Justice Minister says hate speech laws ‘very narrow’ with gaps

Minister of Justice Andrew Little has said that New Zealand hate speech laws are too narrow and there were gaps in the law, but also said that any changes needed to be robustly debated.

RNZ:  Current hate speech law ‘very narrow’ – Justice Minister Andrew Little

Justice Minister Andrew Little says gaps exist in current laws around hate speech and what should be considered an offence.

Mr Little announced on Saturday that he was fast-tracking the review, which could see hate crimes made a new legal offence.

Mr Little told Morning Report today the current law specific to hate speech offences was “very narrow”.

“It applies to inciting racial disharmony, it doesn’t relate to expressions that incite discrimination on religious grounds or identity or a range of other grounds.”

“If you look at the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which is the other law we have dealing with what we might describe as hate speech, it’s very thorough but the question is whether the processes that are available under that legislation are as accessible and as good as they might be, so there’s grounds to review both those areas,” he said.

On who is covered under current law, Mr Little said: “If your hateful expressions and hateful actions are directed at somebody’s religion, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination other than race then actually it doesn’t cover that, there’s no offence at that point.”

He said you could potentially lay a complaint for mediation with the Human Rights Commission, but that the most gross type of expression seen around the Christchurch terror attacks wouldn’t be covered by it and that looked like there was a gap in the law.

He said the review would make clear whether the law does fit. He’s not convinced it does, but said he’ll leave it up to the experts doing the review.

Mr Little said the issue about where the line was drawn was the most difficult part of any law that constrains expression and speech.

“The reality is we know that there are forms of expression on social media and elsewhere that you can see at face value are totally unacceptable and not worthy of defence but then there are opinions and views that we might disagree with or might even find offensive but are legitimate contributions to debate.”

Mr Little said any change to the law would need to be robustly debated.

I’m sure any suggested changes will be robustly debated.

Gordon Campbell (Werewolf) on the legal crackdown on hate crimes

Obviously, deterring hate speech and outlawing hate crime has the aim of providing better protections to vulnerable persons and communities, but without unduly restricting the public’s rights to free expression. It isn’t an easy balance to strike.

Hate crimes have a broader effect than most other kinds of violent crime. A hate crime victimizes not only the immediate target but also impacts every member of the group that the direct victim represents. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and sometimes the entire nation.

With hate speech, it is maybe worth keeping in mind that this is not purely a hate crime vs free speech issue. Speech has never been entirely free, under the law. Some language (obscenity) some speech in some contexts (eg yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre) and some types of threat have always been illegal.

Theoretically, the online expression of hate speech should fall under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, but given (a) the superheated and extravagant nature of much “normal” online debate and (b) the extent to which hate content online originates from offshore, the New Zealand law doesn’t currently offer much in the way of a defensive shield.

Moreover, regulating speech online to the point where hate speech and/or the perception of it was entirely eliminated would require a surveillance apparatus and enforcement powers like those more commonly found in totalitarian states than in social democracies. Online, the cure may be almost as mad as the disease.

It could easily be worse if allowed to go too far in restricting speech.

To me hate is a very strong term, but many people say they ‘hate’ many trivial things.

With hate crime, and hate speech then, there may well be some scope for adjusting the boundaries of what counts as “intimidation” – where co-ercion is involved or implied – and “menacing”, where the intention is to engender fear and subservience in the victim. Unfortunately though, when Parliament has tried to deal with this sort of thing in the recent past, ordinary civil liberties have gone out the window in favour of rank political posturing.

Political posturing is a problem in any serious debate.

As Andrew Little has said, we have until December to find viable ways to criminalise expressions that (currently) do not meet the traditional tests of criminality – but which nevertheless have left vulnerable communities or persons feeling less safe. (Arguably, the repeated expression of hostile sentiments can serve to make an actual attack more likely.)

Any pre-emptive law however, which tries to restrict expression in areas where strong social disagreement exists will still need to be even-handed.

