ordinary people living ordinary lives.

But the media a real concern – they are supposed to shine a light on politicians and Parliament, hold them to account and inform the public.

too often they seem too intent on lighting the fires, or at least providing the petrol and inflaming things way out of proportion to their importance.

I understand how it happened and I’ve been living in it now for a decade. A political firmament driven by social media, sound bites, cheap shots and one-day-wonder stories is not going to solve the problems of South Auckland or Tamaki.

Everyone should take a chill pill, stop jumping to conclusions for a quick political hit and instead think beyond the beltway to the real world and long term concerns of citizens.

What’s the chances of this happening? I see no sign of it.

 

Treasury refer claimed hacking to police following budget leak

The budget leak publicised by National yesterday has got a lot murkier, with Treasury now saying they have been hacked. The matter has been referred to the police, but Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges is unrepentant for trying to hijack Thursday’s budget announcement.

The leak looks embarrassing for the Government, and also for Treasury, but I think the leak stunt also reflects very poorly on Bridges and National. Bridges has demanded that Minister of Finance Grant Robertson resign over the leak.

1 News: Budget 2019 leaks by National came after Treasury was ‘deliberately and systematically hacked’

Earlier today the National Party leaked what it claimed were highly secretive details of the Government’s wellbeing Budget, due to be delivered on Thursday.

Treasury has confirmed in a statement it was the source of National’s Budget 2019 leaks today after its “systems were deliberately and systematically hacked”.

Confirming the hack this evening Treasury released the following statement:

“Following this morning’s media reports of a potential leak of Budget information, the Treasury has gathered sufficient evidence to indicate that its systems have been deliberately and systematically hacked.

“The Treasury has referred the matter to the Police on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre.

“The Treasury takes the security of all the information it holds extremely seriously. It has taken immediate steps today to increase the security of all Budget-related information and will be undertaking a full review of information security processes.

“There is no evidence that any personal information held by the Treasury has been subject to this hacking.”

Responding to confirmation of the the hack, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said is a statement:

“This is extremely serious and is now a matter for the Police. We have contacted the National Party tonight to request that they do not release any further material, given that the Treasury said they have sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systematic hack and is now subject to a Police investigation.”

But Bridges continued on the attack:

If it turns out that budget documents were hacked from Treasury will Bridges resign for using hacked material to try to undermine the Government?

 

Mallard sparks chaos and consternation, alleged Parliament predator stood down

Yesterday morning the Speaker Trevor Mallard sparked consternation when he said that the Francis report suggested there was a sexual predator in Parliament. There was widespread reaction in media, and behind the scenes party leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges met with each other and with the Speaker. By the end of the day a staffer was stood down.

Stuff: Speaker Trevor Mallard believes bullying report alleges rapes in Parliament

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says some allegations made to a review into bullying and harassment at Parliament amounted to rape.

Debbie Francis’ review included interviews with employees, past and present. Five reported sexual assault to her and all the allegations involved male on female violence. “Three of the alleged incidents disclosed to me in interviews were in my view extremely serious and some appeared to be part of a multi-year pattern of predatory behaviour,” she said.

Speaking to Radio NZ on Wednesday, Mallard said his impression from the report was that one person was involved in the three extremely serious incidents.

“I don’t know that this is an MP, and if it’s not an MP then it will be the Parliamentary Service, of Office of the Clerk, or Ministerial Services chief executives who will be the individuals who will take leadership.” Mallard said he hoped any one involved in such an incident would go to the police or Rape Crisis, or other support agencies.

“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said.

Asked if people had been raped in Parliament, he said: “that is the impression I get from the report, yes.” The impression he had was that It happened within the past 4½ years.

“Clearly it’s an intolerable situation.”

A number of people spoke up about how intolerable they thought the situation was.

One pointed claim on social media was that if there was a suspected murder or drug pusher loose in Parliament the police would be called in immediately.

1 News: Paula Bennett calls for police to be involved ‘immediately’ over alleged rapist at Parliament

Speaking to media later this morning after the Mallard interview on Breakfast Ms Bennett said there was a “duty of care to people working in this place that police are involved immediately”.

“There are people here feeling unsafe, uncomfortable and nervous at the moment, particularly after the Speaker’s comments this morning.”

