Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Response to introduction of climate change bill

This is a big deal for the Greens.

Edgeler has been unusually critical of the Claytons binding referendum on cannabis law reform.

“Landmark action on climate change” bill introduced to parliament

The Government has announced today that the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has been introduced to Parliament:


Landmark climate change bill goes to Parliament

The Government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand.

“To address the long-term challenge of climate change, today we introduce the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’ve built a practical consensus across Government that creates a plan for the next 30 years, which provides the certainty industries need to get in front of this challenge.

“In March this year, tens of thousands of New Zealand school students went on strike to protest the lack of decisive action on climate change. We hear them. The Zero Carbon Bill outlines our plan to safeguard the future that those school students will inherit,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“The critical thing is to do everything we can over the next 30 years to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and the Zero Carbon Bill makes that a legally binding objective.

“Carbon dioxide is the most important thing we need to tackle – that’s why we’ve taken a net zero carbon approach.

“Agriculture is incredibly important to New Zealand, but it also needs to be part of the solution. That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane.

“The split gases approach we’ve agreed on is consistent with that commitment.

“The Bill sets a target for 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050.

“That provisional range will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024, to take account of changes in scientific knowledge and other developments.

“The independent Climate Change Commission, established by the Bill, will support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly “emissions budgets”.

“The Bill also creates a legal obligation on the Government to plan for how it will support New Zealand towns and cities, business, farmers and Iwi to adapt to the increasingly severe storms, floods, fires and droughts we are experiencing as a result of climate change.

“New Zealanders have made it clear they want leadership and consensus on climate change legislation.

“We’re delighted that the three Government partners have reached an agreement over such a significant piece of legislation after lengthy consultation.

“I also want to acknowledge National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and National’s Climate Change spokesperson, for conducting negotiations in good faith and setting politics to one side while we’ve worked through the Bill.

“The fact that, across Parliament, all parties have engaged constructively in this process signals mutual interest in creating enduring climate change legislation that will stand the test of time and deliver long-lasting commitment to action on climate change for future generations.

“But the work’s not finished. I urge people to engage with the Zero Carbon Bill as it passes through Parliament. Have your say in the select committee process.

“All of us have a part to play our part in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global temperature increases.

“That includes New Zealanders making their contribution to see the Zero Carbon Bill become law by the end of this year,” James Shaw said.

 

Arms Amendment Act report presented to Parliament

The final report in the fast tracked Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill has been reported back to Parliament, seven days after first being introduced, and after two days of public submissions and one day of oral submissions.

The Finance and Expenditure Committee recommends that the bill be passed, but with minor amendments.

The amendments show that the committee has at least listened to some concerns expressed in submisssions.

Key parts of the report (some edits and omissions):


The bill’s proposed changes include:

  • defining the following items as prohibited:
    o all military-style semi-automatic firearms (MSSAs)
    o semi-automatic firearms, other than those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges or semi-automatic shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold no more than 5 cartridges
    o pump-action shotguns that can be used with a detachable magazine
    o pump-action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold more than 5 cartridges
    o any magazines and parts that would enable a firearm to be converted into a prohibited firearm
  • exempting limited categories of licence holders who could apply to import, sell, supply, and possess these prohibited items
  • providing a strict regulatory regime for these prohibited items
  • introducing new offences and penalties relating to these prohibited items
  • providing for an amnesty period, until 30 September 2019, for people to surrender prohibited items
  • providing for the definition of prohibited firearm, prohibited magazine, and prohibited ammunition to be amended, replaced, or declared by Order in Council.

The amendments set out in the bill would be the first in a set of reforms to the Arms Act which have been signalled by the Government.

Prohibited items

The bill would prohibit most semi-automatic firearms (other than pistols), and some shotguns, from circulation and use in New Zealand’s general population. These firearms, whether they are currently classified as an A Category or E Category firearm, would no longer be generally available.

Some small-calibre rimfire semi-automatic firearms, such as those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges, and lesser-capacity shotguns that can hold no more than 5 cartridges, would be excluded from the prohibition. These firearms are commonly used for hunting and farming, and have a
limited magazine capacity.

The bill would also prohibit:

  • magazines used with shotguns that can hold more than 5 cartridges
  • magazines used with any other firearm (except a pistol) that can hold more than 10 cartridges
  • parts that can convert firearms into prohibited firearms.