Putting that in context of recent discussions, that means restrictions on derogatory expressions related to religion would have to be ‘even handed’ – so should apply equally to ‘hate speech’ against Muslims and Islam, Christians and Christianity, and also agnostics and atheists.

This requirement may not suit groups that feel they have historical grievances, or socio-economic inequality etc on their side.

As the late US justice Antonin Scalia once famously wrote, the state has no authority to license one side of a debate to fight freestyle, while requiring the other to follow Marquis of Queensbury Rules. That’s one of the ironies.

The pressure for change may have to do with expressions of hostile content, but the solutions – if they are to be enforceable – will probably need to be formulated in ways that are content neutral. There will be few easy political points to be scored from such formulations.

The free speech versus hate speech debate is more than political – it is about the fundamentals of democracy as well as the fundamentals of a (relatively) free and open society.

Minister of Justice fast tracking ‘hate speech’ legislation review

Minister of Justice Andrew Little says he is fast-tracking a review of legislation to look at ‘hate crime’ and ‘hate speech’. This could possibly lead to more specific laws to cover them.

However ‘fast-tracking’ does not necessarily mean a sudden knee-jerk lurch to draconian laws as some are saying is already happening. Little hopes to have aa proposal by the end of the year, and that would then have to go through Cabinet for approval and then through Parliament, so any changes look like being at least a year away – in election year,

1 News: Andrew Little plans fast-track review of hate speech laws

Justice Minister Andew Little says he’s fast-tracking a law review which could see hate crimes made a new legal offence.

He said the current law on hate speech was not thorough and strong enough and needed to change.

Mr Little said the Christchurch shootings highlighted the need for a better mechanism to deal with incidents of hate speech and other hateful deeds.

It isn’t unusual for an unprecedented crime to prompt a rethink of things that could be contributory factors (it happened after the Aramoana massacre). Firearm regulation and law changes are actually being fast-tracked, not just a review of them – and order in Council has already reclassified many types of semi-automatic weapons, and it is expected the legislation will go before Parliament next week.

He has asked justice officials to look at the laws and he was also fast-tracking a scheduled Human Rights Act review. “The conclusion I’ve drawn as the minister is that the laws are inadequate and I think we need to do better,” Mr Little said.

Mr Little said the current laws dealing with hate speech and complaints about hate speech and discriminatory action that relate to hateful expression were lacking.

The law in the Human Rights Act related to racial disharmony, but it didn’t deal with various other grounds of discrimination, he said.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act was put in place to deal with online bullying and other unpleasantness, but it didn’t tackle the “evil and hateful things that we’re seeing online”, Mr Little said.

He said the government and the Human Rights Commission will work together, and a document or proposal will be produced for the public to debate.

Note “a document or proposal will be produced for the public to debate”. It will be important to have a decent public debate about whatever is proposed.

“There will be important issues to debate. There will be issues about what limit should be put on freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

“We should reflect on where the lines need to be drawn and therefore, whether the laws should be struck so that they’re effective and provide some protection to people who’re otherwise vulnerable.”

I think it is going to be quite difficult trying to define hate speech and hate crime in legislation. And also to get a reasonable balance between protection from hate speech and free speech.

Stuff: Hate crime law review fast-tracked following Christchurch mosque shootings

Currently, hate-motivated hostility can be considered an “aggravating factor” in sentencing, and staff can note when a crime was motivated by a “common characteristic” such as race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion.

Overall, there is no way of knowing how many offences are hate crimes and police do not even routinely record the ethnicity of victims.

Little said he had asked the Justice Ministry to look at relevant aspects of the Human Rights Act, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, and sections of the Crimes Act to see what laws needed to be changed or added.

“I certainly think that the laws dealing with what we call ‘hate speech’, and human rights law, are woefully inadequate,” Little said.

The tolerance for what had been considered acceptable had been too high, he said. Ethnic minorities needed to not only be accepted, but embraced and welcomed.

“It’s timely to make sure that for those who would want to hurt others – even through words – that we can curtail that.”

Somehow a legal line has to be drawn between fair reporting and debate, and speech aimed at hurting, intimidating, alienating.