“In light of the Speaker’s comments this morning about there being alleged sexual assault and rape happening for staff members and others on premises here in Parliament…. I think there is a duty of care for Debbie Francis and the Speaker to have police involved immediately so those allegations can be followed up and the safety of people working here be put first.”

“They have a responsibility to make sure if there is someone here that has alleged criminal activity, this is not just a bit of inappropriate behaviour, the Speaker is alleging a very serious criminal act, I’m not convinced that everything is being done that should be.”

RNZ: Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

Political party leaders held a meeting with Speaker Trevor Mallard this afternoon, following his comments to RNZ this morning that he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

After the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said she was very concerned when she heard Mr Mallard’s comments on Wednesday morning.

“We have to ensure that the people who work with us are working in a safe place,” Ms Ardern said.

“Ultimately that’s the job of the Speaker.

Labour MP and party whip Kiri Allan had said after the meeting if there were allegations of rape then police should be involved.

She said discussions were held between Labour female MPs and “there will be further action taken by our leadership”.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said if the allegations of rape were true then it was very serious.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the allegation of rape was substantiated then “it’s right for the appropriate action to be taken”.

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he couldn’t talk about the meeting with the Speaker and other party leaders but said Mr Mallard had assured them that he’d taken “immediate steps to secure the campus”.

A bizarre report: Winston Peters says alleged Parliamentary rapist is not MP, staffer

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the alleged serial sexual offender at Parliament is not an MP or Parliamentary staffer.

“It is not a parliamentarian and it is not a parliamentary staffer – that’s number one – all the parties are clear on this matter,” Peters said on Wednesday.

“You just can’t go out and have an allegation where everybody’s now under scrutiny when none of them should have been.”

When asked what that’s based on, Peters said: “It’s based on going and finding out, because I wasn’t prepared to hear what I heard this morning.”

Peters appears to have been wrong.

By late afternoon (RNZ): Parliamentary service staffer stood down after sexual assault allegation

Speaker Trevor Mallard said a female staff member came forward following his interview with RNZ where he said he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

The woman made a complaint to the Parliamentary Service general manager and the matter is now an employment investigation.

“I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.

“Because the matter is now under investigation as opposed to being part of a review, it’s not appropriate into further detail,” Mr Mallard said.

Parliamentary Services said the alleged incident had been previously investigated but, after a direct approach from the complainant to the newly appointed GM of the Service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, he reopened the investigation today.

It said the original investigation was not into allegations of rape.

RNZ:  Speaker accepts some responsibility for chaotic way rape allegations emerged

Mr Mallard said he accepted it would have been better had the day not played out as it did.

“I have some responsibility for that, and I accept it. The main thing now is to minimise the further trauma that was caused.”

He has urged anyone who has been assaulted to go to the police or Parliamentary Service.

So a clumsy start to the day by Mallard, followed by chaos, but sort of sorted out in the end.

There was probably no tidy or easy way of dealing with this. At least what Mallard started precipitated fairly rapid action.

 

 

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passes first reading vote

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passed it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday by a vote of 119-1.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw:

“This Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It also puts in legislation the requirement to develop a national adaptation plan to address the impacts of climate change.”

The National Party vote for the Bill to proceed, but expressed ‘major concerns’, and didn’t guarantee support right through the process.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.”


Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passes first stage in Parliament

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament with near unanimous support.

“Today’s vote across political party lines to pass the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill through its first reading signals strong bipartisan support for most aspects of this proposed climate legislation,” the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said.

“Now New Zealanders have the opportunity to make their submissions to select committee on what they think the final shape of this key legislation should look like,” James Shaw said.

“This Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It also puts in legislation the requirement to develop a national adaptation plan to address the impacts of climate change.

“I appreciate the broad support the Bill has received in Parliament to take it to select committee.

“I particularly want to acknowledge the National Party’s willingness to continue in the spirit of good faith with its support to send the Bill to select committee.

“I acknowledge that there are differing views on aspects of what’s been drafted. Select committee is the chance where people can put those views and argue their merits. I urge New Zealanders to do so, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of that process,” James Shaw said.


Shaw has aimed to get wide consensus across Parliament for this bill, which he sees as essentially to make enduring changes towards ‘zero carbon’.