Exemptions

The bill would provide some narrow exemptions so that certain categories of licensed gun owners could apply to import, supply, sell, or possess prohibited items. Exempt categories of people would include:

  • licensed dealers
  • bona fide collectors of firearms
  • bona fide museum curators or directors
  • approved broadcasters, bona fide theatre companies or societies, and film or television production companies
  • people engaged by the Department of Conservation, or by a management agency under the Biosecurity Act 1993, to kill or hunt wild animals or animal pests
  • a person authorised by the Minister of Conservation to undertake wild animal recovery
    operations.

Suggested amendments to the bill

Exemption for commercial wild animal or animal pest control businesses

We recommend adding a narrow exemption to allow commercial businesses specialising in the control of wild animals or animal pests to use a prohibited item for pest-control purposes on private land or non-conservation Crown land in accordance with a specified Act.

The bill as introduced would provide an exemption for persons carrying out pest control who are employed or engaged by the Department of Conservation or a management agency in accordance with the Biosecurity Act. However, these exemptions would not cover pest control on private land, such as farms, or non-conservation Crown land.

We consider that there would be some narrow circumstances where use of a prohibited firearm was absolutely necessary to carry out pest control on private land or non-conservation Crown land for conservation, environmental, or economic reasons. Our recommendation would allow a private landowner to engage a wild animal or animal pest control business to use such firearms while still removing most semi-automatic firearms from circulation.

We recommend that wild animals or animal pests, under the specified Acts referred to in clause 8 of the bill as introduced, include Canada Geese.

Airsoft and paintball guns

Airguns used in airsoft and paintball sports come under the definition of airgun, not firearm, in the Arms Act. This means that such airguns would not be affected by the prohibitions in the bill.

Under the Arms Act at present, a person must have a permit to import a restricted airgun. This is any airgun that looks like a restricted weapon, military-style semi-automatic firearm, or pistol. The bill would keep and extend this requirement to include any airgun that looks like a prohibited firearm as defined in clause 5, section 2A.

Exemption for firearms collectors

We wish to clarify that bona fide collectors of firearms would be permitted to possess prohibited semi-automatic firearms under clause 8 of the bill, which would insert new section 4A(1)(b) into the Act.

For a person to obtain an endorsement on their licence to possess a prohibited item as a bona fide collector, they would need to fulfil the requirements in clause 31, section 33A.

Conditions of endorsement for collectors of firearms

Clause 65(2), section 74(1)(ha) of the bill as introduced would allow regulations to be made to provide for the secure storage of a vital part of a prohibited firearm possessed by a bona fide collector, to render it inoperable. The regulations would also prescribe precautions to be taken to prevent the theft or misuse of a vital part.

We consider that provisions for the secure storage of a vital part should be included in the principal Act. Therefore, we recommend inserting an additional condition of endorsement for bona fide collectors of firearms into clause 31, to require the removed vital part of a prohibited firearm to be stored at a separate address, which would be regulated by the Police.

The Green Party and the NZ Police Association opposed this.

Exemption for people with heirloom or memento firearms

We recommend adding a narrow exemption that would allow people to possess a prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine that clearly has special significance as an heirloom or memento.

We recommend that our suggested exemption be subject to the same conditions ofendorsement that clause 31 of the bill as introduced would apply to bona fide collectors.

Proof of unlawful possession

Clause 49 of the bill would insert new sections 50A to 50C into the Act to introduce new offences for unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, magazines, or parts. These provisions would be covered by the “reverse onus of proof” provision in section 66 of the Arms Act. This means that the owner of any land, building, or vehicle where a prohibited item was found would be presumed to be in possession of it unless they could prove otherwise.

As introduced, it would create the possibility of an innocent person being wrongly convicted if they were in possession of a part that could be fitted to both a non-prohibited and prohibited firearm.

Therefore, we recommend amending clause 49, section 50C(a) to ensure that a person who had reasonable excuse to possess a prohibited part would not be criminalised for possessing it. For the same reason, we also recommend deleting “prohibited part” in clause 61, which would amend section 66 of the Act.