The Human Rights Commission collects “race-related complaints” but says it has an incomplete picture of the problem. It has been calling for a national recording system to be set up.

The commission’s chief legal advisor Janet Anderson Bidois said there were “grave anomalies” in the current law.

“For example, the Human Rights Act prohibits the ‘incitement of disharmony’ on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour or national origins, but it does not cover incitement for reasons of religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation,” she said.

“We maintain that a discussion about our current hate speech laws is overdue, and that urgent action is required in relation to the recording of hate crimes.”

This will be a challenge for all of us.

Especially as the review has been prompted by the Christchurch mosque attacks, a lot of discussion will focus on Islam and Muslims, who have been ostracised and targeted in generalised attacks that go further than criticism.

Some attacks on Muslims have become quite sophisticated, trying to couch attacks in reasonable terms. One common tactic is to cherry pick pieces out of old religious texts and imply this is representative of  all Muslims, including by implication Muslims in New Zealand.

Claims of justification because ‘it is just facts’ don’t wash – it is easy to group selected ‘facts’ (often actually quotes from historic texts, which aren’t facts) in a derogatory or fear-mongering manner.

The same tactic can be used by cherry picking bits out of the Old Testament to smear modern Christians, but it is done far more to blanket smear modern Muslims who have a wide variety of practices and cultures.

It will be hard to stop hate and fear and intolerance of other cultures, races and religions – this can be ingrained in some people.

It will also be hard to prevent this hate and fear and intolerance being used to attack groups of people, while still allowing for relatively free speech and open discussion about things that are pertinent to life in New Zealand.

This is also a challenge for social media and blog moderators.

I will do what I can to encourage debate proposals to change hate speech and hate crime laws, but preventing these discussions from becoming hateful or from mass targeting where it is not warranted by circumstances.

The surveillance debate will take time, fortunately

It’s common for things like policing, surveillance  and spying to be revisited after a major event like the Christchurch mosque attacks. It is impossible to prevent any possible attack, but it is certainly worth looking at what more could be done to minimise the risks bu maximising the chances of identifying potential attackers before they attack.

There are likely to be some changes, but we have to be careful to keep a reasonable balance between protection and persona freedoms.

More surveillance is already happening. RNZ: More NZers under surveillance: Andrew Little authorises spy agencies to do more ‘intrusive’ activities

The country remains on a high threat alert more than a week after the terror attacks in Christchurch.

The actions of the agencies who are meant to protect New Zealand from such atrocities have been under scrutiny since Friday 15 March.

The minister responsible for the two security agencies, Andrew Little told Morning Report he had given authority to spy agencies to do “intrusive” activities under warrant.

“I’ve signed warrants [since the attacks] … I’m not sure I’m at liberty to disclose the number. We typically have between 30 to 40 people under surveillance. That number will be bigger now.”

Referring to the possible ties between a far-right group in Austria and the accused gunman, Little said he suspected it was because “our intelligence agencies are working with intelligence agencies across the world”.

He said work on scanning and building up a profile of right-wing extremism commenced in the middle of last year and was “definitely continuing”.

He also said he didn’t think New Zealand was a soft target in terms of security, but had a “robust system” for assessing “violent extremist risks”.

Asked if the attack was an intelligence failure, he said it was ” too premature to draw that conclusion”.

“The purpose of the Royal Commission of Inquiry is to ascertain whether or not there were failures on the part of our security and intelligence agencies.”

I think that with the attacks fresh on everyone’s minds most people will accept some increases in surveillance – as long as it doesn’t affect them.

Simon Bridges wants more:  GCSB and SIS’s ‘hands tied behind their backs’ – Simon Bridges

New Zealand spy agencies’ balance between privacy and security has tipped too far towards privacy, and should be revisited, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.

Bridges said yesterday New Zealand’s security risk had “changed” and a review of security legislation was needed to make sure people were kept safe.

He said a decision made by the former National government in 2013 to abandon Project Speargun, a more intrusive regime which would have scanned internet traffic coming into New Zealand, should be reconsidered.

