Binding referendum on cannabis in 2020

The Government has left it as late as possible but have now confirmed there will be a referendum on personal use of cannabis alongside the 2020 general election. I’d have preferred it sooner but at least this allows for proper legislation to be agreed on by Parliament (if this is how it is decided it will work, and pending the referendum result) and for a proper debate to take place.

There have been some complaints )for example from Simon Bridges) that it is a cynical distraction from the next election but I’m sure people are capable of deciding on multiple decisions at the same time. It will still be much simpler than a local body election.

RNZ:  Binding referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use to be held at 2020 election

It’s not actually clear what the referendum will be on.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the Electoral Commission will now get on and start planning for it.

“Having made the decision now, the Electoral Commission has put together a budget bid for the budget process next year. So … we’ll now process that budget bid. It obviously will attract budget confidentiality, so we’ll know about that next May.”

Chlöe has been doing a lot of work in helping this happen.

We will have to see how this will work, but it is a big step in the right direction.

National Party leader Simon Bridges questioned the government’s motivation for holding the referendum at the same time as a general election.

“I’m pretty cynical that you’ve got a government here that wants to distract from the core issues of a general election like who’s best to govern, their actual record in government over the last three years, and core issues around the economy, tax, cost of living, health, education, law and order.”

FFS, we can deal with more than deciding which politician is the least dweebie and lame, or which party is up with changes on drug laws happening all around the world. .

And he said the government had already effectively decriminalised cannabis through the medicinal cannabis bill.

“Now you’re allowed loose leaf out on the streets and the truth is they’ve said to police, you don’t need to prosecute this so right now, if someone’s smoking cannabis outside a school what are the consequences? What’s the message?”

This is a pathetic attempt at scaremongering, nearly as bad as Bob McCoskrie.

Bridges may pander to people most likely to vote national anyway, but he risks alienating a lot of swing voters, and especially younger voters (voters under 70).

There is obviously no guarantee which way the vote will go, but at least this means that people should get to decide. At last.

Destiny Church demands access to prisons, Ministers respond

Brian Tamaki and his Destiny Church had a rally at Parliament demanding access to prisons with two programmes they have developed, but Tamaki has been told to go through the normal channels and make a formal application, and Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis has made pointed response.

RNZ: Destiny Church rallies at Parliament for access to prisons

An estimated 2000 Destiny Church supporters rallied at Parliament this afternoon demanding access to prisons for their rehabilitation programmes, and millions of dollars in funding.

The leader of the church, Brian Tamaki, says his Man Up and Legacy programmes have helped hundreds of people turn their lives around, many of whom have spent years in the criminal justice system.

Man Up’s website describes the 15-week programme as a link to a ‘brotherhood’, which helps men identify and understand issues in their lives, and work through them for a more stable future.

The Corrections Department said it had never received a formal application from Destiny Church to deliver Man Up or Legacy in prisons.

The Justice Minister Andrew Little said the church had also never applied for funding.

“I’m not trying to point the finger of blame here, let’s just understand what it is that the issues are for [Mr Tamaki] and his Man Up programme and let’s see if we can pull something together which helps the government achieve its objectives which is reducing family violence and reducing the number of folks going to prison.”

The Employment Minister Willie Jackson said if the Destiny Church went through the proper channels then they could be able to get into prisons and get the funding they needed.

“I think that’s the problem here is that they actually haven’t gone through a formal process in terms of applications, so let’s see what they come up with.”

Brian Tamaki however appeared unwilling to play ball.

“Go through the channels? Well how come the Prime Minister can assign $30 million without even consulting to the Papua New Guinean Government and they misused it, and they have billions of dollars for pine trees and I’m talking about just a little bit of money for people.”

“I’ve been waiting for 20 years and I’m doing the business without taxpayers’ money.”

I guess tithing is different to taxing.

Kelvin Davis responded:

Tamaki says that not allowing his programmes to be used in prisons is a breach of human rights and a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. He insists he has applied to have them be used.