Order in Council powers

Power to amend definitions

The Order in Council powers in the bill as introduced (clause 66, sections 74A and 74B) would allow the Governor-General to “amend and replace the description” of prohibited items in new sections 2A and 2B. We consider this power to be broader than the existing Order in Council powers in section 74A of the Arms Act. The existing section provides for militarystyle semi-automatic firearms, and features of these firearms, to be defined, described, and declared by Order in Council.

We recommend amending clause 66, section 74A(a) and (b) to state “amend the description”, rather than “amend and replace the description”. Our amendment would constrain the Order in Council powers in the bill as introduced.

Transition period for future Orders in Council

We recommend inserting a provision into clause 65, section 74 to allow the GovernorGeneral to make regulations to declare a limited amnesty period for possession offences created by future Orders in Council.

Comments for clarification

Suppressors, silencers, and sights

Suppressors, silencers, and sights that are fitted to, designed for, or intended to be used on an A Category firearm by a person who lawfully holds an A Category licence would not be prohibited by the bill.

As an example, a suppressor, silencer, or sight fitted to, designed for, or intended to be used on a firearm prohibited under the bill would be considered a prohibited part. However, if the prohibited firearm was surrendered and the suppressor, silencer, or sight was then intended for use on a non-prohibited firearm, it would no longer be a prohibited part.

Competitive shooting sports

We do not recommend an exemption for sporting competitors or competitions.

We consider an exemption unnecessary because the bill would not prevent people from competing in shooting disciplines at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games. In addition, we believe that people who compete in the 3-gun discipline would be able to use a 0.22 or lower calibre semi-automatic firearm, rather than a 0.223 calibre semi-automatic firearm, to continue to participate in the discipline.

The purpose of the bill is to prohibit the use of most semi-automatic firearms in New Zealand in order to reduce the risk of death or injury resulting from their misuse. We believe that providing an exemption for sporting competitors would allow more semi-automatic firearms to remain in circulation than we consider desirable for public safety.

Buy-back scheme

The Government has announced that it will set up a buy-back scheme to encourage people to give up their firearms. The buy-back scheme is not part of this bill.

The New Zealand Police and the Treasury are working on the details of the buy-back. The Government has said that the underlying principle of the buy-back will be that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid to firearms owners. It has also signalled that the buyback will take into account the age and type of the firearm, and its market value.

The New Zealand National Party and ACT New Zealand registered some concerns.

Full report here.

The real work begins on the Medical Cannabis scheme

Media release from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand after the passing of the medical cannabis bill in parliament today:


The real work begins on the Medical Cannabis scheme

MCANZ is delighted at the historic achievement of a solid commitment to produce Medical Cannabis in New Zealand, and is grateful for the amendments that were introduced broadening the scope of the compassionate clause, clarifying a more therapeutic “whole plant” definition of CBD, and allowing for native cannabis strains to enter the market, giving New Zealand Industry a competitive edge over Australia.

MCANZ Does note that the real mahi has yet to start, and close attention was paid to details in the Initial speech from David Clark.  Details were revealed around a consultation phase, with a mention of an advisory committee to be formed.

It is the view of MCANZ that a year has been wasted that could have been spent working on the scheme.
“We challenge the minister to get invitations for an advisory committee out before christmas to demonstrate it is truly a priority.” Says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun

“The challenge now lies in the MOH and its resourcing, we need the MOH to recruit more staff to assist in forming the scheme, and ultimately administering it, we hope that with a  budget surplus it should be fairly easy to get funds without resorting to the likes of industry levies.”

“Time frames are prone to slipping, especially with such large bodies of work, we hope that they can talk to other governments to learn from their experiences, and ensure that the scheme is implemented on time.”

“Our hope is that with early clarity on the direction of the scheme, manufacturers can be ready for the go live date, delivering products at much more affordable prices on day 1”

The most damaging effects of the waka jumping law will be invisible and immeasurable

It is difficult to know what the effect of the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill that passed it’s final vote in Parliament this week. We may never know for sure.

We do know that it has made Labour look like Winston’s patsies, especially Andrew Little who had to front the bill as it went through Parliament. And it showed the Greens as far less principled than they had made out for so long while out of government – this could be damaging to them in the next election.

However Audrey Young says that the most damaging effects will be “invisible and immeasurable” in Winston Peters wastes hard-won power on wretched law.