This bill is a big deal for Shaw and the Greens, and also for Jacinda Ardern who has saikd that climate change is one of the big issues of the present time.

The current National party position:


National supports Climate Change Bill, but with major concerns

National has decided to support the Climate Change Response Act Amendment Bill through its first reading, but with serious concerns around the proposed methane target and the potential economic impact, Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.

“National supports many elements of the Bill including establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, a framework for reducing New Zealand’s emissions and a framework for climate change adaptation.

“We have serious concerns about the target level that has been set.

“The proposed 24 – 47 per cent reduction in methane is not reflective of scientific advice and is too much too fast. A range of scientific reports have suggested agriculture would contribute no further warming with a 10 – 22 per cent reduction, which would be a more reasonable target.

“This is exactly the sort of decision the newly formed Climate Change Commission has been set up to consider and provide advice on. Unfortunately the one thing the Commission should be advising on is the one thing they haven’t been asked to do.

“The Regulatory Impact Statement for the Bill raises some big concerns around the economic implications for New Zealanders.

“In total, $300 billion is forecast to be shaved off the New Zealand economy between now and 2050, New Zealand’s economy will be nine per cent smaller under this target compared with the existing 50 per cent reduction target set by National.

“This figure already banks on new technology such as a ‘methane vaccine’ that allows farmers to reduce emissions. It assumes electric vehicles make up 95 per cent of our fleet, renewable electricity makes up 98 per cent of all electricity supply and 20 per cent of our dairy, sheep and beef land is converted to forestry.

“Without these assumptions, forecast costs quickly double or even quadruple.

“We need to reduce emissions and support global efforts to avoid climate change, but we also need to be open and honest about the potential costs of doing so.

“National is aware that we are talking about the future standard of living for us all, so we’re calling on the Environment Select Committee, who will now take the Bill forward, to consult with New Zealand’s science community and focus its attention on understanding an appropriate target level for New Zealand.”


I think that’s a fairly responsible approach from National – supporting the aims in general but questioning aspects of concern.

Francis Report – Bullying and Harasssment by the Public

From the Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament:


BULLYING AND HARASSMENT BY THE PUBLIC

Threats and violence are not uncommon

According to the online survey results, 24% of respondents have experienced bullying or harassment from members of the public. This is most often the case for Members, Ministers, and the staff in their electorate or community offices.

It was common for Members to describe threats of physical violence – often via letter or social media – from constituents or members of the public, including death threats.

Six Members told me they had experienced some form of direct physical violence, during a protest in one case, in their electorate offices or at public meetings. Three of these incidents were described as having a racial element. All six reported good post incident support from parliamentary security staff and Police.

Members also showed me a variety of social media or written communications from members of the public which were threatening and abusive. Women MPs showed me sexist and racist threats that shocked me.

Although some of the threats I was shown had been escalated to the parliamentary security staff and Police, many of what were in my view very concerning communications had not. When I mentioned harmful digital communications offences, a typical response was: “I could report it, but we get so much of this stuff. I’d look weak. It’s par for the course.”

Almost all Members with whom I spoke were vigilant about their physical security. “I’m careful about constituents, especially the ones known to be mentally unwell,” said one. “I still represent them and want the best for them, but it can be frightening to deal with the obsessives.”

Most Members saw this “as a part of the job we just have to manage. We are here to serve people, after all.”

Several Members reported concerns about their staff and families’ exposure to fixated members of the public. “It’s often the same people and they’re pretty well known to authorities” said one, “but you’re always worrying if today’s the day they’ll go too far.”

There are parallels between these findings and those of a 2014 survey of Members in which 87% of the Members responding (with an overall response rate of 80%) reported harassment in one modality or another.17 This survey was the basis for consideration by Parliament’s leaders of a fixated threat assessment service.

Those that fixate on Members and other public figures have high rates of mental illness. This led to the initial development in 2006 of a Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) in the United Kingdom based on communications to the Royal family and later expanded to Parliament. The service was then implemented using a similar model in Queensland and now all states in Australia either have or are in the process of developing such services.