“I think we were overcautious in 2013/14,” he told Morning Report today.

“I think the case is what we have right now are security agencies with two hands tied behind their backs.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom) suggests caution – Why sweeping surveillance laws aren’t the answer

National leader Simon Bridges is calling for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies to be given greater powers, claiming our spies currently have their hands tied behind their backs. But it’s far from clear that greater surveillance would have stopped the Christchurch attack, and hasty changes could be disastrous.

Bridges has succeeded in distinguishing himself from Ardern, who said New Zealanders did not want the country to be a “surveillance state”.

But on the substance of whether law changes would do much to prevent a similar attack, Bridges’ argument seems decidedly shaky.

It’s far from unusual for countries to tighten their security laws after a terror attack, with France, Belgium and the United Kingdom among nations to have passed more stringent legislation following domestic incidents.

Perhaps most infamously, the United States pushed through the USA PATRIOT Act after the September 11 attacks, granting sweeping powers to a number of government agencies despite objections from civil liberties advocates.

But there’s little evidence to suggest that more sweeping surveillance powers play a significant role in stopping other attacks.

Reinhard Kreissl, the chief executive of the Vienna Centre for Societal Security Research, has argued that better training of, and organisational structures for, law enforcement experts deliver higher returns than expanding the amount of data they gather.

“More data and more surveillance will not help to find the proverbial needle or needles in the haystack,” Kreissl said, a view echoed in a thorough piece on the New Zealand situation by The NZ Herald’s David Fisher.

There have already been questions about whether the NZSIS and GCSB focused too closely on the threat of Muslim extremism, and not enough on the rise of white supremacy and far-right extremists in recent years.

NZSIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge has said the agency increased its efforts to understand the threat posed by the far-right in recent months, but representatives of New Zealand’s Muslim community have said concerns raised much earlier were not taken seriously.

New Zealand’s current target may be white supremacists and the far-right, but there are no guarantees that future administrations or officials will be judicious in how they use any new laws.

A Royal Commission will undoubtedly take some time, but a painstaking examination is more appropriate than a hasty rush to judgment.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has said of surveillance reforms – arguably a far more contested and complex space than the Government’s gun laws – that “the worst time to be considering law changes is in the immediate aftermath of a monstrous event like this”.

It’s a sentiment Bridges may want to think about before he again tries to leap ahead of the pack.

Bridges and National are not in power so there is no risk of them rushing into making draconian and relatively ineffective changes. The Royal Commission will help slow things down and ensure security issues are at least debated and carefully considered. As they should be.

 

Ngāpuhi split over treaty negotiations

One of the biggest Treaty of Waitangi settlements has been one of the longest to get into negotiations, and the hardest to resolve.

One hapū, Ngāti Hine, want to split off from Ngāpuhi and do a separate deal. This may be the only way of making things happen.

RNZ in December – Ngāpuhi vote: Minister forced back to the drawing board

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little will be forced to go back to the drawing board after Ngāpuhi overwhelmingly rejected a mandate for its Treaty settlement.

Final voting results released yesterday confirmed the evolved Ngāpuhi treaty settlement mandate failed to win the vote of its people.

In November, the vote on the Evolved Mandate to move its Treaty negotiation forward was sent out to the people of Ngāpuhi.

The question of who should negotiate with the Crown has divided Ngāpuhi – some have sided with the group originally chosen – Tuhoronuku – and others have backed the hapu-based grouping, Te Kotahitanga.

It was a resounding kāhore (no) from the people of Ngāpuhi – with 73 hapū rejecting the mandate and 31 in support.The individual vote was 51 percent in favour and 48 percent against – but a threshold of 75 percent was needed to get the mandate over the line.

Mr Little said he was disappointed but the best thing right now was to “take bit of a breather”, and he was not giving up.

Wayne (presumably Mapp) commented on this recently:

Ngapuhi took a claim to the Waiting tribune on the meaning of the 1835 Declaration of Independence, and its relation to the Treaty of Waitangi. The Tribunal gave it some credence and stated Ngapuhi didn’t surrender sovereignty. But in practical terms what does that mean today? I can’t see the government going beyond the Tuhoe settlement in giving local governance powers.