…the party-hopping bill passed in Parliament ahead of the party’s convention can barely be called an achievement, let alone qualify as a proud one.

It has been Parliament at its worst – indulging a powerful politician with an obsession with defectors.

The law is a fetter on dissent, and Peters’ decision to demand its passage as the price of power stands in contradiction to his own history as a dissenter and maverick.

The law will enable a caucus to fire a duly elected MP not just from the caucus but from Parliament if they decide that MP no longer properly represents the party.

The hypocrisy is galling. Peters built New Zealand First on party-hoppers such as Michael Laws, Peter McCardle and Jack Elder.

In those days, Peters was upholding the freedom of any MP to leave a party without having to leave Parliament if their conscience demanded it.

Self-interested hypocrisy is nothing new for Peters.

It was only when party-hoppers left New Zealand First rather than joined it that the notion became objectionable, to Peters. It was only after MMP that what the voters decided on election day suddenly became sacred to Peters.

Essentially, the new party-hopping law is based on self-interest disguised as principle.

It is a draconian solution to a problem of defection that has not existed since those formative days of MMP.

And Labour and the Greens went along with this and enabled it.

New Zealand First did not campaign on party-hopping at all last election but then put it up as a bottom line in coalition talks, while the vast number of bottom lines actually enunciated by Peters in the campaign were surrendered in the horse-trading of coalition talks.

The law does not have the true support of the majority of the House but the Greens have been blackmailed into supporting it against the alternative – a toxic relationship with Peters.

Electoral law changes should have wide support of any Parliament but the law was railroaded through by a party with 7 per cent of the vote because it held the balance of power at the election.

Will Greens learn from being backed into a corner by Peters and then painting themselves in? They could perhaps gain back some of their credibility on being principled it they  don’t campaign next election on a status quo governing arrangement leaving Peters in a dog wagging position.

The most pernicious effect of the new law is not the actual expulsion of an MP from Parliament. Rather, it is the chilling effect it will have on strong, independent thought and voice of MPs within parties and within Parliament. In turn that will have an impact on the selection of MPs.

The most damaging effects of the law will be invisible and immeasurable.

It was the impact on dissent that drew the harshest criticism from Green luminaries Jeanette Fitzsimons and Keith Locke.

Did Green support of this bill go to party membership for a decision? They used to claim that their membership played a part in any important decisions. Surely they must have done that, especially given that it was a change to electoral law, and it had an obvious impact on the party ethos and integrity.

It has been sad to see a raft of new Labour MPs kowtowing to Peters to convince themselves that the law will enhance democracy when it is really a management tool for Peters to keep potentially difficult MPs in check.

One could wonder what threats or promises were made between Peters and Labour and Green leaderships to make both parties roll over on this for Peters.

Dissent has been a strong theme throughout Peters’ career.

He talked about in his maiden speech in 1979 when he lambasted people whom he saw as destructive critics who criticised for the sake of it: “Opposition, criticism and dissent are worthy pursuits when combined with a sense of responsibility. They have a purifying effect on society. Areas in need of urgent attention can be identified and courses of action may be initiated. However embarrassing to community or national leaders, the results are enormously beneficial to the total well-being of the community. The critic I am [condemning] has no such goals. He sets out to exploit every tremor and spasm in society, the economy or race relations, seeking to use every such event as a vehicle to project his own public personality.”

An unkind person might say that Peters has gained power in New Zealand politics by becoming the sort of critic he so despised in his maiden speech.

It is a remarkable achievement to have built a party, and sustained it, and to be at the peak of his political power when most people his age are checking out retirement villages.

It is also remarkable that Peters should be wasting that power on such a wretched law.

And that Labour and especially the Greens have wasted their integrity by enabling the wretched law to pass with barely a whimper.

 

 

 

 

Police want delay in cannabis legislation

The medical cannabis legislation introduced by the incoming Government would give people who are dying a legal out clause from using cannabis, but would keep it a crime to grow or supply them with cannabis, posing some legal difficulties.

There were signs the bill was rushed to fir within Labour’s 100 days commitment.  It is now being reported that the police opposed this approach.

RNZ: Police asked for delay on cannabis legislation

The Health Minister pushed ahead with giving full legal protection to the terminally ill to use cannabis, despite advice from the police asking for that particular provision to be delayed.

