66.4% vote yes to amend abortion law in ‘quiet revolution ‘ in Ireland

The final result in the Irish referendum on abortion:

The Eight Amendment to the Republic of ireland’s constitution was introduced after a referendum in 1983. It “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right“.

Just one constituency, Donegal, voted against change with No 51.9% to Yes 48.1%.

The next closest was Cavan-Monaghan with No 44.5% to yes 55.5%.

The Yes vote in the ten Dublin constituencies ranged from 73.1% to 78.5%.

BBC –  Ireland abortion referendum: PM hails ‘quiet revolution’

The Irish prime minister has hailed his country’s “quiet revolution” as early results point to a “resounding” vote for overturning the abortion ban.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after exit polls suggested a landslide vote in favour of reforming the law.

“The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country,” he said.

Mr Varadkar, who campaigned in favour of liberalisation, said: “What we’ve seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years.”

The taoiseach (prime minister) added that Irish voters “trust and respect women to make the right choices and decisions about their own healthcare”.

BBC – Timeline: Ireland and abortion

1861 – Abortion is first banned in Ireland in 1861 by the Offences Against the Person Act, and stays in place after Irish independence.

1983 – The Eighth Amendment to the Republic’s constitution, or Article 40.3.3, is introduced after a referendum.

1992 – The X case – a 4-year-old suicidal rape victim is initially prevented by the courts from travelling to England to terminate her pregnancy. The ruling prompts demonstrations by both anti-abortion and pro-choice campaigners across Ireland, in New York and London. However, the ruling is later overturned by Ireland’s Supreme Court. It says the credible threat of suicide is grounds for an abortion in Ireland.

In November that year, as a result of the X case and the judgement in the Supreme Court appeal, the government put forward three possible amendments to the constitution.

The Thirteenth Amendment said the abortion ban would not limit freedom of travel from Ireland to other countries for a legal abortion. It passed Yes 62.39%, No 37.61%.

The Fourteenth Amendment said Irish citizens had the freedom to learn about abortion services in other countries. It passed Yes 59.88% to No 40.12%.

The Twelfth Amendment proposed that the possibility of suicide was not a sufficient threat to justify an abortion. It failed No 65.35% to Yes 34.65%.

Turnout 68%.

2002 – Another referendum, asking if the threat of suicide as a ground for legal abortion should be removed. Yes 49.58%, No 50.52% (turnout 42.89%).

2010 – After three women take a case against Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights rules the state has failed to provide clarity on the legal availability of abortion in circumstances where the mother’s life is at risk.

2013 – Abortion legislation is again amended to allow terminations under certain conditions – the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is signed into law. It legalises abortion when doctors deem that a woman’s life is at risk due to medical complications, or at risk of taking her life. It also introduces a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for having or assisting in an unlawful abortion.

2015 – The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommends a referendum on abortion, saying it is concerned at Ireland’s “highly restrictive legislation” and calls for a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

2016 – The United Nations Human Rights Committee says that Ireland’s ban on abortion subjected a woman carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

2017 – A Citizens’ Assembly votes to recommend the introduction of unrestricted access to abortion. It votes 64% to 36% in favour of having no restrictions in early pregnancy.

2018 – In March, Irish Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy signs an order to set the date for an abortion referendum.

And in big reversals of the 1992 referendum and Twelfth Amendment vote in 2002 the people of Ireland have voted resoundingly to modernise their abortion law.


New Zealand’s abortion law is still archaic but it is virtually ignored in practice. Time this is properly addressed – perhaps we should have an abortion referendum here too.

Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism

This week’s budget highlights a big contrast between what Winston Peters has said and what he does. Talking the bucking the system bronco talk in opposition, but trotting along with the establishment for a dividend of baubles.

In past years Peters speeches has condemned National, capitalism and ‘neoliberalism’, but this week’s budget has been described as business as usual, National-lite and a continuation of neo-liberalism.

Not that this sort of duplicity will bother Peters – he has a history of talking a big change talk, but is walking a same old walk.

Winston promised radical change but is helping to deliver more of the same old. He campaigns as an anti-establishment politician, but props up the establishment given half a chance.

Peters has a history of cosying up to whoever will give him a share of power. He worked a coalition with National from 1996-1999, and did it again with Labour in 2005-2008. Neither of those Governments wavered from the same old capitalist approach alongside some state assistance. All Governments since the 1980s have been bitterly described as ‘neo-liberal’ by some on the left.