In New Zealand the Fixated Threat Consultative Group was established as a pilot in 2017. This had Police and mental health professionals coming together to assess referrals coming from parliamentary security staff and then considering potential interventions. This pilot service had limited capacity for communications, education and training. A full service, which will comprise Police, a mental health nurse, and a forensic psychiatrist, is planned to start on 1 July 2019.

Many staff in electorate offices and in Members’ and Ministers’ Wellington offices had experienced calls from suicidal callers. One said: “it’s harrowing…I do my best, but you never really know if you did right by them.” One Member worried that: “It’s my EA who gets these awful calls. She’s only [age]. Where does she go for care and support when all this gets too much?”

It was not uncommon for Members and staff in electorate offices to be lower key about such matters than perhaps they should be. One staff member said, “There’s just no way to deal with abusive contact from the public. It happens every single day.”
In one electorate office I asked staff if they were on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviours from the public. One staff member said to me, after a pause for reflection: “a bit…do death threats count?”

Even though it was clear in this context that staff were aware of the avenues available for support, including going to Police, I formed the impression that some staff had developed an overly hightolerance for threats.

After the Christchurch mosque shootings, I received several submissions from electorate office staff around the country who felt unsafe, even though their offices had recently been strengthened in terms of physical security. Two said that with the (then) heightened threat level, they were seeing members of the public on an appointment-only basis and: “This feels safer… maybe we should always do this”.


Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

While MPs and parliament has set a bad example of behaviour for a long time this part of the report is a bad reflection on New Zealand society.

I think that forums like Your NZ have a responsibility to work towards better standards of behaviour.

“It has always happened” and “others do it” are not reasons or excuses for bad behaviour, they should be reasons for needing to work towards improving behaviour in political discussions.

Francis Report – bullying, harasssment and the media

From the Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament:


BULLYING, HARASSMENT AND THE MEDIA

Members of the Press Gallery, while employees of media agencies, also work on precinct. Although Press Gallery staff are largely out of scope for this Review, the parliamentary agencies have health, safety and wellbeing obligations with regard to them.

It is also important that all those working in the parliamentary workplace comply with health and safety legislation as it relates to them in their interactions with others in the workplace.

A significant number of respondents – not all of them Members – commented on what they perceived as inappropriate behaviour by members of the Press Gallery or media more generally.

These respondents understood that onsite journalists, in the words of one: “…need to be really assertive, in their role working on behalf of the people of New Zealand to ensure an open democracy”.

But some felt that journalists in Parliament sometimes:
“Cross the line into disrespect in pursuit of clickbait. Their behaviour can further fuel the overall   environment of gossip and intrigue.”

One alleged, in a comment typical of several: “Gallery behaviour is unacceptable… they come in there perfectly nice people and then adopt this persona of the classic bully. You can watch it happen.”


Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

Political journalists do difficult but important jobs. They have a responsibility to inform the public of what happens in Parliament, and to hold politicians and the public service to account.

Most are also under pressure to keep their jobs, and to deliver news and views that attract viewers, readership, clicks and advertising.

They can potentially make or break political careers, and can influence elections.

They are also in positions of relative power, which can be abused.

They only get a brief mention in the Francis Report, but should take the criticisms seriously.

Independent Review reveals bullying and harassment in Parliament

The ‘Francis report’, the final report of the External Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament, has been released. I think that it was well known that there were some serious problems with behaviour in Parliament. This report confirms it.

Reviewer Debbie Francis:

This Report traverses sensitive matters within one of the most complex and demanding workplaces in New Zealand. The story goes as much to the health of our democracy and New Zealanders’ pride in their Parliament as it does to matters of employment, health, safety and workplace culture.

My findings need to be addressed with care and the solutions recommended here are complex and wide-ranging. For these reasons I encourage readers to take the time to read the Report in its entirety.