 

Government considering triple referendum:

On Q+A last night Andrew little revealed that the Government is considering a triple referendum that would include questions on Euthanasia, Cannabis and MMP Electoral reform.

Hopefully the MMP question would be on lowering the threshold.

Little didn’t say whether this would be before or with the next General Election, but I think it would be far opreferble to have a separate non-postal referendum.

I guess it would be to much to expect also including a referendum on becoming a republic.

Andrew Little on Pike River

‘Closure’ may be elusive in Pike River re-opening

The Press Editorial: Pike River decision is a victory for justice

The decision to re-enter the Pike River Mine in early 2019 has been a long time coming and does not have universal public support. Some see it as merely a triumph of public relations and emotion, or of election promises over tough realism.

But they are arguably a minority voice.

That is certainly arguable, with nothing to support this claim of minority dissent.

While it is clear that a lot is at stake for a Government that made a commitment to the Pike River families – and particularly for Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little, who has campaigned so vigorously – most New Zealanders will be both sympathetic to the suffering of those family members who support re-entry and will also see the value of answering questions about a disaster that killed 29 men on the West Coast eight years ago.

Politicians are bad at overusing unsubstantiated ‘most New Zealanders’ claims. While editorials are opinions it’s disappointing to see a major newspaper prop up their views with assumptions.

Those who argue that the grieving families should accept their losses and move on are therefore overlooking the fact that justice has been elusive in the Pike River case.

Crap. Some maybe. But I don’t overlook the justice aspect. What I think though is that the re-entry may struggle to do justice to identifying causes as much as it may struggle removing the remains of the miners (especially all the miners).

For the families who support re-entry, led by representatives Anna Osborne, Sonya Rockhouse and Bernie Monk, the announcement of the re-entry speaks to a dogged determination that is both a tribute to the memory of lost family members and a wider commitment to truth over political and bureaucratic obfuscation.

As Dave Gawn has suggested, there is a good chance there will no bodies in the drift of the mine. If that happens, you can expect to hear a familiar chorus of voices calling the re-entry an expensive stunt. But it will be just as important to learn whether evidence has been gathered that can progress a criminal case and might even lead to the apportioning of blame that the doomed mine’s former manager seems so eager to minimise.

I think there is a high chance of disappointment in the first attempt at re-entry. What then?

NZ Herald editorial: Expensive Pike River re-entry plan does not go very far

There was never much doubt the present Government would grant the wish of Pike River families to re-enter the mine as far as that may be done safely.

The fact those two were able to walk out of the mine after the explosion suggests no others were in the tunnel, but for some of the families, as the past eight years have proved, hope springs eternal.

If the re-entry discovers no human remains, there is at least the possibility forensic evidence will be found pointing to the cause of the first explosion and permitting those responsible to be held personally to account at last for 29 deaths.

A royal commission of inquiry produced damning conclusions of the cause of the disaster based on testimony of those who knew the mine, and the mine insurers have made a payout to the families, but it is possible something found in the tunnel will provide a clearer explanation, possibly even an indictable one.

I think it’s unlikely much in the way of useful forensic evidence will be found in the initial re-entry.

On these remote possibilities the Government is staking $36 million, an extraordinary increase on the $7.2 million plan put to the previous Government just five years ago. And yet the minister in charge, Andrew Little, has obviously chosen the cheapest of three options put to him by the Pike River Recovery Agency.

Little and his recovery agency do not sound sure of what they will be able to do beyond the second chamber only 170m into the 2km tunnel. Little said, “There is a lot we don’t know and will not know until we are confronted with the situation as we find it”.

He added, “This will require agile thinking, the courage to say if we are uncomfortable, the preparedness to re-assess, reset and re-plan when necessary, and knowing when to call it quits”.

Clearly a lot could go wrong.

Hopefully nothing major will, go wrong, but the chances of everything going right may be slim.

But the families that have been pressing for a re-entry for eight years have been rewarded for their persistence.

They managed to successfully play political pressure game.

They have never sounded hopeful that a recovery effort could get further than the rockfall. They must accept this plan could get that far and find nothing of their loved ones. If nothing else, it surely provides the “closure” they need.

