Pressure increasing on lowering to Level 1 and trans-Tasman travel

Opening up travel between New Zealand and Australia has been proposed as both countries appear to have Covid-19 well under control. It looks unlikely to happen before New Zealand drops to Level 1 restrictions (whatever they may end up being), and Cabinet are not due to consider lowering to level 1 for a week and a half and it has been indicated (on Monday) it may be up to 4 weeks away.

Winton Peters has been talking about a Trans-Tasman bubble for over a month, and is now breaking ranks with Cabinet and says he wants one “yesterday”, but Jacinda Ardern has indicated that September is more likely

24 April: Trans-Tasman bubble could start ‘more quickly than we think’ – Peters

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says some businesses could be saved if the country creates a trans-Tasman bubble – and he’s open to starting on a state-by-state basis.

Fifty-five per cent of tourists who visit New Zealand come from Australia and the foreign affairs minister said it therefore made sense to start planning how a trans-Tasman travel bubble might work.

“So, it requires us to put our best minds together here and in Australia. I’ve spoken to the Foreign Minister in Australia about the need for us to start thinking about that now,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is on board and said it made sense to work with New Zealand on any relaxing of the border restrictions.

“I would have thought New Zealand would be the obvious candidate [for border openings] and that’s the nature of discussions we’ve had,” Morrison said.

Wednesday: Hopes to get trans-Tasman bubble flying by July

A high-powered group investigating opening up trans-Tasman travel amid the coronavirus pandemic hopes to put its proposal to politicians by early June, and get people travelling by the July school holidays.

The ‘Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group’ is made up of 11 government agencies, six airports, two airlines, and includes health experts and airline, airport and border agency representatives from both Australia and New Zealand.

Started by Auckland Airport, and co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), the team of 40 experts have been working for the past two weeks on recommendations for the re-opening of borders between Australia and New Zealand.

ANZLF co-chair Ann Sherry said the group wanted to focus on getting it right first on the Tasman before opening up to the Pacific and other destinations.

“We’ve got an early June objective to get recommendations back to government, but we’re testing it with government as we go along to make sure our thinking isn’t divergent at this stage of the process.”

Once the systems were considered by decision-makers, she was optimistic the trial might be completed in time for the July school holidays, she said.

Prime Minister Ardern was non-committal:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not set a date for how soon the bubble could be set up, saying both countries would need to be comfortable.

Ardern spoke with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday about the proposal, and said on Wednesday that there was enthusiasm on both sides of the Tasman.

The two countries were at different stages of easing restrictions, and New Zealand had had a bit more time to see how progress was going in stamping out Covid-19, she said.

“I’d say good work is taking place and it won’t be too long before we will be ready.”

Deputy Prime Minister Peters is pushing different aspirations:

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has broken rank with Labour, saying that quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel should already be allowed out of one side of his mouth, but has a different story out of the other.

However, Peters told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle briefing on Wednesday that opening the trans-Tasman border was urgent for both economies, but the two countries were not yet ready.

“If the decision was made today could we start tomorrow, I’m going to be honest and say no – but we’re working on it with the greatest of urgency now so that if the decision was made sooner rather than later, we’d be off and hopefully got every contingency foreseeable and imaginable covered,” Peters said.

Travel isn’t even allowed between states in Australia so opening up to New Zealand looks unlikely right now.

Yesterday in Parliament Winston Peters says he’d like to see trans-Tasman bubble implemented ‘yesterday’

National’s deputy leader Nikki Kaye questioned Mr Peters, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister in question time today, over recent disagreements within the Government on Covid-19 restriction timelines.

“Has the Foreign Minister (Winston Peters) advocated to her (Jacinda Ardern) or to the Cabinet to proceed faster around the trans-Tasman bubble,” Ms Kaye asked.

Mr Peters gave a direct response to the question.

“Take a wild guess,” he said with a wry smile.

Ms Kaye then pressed him whether he had pushed for a date that the travel bubble should come into force.

“Yesterday,” he replied before once again taking his seat.

But that may just be typical Peters posturing to an audience.

Margy Osmond, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, told the Sydney Morning Herald they expected it to commence “as early as September”.

When asked about this, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “that could be realistic”.

“I have been careful about putting down specific dates, but have been very focused on making sure we are ready, then we can move and we won’t be constrained by needing to do any administrative or logistical work at our borders,” she told media today.

Opening borders is dependent on moving to level 1.

ACT MP David Seymour has accused Peters of breaching Cabinet rules – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters accused of breaching Cabinet rules in revealing Jacinda Ardern’s views on level 1 move

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Peters – NZ First leader as well as Deputy Prime Minister – openly talked about conversations had in Cabinet.

Asked if New Zealand had been in level 2 for too long, he said: “My party made it very clear we thought that. And the Prime Minister has actually admitted that at the Cabinet meeting – she said it.”

According to the Cabinet Manual – the set of rules for ministers, enforced by the Prime Minister – ministers are not allowed to talk about what happens within Cabinet meetings.

“Discussion at Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings is informal and confidential,” it says.

“Ministers and officials should not … disclose or record the nature or content of the discussions or the views of individual ministers or officials expressed at the meeting itself.”

Seymour said that by saying what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Cabinet on live radio this morning, Peters was in breach of this rule.

It is up to the Prime Minister as to whether or not a minister is disciplined for breaking the Cabinet Manual rules.

Ardern has a record of turning a blind eye to what Peters and Shane Jones do.

Regardless of this political posturing, the public may be adding to the pressure to ease restrictions and get back closer to normal. There have been no new Covid cases in New Zealand for a week, and there are now only 8 active cases, all in the  Auckland region. The case for continuing restrictions will get increasingly hard for the Government to maintain.

The country has virtually eliminated Covid – but the big risk now is if it comes back into the country when border restrictions are eased.

And while Australian Covid numbers look proportionally similar to here The virus figure Australian officials are most worried about

…despite the country’s achievements in overcoming the worst of the virus, there is still one concerning figure looming over its recovery.

Figures released by the Department of Health show that 732, or about 10.3 per cent, of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country have been locally acquired with no contact identified.

This means hundreds of people have caught the virus in Australia but the source of the infection could not be found.

That will be a concern to health officials here, and the Government says they rely on the officials for advice on easing restrictions.

But when should we at least lower to level 1 restrictions here? There has been no community transmission since early April, and business concerns are growing.

NZ Herald: Jacinda Ardern’s wriggle room on moving to alert level 1 early

Cabinet is set to look at whether New Zealand should move to level 1 on June 22, but pressure is mounting to move earlier, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters saying it should have already happened.

Yesterday a top business restructuring expert, Grant Graham, whose firm KordaMentha partner makes money from insolvency work, pleaded for a move to level 1 to save “unjustifiable” job losses.

Yesterday was the sixth straight day of no new Covid-19 cases, and there have been no community transmission cases – whose branches are harder to trace and isolate – since the beginning of April.

It is possible that there will be no active cases in New Zealand by Cabinet’s D-day on June 22.

Meanwhile Stats NZ revealed that the number of filled jobs plummeted by a record 37,500 in April.

The decimated industries of tourism, hospitality, and events are hoping for an earlier move to level 1, where there will be no physical distancing requirements and no restrictions on numbers at social gatherings.

Ardern said on Monday that Cabinet would consider the settings of level 2 in 10 days, on June 8, and it will meet no later than on June 22 to look at whether the country could move to level 1.

She reiterated that timetable yesterday, saying it was based on Bloomfield’s advice.

But Cabinet could decide, based on his advice, to open up level 2 even more after June 8, or consider moving to level 1 before June 22.

“We have given us some space, just in case,” Ardern said yesterday.

Ardern seems to have one eye on health advice, hopefully she has one eye on deteriorating business news, and both eyes on the election.

June 22 looks a long way away as we move close to no active cases in the country.

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill under urgency in Parliament

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency. So far just the National Party has opposed the Bill.

The Bill gives the Police the legal ability to walk into anyone’s home without a warrant, so there are risks to civil rights and liberty.

It is being rushed under urgency to try to make the move to Level 2 tonight legal, but it leaves open the question about whether the first move to Level 2 in March may have been illegal.

David Parker:

“This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.”

Michael Woodhouse:

“I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.”

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.”


Attorney General David Parker introduced the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill yesterday:

This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. This is designed to last for a maximum of two years although can be brought to an end earlier if the threat passes.

New Zealanders have been on a precarious journey combatting this virus. We’re not at our final destination yet, but together we’ve made extraordinary progress through the largely voluntary efforts of our people, who accepted the need for unprecedented actions to isolate ourselves in bubbles to cut off the chains of infection.

We went hard and we went early to fight a virus for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. We know it can hide and spread through those with no symptoms, and around the world we’ve seen the devastation and loss of life it can cause, especially in aged care and in dementia units. We’ve negotiated difficult terrain and have broken the chain of community transmission.