The Story in a Nutshell

  • Bullying and harassment are systemic in the parliamentary workplace.
  • The story is complex, involving harmful behaviour by and between staff, managers, Members,
    media and the public.
  • There are unique features of the workplace that create risk factors for bullying and harassment,
    including:
    – A high-intensity culture
    – Lack of investment in leadership development
    – Unusual and complex employment arrangements
    – Largely operational, rather than strategic, workforce management
    – Health, safety and wellbeing policies and systems that are not yet mature
    – Barriers to making complaints; and
    – Inadequate pastoral care.
  • Unacceptable conduct is too often tolerated or normalised.
  • The identities of many accused are an open secret, and there are alleged serial offenders.
  • A core perceived problem is low accountability, particularly for Members, who face few sanctions
    for harmful behaviour.
  • The leadership roles and profiles of Members, Ministers and chief executives provide them
    opportunities to be important role models by:
    – Setting and modeling expectations for dignified and respectful conduct
    – Holding colleagues and staff to account for their conduct
    – Investing further in the development of leaders and managers
    – Reforming the employment model, professionalising the workforce and further investing in
    strategic human resource management
    – Establishing new independent bodies and processes for complaints and investigations; and
    – Extending the provision of pastoral care.
  • The changes needed to the culture of the parliamentary workplace are comprehensive and
    complex. They will require skilled implementation and must be sustained and monitored over a
    period of years.

Some complaints have been classified as ‘extremely serious’. Francis on about what complainants can do now:

This Report is based on the patterns and themes that emerged from these submissions, interviews and discussions. I am reporting here on the perceptions of participants, where I found consistent patterns in their responses.

As will become clear, I received many accusations of harmful behaviour made against individuals, staff, managers and Members, some of whom were regarded by complainants as serial offenders.

My role as reviewer was not to investigate any new or historic complaints – as per the Terms of Reference. However, any such new or historic complaints are not prevented from being progressed by complainants in the appropriate avenues open to them.

I have ensured that any respondents who indicated they wished to take steps outside the Review process regarding any such concerns were provided with information about the avenues for that, and the support available to them, in order to do so.

Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

Speaker Trevor Mallard:

The Speaker said today “This review was commissioned to establish if the parliamentary workplace is a place where harmful behaviour occurs, and in some cases is supported by the system. The report confirms this harmful behaviour occurs, and recommends changes that can be made to ensure the system does not enable or support this behaviour.”

“Together with the agencies and all political parties, I am committed to making changes to ensure the parliamentary workplace is free from harmful behaviour. We will now consider the report’s recommendations. The issues in the report will not be a quick fix and any solutions will need to have input from those affected and address the systemic issues.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“The findings of this report are rightly being taken very seriously. Parliament, like any other workplace, should be free from bullying and harassment and we need to make improvements.

“In response to the report, I have asked to receive regular reports from the Department of Internal Affairs and Parliamentary Services on how offices are working generally as well as any exceptional reports where an issue needs to be raised with me promptly.

“I will also share this information with the Labour Party to ensure a joined-up approach in any action that may be taken as a result of these reports.

“While I acknowledge we work in an environment of long hours and pressure, excuses won’t be tolerated.

“At Cabinet and Caucus I have reiterated my expectation that we treat one another with dignity and respect”.

Parliament has set a very poor example of behaviour. It won’t be easy to change what has too often been an abusive and toxic environment.

 

MP requires protection after escalation in death threats, but abuse continues

Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman now requires a security escort after an escalation in threats being made against her.

She has attracted a lot of attention in social media, and some of it from bad to despicable. I get it that some people don’t like some of what she champions and proposes, but there is no excuse for the levels of abuse she has been subjected to.

Even after the police protection was publicised there were people on Twitter blaming her for attracting abuse, and making excuses for abuse.

RNZ: Green MP Golriz Ghahraman gets security escort

Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman will have a security escort with her whenever she leaves Parliament after her security risk was escalated by police.

Ms Ghahraman said it came after a Newshub story about white supremacy revealed she was being talked about in a dangerous manner.

Her safety was put at further risk after comments made by the ACT leader David Seymour that she was a “real menace to freedom in this country”, she said.

“As you can imagine, it’s distressing to have secret white supremacist groups talking about you and to have that escalated to the level of the mainstream and I think it kind of gives us all a feeling of how those targeted communities feel.”

However, Mr Seymour disputed her safety was put at risk by his comments.

“She’s someone who gives back as good, if not a lot more, than she gets in political debate.”

Seymour has got himself into a precarious situation with this. He has helped feed to abusers and conspiracy theorists.

But he said nobody in this country deserved to be threatened with violence and no MP should have to shrink from political debate because some people were thugs and bullies.