Peters in a speech in 2010:

New Zealand First was born from those who rejected the radical reforms of National and Labour and who wanted a party that represented ordinary New Zealanders – not overseas interests or those of a few ever mighty subjects.

So, after the blitzkrieg neo-liberal policy destruction of Labour between 1984 and 1990 – and National until 1996, New Zealanders decided they wanted change.

In less than two years Jim Bolger was rolled by Jenny Shipley whose mission was to smash the centre-right coalition and to continue the neo-liberal experiment supported by the Business Round Table and any other stragglers they could cobble together.

We saw some of this recently in the economic prescription of a failed politician who simply could not see that pure neo-liberal economics is a pathway to economic servitude for all but a small privileged elite.

Or maybe he does know this – which makes he, and his ilk, even more dangerous.

Dripping with irony. Peters enabled both the Bolger government and the Clark government prior to making that speech.

In 2016 Government a ‘bum with five cheeks’ – Peters

“Unless we get a dramatic economic and social change as a result of our efforts at the next election, we would have failed. That’s our objective. We know that unless we’ve got a dramatic change from this neoliberal failure that every other country seems to understand now but us, then we as a party would have failed.”

There is scant sign of anything like a dramatic economic and social change in the current Government or in the budget, apart from vague assurances it will be ‘transformational’ at some time in the future.

Also from 2016 – Winston Peters: ‘Most Kiwis are struggling’

“Everyone in New Zealand First knows that our duty, our responsibility and our mission statement is to get an economic and social change at the next election. Otherwise we will have all failed. It was a challenge to my caucus members, my party delegates and everybody else.”

He said there was no use in pursuing the major parties’ neo-liberal economic policies, which he described as being like “Pepsi and Coca-Cola”.

Peters provided the froth for both, and continues to do so.

Leading in to the 2017 election campaign: Winston Peters dismisses ‘irresponsible capitalism’ of other parties with new economic policy

Winston Peters is positioning NZ First as the party of difference and says his policy announcements today will steer away from the “irresponsible capitalism” that every other political party is selling.

The neo-liberal policy adopted by New Zealand politicians in the 1980s is a “failed economic experiment”.

“We want to confront what’s going on and set it right,” Peters said.

“I look at Parliament today and the National party, the Labour party and now the Greens are all accepting of that with a little bit of tweaking. That is astonishing, particularly in the case of the Greens – they’ve done it to try and look respectable – it’s totally disrespectable economic policy.”

Peters has enabled a Labour led Government whose first budget is little more than a bit of tweaking, with the Greens getting a  modest modest bit money for tweaking environmental policies.

Once negotiating power with Labour and the Greens Peters was already talking less radically.

October 2017: Winston Peters wants ‘today’s capitalism’ to regain its ‘human face’

“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong.

“That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.”

So he moved from radical change to supporting a tweak to capitalism.

And this weeks budget has been barely a tweak. Guyon Espiner calls it a A ‘triumph of neoliberalism’

It turns out you can’t judge a book by its colour either. Labour’s first Budget in nearly a decade came with a bold red trim, rather than the royal blue Treasury uses to present the documents when National is in power.

But inside this was a blue budget not a red one. It’s a description neither Labour nor National would like bestowed on Budget 2018 but this was a triumph of neoliberalism or at least a continuation of it.

A continuation of neoliberalism enabled by and supported by Peters, with a bit of crony capitalism for him and NZ First.

This looked like National’s tenth Budget rather than Labour’s first.

It is the seventh National/Labour budget that NZ First has played a hand in.

Much more largesse has been lavished on the New Zealand First relationship with $1 billion for foreign aid and diplomats and another $1 billion for the Shane Jones provincial growth fund.

Even Winston Peters’ racing portfolio gets a giddy up. The government will spend nearly $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed”.

It has to be a handsome horse though. The rules say it will be tax deductible if it is a standout yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

What next? A handsome horse called Neoliberalism? Peters is probably a bit old to ride it, but he is providing the hay.

NZ First’s colours are black and white, and Peters campaigns with black and white rhetoric, but when he gets the chance to get some power he is a kaleidoscope of collusion, whether it be with National, Labour, capitalists or neoliberalists.

Perhaps like Grant Robertson he has a few transformational tricks up his sleeve, holding them back for next year, or next term.