In the meantime, we’ve improved our stocks and supply lines for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and reagents as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and distribution. We’ve ramped up testing and the quality and capacity of track and tracing. We’ve minimised the damage the virus would have otherwise done to our people and to our economy.

To date, restrictions at alert levels 3 and 4 were given legal effect by notices under section 70 of the Health Act, in conjunction with the state of emergency under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and the Economic Preparedness Act. To support alert levels 3 and 4, the Director-General has issued notices to close premises, except those providing essential services, prohibiting congregation in outdoor places, and require people to remain at home in their bubble except to access essentials and to exercise. These orders are lawful under the Health Act, and the restrictions proportionate to the scale of the COVID-19 threat.

I think there’s doubt about that, as pointed out here: New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

That said, some aspects of the Health Act do need to be modernised and adapted, and this is particularly true for the detailed level 2 measures, which are not well suited to the existing Health Act and Civil Defence Emergency Management regime. This bill provides new enforceable measures that don’t depend on a state of emergency being in force.

We went into Level 2 and Level 3 before the State of Emergency was announced in March.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.

We acknowledge that it is unusual—though not unprecedented—for a constable to have warrantless power of entry into a private dwelling house. This is due—the fact that it is unusual—to the high expectation of privacy that citizens have in these places.

The extraordinary risk posed by COVID-19—I will cover instances in later speeches; I haven’t got time to detail that now—and the fact that it can be spread readily in large social gatherings, whether in public or in private, justifies the power in these circumstances and the limits it places on rights.

There are safeguards in the bill so that a constable must report every time a warrantless entry power is exercised, summarising the circumstances and the reason why the power needed to be exercised.

This bill will create a new infringement offence regime. Some breaches will be dealt with as an infringement offence, and an intentional breach will be a criminal offence which may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction. An infringement offence regime gives police another graduated step in their enforcement options where the breach is not serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

The bill also amends the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 to ensure a nationally consistent approach to the response and to management of risks arising from COVID-19, and to better deal with concurrent emergencies that are not COVID-19 but which might arise during the period of the COVID-19 response.

We believe this legislation is needed to appropriately continue our response to the unique and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Simon Bridges in reply:

… it’s with regret that I say we have on this side of the House in the National Party, real concerns with this bill. You’ll hear from other members of National about, I am sure, civil liberty concerns—concerns with our freedoms as a people that have been long fought for—in the speeches and contributions. I want to simply place on record my concerns in two areas, really, but four for completeness: funerals, tangi; churches or places of worship; enforcement; and the length of time that this bill—or law, as it will, I think, become—applies for.

…this bill, in coming here, has had very limited scrutiny. There will be, as it becomes law, no select committee. It’s a case of, on this side of the House—I don’t know about the support parties in Government—us having it for less than 24 hours. I think it was Geoffrey Palmer who lamented this Parliament being the fastest lawmaker in the West. Dare I say it, to the members opposite, in recent times we have got it wrong; passing things that we didn’t even know we were passing. So the room for error in this bill, I suggest, is incredibly high, given the legal complexities.

Michael Woodhouse:

I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.

I’m old enough to remember carless days, wage and price freezes, reducing the road speed limit from 100 kilometres to 80 kilometres per hour — that’s right: SMPs — by an executive that road roughshod over this parliamentary process. Even they pale into comparison with the influence and executive fiat that is being exerted on this country by this bill.

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.

Let’s be very clear. If there was a question about whether the level 4 and level 3 lockdown was legally allowed under section 70 of the Health Act—and that is a question yet to be answered—then there’s no doubt that the sort of influence that the Government wants to have in level 2 is not. So if the Government wants to act in this way, it does need to pass legislation. But, as I said in my previous intervention, that is the very time when this place matters most, when the rule of law matters most, and where changes to that law need to be carefully thought through, well-considered, consulted on, robustly debated, and definitely not rushed through.

Now, the Minister of Health, very clearly says there is haste—understandable. But this Government has had three months. I think this Government did get legal advice that said that there was a question mark over their ability to act at level 3 and 4, and, clearly, they wanted to continue to impose themselves on New Zealanders’ lives under level 2 in a way that was entirely inconsistent given what we heard about what level 2 would look like. And so they’re going to pass that bill.

But not even the Minister of Health knows his own legislation, because he said in his speech that he will have to consult with the Director-General of Health. Actually, the bill doesn’t say that; it says quite the opposite. At subclause (2) of clause 9, on page 5, when making a section 11 order, “Nothing in this section requires the Minister to receive specific advice from the Director-General about the content of a proposed order or proposal to amend, extend, or revoke an order.” So he doesn’t need to consult the director-general, and not even Dr Clark knew that.

 I’m sad that at this stage in the process the National Party cannot support this bill, because we want this to be a team of 5 million, but it’s the Government that is racing off in a direction that we cannot support, curtailing the freedom of New Zealanders without their right to have their say. Unless there are material changes to it, which will be signalled, it will be difficult to support this subsequently.

Ron Mark spoke for NZ First but his speech was mainly an attack on National with little altention given to the Bill.

Julie Ann Genter for the Green Party:

I rise in support of this bill.

This bill, I think, is absolutely necessary to ensure that all New Zealanders will benefit from the period of lockdown that we’ve already been in, and will benefit from being assured that that the rules will be able to be enforced. Because even if the vast majority of New Zealanders embrace these rules and want to stop the spread of COVID-19, it would only take a small number who ignore the rules to cause an outbreak that could quite quickly become very serious and cause us to have to move back to a stricter level.

So, of course, the vast majority of New Zealanders support the actions that have been taken thus far. I think they will absolutely respect the rules in level 2, which are not at all arbitrary, but absolutely informed by what is going to prevent the spread of the illness.

Many people were pushing boundaries if not overstepping them under Level 3 over the last two weeks.

Of course, the Green Party would always prefer that there would be a select committee, even a very short one, and we would’ve liked to have seen that. But we also understand the need for urgency right now, given the move to level 2 at—was it at midnight on Thursday morning or 11:59 Wednesday? So recognising that this is a very, very short period of time and that there was a desire to move back to level 2 sooner rather than later, then we can understand this.

But the Bill didn’t have to be only introduced to Parliament the day before the we go back down to Level 2.

David Seymour (ACT):

I rise on behalf of ACT in support of this bill to its first reading. The reason ACT supports the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill is very simple. It’s about the rule of law, and the rule of law matters because if it means anything to be a New Zealander, it is to live freely under democracy and the rule of law: to be able to send representatives to this House to make laws that are clear, that we can read for ourselves and understand what the law is. Having the rule of law protects the weakest people in our society because they can see it written down and it applies equally to every person.

But, unfortunately, I can only support this bill to the first reading, through this urgent process, because it has some real problems. I can understand the Government going through urgency. I won’t relitigate the issues that got us here, except to say that it has been four months–actually, nearly four and a half months–since it became clear to countries such as Taiwan that there might be an issue.

The idea that this has all suddenly happened and the Government has to rush Parliament through urgency now is a poor reflection on the preparedness of the Government. But, no matter, we’re here, and we have to rush this through urgency so we can get to level 2 lawfully and quickly. Understood.

There was a lot of debate over the severe restrictions on funerals still.

The Bill looks certain to pass, probably today, with the support of Labour, NZ First and the Green Party and possibly ACT.

First and second reading votes were the same:

  • Ayes 64 New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1.
  • Noes 56 New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Hansard (Tuesday): https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20200512_20200512_34

Hansard (Wednesday: Tuesday, 12 May 2020 (continued on Wednesday, 13 May 2020) – Volume 745

 

 

Young Act sexual harassment – members removed, investigation started

A follow up to Young Act acknowledge claims of sexual harassment from vice president – the vice president who resigned when going public on her claims is “pleased with the actions that are now being taken”.

Two Young Act members have been ‘removed’, and the Act Party president has appointed an employment lawyer to investigate and says “the allegations were being taken very seriously”.

 

Stuff: Young ACT members booted out, vice-president resigns over sexual harassment claims

The vice-president of Young ACT has resigned and two members of the youth wing have been kicked out amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Young Act president Felix Poole acknowledged the youth wing had failed Gammeter, saying it did not have a system in place to deal with complaints.

“It was our fault,” he said.

“There was hesitancy on the behalf of Young ACT to act because we had no system or guidelines in place.”

He said the offending had taken place online, and there were two further incidents, but did not elaborate.

Two members of Young ACT had been removed as a result, and it would be conducting its own investigation, as well as a possible independent inquiry.

The members had been blocked from Young ACT’s social media, and Poole said he did not think they would appeal the decision.

It was not calling in the police but would co-operate if they were brought in, he said.