The legislation currently before Parliament, means anyone terminally ill will not have to rely on the discretion of the police or the courts if they’re caught with cannabis.

If their case gets to court they can present certification from their practitioner to avoid prosecution.

Under the Bill the definition of “terminally ill” is that someone is likely to only have about 12 months to live.

Official papers obtained by RNZ show there were conflicting views among government agencies about how far the medicinal cannabis bill should go.

They show while the police supported giving terminally ill people “reassurance” they would not be prosecuted, in principle, they wanted the statutory defence deferred.

Police wanted to “ensure any legislative provision was workable” and that it would not create “unintended consequences”.

The proposed legal situation would be messy.

However, Health Minister David Clark disagreed.

“The police suggested deferring because they’re concerned about how these things are to be policed – that’s their job – we of course are concerned to be compassionate in our response.”

Futhermore, the Justice Ministry said it was a “concern” there was not legal protection for other people getting cannabis on behalf of someone who was terminally ill.

Clark dismissed this, saying he expected the Police to turn a blind eye to supplying, but that would put the police in a difficult situation.

Dr Clark said it was too difficult to extend the defence further, including defining exactly who would be supplying the cannabis in the broader network.

“And we preferred to favour the terminally ill and try to restrict, where possible, the supply of cannabis.”

More likely it was too difficult for Labour to get NZ First to agree to extend the defence further.

Nelson lawyer Sue Grey has represented many people charged with obtaining or possessing cannabis for medicinal purposes, and argued friends and family should also have the full legal protection.

“Because the sickest people can’t supply themselves and to put their family under that intense pressure of prosecution for helping a dying or sick person is just completely unfair and unjustified.”

The proposed ‘solution’ is poor.

…the Health Ministry opposed the defence for friends and family saying that would “significantly broaden the proposal”.

And it argued it could have unintended consequences:

“A person could set up a business supplying illicit cannabis to terminally ill people and argue that the exception and statutory defence cover this activity.”

So instead, people on their death bed are supposed to wish that some cannabis to relieve their suffering will fall out of the sky into their laps.

Yes, an unintended consequence of sensible legislation could mean that some non-dying cannabis users may find it a bit easier to source some product for relief. That would hardly be calamitous – cannabis use is unlikely to significantly change with sensible law changes, except for those who are suffering and want some relief.

All they can do now is suffer, or load themselves up on prescription drugs or alcohol, which cannot be any worse than a bit of cannabis.

Greens may have to support waka jumping bill

The Greens have long been staunchly opposed to the waka jumping (party hopping) legislation, but due to their confidence and supply agreement commitments they may be obliged to back the bill prompted by NZ First. They have been caught out because NZ First did not campaign on this policy (voters would have good cause to question NZ First sneaking this policy in after the election).

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Democracy

• Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

 

NZH: Green Party may have to support waka-jumping bill

The bill, which would ensure Parliament’s proportionality in the event that an MP leaves or is ejected from a party, is part of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement – but needs the support of the Green Party to pass into law.

Young Greens co-convenor Max Tweedie, in a Facebook post last week following a call with the party executive that was screen-shot and posted to reddit, said that the party had no choice but to support the bill.

“James [Shaw] has explained why the Greens are supporting the waka-jumping bill,” Tweedie wrote.

“NZF and Labour, and the Greens and Labour, conducted blind negotiations for the agreement. Labour requested a list of NZF policies that we don’t support, and while we went through, we didn’t even think of the waka-jumping bill.

“As a result, because of the agreements between us, we have to support the bill because our opposition wasn’t flagged.”

A spokesperson for the Greens confirmed that the party did not raise it as an issue during coalition talks with Labour because NZ First had not campaigned on it.

“We looked at the policies that parties ran on during the 2017 campaign. Waka-jumping wasn’t one of them. We are now managing this issue within the Green Party.”

The spokesperson would not say whether the party had to support the bill beyond the select committee, where the Greens hope the bill will be improved.

The Greens have vehemently opposed similar legislation in the past, and co-leader James Shaw has sought to appease the membership by saying that the party’s ongoing support for the bill is not guaranteed.

From the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

That seems to oblige the Greens to enable the Labour-NZ First agreement to be complied with. That means voting enabling the waka jumping legislation.

Some Greens are not happy.