Or maybe his the same old political charlatan, talking a maverick talk in opposition but given half a chance walking the same old establishment walk.

Budget highlights – foundation for the future

The budget is more of a preparatory budget rather than the claimed transformative budget – but Minister of Finance Grant Robertson acknowledges that. Here is his summary of the 2018 budget.


Foundations for the future

Health, education, housing and other critical public services receive overdue investments today, says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

“Our public services have been underfunded for too long and there has been a failure to appropriately plan for the future. That changes today,” says Grant Robertson.

“Budget 2018 begins the economic and social transformation that must happen if New Zealanders are to have better lives in the decades to come.

“The Coalition Government is rebuilding the critical services Kiwis expect their government to provide – modern hospitals, classrooms kids can learn in, public housing for those who need it, efficient transport systems and safe communities.

“Budget 2018 makes responsible investments for the future, while delivering a surplus of more than $3 billion and taking a responsible approach to debt reduction.

“We are committed to living within our means and having a buffer to deal with the risks and shocks that a small country like New Zealand inevitably faces.

“The Government’s plan is fully funded within the operating and capital allowances we have set for this and future Budgets. We have been able to increase the allowances slightly because economic growth is forecast to be stronger than was expected before the election, by cracking down on tax avoidance, by reprioritising spending to reflect the Coalition Government’s priorities and with our more balanced debt track.

“We are committed to being responsible – not just fiscally but socially and environmentally. This Government is preparing our country for the future by making sure its foundations are strong and sustainable,” says Grant Robertson.

Highlights of Budget 2018:

  • Health receives a huge boost with $3.2 billion more in operating funding over the next four years and $850 million new capital – including $750 million to tackle some of hospitals’ most urgent building problems, the biggest capital injection in health in at least the last decade.
  • This Budget commits to free doctors’ visits for everyone under the age of 14 – an extra 56,000 of our young people from the current policy. We are extending very low-cost general practitioner (GP) visits to all Community Services Card holders and extending the Card to all Housing New Zealand tenants and New Zealanders who receive an accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy. This will make going to the GP cheaper by up to $30 for the 540,000 people eligible for the Card.
  • Elective surgery, maternity services, air ambulances and the National Bowel Screening Programme are among the health services receiving extra funding.
  • New capital funding will build schools and hundreds of new classrooms. Operating funding for education over the next four years increases by $1.6 billion to address rising demand, fund 1,500 more teachers and raise teacher-aide funding. Early childhood education gets a $590.2 million operating boost over four years, benefiting over 200,000 children. A total of $284 million goes to Learning Support to allow every child with special education needs and learning difficulties to better participate in school life.
  • Housing is boosted by more than $634 million in operating funds. We will increase public housing by over 6,000 homes over the next four years, provide more transitional housing and help for the homeless and offer grants for insulation and heating.

“This Government is placing the wellbeing of people at the centre of all its work,” says Grant Robertson.

“We are also building strong foundations for a more productive and sustainable economy. Budget 2018 allocates $1 billion over four years to encourage business innovation through a research and development incentive. We are supporting and growing our regions through the $1 billion-per-year Provincial Growth Fund and investing $100 million into a Green Investment Fund to help our economy’s transition.

“We are promoting a progressive and inclusive trade agenda. Our tax system will be fairer and more balanced to encourage investment in the productive economy.

“This Government is looking ahead to the next 30 years. We are managing our economy responsibly and providing the critical public services we need to build foundations for our future,” says Grant Robertson.

Budget day

Grant Robertson will present the first Labour-NZ First-Green budget today. It is a big test for Robertson and Labour in particular.

All three parties have been playing the PR game in advance.

Most of the budget will be mundane business as usual.

Some things will probably be laudable. Some will be debatable. And critics will criticise.

And then we will have to wait months if not years to see what the effects are – some will be positive, some negative.

And for most of us life will go on regardless.

7.84% rates rise “a normal part of the cycle”

Saying that a 7.84% rates rise will be “in the lower quartile” won’t mean anything to ratepayers who face increases of $200-400. I am horrified by this level of increase – and it sounds like it is what much of the country should be expecting.

ODT: DCC approves second highest rates increase since 1989

The Dunedin City Council has backed a higher-than-expected rates rise of 7.84%, after agreeing to a series of last-minute funding boosts yesterday.