RNZ: Young ACT to investigate sexual harassment of vice president

The Act Party has hired an employment lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of misconduct within its youth wing.

Andrea Twaddle has been appointed by the party to investigate the claims of sexual harassment made by Gammeter.

ACT president Tim Jago said the party first became aware of Gammeter’s allegations last night.

Jago said the allegations were being taken very seriously.

“We will be providing Ms Gammeter with any support she requires,” he said.

MP and party leader David Seymour seems to be keeping a distance from this.

Mistake in abortion vote allows safe areas but no way of setting them up

The final stage of the Abortion reform Bill was debated in Parliament yesterday and last night, with Supplementary Order Paper amendments being voted on.  A late night mistake has resulted in an unintended change.

A David Seymour amendment to axe ‘safe areas’ from protests near where abortions are carried out are failed. But a stuff up removed the part of legislation allowing safe areas to be set up.

So safe areas will be allowed, but there is no way to set them up.

Stuff: Last minute mistake changes abortion law as Parliament accidentally passes amendment

A cross-party attempt to reform New Zealand’s abortion laws looked like it would emerge intact from a debate on proposed amendments until a dramatic last minute mistake axed one of its key provisions.

The amendments, known as Supplementary Order Papers or SOPs, were the subject of a lengthy debate that stretched from Tuesday afternoon to the early hours of Wednesday morning.

An attempt by ACT leader David Seymour to axe “safe areas” failed, but a last minute mistake by MPs supporting safe areas meant that safe areas were effectively nixed anyway, despite a definition for safe areas remaining in the bill.

Seymour proposed an amendment to remove safe areas from the bill. The bill initially allowed a safe areas to be established up to 150 metres around a place offering abortion services. It would be illegal to protest against abortions in these areas.

The intention was to prevent American-style protests where people getting abortions are harassed and intimidated before visiting clinics.

The first part of the amendment failed, but by a very tight margin, 59 votes to 56, however later in the night a second part to his amendment passed effectively by accident.

The second part of Seymour’s amendment was to delete parts of the bill that would give effect to the safe areas. It went to a voice vote, where MPs vote by saying “aye” and “no”, which it passed.

MPs then had an opportunity to call a conscience vote on the amendment as they had done for other amendments that night, but supporters of safe areas failed to do this, meaning the amendment passed. A late attempt by Green MP Jan Logie to save the provision failed.

This means that while safe areas remain in the legislation, the parts of the bill relating to establishing safe areas and making them function have been removed – effectively making it impossible to set one up.

This demonstrates a problem with long sittings dealing with a lot of amendments late in the legislative process. It isn’t a good way to form laws.

All the speeches and votes here:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/drilldown/HansD_20200310_20200310/HansDeb_20200310_20200310_20?Criteria.PageNumber=1

Obituary speeches in Parliament for Jeanette Fitzsimons

Jeanette Fitzsimons is a rare politician or ex-politician who has been widely praised for what she achieved and the manner in which she conducted herself in politics.

Jeanette died suddenly last week (5 March 2020), aged 75, and most parties and leaders in parliament gave obituary speeches today, which not surprisingly were full of praise from across the House.

Both leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw spoke for the Green Party. It was obviously emotional for them.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke on behalf of the Labour Party and also “on behalf of our coalition partner, the New Zealand First Party” – no MP for NZ First spoke.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson spoke on behalf of the National Party and the people of Coromandel – Jeanette was MP for Coromandel in 1999-2002 and lived at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula.

David Seymour spoke on behalf of the ACT Party.

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green):

I seek leave to move a motion without notice on the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is none.

MARAMA DAVIDSON: I move, That this House mark the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Green Party’s first female co-leader, celebrate her contributions to Aotearoa New Zealand, and express deep condolences to her whānau and friends.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

It is my honour to stand with my co-leader, James Shaw, and all of our Green MPs here in this House to celebrate the life and acknowledge the passing of our much beloved first female co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa, Jeanette Fitzsimons. I acknowledge and send deep aroha to Harry and her children, Jeremy and Mark, and all of their mokopuna. I am thinking particularly of Rod Donald and family at this time, and especially of our friend Holly Donald, who works here in this House. I know that the loss of Rod while Jeanette was a co-leader had a massive impact on her and indeed on all of us.

I am standing here thinking deeply of all of the past Green MPs and particularly those who served with Jeanette in this House. I am thinking of our founding members of the Green Party movement of our party—those who have had a long association with her. Those people are really feeling the loss at this time very deeply, and I want to acknowledge their mamae. I am thinking of Metiria and Russel, with whom Jeanette had a close impact and working relationship. I am thinking of the Young Greens, who held their summer camp just recently in February, as we do every year on Jeanette and Harry’s farm, and were privileged to spend that weekend with her on her beloved riverbank, on her beloved campsite.

I am thankful for the people who have messaged us their love and their thoughts—the many organisations, the many individuals who have had a long association with her over generations and over decades. This kōrero that I stand with much honour to give now is on behalf of James and I and our Green MPs, and I acknowledge James will also be speaking later.

As I start to talk about her achievements, I note—ironically—that one of the biggest is she is noted for her humility, that people recall that her work was never about her as an individual, that she was very clear she was simply doing a job for the wellbeing of our planet and for our mokopuna and generations to come. She was part of the founding movement of our Green Party, right back from the days of the Values Party, through to The Alliance, and then to become the Green Party that we have today. I wanted to start her achievements by recalling her own words, in that her mokopuna have been the touchstone of much of her work. She, of course, was the only Green to ever win an electorate seat, in 1999—ground breaking and still, to this day, the only Green to win an electorate seat.

She also was the Government’s spokesperson—a quasi-Minister, in her own words—who, in 1998, introduced the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, establishing energy efficiency and solar water heating frameworks, and the legacy of which we are still working through today, thanks to her pioneering. She, of course, helped to bring the climate change conversation into Parliament. She was a leading voice for a new, compassionate, ecologically sustainable economics that has influenced the Government’s new wellbeing approach to this very day. In her valedictory speech, she called this an economy based on respect for people and for nature—simple, but something that to date had not been called for yet. She expanded legal aid for environmental cases and funding for community conservation groups. She, of course, also chaired the Local Government and Environment Committee for six years, in her words, scrutinising the executive, listening to the people, and knocking the silly corners off bad legislation.

Over the weekend, our councils of the Green Party met for a weekend hui that we had long planned, and we started by having a round and reflection for the impact that she had on all of us. Whether you were someone who knew her for decades and generations or whether you were someone who hadn’t yet had the privilege of meeting her, we talked about the fabric of experiences that all of us hold and the marvel and achievement of the work that she led and the person that she was.

There is very much a grieving sense of loss. As I continue to say, I thought we had her for quite a bit longer. I took for granted that she was going to continue to be around to mentor me as co-leader, to mentor us as Green politicians, and to hold us, as the Green Party, to account. I really did think that we had her for a lot longer.

I want to acknowledge and respect that a beautiful funeral, a small family and community and private affair, was held in Coromandel yesterday and respect and acknowledge the beauty that took place. We will be organising a wider, more public event here in Wellington in the weeks to come; I understand people are waiting for that.

I remember her telling me the time when one of our MPs rang her from this House to tell her that he was voting differently to what had been agreed. It was one of the funny stories when she was sitting me down as I was about to take up the mantle of co-leader and saying there is no job description, there is no expectation for what you might expect in doing this role, Marama, but one thing is for sure: you can expect the unexpected.

I recall Harry talking about her trying so hard but failing—after she left Parliament—to get arrested for protecting our marine environment against fossil fuel exploration and drilling. This is only a testament to her work never stopping long after—and to the very end of her life. She was a champion for a progressive vision that would protect our children, our people, and our planet. And she put herself on the line to exemplify exactly that.

Jeanette’s face keeps flashing up in front of me. I was very privileged, at that young Greens summer camp that I mentioned, to stay the night with her on her farm, to have a political huddle—that sort of time was special then. That sort of time with Jeanette was valuable to me in and of itself then. But right now, it’s feeling even more special than I realised it ever was going to be. It was a huddle that confirmed her clarity of purpose for what we—as humans of this world—need to be taking responsibility for, need to be working together for, need to be seeking the change that is indeed going to protect our future, our planet, and our communities. It was an affirmation that she maintained her commitment to those political visions right through to the very end.

Many people have many personal relationships and stories and reflections on her life. I’ve enjoyed reading through a lot of them and hearing a lot of them over the weekend, and there will be more to come. For my time here in this House today, I simply wanted to signal our deep gratitude for her commitment to a kaupapa that was going to be for the good of all of us. There is grief and loss in the gap that has been created, but there is hope in the legacy and the commitment that she maintained and an added drive for all of us, particularly for us in the Green Party and movement, to continue to be steadfast on our principles and our values and to do good in this world. Once again, I send my love to Harry and her children, all of her friends, and her family. Tēnā tātou katoa. Kia ora.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister):

I rise on behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party and on behalf of our coalition partner, the New Zealand First Party, to acknowledge the death of former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons CNZM, who passed away suddenly last Thursday night aged 75.