It would be dishonourable of the Greens not to support the bill too. Caught between the two with no tidy solution – but expect an amendment to the bill that the Greens claim make it ok for them to support it.

This is another challenge of being in Government, especially as the junior of three parties.

 

Coleman on the medicinal cannabis bill

Opposition spokesperson on health (and ex Minister of Health) Jonathan Coleman spoke on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill in it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday.

 

As an electorate MP in the Northcote electorate, I’ve had extensive contact with people from a wide range of backgrounds with a wide range of views on medicinal cannabis, but there is no doubt that this is becoming much more of a mainstream issue and that people have an interest in being able to access these products when they are experiencing, sadly, a terminal illness.

There’s also, of course, people who are wanting to access it for a wider range of medical complaints as well. It’s also been an issue that’s had a great deal of public exposure through the sad illnesses of Helen Kelly and Paul Holmes and Martin Crowe—three very public figures who all said in their latter days that they had accessed medicinal cannabis.

So there’s no question that this is an issue that the Parliament has to deal with and that it’s of great import to tens of thousands of people across the country.

A Curia poll last year showed that 78% of people supported making medical cannabis is use legal.

I can say that he must have his officials tearing their hair out, because he was out there around New Zealand, campaigning big on medicinal cannabis. He said to people that the Labour Government would increase access to medicinal marijuana for the terminally ill and those with chronic pain and chronic conditions. Of course that created a huge wave of expectation, and there will be many people who, when they read this bill, will be bitterly disappointed. As Bill English has said, this is a Government long on intentions but actually poor in the delivery.

That’s what we’re seeing in this bill. It’s a hollowed-out, weak bill that goes nowhere close to delivering on what Labour had promised.

That’s a fair description – Labour promised, but then blamed NZ First for not delivering on the expectations that Labour had built up.

There’s a change there in this bill. Of the three changes, we’ve talked about two of them. There’s the regulation-making power. There’s the effective criminalisation for possession of marijuana, although it’s silent on the quantity for terminal patients who are using it for their own use. But then there’s this thing that the Minister has been heralding—how they are changing the classification of cannabidiol.

It’ll be really interesting to understand how that is any different to what the last Government did under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2016 Commencement Order 2017, passed in about June 2017, where cannabidiol was no longer a controlled drug. All this is, from what I can see in the legislation, is just a tidy up of the legislation to reflect the regulations and existing practice. So, when you take that away, what you’re looking at is a pretty hollowed-out bill.

Labour promised something they haven’t been able to deliver on, and deserve criticism for that.

But much of the responsibility for this hollow shell of a bill must rest with Winston Peters and NZ First.

The last Government had already taken some action on medicinal marijuana. Peter Dunne did a very good job as the Minister then, and I want to acknowledge his contribution. In December 2016 he removed some of the bureaucratic restrictions around access to marijuana, and Sativex, one of two products available in New Zealand, no longer needed ministry approval for sign off. He then in February 2017 signed off non-pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis. That delegation was moved from the Minister to the Ministry of Health.

Arguably that was as significant progress in some respects as the current bill.

But David Clark has said, and this is pretty much from his press release actually, “We wanted to make sure that medicinal cannabis is more accessible to people with terminal illness or chronic conditions and the piece of legislation [here] will make progress.”

Well, I can tell you, it absolutely doesn’t, because when you look at people who are using medicinal cannabis for a terminal illness, this is not going to result in one more person accessing medicinal cannabis. The other thing is he’s got a half-baked scheme here. He’s legalising possession, but where are these people—the middle-class, elderly, terminally ill patients of Northcote—meant to get their cannabis from? So it’s a half-baked scheme, which doesn’t go far enough.

David Clark and Jacinda Ardern have as good as admitted that it doesn’t go far enough.

It’s very clear, it’s the result of that political pressure to get this over the line within 100 days. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the regulatory impact statement (RIS), because that’s very clear about what this bill does and doesn’t do. It actually says there’s been massive time pressure here. It actually says the legislation has had to be rushed to get it under the bar for 100 days.

On other 100 day promises Labour stepped them back and delayed them, to do more work and consultation, saying that it was more important to have good legislation than rushed legislation.