Plus:

The council has also signed off on a 4% increase in most fees and charges.

The waffle:

But Mayor Dave Cull insists the rates hike, like the fees and charges, are just a normal part of the cycle as cities invest in their futures.

That was within the council’s new self-imposed rates limit of 8% for the first year.

That’s about four times the rate of inflation.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said the city’s rates would remain in the lower quartile, while other centres across the country eyed increases of between 3% and 15%.

Lower quartile, about average, that’s tosh when trying to make excuses for an increase of about 8%.

It’s not as bad as 15%, but that’s like saying it’s not as bad getting two teeth pulled by the dentist as getting four teeth pulled.

Mr Cull said cities went through cycles of investment, leading to periods of higher rates increases, but the alternative would be worse.

Those cities that kept rates artificially low by not spending in the short term were eventually forced to catch up, leading to ”massive rates increases” later, he said.

”They pay the price in the end. The idea is to try to keep it smooth, but every now and then you have got to invest,” he said.

More nonsense. I think that rates have been rising ahead of inflation for yonks.

This is budget day news. I don’t expect to get any joy from the Government today either, but the budget shouldn’t be this bad.

ANZAC Day 2018

25th April 2018 – ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day began as a mark of respect of the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) at Gallipoli in 1915. It was first marked in 1916, but since then has widened into a commemoration of Word War 1, World War 2 and all New Zealand military action overseas.

Most of us have relations who took part in the World Wars and other hostilities, and this is a good time to reflect on what they had to do and how many of them must have suffered – some paying the ultimate price, others returning with physical injuries and many with mental scars.

The post war generations are lucky to live in a time when there has been no compulsion to take part in armed conflict – the luckiest generations in human history

This post is for remembrance, family stories or whatever you feel is appropriate for the occasion.

Premature ‘influential’ accolade for Ardern

Time Magazine has named Jacinda Ardern as one of the 1o0 most influential people in the world for 2018. Given that we are only in April this is premature – and I think it is far to soon to judge Ardern’s actual influence outside the celebrity circuit. At least she hasn’t been given a premature and ultimately undeserved Nobel prize as per Obama.

Time: Jacinda Ardern by Sheryl Sandberg

Just 11 countries out of almost 200 are led by a woman. Let that number sink in. That’s how hard it is for a woman to rise to lead a nation.

Last October in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern did it.

She was already a political prodigy. In 2008, she was elected the youngest member of the New Zealand Parliament. Now she’s the youngest female Prime Minister in the world. At a time when conservative politicians are ascendant across Europe and the U.S., she’s proudly progressive—with a raft of plans to fight economic inequality, address climate change and decriminalize abortion. She wasn’t supposed to win: she entered the election late, and her party’s approval ratings were low. Then a wave of “Jacindamania” swept the land.

And she’s expecting her first child this year.

In a world that too often tells women to stay small, keep quiet—and that we can’t have both motherhood and a career—Jacinda Ardern proves how wrong and outdated those notions of womanhood are. She’s not just leading a country. She’s changing the game. And women and girls around the world will be the better for it.

Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and author of Option B and Lean In

‘A raft of plans’ does not make a successful Prime Minister in New Zealand, let alone an influential world leader.

Fighting economic inequality and addressing climate change are lofty aims, but Ardern and her government are yet to prove that they can make a real difference on either. They may, but we are unlikely to be able to judge that to any degree in 2018, or probably 2019.

By the end of 2020 we will have time to see whether notable progress has been made on inequality and climate change (but both are long term projects), and whether Ardern has influenced New Zealand voters enough to win a second shot at continuing the reforms she has talked the talk on, but has barely stood up let alone walked the walk.

Other younger leaders that initially caused a stir, Emmanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau in Canada, have since found the going tough.

Funnily Ardern has written praise of Trudeau in the Time 100 influencers list.

There will be a few names globally that will become etched in our history books. They will be the names that mark the shift in our political landscape, when younger politicians took the reins and heralded a different type of politics. Justin Trudeau will be one of them. Youth alone is not remarkable, but winning over people with a message of hope and warmth, tolerance and inclusion, when other politicians the world over choose an easier route—that is remarkable.

Trudeau’s tenure as Prime Minister of Canada has hit speed bumps. As has Macron, but he also gets a good write up:

Just under a year ago, a 39-year-old underdog shook up French politics to become the youngest-ever President of the French Republic. His movement, built from scratch in just a few months, quickly doubled down by winning a large parliamentary majority, giving the new government a mandate for change.