Jeanette will be remembered as a ground breaker, the first female co-leader of the Greens, the first Green MP to ever speak in this House, the first Green MP to win an electorate seat, and the first Green MP to hold an official Government position as spokesperson on energy efficiency. But this official record of impressive firsts only tells half the story. Her true parliamentary legacy will be the paths she laid on important environmental and conservation issues and the shift that she helped lead in our entire country’s thinking, especially on climate change.

In many ways Jeanette was by necessity a politician ahead of her time. Her job here was to agitate, to educate, to force change from those reluctant to make it. It seems strange now, but when Jeanette was first talking and writing about climate change, or global warming as it was often referred to then, she was an outlier, a bearer of an inconvenient truth. She was mocked and she was ridiculed for her earnest and persistent call for political action on the state of the planet.

I entered Parliament some time after Jeanette and even I recall that the response to climate change at that time was not what it is today, and it’s easy to forget that she was the champion of an issue that was not popular, that was not spoken of, and that was often rejected outright. I believe it is in large part to her tenacity that we are now taking this issue seriously, and that the paths she laid meant this House could vote unanimously for the zero carbon Act—a parliamentary consensus that would have been unimaginable when Jeanette was the lone voice when she first entered Parliament in 1996.

Jeanette was a true steward of the New Zealand environmental political movement. Starting out in the Values Party in the 1970s through to bringing the Greens into Parliament in their own right, Jeanette played a pivotal role over decades in building Green political representation in New Zealand and ensuring continuous representation in Parliament for the Greens since the first MMP election in 1996. She did that the old-fashioned way: holding public meetings, getting up media stories, writing op-eds, organising petitions, rallying, recruiting, and training new people. The bread-and-butter work of a political movement was never ever beneath her; in fact, I suspect that’s where she found her joy.

In fact, her commitment to the new generation could be seen in—as the co-leader of the Greens, Marama, has referenced—the hosting of the Young Greens camp each year on her farm in Thames. Passing the baton on and supporting the next generation of environmentalists was so core to who she was.

Jeanette once polled as the most trustworthy party leader in New Zealand; a fitting endorsement of her kind, caring, and passionate brand of politics. I think that she would be proud of the New Zealand Green Party today in that they keep those values in this House till this day.

I recall her presence in this House. I recall her quiet dignity. I recall her intelligence, her respect for others—even when she wasn’t offered that same respect in return. She was completely and utterly how she came across: a different type of politician and leader.

Her post-parliamentary career was not an opportunity for Jeanette to put her feet up and take some well-earned rest; she continued to campaign, to protest, to try and get arrested from time to time, to make presentations to select committee, and to train and support others.

Her final words spoken in this House were to the younger generation hungry for change. “Kia kaha—you are the hope of the future. Haere ra.”, she said. Now it’s time to say “Haera rā” to you, Jeanette. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your determined optimism. Thank you for laying the path that ultimately has meant that you left this place better than you found it. Haere rā.

Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel):

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Jeanette Fitzsimons has left us far too early. I rise to speak on behalf of the National Party and the people of Coromandel. Jeanette Fitzsimons was a character and a personality larger than her sometimes diminutive stature might have foretold. She was always passionate, energetic, and articulate in her advocacy for the policies and principles that she held so dear and lived by every day of her life—those were primarily the environment, conservation, and humanity. She was staunch always with gritty and determined but often humble focus on achieving the goals that she wanted to. She never did it in a personal way; it was always about the policy, about the argument, about the debate, and about the issue rather than the person—something that we sometimes have too little of in this place.

In the Coromandel, she was always an active, articulate, and vocal presence in local communities, even after her time as the member of Parliament. She was never short of a well-considered, well-thought-out, and well-constructed contribution to any conversation or debate on any particular matter. She represented the Coromandel for just three years of her parliamentary career, from 1999-2002, but she left a local legacy that is much greater than often three years in this place might imply from an ordinary constituency MP.

Jeanette was well regarded, well admired, and well respected locally, nationally, and internationally for her views and for the way that she expressed them and presented them not only to those that supported her but those who were opposed or had a different view. No matter what our personal view might have been of those policies and thoughts and ideas that she had, one could never ever underestimate the sincerity or the level of conviction of those principles that she held dear and espoused at every opportunity. She lived, as others have said, by those principles every day of her life.

I had an opportunity to spend a couple of hours yesterday in the Kauaeranga Valley, near the farm, with Harry and the extended whānau and friends at a very beautiful and typically Green-type affair—if I might say—in a pleasing way. It was a very genuine, sincere, and pleasant afternoon beside the river, in the valley that she loved, with the people that she loved and who cared for her.

Towards the end of last winter, the Environment Committee was hearing submissions on the zero carbon bill. It was winter and a sub-committee had been meeting in Auckland for nearly two days in a rather drab Auckland City cold, colourless community hall—in Freemans Bay, from memory. Jeanette Fitzsimons arrived to make her submission on the zero carbon bill but before she started to speak, she presented on the submissions table a posy of bright yellow daffodils taken from her garden in the Thames Valley that very morning. They sat there, a bright beacon of hope and inspiration, while she gave her considered submission in that otherwise drab room. Then, when she’d finished her submission, the flowers stayed and they remained, and for the rest of the day those flowers stood on that table as a beacon of her contribution not only to the debate but as a measure of her views about the issues that we were talking. And they stayed there long after her submission had finished.

I want to extend condolences on behalf of the National Party and on behalf of the people of Coromandel to Harry, her children, and her wider whānau. A bright, green light has gone out on the Coromandel and across Aotearoa New Zealand too soon.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

I wish to join with other party leaders, on behalf of ACT, in condolence to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ family and in commemoration of her life and her contribution to New Zealand politics and this House. I’m sure that as a lifelong proponent of, and campaigner for the mixed member proportional system, she would want it to be so.

I did not coincide with Jeanette Fitzsimons in this Parliament, nor, unfortunately, was I able to know her, but in a way, the fact that what I know of her has been learnt by osmosis, has bled out through society and through secondary connections, speaks all the more strongly to those values that I know she had. There are politicians who believe it is an achievement to hold a particular office. There are politicians who believe that it is about what she might have called the “he said, she said” BS; Jeanette Fitzsimons was clearly a politician who believed that being in office was not an achievement but presented the opportunity to achieve not on the personality, but on the issues. That’s why we hear so frequently in the last few days, as people up and down New Zealand have come to terms with her passing, words like “principled”, “kind”, “dogmatic”, “humble”, “achieving”: values that I think all of us should aspire to and values for which all of us can have a great admiration for Jeanette Fitzsimons.

I want to extend, again, condolences to her Green Party colleagues and the wider Green Party whānau, and to those in her real biological whānau—they must be feeling such a sense of loss, and our thoughts are with them—and of course, to her, our commemoration of a great life, well lived. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Hon JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green):

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to acknowledge and thank the members who have spoken and the memories that they’ve shared. Those tributes, I think, reflect the extraordinary woman that Janette was. As others have said, Jeanette’s approach to politics was to treat everyone with dignity and with respect. Her belief in the practice of non-violent social change always led her to seek to build consensus and common ground, particularly with those with whom she disagreed most strongly. There’s a saying: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I think, in the long run, Jeanette’s greatest success will be seen to be in the area where people ridiculed her the most: in economics. In her own words she said, “GDP is both too narrow and too generalised to measure anything useful. It does not tell us whether the poor are getting poorer, and if most of society’s wealth is held by a few. It does not tell us if we are paying more and more to control pollution and crime, rather than for real goods and services. It does not tell us if we are plundering the environment to [take] short-term monetary returns.”

Jeanette’s greatest regret was that she was unable to move the establishment on this point. Yet 10 years later the current Minister of Finance had this to say: “if we’ve got this so-called rockstar economy, how is it that we have the worst homelessness in the OECD? How is it that you can’t swim in most of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes? How is it that child poverty [has] grown to the extent [that] it has? The answer, in my view, was because the government wasn’t sufficiently valuing those things. And [because] it wasn’t being valued properly, it wasn’t being measured, and [because] it wasn’t being measured, it wasn’t being done.”

Now, I acknowledge that the other side of the House is, at best, sceptical about this Government’s wellbeing approach, and I also acknowledge that we are still a very long way from the holistic, social, environmental, and economic guidance system for the country that Jeanette envisaged, but we have gotten started. I hope that she knew, in the end, that she had won.