He should take a good look at the rhetoric and escalating abuse that he has become a part of.

Scott Hamilton RTM @SikotiHamiltonR:

Seymour’s words about resonated with a conspiracy theory that’s been growing amongst conservative Pakeha since March the 15th. Visitors to the popular facebook page of former Act adman John Ansell can see the conspiracy in full bloom. Ansell & co believe that a slow moving coup d’etat began on March the 15th.

As bizarre as it sounds, they consider the atrocities of that day a ‘false flag operation’, designed to legitimise the elimination of democracy by Ardern’s ‘communist’ government. Ansell & co think they’re targets.

When Seymour called a menace to freedom, b/c she has been advocating law changes after March the 15th, his words were treated by Ansell & his fellow paranoics as further evidence of a coup d’etat & coming civil war. Seymour’s feeding some worrying delusions

There are already claims that Ghahraman requiring protection is a set up as part of a conspiracies that have been spreading – for more see Wacky conspiracies being pushed at Whale Oil.

@fhill16n Twitter:

Just to build on the conspiracy angle I see there’s a theory going around that Golriz’s need for security is being faked / overstated and is being driven by the “left-wing media” and our “communist government”

If anyone tries any of that sort of ‘speculation’ or conspiracy mongering here without any evidence to back up what they claim they will find they are not welcome here.

Since 15 March there has been a noticeable lift in abuse and making excuses for abuse.

Ghahraman has brought some criticism on herself with some of what she has claimed and proposed, but that is no reason to excuse an escalation in abuse. This is a worrying  in New Zealand politics.

 

Drug driver testing consultation by Government

Last week National MP Nick Smith tried to get a members’ bill trying to address drug driving fast tracked in Parliament.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill to be set down as the first members’ order of the day on the next members’ day on 22 May.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard intervened himself (an unusual move from the Speaker who is supposed to be neutral), and when Smith reacted in response sent Smith from Parliament. This escalated when Smith over-reacted and was then officially ‘named’ by the Speaker and copped a 1 day ban from Parliament.

See Nick Smith named and suspended from Parliament for “grossly disorderly conduct”

This week the Government decided to do something about drug driver testing themselves.


Safety focus in improved drug driver testing

Improving the safety of all road users is the focus of a new public consultation document on the issue of drug driver testing.

Plans for public consultation on options to improve the drug driver testing process have been announced by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

Julie Anne Genter said: “While drug drivers already face serious criminal penalties if caught, the current law makes it hard for Police to carry out higher numbers of tests that could deter drug driving.

“And unlike with alcohol testing, drug testing comes with some unique challenges, which is why we want expert and public input into the design process.   For example, unlike alcohol breath tests, drug tests can only detect the presence of drugs or medication. They cannot test if a driver is impaired.

“We know the public wants to be involved in the development of legislation that will impact them. Consultation will ensure changes to the current system incorporate the needs and wishes of New Zealanders.

“A considered approach to developing enhanced drug driver testing will mean we can develop a robust testing system that’s grounded in evidence and best practice. We need to do this thoughtfully,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“Irrespective of whether someone is impaired by alcohol, medication or recreational drugs, they shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” says Stuart Nash.

“Last year, 71 people were killed in crashes where a driver was found to have drugs or medication in their system which may have impaired their driving.  That compares to 109 deaths where a driver was found to have alcohol in their system.

“We need to do more to stop dangerous drivers getting behind the wheel and enforcement on our roads is a key part of this.  However Police cannot do this on their own. Every one of us must challenge dangerous driving behaviours when we see them,” Mr Nash said.

Consultation will take place over the next six weeks, concluding on Friday 28 June. The Government will be looking to confirm its options at the end of this year.

The Government is looking for feedback on:

  • the methods that could be used to screen and test for drugs
  • the circumstances in which a driver should be tested
  • what drugs should be tested for
  • how an offence for drug driving should be dealt with by Police.

Ministry of Transport:  Drug Driving

Changes to the drug driver testing and enforcement system in New Zealand

The Government is considering making changes to New Zealand’s drug driver testing and enforcement regime. Research shows that many illicit and prescription drugs have the potential to impair driving, and studies show that New Zealanders are using those drugs and driving.