Using this unique window of opportunity, President Macron has swiftly begun to implement an ambitious set of reforms intended to boost economic growth, reduce high unemployment and transform France into a more dynamic, competitive and inclusive economy. His vision of a strong Europe also has added fresh momentum to the integration effort—which has become all the more critical in our increasingly fragmented world.

Challenges abound. Migration, terrorism, climate, digital transformation and inequality are forcing new fault lines on our societies. But based on the policies he has implemented to date, I am convinced that Emmanuel Macron can help create the multilateral solutions that will make the planet a better place for all.

Also on the list of influencers are Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Sean Hannity, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Plus a number actors, performers and sports people.

Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Kim Yong Un, Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin don’t feature at all.

 

Commonwealth Games coverage

I’m enjoying the Commonwealth Games (apart from the netball but I’m not a great fan of that anyway). There is plenty of sport to choose from, and we get a rare chance to watch sports that aren’t usually covered.

The Gold Coast 2018 website is good, it’s easy to find the sports scheduled and they usually have up to date progress and results.

TVNZ has the television rights here. It is a bit disjointed, with coverage on channel 1 on both Freeview, but then it gets complicated.

You can watch it on Sky on channel 1 (TV1), 23 (Duke) and 59 (TVNZ extra).

And on Freeview satellite it’s 1 (TV1), 13 (Duke), and 14 (Games extra).

The TVNZ website has it all linked, including streaming channels : Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

Like the 1 News website it isn’t a great experience but does the job.

So far the track cycling has been excellent. There have been smatterings of other New Zealand involvement as well, like netball and hockey. I found the end of the women’s bowls singles streamed last night, that was a good finish.

I watched quite a bit of the men’s 20 km walk yesterday, they look so unnatural. Following that was the women’s walk, for some reason they don’t look as bad – and the finish of that race was quite moving – I get a bit excited at sport at times but rarely get emotional (watching Eliza McCartney was a rare exception at Rio in 2016).

Kiwi Alana Barber started the walking race vying for the lead with an Aussie, and then two other Aussies got involved. One Aussie dropped off, but the other two were too strong for Barber and put a sizeable lead on her. They kept swapping the lead until one started to pull ahead with 2-3 km to go – and then got her third red car and was eliminated. She was obviously distraught. Her country woman went on to win the gold.

Barber hung on to be a clear second – and it was joyful to see her happiness to cross the line for a silver. The gold winning Aussie, the disqualified Aussie and Barber all shared emotional hugs, it was quite moving, and the same when a Welsh woman came in third.

TVNZ are generally doing a reasonable job with their coverage, but a negative is their frequent overstatements. New Zealand has not had rushes of medals or medals raining on us, we’ve been getting a few but it’s nowhere as dramatic as some of them make out.

There’s a lot more to go through Sunday. The next few days will be crap weather so a good opportunity to make the most of it all.

Some of it goes a bit late, but generally the two hour time difference works out quite well.

Census Tuesday, and that ethnicity question

Census forms – online or old fashioned paper – are due to be completed by tomorrow, Tuesday 8 March 2018.

If you want paper forms then it’s a bit late to request them given how slow post has become these days.

I did mine online last night: https://www.census.govt.nz/

It was quick and simple. I had to check which side of an earnings band division I was in but otherwise most answers were easy to answer.

The only contentious question was on ‘ethnic group’. There was no standard option for me so I had to tick ‘Other’. I then stated ‘New Zealander’.

Going by the 2013 census that puts me in a small minority, just 2.1% of people in Otago were New Zealanders, and 1.6% nationwide.

Stats NZ on Ethnicity:

Statistics about ethnicity give information by the ethnic groups that people identify with or feel they belong to.

Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation. It is not a measure of race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship. Ethnicity is self perceived and people can belong to more than one ethnic group.

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name
  • one or more elements of common culture, for example religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  • a shared sense of common origins or ancestry, and
  • a common geographic origin.

Apparently we all have a common geographic origin – Africa. But I don’t identify with Africa at all. and I don’t self perceive a European identity or belonging either.

New Zealander of the year

That seems like a fair choice. her determination had made a major difference to many aged care workers by getting them decent wage rates for difficult jobs. It should also benefit many of those being care for.