Jeanette had already had a political career spanning two decades with the Values Party when I met her some time after the 1990 general election campaign. I was 18 or 19 or so, and I will never forget it. There was a hui at a lodge in Ōhākune to make some choices about the future of this emerging political party, the Greens. There were some heated debates about whether to be a political party or an outside pressure group, trying to reach consensus on how consensus-based decision-making should work, whether to have leaders or not and, if so, whether there should be one or two, or some other model entirely.

Now, despite there being no clear consensus on that question at the time, it was clear to me that Jeanette was a beacon by which others navigated. The debates continued through dinner and through drinks and on into the lodge’s sauna, where I was a little bit startled to find that not only were the policy prescriptions very northern European, so was the dress code. That’s where I first learned to focus on the policy, rather than the person.

Now, thousands of people around the country will have their own stories of Jeanette: inspiring, challenging, humorous, poignant—endless stories of a life so rich, and which touched so many. Each and every member of this Green Party caucus here has their own, which Marama and I cannot hope to do any justice to today. She mentored and guided each of us, and all of us.

But none of us here served alongside her in Parliament. Gareth Hughes, today our longest-serving MP, entered Parliament when Jeanette vacated it, 10 years ago last month. Gareth himself will retire at the coming election, and someone else will take up the mantle. That is Jeanette’s legacy. She built a political party. She led it out of the wilderness and into Parliament. She helped to midwife it into Government, and it succeeds her.

Her leadership was so profound that it has continued to guide the choices and shape the endeavours of a generation who only entered this place when she left it, and who remain even though she has passed beyond the veil. There are very few people in our history who can make that claim. She was not just a parliamentarian and a leader; she was a mother, a musician, a thinker, a writer, a wife, a friend, a farmer, an academic, an investor, a philanthropist, and a protester.

She wanted a world where we could be counted—as she said—not by the size of our GDP and our incomes, but by the warmth of our relationships with each other and with nature, by the health of our children and our elders and our rivers and our land. We want more people to share the secret of real happiness and satisfaction in life, which comes not from having more but from being more, and from being part of a society that values all its members and values the land, the water, and the other species with which we share them. Farewell Jeanette and thank you, and please give our love to Rod.

Motion agreed to.

Waiata

Honourable members stood as a mark of respect.

Abortion Legislation Bill passes Second Reading 81-39

The Abortion Legislation Bill had it’s Second Reading debate last night and passed on a personal (conscience) vote easily, 81-39. The bill is a much better approach to abortion than the current law that is not followed in practice, making abortion health issue rather than a legal issue.

From Abortion Legislation Bill — Second Reading

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice):
(Edited)

This bill was introduced on 5 August last year and was referred to the Abortion Legislation Committee, a special committee set up specifically for consideration of this bill. The committee was established by the House precisely for that purpose. I want to thank members of the committee, in particular the chair, the Hon Ruth Dyson, and the deputy chair, the Hon Amy Adams, for the work they did. They received more than 25,000 submissions. They heard from more than 130 people during 30 hours of oral evidence.

This bill and this topic are a very sensitive topic. It’s a very difficult topic for many citizens and many, many members of this House to discuss and debate, but debate it we must, because this legislation that we’re now considering—the changes to which we are considering—are more than 40 years old and it is timely and appropriate to consider it.

I have previously spoken about the reasons why I believe the law governing abortion needs to be changed, not the least of which is that the legislation is so old, but also the fact that the framework for abortion in New Zealand right now is set out in both the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, and a woman seeking an abortion should not have her actions stigmatised as if she were committing a criminal act—she is not; she is making a decision about herself and her body.

Following the select committee process, the Abortion Legislation Committee has recommended changes to improve access to abortion services which it considers are in the best interests of women.

There has been scaremongering about abortions up to birth, which is a distortion of what will be allowed for the good of the health of the mother and the unborn child. The vast majority of abortions are in the first 20 weeks.

In relation to abortion after 20 weeks, in response to submissions received, the revised bill changes the test that a qualified health practitioner must follow if providing abortion services to a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant.

The revised test expands some of the wording from the original bill. In fact, the requirements now include a requirement that the health practitioner regards the abortion as clinically appropriate, the health practitioner has to consult another health practitioner—so it’s not just one but two—and, of course, that reflects current practice anyway.

We have to remember that for women seeking an abortion at 20 weeks, generally speaking that is a wanted pregnancy but there is something seriously wrong either with the foetus or with the woman’s health. This is a very difficult point at which to make this decision, and I hope that people embarking on this debate will recognise that. That is now reflected in the changes that the committee has proposed.

Abortions for ‘sex selection’ was an issue raised.

They add in a requirement that the medical professional has to have regard to his or her relevant legal, professional and ethical standards to which they are subject, and also consider the woman’s physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing, and, of course, the gestational age of the foetus.

The committee was concerned about submissions made that some might consider an abortion on the grounds of gender biased sex selection, and they point to evidence overseas. The committee concluded that there was no evidence of this happening in New Zealand but they wanted a statement in the bill that reflected the, generally, New Zealand view on this, which is that we don’t tolerate sex selection as a reason for an abortion.

On ‘safe areas’ (from opponents and protesters)  in the vicinity of places where abortions are done:

I turn briefly to safe areas because I know this is an area to test those who are vigilant about and are champions of freedom of speech in this country, and that’s very important and we need those voices—they’re absolutely vital. The truth is that there are women who are seeking abortions and going to facilities where they are prevailed upon in an unseemly and entirely inappropriate way, and they should not be subject to that sort of behaviour.

Now, the changes that the committee have recommended in this regard are to shift the offence from a reckless sort of standard to an objective test; it’s now expressed as an ordinary reasonable person test. That is it’s an offence to intimidate, interfere, or obstruct a person in a safe area in a manner that the ordinary reasonable person would know would cause emotional distress to a protected person. Protected person is defined as either a medical practitioner going to a facility from which an abortion might be carried out, or a person who is seeking an abortion.

The committee has also inserted a requirement that each safe area is reviewed within five years of the area’s establishment. There is a process to go through to establish a safe area, it’s done by the Minister of Health in consultation with the Minister of Justice, there has to be good reasons for it, it has to be done by Order in Council, and it is reviewed on a periodic basis.

Contentious objection:

This is another sensitive area too, particularly for health practitioners who do not support the idea of an abortion. For contraception and sterilisation services, the person with an objection to dispensing advice to a patient had to tell the patient how to access the contact details of another provider of the services; for abortion services, the person objecting would have to tell the patient how to access a list of service providers.

The committee has simplified this process for someone with a contentious objection to ensure timely access for the person seeking services. The revised process is that the contentious objector must tell the person seeking an abortion or sterilisation or contraception services how to access the contact details of another person who is a provider of the service requested.

The committee also picked up on an existing provision in the current Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act related to contentious objection that had not been amended in the bill as it was introduced. This section regards supply of contraception to victims of sexual violation. The committee has aligned the requirements for practitioners with conscientious objections in these instances to the process set out in the bill.

Closing:

We need a law where a pregnant woman can and should be trusted to make the decision for themselves about an abortion in consultation with their health practitioner. This bill does that, and on that basis I commend this bill to the House.

Other speakers:

AGNES LOHENI (National):

As a member of the Abortion Legislation Committee, I was not able to effect any meaningful change to this bill despite an overwhelming number of submissions against it. As a consequence, I wrote a minority view to ensure those views that opposed were heard.

I have outlined a lot to be alarmed about in this bill. I am deeply saddened at this bill’s blatant attack on the right to life and recognition for our unborn babies. If we can discard the life of an unborn baby—if we can diminish their value and their humanity to the point that we no longer call them babies, then we have lost our own humanity, because they are the smallest versions of us. Late-term surgical abortions are nothing short of barbaric; there is nothing kind in it. A truly progressive society protects the rights of all its members down to the smallest and most vulnerable—the unborn child. I take a stand for that unborn child. I oppose this bill.

Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn):

 I want to begin by stating very clearly in the debate on this bill—which is a conscience issue—where I start from, and my fundamental views in this regard. I have an absolute belief that women have the inalienable right to control their own reproductive systems and to determine, ultimately, whether or not they have a child.

I think there is no place for a Parliament to be specifying and legislating what the appropriate medical treatment is in any given case. We are not medical professionals; we are lawmakers, and we have to respect that. I trust women and doctors to make these decisions carefully, gravely, and appropriately.

GREG O’CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu):

I stand in opposition to this bill. I voted for it at the first reading because I felt that the bill needed to go through a select committee to see if it could be made palatable.