The government should recognise Ngati Hine as a seperate entity if they want to settle the collective Ngapuhi claim. Some might say Ngati Hine is a hapu, but it is a hapu of 20,000 people, one third of Ngapuhi. Not sure why the government is being so obstinate about this.

https://yournz.org/2019/02/05/the-articles-of-the-treaty-of-waitangi/#comment-346234

RNZ:  Ngāti Hine wants to formally split off from Ngāpuhi Treaty talks

Ngāti Hine hapū have told the Treaty Negotiations Minister they want to formally split off from the Ngāpuhi talks that have been ongoing for more than a decade.

Chairperson for Ngāti Hine, Pita Tipene, met with Mr Little on Sunday, and told him that Ngāti Hine had decided it would be seeking its own mandate.

“We’re clear about what we put to him,” Mr Tipene said.

“I think it’s been a long time coming. Certainly Ngāti Hine has always been true to its own vision statement but we’ve changed our tack now.”

He said that view had come about from a number of hui among the nine hapū in the last months, with one meeting as recently as 12 January.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ve closed off all doors to working with our neighbours on overlapping claims,” Mr Tipene said.

He said Mr Little has been canvassing a number of people about a way forward for Ngāpuhi, given the vote on the Tūhono proposal that “ended up in complete failure” at the end of last year.

But Mr Tipene said “Ngāti Hine is now very, very clear that we will be seeking our own mandate.”

Mr Little confirmed the exchange took place.

“He said that … well it seemed to be without an awareness of what it takes to shut down the current mandate – which is really a name only – and to establish a whole new mandate or a bunch of mandates,” he said.

Mr Little said he made it clear to Mr Tipene that although he has an open mind as to how things happen from here, the Crown’s position is that Ngāpuhi must work “or at least move” together.

“There needs to be coordination and cohesion. It doesn’t make sense for the Crown to be drawn in to a multiplicity of negotiations where nothing can settle or reach agreement,” he said.

But nothing is looking like being agreed on let alone or settled with Ngāpuhi  as a whole.

 

Tracey Martin alleges National organised ‘troll’ attack on Andrew Little

I’m not sure why this has come out now, but NZ First MP and Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin has said she witnessed a troll attack being organised by a National MP against Andrew Little when he was Labour leader.

NZ Herald:  Cabinet Minister alleges that National MP directed trolls to attack former Labour leader Andrew Little

New Zealand First MP and Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin says she personally witnessed a National Party MP instructing online “trolls” to attack a political opponent.

Martin will not name the MP, but says she watched him direct a group of supporters on Facebook to personally attack then-Labour leader Andrew Little while they were sharing a domestic flight during the election campaign.

“During the 2017 election I was on a plane and there was another Member of Parliament sitting in front of me.”

“… I watched this person in front of me, who was running a group of 15 trolls on Facebook, give them the messages that they needed to start bombarding the other party that they were trying to have an effect on.

“The messages they sent changed the outcome of the election. It wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for, but that was what they were attempting to do.

That’s referring to Little standing down as leader. Did a few messages in social media cause that? I doubt it.

“They personalised the messages to try and get one individual to feel so uncomfortable about their position that they removed themselves from it.”

Martin told the Herald after her speech that she was certain of what she saw on the plane. She told her colleagues about the National MP’s actions but did not consider any further action or making a complaint.

“It won’t be a shock to anybody that it’s a political tool. I wouldn’t be surprised if Labour runs similar groups of people.

“But we need to decide whether that’s appropriate, because they run personal attacks against either the leadership or individual MPs in the name of politics.

This is hardly shocking. MPs and parties, and political activists, have run campaigns against political opponents for a long time.

It may happen more with social media. It has certainly widened to attacks on anyone involved in politics. Social media can be a fairly knarly political environment, but I have noticed a number of times a distinctly different, specific attack line on myself when I have raised issues on both Labour leaning The Standard and National leaning Kiwiblog. You get to recognise things like this when certain anonymous identities get involved in sustained attempts to discredit and divert.