Really? I’m not clear on what ‘closure’ actually is (apart from closure of the mine which they opposed). I think it probably means different things to different people.

If it means making everyone happy I’m not optimistic.

Plan to re-enter Pike River mine announced

This announcement is just being made:

Stuff:  ‘We’re going in’ – Government unveils decision to re-enter Pike River Mine

The Government has given the all-clear to re-enter Pike River Mine, to retrieve the bodies of the 29 men who died there in 2010.

While a number of dangers still remained, Little said extensive advice had shown re-entry using the existing access tunnel of the mine would be “by far the safest option”.

Little said it would be an “extraordinarily complex” undertaking, but the process to make it safe had been robust.

“Safety has been our paramount concern throughout this planning process, and supported wholeheartedly by the Pike River families”.

The operation also had the support of the police.

“With their support and advice the drift tunnel will be thoroughly examined through to the roof fall area.”

Work to prepare the mine was already underway. That included venting methane from the mine, pumping nitrogen into the mine, and filling the drift with fresh air.

Additional boreholes would have to be drilled, and that work would get under way immediately, said Little.

“The advice I have received indicates that it is likely to be round February before the re-entry proper gets underway, by breaching the 30m seal.”

I understand that this is a big deal for some of the families of miners who were killed.

But I really wonder whether this is a sensible thing to do. And I wonder what will be achieved, apart from perhaps the removal of some or all remains.

 

Pike River re-entry may be further delayed

Yesterday from Andrew Little:  Significant step in Pike River drift re-entry

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little has received the report on re-entering the Pike River drift following nine months of intensive work by Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau Mā Iwa Pike River Recovery Agency.

The Agency has identified three safe and feasible re-entry options to recover the drift:

  • Drive a small tunnel to create a ventilation circuit;
  • Single entry, using the existing main drift access tunnel as the sole means to ventilate the main drift;
  • Single entry with a large diameter borehole.

“I want to acknowledge the work of the Pike River Recovery Agency in getting us to this point. Safety of everyone is fundamental for re-entry, as is the care needed to forensically examine what happened at Pike River to ensure it never happens again.

“I am satisfied that the Agency has been robust in developing the options. Workshops have included technical experts, and partners including New Zealand Police, Mines Rescue, WorkSafe and the Department of Conservation.

“The Pike River Families and their representatives have been also included at every stage. The families have shown extraordinary patience and tenacity, and their contribution has been crucial.

“The explosion at Pike River Mine on 19 November 2010 was a national tragedy. Today we are one step closer to – finally – bringing closure to the families.

“It is my responsibility as Minister to carefully weigh the options, alongside Rob Fyfe’s independent advice. I take that responsibility very seriously.

“I do not intend to make further public comment before a decision has been taken, which is expected to occur by the middle of November,” said Andrew Little.

Little has also talked to NZ herald about it: Andrew Little receives report on options for Pike River mine re-entry

It is looking less likely that any re-entry to the Pike River mine drift will happen before Christmas, Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little says.

Little told the Herald today he would make a final decision on whether it was even feasible to re-enter the drift after reading the report and receiving advice from independent ministerial adviser Rob Fyfe.

Little told a parliamentary committee in June it was possible re-entry could be started by the end of this year but today he pulled back from that.

“I understand that is looking less likely now and it would be the early part of next year,” he said.

But he would give a better timeline on the operation to breach the seal if and when he announced a decision to go in.

“When they’ve had the various experts, including the families’ experts, come together, the conclusion of each of those sessions is that this is feasible. But I’ve got to be satisfied,” Little said.

Little has also yet to ask Cabinet to ask for $10-15 million on top of the up to $23m already budgeted for the recovery.

Other ministers have said that ‘priority’ policy implementation has to wait for the next budget.

This is taking a long time and a lot of money. I really wonder if it is all worth it – and worth the risk. Sure, some families want the remains of miners removed, but it is hard to see whether that will change much.

There are also hopes that the cause of the explosions will be found but that could require a far more extensive investigation than is practical.

Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway announced that he would reconsider the decision to grant residency to illegal immigrant and convicted drug importer Karel Sroubek after National brought up ‘new information’ in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had suggested that media ‘read between the lines’ on the decision and it was assumed that residency was granted because Sroubek feared for his safety if he returned. However it has been revealed that he has returned to the Czech Republic voluntarily since coming to New Zealand. This suggests that the safety concerns may have been overstated, and he may not have informed officials of his travel.

Both Lees-Galloway and  have pointed their fingers at immigration officials for not providing complete information.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her Government grant residency to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to correctly categorise the decision that was made, my understanding is that he already had residency, albeit in an incorrect name.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is her response to the Dominion Post this morning, which said, “So yes, prime minister, we have read between the lines. Our reading of it suggests that Sroubek is a person of poor character, a criminal who cannot be trusted, who arrived here under false pretences. He should be deported. You have got this wrong.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as that member should know given that when he was in office there were roughly 100 deportations cancelled. From time to time to time Ministers do have information put in front of them that makes for very difficult decisions. I have seen information that would suggest, from the information reports, that they have been in very similar circumstances.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it clear that her Government has prioritised a dangerous criminal’s welfare over public safety, contrary to her statement that any further offending actions by Karel Sroubek “sits with this individual … anything further is off the minister’s conscience and it’s on theirs.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is being made absolutely clear by the Minister. He has put into writing that anything further would mean that he would automatically be deported. On the face of it, of course, it looks like an obvious decision, which demonstrates that from time to time, Ministers in this position do receive additional information. What we have to make sure is that that information that the Minister makes the decision on is consistent and clear, and that’s for officials to ensure that they have provided that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it the case that since the early 2000s, Karel Sroubek has been back to the Czech Republic, and doesn’t that make any decision by Iain Lees-Galloway ridiculous?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister made the decision based on the information he had at the time, and he is no different to any other Minister of any political persuasion. They have to deal with the information provided to them by officials. If there is information that contradicts the basis on which the Minister made the decision, then that would be for him to go back to the officials and seek further advice. I would have an expectation that he would do that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did she and the Minister not know he had been to the Czech Republic since the early 2000s, and is she going to fess up they just got this clearly, badly wrong?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Every Minister does rely on the advice that they are provided by officials, and the Minister is no different in that regard to the last Minister, who overturned 108 deportations. We are all, as Ministers, reliant on the information we are provided. Again, if there is anything that contradicts the information that’s been provided, it is for the Minister to go back to officials, and it would be my expectation he would do that.

Winston Peters jumped in to try to support Ardern, and tried to divert blame to the National Government. His initial efforts were ruled out of order, and responses by National MPs were disproportionately punished by the Speaker.

Rt Hon David Carter: Because it’s not your job—

SPEAKER: That’s six. Any more?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, OK. It’s worth it.

SPEAKER: That’s 10 supplementary questions that will be taken from the National Party today.

But Peters was allowed to rephrase.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the basis of information being given to this House in good faith, has the Prime Minister been appraised of the number of times this man came back into the country, and who was the Government at the time?

Ardern briefly took the opportunity to take a swipe at National but switched back to the more serious matter before her.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, members will draw their inference from the fact that we have only been in Government for 12 months. Again, though, I reiterate that a Minister would make a decision based on the information in front of him, and we would all have a fair expectation that if there is information to contradict that, we would expect the Minister to go back to his officials.

The next question also addressed the issue.

2. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: What is New Zealand’s process for extraditing Czech nationals to the Czech Republic, and what stage is the application for extradition of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, at?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): The Czech Republic is able to make an application for extradition of one of their citizens, and any application is made under the Extradition Act 1996. There is a process that usually starts with an application being made through diplomatic channels. It goes to the Minister of Justice in New Zealand. It is an application ultimately determined by the District Court on the grounds of eligibility, and then the final decision on whether or not an extradition is made is made by the Minister of Justice of the day. On the second part of the question, despite the Czech Republic indicating to the New Zealand Government in 2015 that it had an interest in Mr Sroubek, no formal application for extradition has been made.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why is the Parole Board aware of an extradition request?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I’m not responsible for the determinations of the Parole Board.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Did the Minister speak with the immigration Minister ahead of the Minister approving residency for Karel Sroubek?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Was the Minister aware of any controversy around Karel Sroubek before the Minister of Immigration granted residency?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No, and there’d be no reason for me to have been so.