Taking the legislation out of the Crimes Act, as I said, I agree with. That is something that I think there are sufficient safeguards in there now to keep it outside the Crimes Act. It does belong as a health issue, as some of the other speakers mentioned. But post – 20 weeks, there is just simply not enough safeguard to ensure that those—

PAULO GARCIA (National):

 I stand with sadness, with a heart filled with tribulation and pain because, once again, I stand to argue against a bill that seeks to enable the ending—the taking—of a human life by another human being.

The bill opens the door for the abortion of babies with not just severe abnormalities but also moderate ones, making disabled unborn children very vulnerable under the proposed law. That the current law explicitly prevents abortions on the basis of foetal abnormality up to 20 weeks, but the proposed law does not do the same represents a major step backwards in terms of disability rights.

I finish with a quote from the New York Times, quoting a Harvard medical professor who said that we pass through different stages as we grow, and that a “baby of five weeks in the womb differs from the newborn, but so does the toddler differ from the teen. … but we don’t pass from person to non-person, or vice versa.”

Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central):

I have extraordinary respect for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But I support this bill for a few very fundamental and simple reasons. The first is I believe that every woman in New Zealand has the right to control her body. It’s very simple. It’s very simple; in fact, it’s so simple that we are one of the most archaic countries in the world—even Catholic Ireland has more liberal abortion laws than New Zealand.

Fundamentally, there are a couple of other reasons why it is crucial, in my view, that we have this law change. Again, I want to quote Dame Margaret Sparrow, who really, effectively, said a number of years ago that it is an absolute farce in this country that 98 percent—I think it was at the time—of the abortions were on the grounds of mental health. That is a farce, that is wrong, that is archaic, and it is time that, as a country, we changed that and we faced up to the fact that it is archaic and outdated and wrong to have a law on the books that, effectively, says that.

I do believe, as well, that many women in New Zealand, basically, fundamentally, want equality. They want the ability to have control over their body. They don’t want to have to be in these situations, but, if they are, they, ultimately, want respect and equality. I believe that this bill is timely. It’s progressive. It’s important. It will lead to less suffering

ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour):

I today stand along the over about 91 percent of submitters that are opposed to this bill. I am acknowledging that 17 percent of submitters are for the bill. My views in opposition to this bill are derived from Tongan culture and as a Christian Tongan. That’s where I formed my view. And I need to say it in this House that I am a Christian and I was raised a Tongan Christian. And I don’t stand here to say that I represent all Christians or all Pasifika. I am representing my views as a Tongan and all the people that have actually spoken to me about those views.

Number of submitters is a part of a process, it is not a measure of public support or opposition.

Like I said in my introduction of my speech, I don’t stand here to represent all Tongans. I don’t stand here to represent all Christians. I stand here to represent what I’ve heard through the select committee and my definition of what this bill does. I accept that it’s trying to reform the legislation, but we must also remember that abortion is legal in New Zealand, but there is an opportunity to differentiate between a child and an adult. And I disagree with the fact that it is an informed decision by a woman who is pregnant at 14 to have an abortion. I disagree with that—that it is informed. And I also disagree with the fact that it’s the woman’s choice, because, at the end of the day, it is the health practitioner that makes the decision for the woman to have an abortion. And in that tone, I oppose this bill to the House.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

I rise in support of the Abortion Legislation Bill, a piece of legislation whose time has come—decades ago—a piece of legislation that will take abortion out of the Crimes Act because it should never have been a crime. As earlier speakers have made a point of saying, there is no other medical procedure that is legislated the way abortion is.

I want to talk about the moral case behind this bill. I get messages saying, “Do you support abortion?” Of course I don’t. Nobody does. Nobody wakes up one day and thinks, “That’s what I’ll do today.” It is a difficult and harrowing experience to go through.

But that’s not the question. The question before this House tonight is: what should be the role of this Parliament and what should be the role of the State when it comes to abortion law reform? If any member thinks that it is somehow helpful for the State apparatus, for this Parliament, to ask the police and the corrections and the courts in this country to run around and try and compel women to take unwanted pregnancies to term against their will, then I don’t know how else to argue with those people, but I hope they’re in the minority tonight.

NICOLA WILLIS (National):

I support this reform of our abortion laws. Many people I deeply respect and admire do not share my views on this issue. I feel moved to express why I support it. I have carefully studied this bill. I have spoken with medical practitioners, those who perform abortions, those who have had abortions, those who’ve supported those who have had abortions, and my conclusion is that this bill advances the rights of women.

It will improve women’s access to health services. It will enhance our legal autonomy over our own bodies and our own fertility. It brings our law into line with good medical practice. It reduces unnecessary and potentially harmful delays in access to abortions, and it improves reporting on important issues such as equity and timeliness of access, availability of counselling services, and the spectre of gender selection.

This bill will reduce harm. Fundamentally, it improves choice for all of us and, crucially, requires that choice from none of us.

Let us trust women and let us trust medical professionals. I want my children to live in a world that genuinely cherishes the life of every woman, that respects her right to manage her own fertility, her own body, her own future. That is the world I want for my daughters. That is the world I want for my sons.

DARROCH BALL (NZ First):

I rise tonight not on behalf myself to speak on this bill, but on behalf of the party.

As we promised in the first reading of this bill, we will see this bill through to the committee of the whole House where we will table a Supplementary Order Paper requesting a referendum on this issue.

As we promised in the first reading of this bill, we will see this bill through to the committee of the whole House where we will table a Supplementary Order Paper requesting a referendum on this issue.

We believe that this conscience issue, affecting the fabric of human society, should be decided upon by the people of New Zealand, not decided upon by 120 temporarily empowered politicians. We don’t believe that individuals in this House—their life experiences, their beliefs, or their family histories—are any more or less important than anyone outside of this House.

The fact that this House has decided that this vote is a conscience vote and not a party vote is explicit acknowledgment that every single individual Kiwi in this country will have an individual perspective based on their own conscience, not based on anyone’s conscience in this House, and especially not based on temporarily empowered politicians in this House or anything that’s based on party politics.

Going by the second reading vote, if NZ First MPs vote against the final reading if they fail with their amendment to have a referendum it looks still likely to pass.

Personally I don’t support a referendum on this.

CHRIS PENK (National—Helensville):

I refer to the report of the majority of the Abortion Legislation Committee on this, the Abortion Legislation Bill. The majority report is linguistically elusive, ideologically incoherent, and scientifically unsound.

I wish to also make a note about the select committee majority report claiming that the current legislation contains deeply offensive language in relation to disabled people. The disabled people themselves and the advocacy groups who have contacted me in relation to the bill find much more deeply offensive the notion that their lives will inevitably be deemed to be worth less in many situations, whereby conditions such as, for example, Down’s syndrome can be effectively screened to an even greater extent than is already the case by the fact that this bill does have a liberalising effect—that is, it makes the regime more liberal both in relation to pre-20 weeks and post-20 weeks, until either such time as birth is given or abortion services performed.

JOANNE HAYES (National):

 I stand to take a call opposing the Abortion Legislation Bill tonight. I’ve sat here on purpose to listen to the contributions in the House tonight, and some of the contributions have left me a little bit flummoxed with some of their ideas. I do not support the idea of taking the Abortion Legislation Bill into a referendum. I think this is what our job is here, to make a decision, and I don’t think that it should be anything like inside any referendum like New Zealand First did with the End of Life Choice Bill.

I think one of the speakers tonight from the Government side of the House spoke about this bill being abortion on demand. That’s what this bill is actually working towards. It is about abortion on demand.

Effectively yes, up to 20 weeks only.

This abortion bill is a licence to kill the unborn; that’s what it is. It’s a dangerous piece of legislation. Whilst there will be people in here that are supporting this bill that will say, “No, no, no, that’s not what happens.”, in reality that is what will happen. That’s what concerns me most, is the reality of it hitting the ground, hitting the women out there in the community and the families, that this will be a licence to kill unborn children. It ignores absolutely everybody’s opposition. I’m really, really sad to be standing here on a day, on an evening like this evening, to be able to say to my colleagues who are supporting this bill, it is the wrong thing to do.

Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills):

The opposition to this bill came not from people who oppose this bill but from people who oppose abortion full stop. People who, if they were being given the contraception, sterilisation, and abortion legislation, would oppose it.

There is nothing more offensive than being told that a woman would wake up one morning, 30 weeks pregnant and say, “I’m over this. I’m going to have an abortion.” Then to layer on top of that the accusation that a doctor would then say, “That meets my professional and ethical standards.”, and would go ahead with that termination—I don’t know who the people who say that knows. Who do you know that would do that? Nobody. It’s just a lie. On any topic, I think it’s important to tell the truth, but on a topic as important as this, as sensitive and as contentious as this, we should just tell the truth.

We felt we were taking a needed step, but one which we wanted to take very carefully in in a very considered way, and I think the committee did a very good job of that. We want to see a country where there are very, very few abortions. Our numbers are heading in the right directions now; I want to commend Pharmac for introducing long-acting contraception. We need more education, we need better access to contraception, but we will still need abortion services—the fewer the better, but the earlier, more equitable, and safer the better. That’s what this legislation seeks to deliver and I commend it to the House.