It says there will be a paper in March 2018 that will lay out the description of this medicinal cannabis scheme, which the Minister was talking about as if it’s actually in the legislation. It’s not. The scheme has not been designed. All this gives is a regulation-making power. So you can see this is a heck of a long way from perfect, and there are some major weaknesses in the bill.

Although this is a poorly designed, politically-driven bill, on balance we have to be mindful of the needs of those terminally ill people. So, in the end, compassion has to win out over a very poorly designed piece of legislation.

National will be supporting this bill but we’re expecting to see some big changes, some big improvements, and we will have some very big questions when this comes to the select committee.

With the Swarbrick bill apparently doomed (in large part by National’s decision not to allow a conscience vote for most of their MPs) then the only chance of a decent bill will be getting big changes and big improvements via the select committee stage.

Medicinal cannabis bill passes first reading, doesn’t pass the compassionate test

The Government Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday, but it has failed to pass muster as a decent, compassionate bill.

Minister of Health, David Clark, introduced the bill.

This bill makes three key changes: it provides people who have a terminal illness a statutory defence to the charge of possessing and using cannabis, it will allow us to make regulations to set quality standards for medicinal cannabis products, and it removes cannabidiol from the Misuse of Drugs Act so that it is no longer a controlled drug. This bill does not make any changes to the recreational use of cannabis.

Making regulations to set quality standards for medicinal cannabis products will in time be worthwhile.

The last Government effectively already removed cannabidiol from the Misuse of Drugs Act so that it is no longer a controlled drug – it can now be supplied on prescription.

And the first change is a crock. It will remain illegal for cannabis to be grown or supplied, so people who are terminally ill will have to rely on someone breaking the law.

This bill will make medicinal cannabis more readily available and will help bring relief to people suffering a terminal illness or those in chronic pain.

That is very poorly worded (Clark read from a prepared speech).

The bill will do little to make medicinal cannabis more readily available (in the main it will be illegal to make it available).

And it provides no legal or medical relief for those in chronic pain or suffering from a debilitating illness if they are not certified as dying (within 12 months).

A major part of this bill is the development of a medicinal cannabis scheme. This will include an advisory committee to review the current requirements for prescribing medicinal cannabis, setting minimum product quality standards to improve patient safety and give medical practitioners confidence, and allow for the domestic cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products. In time, this scheme will lead to a greater supply of quality medicinal cannabis products worldwide, including products made here in New Zealand. The bill will allow for quality standards to be set for all medicinal cannabis products, whether produced domestically or imported.

Sounds ok, but this will take time to implement. Years probably.

We know, however, that in the interim there will be people with a terminal illness using illicit cannabis. That is why this bill establishes a defence to the charge of using and possessing cannabis or a cannabis utensil for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Giving the terminally ill a statutory defence for the possession and use of illicit cannabis will mean they are not criminalized in their final days. This is the compassionate thing to do while the medicinal cannabis scheme is established.

Someone who is dying probably won’t like being criminalized “in their final days” but it will be of little real consequence. It is unlikely the police would try to prosecute them now anyway, and they would probably die before the court process completed.

This is the compassionate thing to do while the medicinal cannabis scheme is established.

Terminally ill people are likely to rely on family, whānau, and friends to source illicit cannabis for them. We do not propose extending the statutory defence to cover the range of people who could supply cannabis to terminally ill people.

It is not ‘compassionate’ to force family, whānau, and friends to act illegally to supply cannabis. This is an awful aspect of the bill.

This legislation will not please all of the campaigners for medicinal cannabis…

An admission of it’s inadequacies.

…but it goes further than any previous Parliament has gone. It represents real progress in making these products more widely available. This bill is a real step forward that all Government support parties are pleased to sign up to.

In some ways it is a real step forward, or it will be, eventually. But in other ways it is abominable.

If Parliament wants to go further, it has the opportunity when it considers a member’s bill in Chlöe Swarbrick’s name.

When Clark said that he will have known, or at least should have known, that the Swarbrick bill is likely to fail at it’s first vote in Parliament today, so to suggest that as a solution to the inadequacies of his Government bill is embarrassing for him and for Labour.

This bill does offer some progress (in the future) on supply and use of some medical cannabis products, but it is a slap in the face of family and friends of those who are dying and might want some relief, and it ignores the needs and wants of the many people suffering from chronic pain and debilitating illness but not at imminent risk of dying.