Addressing drug impaired driving is an important objective if we are to make our roads safer – since 2013, the number of road deaths in New Zealand has increased by nearly 50 percent. Drug driving is making an increasing contribution to this statistic.

The Government has decided that it is time to reconsider our approach to drug driving and the public should be involved in that conversation.

A Discussion Document has been developed to facilitate a conversation about possible approaches to improving our drug driving system. The consultation seeks feedback about:

  • How we can be better at detecting drug drivers and deterring drug driving?
  • The circumstances in which drivers should be tested for drugs?
  • How to decide which drugs to test for?
  • What evidence is required to establish a drug driving offence?
  • How we should deal with people caught drug driving?

Download the Discussion Document [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Consultation process

The Ministry requests written submissions and they must arrive by 5.00 pm Friday 28 June 2019 to be considered. Submissions can be forwarded to the Ministry at:

drugdrivingconsultation@transport.govt.nz

Also:

Mallard “best and worst of Speakers”

Some of what Trevor Mallard has done as Speaker is innovative and relatively effective, but he remains dogged by his political bias and his personal baggage with some MPs, which seem unlikely to change.

Audrey Young: Is it time for fresh challenges for Speaker Trevor Mallard?

Mallard’s performance as Speaker this week has not done the Government any favours.

He is seen as simply part of the Government and the Government is seen to be throwing out National MPs – leader Simon Bridges and Nick Smith – from Parliament.

It has been so bad, that if Ardern is casting around for a capable minister to add to her ranks for the June reshuffle, maybe she should consider bringing Mllard back into the ministry.

Mallard was one of the most highly valued and competent ministers in the Helen Clark.

Mallard is a problem for the Government as Speaker, and he would add something that labour lacks in the current Cabinet – experience. I wonder how he would do as Minister of Housing, or Health. The current ministers are struggling to perform adequately.

While Mallard also has ample experience for his role as Speaker he also has a history of animosities that he seems unable to separate from the job.

I have covered Parliament under seven Speakers and Mallard is both the best and the worst, rolled into one.

When he’s good, he’s brilliant, but on a bad day he’s a House-wrecker.

The good:

On a good day (and there have been two in the past six sitting days) question time can be brilliant.

Because of the rules Mallard instituted, the flow of questions and answers is seamless and his intervention is evident only when he insists on a fuller answer.

He listens to questions and answers very carefully. he does not give diatribes when explaining why he has made a decision.

With oversight over written parliamentary questions, he has also demanded a better standard from ministers and twice this year has awarded National an extra 12 questions because of sloppy written answers from Shane Jones and David Clark.

The bad:

Mallard at his worst is when he abuses the inherent power of the chair by punishing Opposition MPs and then punishes them for reacting under extreme provocation.

That is how Simon Bridges came to being kicked out.

Bridges was kicked out for calling Mallard “unprofessional”. Under Parliament’s rules it was not an unfair punishment. But Bridges was right: Mallard had been unprofessional.

What is happening is that Mallard is giving himself licence to insult MPs but as soon as they bite back they are punished.

Mallard insulted Bridges several times on Tuesday, demanding he knew show “leadership” at a time he knew Bridges was facing leadership pressure. The apparent intention was to humiliate Bridges.

The absolute worst:

However Mallard was at his absolute worst when he refused to put leave on behalf of Nick Smith to give priority to a Bill next members’ day that provided roadside drug testing of drivers.

Smith wanted to know why and Mallard said that he himself had objected. That is unprecedented for the so-called umpire.

When objected, not unfairly, Mallard ordered him to leave the house.

As Speaker, Mallard has power, and he doesn’t want that challenged even when he misuses it.

When Smith abused Mallard on the way out Mallard ordered him back in and named him, suspending him from all proceedings for a day.

The abuse hurled at Mallard by Smith warranted serious punishment, but Mallard’s refusal to put leave was extreme provocation and an abuse of his position.

In contrast, Mallard is quite lenient with government MPs, like Winston Peters.

At times he also appears to protect the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

Mallard has the experience to be a good speaker, and has made worthwhile improvements to how things are done, but he has always had a problem with his temperament, and that is not easily resolved.

Would Ardern consider moving him from the Speaker’s chair to a ministerial responsibility? Would Mallard want to?