JAN LOGIE (Green):

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and it’s a real honour to speak tonight, as a feminist who has been working towards abortion law reform for years and also as a member of the Green Party who committed to decriminalising abortion about six years ago—[Interjection from gallery]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume her seat. That man will be removed from the gallery.

JAN LOGIE: This may point to the need for safe areas and the fact that, actually, there is opposition to those of us who support women’s reproductive health rights. And that has resulted, or at least been used as an argument, in the assault against my co-leader.

If you care about women’s health, if you want to see these women accessing abortion care, accessing it earlier if it has to happen, this is the legislation to do it. I do think we should get rid of the 20-week threshold altogether, and that was bounded for me, it came through clearly from those very small numbers of people who are actually involved in providing this care in the country.

When we heard, previously, from a speaker talking about a GP saying, well, how were they to interpret wellbeing, they wouldn’t know what that would mean—it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t understand that, because they wouldn’t be providing them, because there’s only a very small handful of people who are qualified to provide those services. The thing is that it is according to very strict guidelines of care and medical ethics, and it is my belief that the decisions should still remain with the pregnant person.

A personal vote was called for on the question, That the amendments be agreed to.

  • Ayes 80
  • Noes 28

A personal vote was called for on the question, That the Abortion Legislation Bill be now read a second time.

  • Ayes 81
  • Noes 39

So it looks like the Abortion Legislation Bill should pass comfortably, and without a referendum.  That would be good, in my opinion.

The split between the first 20 weeks (choice) and the second 20 weeks (medical decision) is  pragmatic compromise that largely fits with current practice despite the archaic law.

There is strong opposition to changing the law, but the Bill just makes what is currently practiced officially legal with the stigma of ‘breaking the law’ removed.

The Bill won’t change much, apart from the sensible change from a legal to a personal or health issue. The number of abortions has been dropping, that trend may or may not continue but should be largely unaffected by the Bill.

 

If it looks or sounds like Trump…(or Peters or Bridges)

Winston Peters blasted the media ((yet again) for publishing stories that exposed him and NZ First’s Foundation that seems to be a devise to hide donations, He said that when he returned from an overseas trip he (actually ‘we’) would “sort out the media.”

Simon Bridges has been promoting PR/policy that is divisive and of questionable integrity.

They are nowhere near as bad as Donald Trump, but the Trump playbook was successful and the US Republicans are largely still supporting or protecting him, sol they must see some chance of success in next year’s US elections. So it’s not surprising to see some politicians here trying to copy Trump’s tactics.

Linda Clark at Newsroom suggests If it looks or sounds like Trump: Press delete

Democrats are ‘human scum’, farmers are ‘rednecks’,  journalists are ‘psycho’ and the Labour-led Government is a bunch of ‘c****’. Welcome to modern politics, folks. I can’t be the only one who feels uncomfortable about where this is heading.

It is getting uglier, and some of that is here in New Zealand – Shane Jones called protesting farmers ‘rednecks’ (some of the protester signs were awful), and Peters called a journalist ‘psycho’ for asking questions he didn’t want to answer.

In New Zealand one of our quiet superpowers has been that our political system is steady and, mostly, civil. By and large, for all that we disagree on issues, we have far more in common than divides us. So the majority of New Zealanders support progressive taxation, a safety net for families in stress, (mostly) free health and education, a fair superannuation system, the ACC scheme, treaty settlements.

What’s really happening, of course, is that the centre of the political spectrum is holding firm. In some elections the governing arrangements might tilt a little left, other times a little right. But under MMP no major party can garner the necessary votes to become Government if it alienates those voters and values that sit in the middle.

Elsewhere in the world that kind of politics has been turned on its head.

Said Donald Trump recently: ‘Our opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.’ In Trump’s world only he stands between voters and some kind of imagined apocalypse.

Trump has – quite literally – rewritten the political rule book. He lies, he screams, he tweets abuse in the middle of the night. He’s vulgar, coarse and, it increasingly appears, surrounded by sycophants and crooks. Any one of those ‘qualities’ ought to see him cast out and yet…. He may even be re-elected.

That Trump is seen as the best option in the US shows how dire their democracy has become. Neither the Republicans or Democrats had anyone better in 2016, and Trump continues to dominate political attention (but consistently polls worse than recent US presidents who were all at least at times much more approved of) – see https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

Trump’s brand of politics is deliberately apoplectic and extreme. He wants voters to be angry and he fuels that anger daily with tweets, rallies, chants and social media sledging. The more emotional the rhetoric (because Trump completely disproves the theory that it’s female politicians who are emotional), the more polarised is the public and political response. The effect is increased hostility and decreased public confidence in political institutions.

What’s really happening, of course, is that the centre of American politics has collapsed as politicians and voters adopt Trump’s paradigm that everyone is either with him or against him. The divide runs deeper than just posturing over policies. In fact it’s not even about policy; it’s much more personal. A recent survey reported in The Atlantic noted that political tribalism is now so heightened that 45% of Democrats say they would be unhappy if their child married a Republican. Yep, someone who votes differently in a democracy. In 1960 fewer than 5% were prepared to say the same.

The political divide, recently driven further apart by Trump, is far worse than in New Zealand. Peters has been the only one trying to push it here, but now he has Jones doing similar, and Bridges also looks in danger of heading in the populist divisive direction.

Ask yourself, do you like how Trump acts? If the answer is no then don’t support or encourage anyone who emulates him. The politicians, the broadcast jocks, the influencers, even the share brokers; if they name call or marginalise or engage in mocking vilification – tolerate none of it. Anyone who wants to polarise and divide us, who wants us to get angry with each other (old versus young, male versus female, town versus country, born here versus immigrant etc) – don’t buy it, don’t share it and definitely don’t vote for it.

If you go to Kiwiblog you will see that there is a strong pocket of support for Trump (not from David Farrar but in comments, see them in Farrar’s latest Trump post The deranged conspiracy theory.

Fortunately that is a small segment of New Zealand. And there are counter views, like this:

I love these responses.

DPF: Here are some facts contradicting what Trump says.

Trumpers: Haha. Facts! Who cares about those? Let’s ignore them and just assert that DPF is a deranged Trump-hater with no basis for his position.

I sometime wonder whether the Trumpers here on kiwiblog are actually Russian trolls.

Some may be, it’s hard to tell sometimes, but there are a core of Trump fans in Aotearoa, even some commenting here (with NZ IP addresses).

This is a time for cool heads, not hot tempers. New Zealand faces enormous challenges managing climate change, global uncertainty and entrenched social inequalities. These are all long standing issues that need durable solutions which can only be reached if the political centre holds.

I don’t see any indication that the centre isn’t holding here. Peters has always only had niche support, and it’s too soon to tell how successful the Bridges/National PR campaign will be, or how far they’re prepared to divide to try and conquer.

The Prime Minister talks a lot about the politics of kindness but I prefer the politics of community; where all those who can put their energies into drawing out the connections we have with one another, rather than the differences. New Zealand is a cluster of different communities but among and across those communities we can find common ground – if we are prepared to look and listen for it.

The non-politicians amongst us do this all the time in our sports groups, our school boards, our fund-raising committees. We don’t agree on everything but we work out ways of working together positively and in ways that maintain community connections. Now more than ever, if we want to avoid Trump’s polarising virus, the national conversation needs the same goodwill.

So that means promoting decent debate, confronting crap but remaining positive about our country’s future and being positive about our politics.

Whale Oil tried to drag our politics into a dirty cesspit and in part succeeded before crashing and burning. The BFD seems to be trying to pick up the dirt mongering but is ignored by media and has a diminishing audience that is now more likely to rubbish some of the  outlandish  ‘Slater/SB’ authored posts.

Most people don’t see blogs and care little about most politics. They only see bits of media stories. The impression our political leaders make is important.

Peters is well known and doesn’t look like widening his support significantly. He and his party are in danger of being dumped in next year’s election.

Jacinda Ardern has at times been a revelation in decency and empathy, and retains wide support, despite the problems her government is having in delivery on key policies and promises.

The Greens generally have a decent approach to politics. Marama Davidson has been more contentious but seems to have toned down.

David Seymour has been praised for his cross party work in getting the End of Life Choice Bill through Parliament.

Beyond their PR palaver National aren’t totally into driving wedges – they supported the Zero Carbon bill, perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation this decade, providing it is implemented over the next decade.

I think a lot depends on Bridges and National, and how far they promote division for votes. Over the next few months the polls should tell us – and them – whether the Trump style will lead them to power and Aotearoa to division or not.