Should we be concerned?

“I don’t think it’s reasonable or appropriate behaviour for any adult to be creating a group of others to specific target a single individual. If a young person did that, we’d all be calling it bullying.”

From my experience most political forum bullying comes from numpties who seem to see sustained attacks as some sort of game of attrition.

Party initiated attacks are less common, hence they stand out. Some have involved insidious threats.

There’s not much that can be done to prevent this, apart from pointing out when it happens – so I don’t know why Martin has waited until now to tell her story. Standing up to the political attackers and doing what can be done to hold to account is best done at the time.

I don’t think that the Harmful Digital Communications Act is the right thing to use to address political attacks. Sunlight is the best way of dealing with them.

 

Calls for more than handouts for Māori

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Development minister Shane Jones have preceded Waitangi Day celebrations with announcements of hundreds of millions of dollars in development grants, but this approach has been questioned and in some cases slammed – see National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

NZ Herald editorial: Handouts are no substitute for a Ngapuhi Treaty settlement

The Prime Minister is doling out a great deal of money on her extended visit to Northland for Waitangi Day.

At a Kaipara marae on Sunday she announced $100 million of the Government’s $1 billion provincial growth fund will be set aside as capital for Māori developments.

Yesterday at Mangatoa Station near Kaikohe she announced $82m from the fund will be used to set up regional training and employment “hubs”, and a further $20m from the fund will go to establishing regional digital “hubs” to help small towns and marae get internet connections.

In two days, with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones at her elbow, they have committed about a fifth of the original fund which is already depleted by some grants of dubious value he made last year.

While the projects announced at the weekend will be spread around a number of regions Northland is one of the most needy, which is why successive governments have been working so hard to try to help Ngapuhi get organised for a Treaty settlement.

After a year of trying, Justice Minister Andrew Little seems to be no closer than previous ministers came to finding a bargaining partner all Ngapuhi hapu will accept.

Now the Government seems to be giving handouts instead.

The Government may be right that Māori land is the underdeveloped asset that can provide those parts with more wealth. But providing seed capital is the easy part. It has to do much more to ensure the seedlings are not mulched.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom):  Ardern’s Waitangi sequel a test of relationship

Heading to what has traditionally been a tempestuous occasion for prime ministers, Jacinda Ardern’s Waitangi debut in 2018 went about as well as she could have hoped.

While Waitangi Day organising committee chairman Pita Paraone believes Ardern will receive a similar reception this year, he suggests there may be “a bit of murmuring” from Māori over some areas of discontent.

There has always been murmurings of discontent at Waitangi.

Matthew Tukaki, chairman of the National Māori Authority, agrees there will be plenty of expectation from Māori for the Government to deliver on its many promises.

“We’ve had a year of inquiries, we’ve had a year of investigations … 2019 for this Government must be the year of action.”

Many of the issues prioritised by Māori are the same as for the wider population: Paraone mentions mental health and housing, while Tukaki talks about high suicide and unemployment rates.

Tukaki says there is value in “universal principles that guide your waka”, but argues that is not enough: it must be supported by targeted reform and policies to succeed.

Solutions will not come in the form of short-term fixes, he says, but a longer-term vision that can be sustained over years or decades.

The handouts look to be more short term political fixes, or attempted fixes, but fundamental problems remain.

“For too long, government agencies and offices and ministries have been working on solutions and then saying to Māori, ‘Here’s a solution to whatever problem’,” (Labour MP and deputy Prime Minister) Kelvin Davis says.

Like “here’s some money”.

“Really what we need to say is, here’s a problem, how do we work on a solution together so it actually meets the needs of the people who we’re working for?”

There is a lot of work to do there, more than meeting a next year holding to account deadline that Ardern seems to be trying to address.

Māori will be looking to the future too, and whether Ardern’s government can deliver on its promises: perhaps with an added degree of wariness, but also hope.

They will be hoping for more from Ardern and her Government.

 

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