Hon Mark Mitchell: If officials advise there is sufficient evidence to support an extradition request, will he extradite Karel Sroubek back to the Czech Republic?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member will be well aware that it would be entirely inappropriate and not in the public interest for me to comment on any case that may be the subject of an extradition application.

It became a triple whammy.

4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he believe he has considered all relevant factors in deciding to grant residency to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Shortly before question time today, I became aware that information may exist that appears, on the face of it, to directly contradict information that I used and relied upon to make that decision. I am now taking advice on my options and need to consider the veracity of the new information that has been made available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did all of those factors include submissions from Czech Republic officials about any statements Mr Sroubek had made relevant to them, and, if not, will he be also asking the Czech officials to provide submissions?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Given the potential new information that I have just become aware of, I do not intend to make any further comment on the information that I was provided. I need to take advice, and I need to carefully consider the way forward from here.

So a commitment by Lees-Galloway to reconsider the residency decision due to new information becoming available.

This issue was already awkward for the Government. It has now become embarrassing. One would hope that a minister would do as much as possible to ensure he had all relevant information before making an obviously contentious decision.

National have called for the Minister to resign over this, but I think that’s a silly overreach. This looks more like a stuff up than anything like a sackable offence. Perhaps sloppy, but probably not a misuse of ministerial powers.

So Lees-Galloway should learn a lesson from this and be a more careful minister in the future.

This is a bit of a blow to Government credibility, but probably isn’t a major. However it reinforces National’s campaign that keeps claiming the Government is soft on criminals.

Nation: Andrew Little on abortion law

The New Zealand Law Commission has made some suggestions on abortion law reform – see Law Commission – alternative approaches to abortion law overdue.

This morning on Newshub Nation (9:30 am) the Minister of Justice Andrew Little will be interviewed on this.

Law Commission – alternative approaches to abortion law overdue

Justice Minister Andrew Little seems intent on fixing archaic and unfit for purpose abortion laws this term. Good. About time.

Law Commission abortion law reform briefing received

Justice Minister Andrew Little received today the Law Commission’s briefing on alternative approaches to abortion law.

“Our abortion law is over forty years old, starts with the proposition that an abortion is a crime. In February, I asked the Law Commission for advice on treating abortion as a health matter could look like,” Andrew Little said.

“I would like to thank the Law Commission for its extensive work on the briefing paper. I asked the Commission to gather the public’s views, and they received comprehensive submissions,” said Andrew Little.

“I acknowledge that the subject of abortion is a personal one for each MP. I will be taking time to talk to my colleagues across all parties about the Law Commission’s briefing before progressing further,” Andrew Little said.

The Law Commission received just under 3,500 submissions from the public, as well as meeting with a range of health sector bodies in developing its briefing paper.

The Law Commission’s briefing examines what abortion law could look like if abortion was treated as a health issue. The paper outlines:

  • three models for when abortion is available
  • changes to:
    • the criminal aspects of abortion law
    • access to abortion services, where abortions are performed, and by whom
    • the oversight of abortion services
  • related issues, such as women’s informed consent, counselling services, and conscientious objection by health practitioners.

The Law Commission’s briefing paper is here.


This will go to a conscience vote, but surely well into the 21st century we should have sensible abortion laws.

The current law works in practice but it is demeaning for women.

Just about everyone uses some form of birth control these days. The world is badly overpopulated by humans.

Women who are not in a good position relationship, health or finance-wise are better deferring having a family until a better time.

I don’t see any practical difference between a women having say a couple of children then going onto birth control or her partner having a vasectomy, or a women having an abortion or two prior to having a couple of children and then relying on birth control. The end result is much the same.