 

Social media switches attacks to partner of MP, Kiwiblog prominent

Yesterday the social media bash wagon continued attacking Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, but also widened attacks to her partner Guy Williams, by dredging up historic tweets.

David Farrar chose to feed red meat to his baying crowd at Kiwiblog, further inflaming a nasty campaign against Ghahraman

Particularly this one.

Williams is a comedian, but that was a crap joke about Don Brash. Fair enough to criticise it.

But to bring it up nearly two years later to add to the Ghahraman pile on is also crappy.

Ghahrama’s past also keeps being dredged up and misrepresented (more than she misrepresented it herself) – for example I have seen a cropped photo of her and a criminal she was involved in defending as a lawyer.

David Farrar chose to include the two year old tweet in this post David Seymour on free speech – he claimed ” this tweet this morning” even though it is clearly dated September 11 2017, which was before Ghahraman became an MP.

Seymour used strong language about a political opponent (and they are not words I would use) but compare that to this tweet this morning:

Joking about running someone over because you don’t like their politics.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with Williams’ tweet by itself. But I ask people to imagine this.

Think if the partner of a National MP tweeted about whether they should run over a Green MP. The media would be denouncing it as hate speech and inciting violence.

Ghahraman does have legitimate security concerns, based on the vile messages about lynching her on a private Facebook group. The people responsible should be held accountable.

I think it was particularly poor of Farrar to include this tweet in an op ed by David Seymour that he posted.  He would have known this would have fed Kiwiblog commenters already at times raging rampant over his revised site rules.

Comments on the thread include:

Brian Marshall:

She is a menace to freedom. Huge threat.
If anyone can’t see what David Seymour is referring to, then I suggest they don’t belong in a New Zealand Parliament.
The most disgusting thing is that David Seymour is described as some sort of Nazi, but those proposing Hate Speech laws are acting like Fascists of which Nazi’s are branch.

hullkiwi:

I am in total agreement with you Brian. Her utterances on this topic and other matters are an affront to democracy and with it, she is a menace to democracy.

David Garrett:

Yeah but did she actually get death threats?? Please refer to my comment above… In short, if the polis think you have been credibly threatened they are in there for you…some little snowflake who thinks she’s been threatened: Not so much…

alien:

It is interesting that in a week that a report on bullying etc in parliament we see some of these people and media bullying the leader of the act party. I’m sure we’ve all heard these green mps say far far worse about national mps and a prime minister.

Given the levels of vitriole directed at Gharaman on Kiwiblog over the last few days that’s rather ironic, defending Seymour and implying ‘green mps’ must be far worse (with no evidence given).

Lipo:

As the discussion on Free Speech is being had, I heard Peter Williams this morning say that he thought Hate Speech should be decided by (and only by) the recipient of the intended words. While this has some merit I think this is wrong.
Hate speech should only be defined as “Hate Speech” by the person speaking the words.
It is always what the words meant to say not on how the recipient received them

That’s a novel approach.

I don’t know if Peter Williams is being quoted correctly, but claims like that are ridiculous, and Isee no chance of the scaremongering claims getting anywhere near law.

the deity formerly known as nigel6888:

So a refugee politician who specialises in abusing and baiting anyone who doesnt share her communistic objectives has managed to get a few cretins to abuse her back.

and……….. trumpets……….. she’s the victim!

Utterly remarkable for its predictable banality.

I have seen quite a few cretins claiming to be victims in this debate. Seems to be a common approach these days (prominently used by Donald Trump) – attack, then claim to be the victim.

GPT1:

I do not understand the carry on re. Seymour’s comment. I guess it could be argued that he should have said “her position on this issue is a threat to freedom” but it seemed to be a robust political – rather than personal – rebuttal.

As it happens I agree that Ms Ghahraman’s attempts to regulate free speech have the effect of being an attack on our free society.

‘Attempts to to regulate free speech” have been grossly overstated in this debate. Ghahraman has expressed her opinion, as has Seymour. That is free speech in action.

There is a lot of hypocrisy on this, defending Seymour’s right criticise as he sees fit, but attacking Ghahraman for doing the same thing, trying to shout and shut her down.

Defenders of Ghahraman also come under fire. Wangas Feral:

That Collins and other National women MPs jumped in as White Knights to come to the aid of GG is the most upsetting thing in this whole affair. Making it a gender issue shows that they are no better than the professional victims of the left. Collins has really gone down in my estimation now.

Kiiwiblog has always had a smattering of worthwhile comments amongst the noise. Fentex:

Finding someone representative of something relevant is needed to make the point – ideally DPF wants to find a quote by Golriz Ghahraman representing the position he wants highlighted.

And wouldn’t finding quotes from her supporting Seymour’s position she’s uniquely dangerous go some way to that?

This is what she’s quoted saying…

“it is vital that the public is involved in a conversation about what speech meets the threshold for being regulated, and what mix of enforcement tools should be used.”

…and I think she’s been vilified because that statement takes the implicit position there is speech that must be regulated.

While I beleive people do accept incitement to riot or murder is a crime and is properly outlawed and punishable I think some, and clearly Seymour, suspects Goriz means something altogether more oppressive and intrusive which constitutes a “menace to freedom.”

After all what we all broadly accept as improper speech (incitement to commit crimes etc) is already illegal, so therefore any conversation about new restrictions must be about something else – something not yet illegal.

I think I understand his point, and I suspect many objecting to his attitude misunderstand the subject and have interpreted it in a different context (i.e if they already suspected Seymour of racism they may see different implications and meaning in his statement).

If you keep your eye on the subject and don’t let identities distract you there’s a continual ongoing debate about hateful speech and discussion of what might be done to avoid dangers it engenders*, but please don’t go haring off on tangents about different issues – it doesn’t help and only emboldens those who wish to use tactics of distraction and tribalism.

Maggy Wassilieff:

Ghahraman has made her position clear…
she believes our law does not protect groups identified by gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/112708601/we-need-laws-with-real-teeth-to-protect-our-online-safety

Ghahraman has stated what she believes, and we should be debating things like that. But we are nowhere near any sort of  legal clampdown on ‘free speech’ that some are claiming.

 

 

Seymour and ‘alt-right’ versus female MPs

Act MP David Seymour was stronly criticised – and supported – for comments he made about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, in particular “she is a real menace to freedom”.

“I just think that Golriz Ghahraman is completely wrong, I don’t know if she understands what she’s saying, but she is a real menace to freedom in this country, whether or not she understands that she is, and I think that it’s important that all right-thinking New Zealanders say “the true danger ah… to any society is rulers who put in place rules and regulations saying you’re not allowed to express yourself” – that’s how tyranny begins.

And I’d just invite people to have a look at speeches that Xi Jing Ping gives and speeches that Golriz Ghahraman gives, and it’s actually very difficult to tell the difference. I actually looked at a couple of paragraphs – one paragraph from each – I tried to guess which was which – and ah… Xi Jing Ping actually looked like a more liberal ah guy on this issue than Golriz Ghahraman.”

It was claimed that this contributed to an escalation in online attacks against Ghahraman which led to Parliament providing increased security for Ghahraman after she got more death threats.

Seymour and Judith Collins were interviewed by Sean Plunket: Judith Collins labeled ‘ageist’ as David Seymour attacks her defence of Golriz Ghahraman

Collins:

He referred to her as being a menace to society. I don’t think she is a menace to society. I think her views are not ones that I agree with, and I would agree with him on that. And I think that she is very illiberal when it comes to people’s freedom of speech but that bit does not mean to say that he needs to put it in such a personal way that he did, against her personally.

And my view is that parliament is a very tough place, but actually for some people it’s a lot tougher and she is someone who gives a lot of stuff back to people but she also, I think at the moment, is getting a lot more than what she deserves. And I just think it’s time we calmed down in parliament, and outside of parliament, and remembered that she is just a human being.

I have no problem with David doing what he does, except that if he does then he can expect me to make a comment about it.

So, actually, just like he wants to express his free speech, I am expressing mine, which is that we need to be a little bit kinder towards each other even when the other person has views entirely different from ourselves, and we don’t need to always make it so personal. That’s my feeling.

Seymour was unrepentant:

If people think that me saying that a politician who wants to expand the powers of the state to decide what you’re allowed to say and when they hear me say it, think that the way I say it is more important than the issue of freedom of speech then I think that person has their priorities wrong.

And I do think that a politician who wants to put stricter boundaries around what people are allowed to say, when they genuinely believe it, is a menace, not to our society, but to give me my proper quote, to freedom in our society. Because that is how tyranny begins and I think we should be a lot more worried about that, than how exactly it is said.

The counter claim has been that stoking up abuse and attacks against an MP, deliberately or not, is also a menace to society.

Yesterday from 1 News: Speaker Trevor Mallard says David Seymour bullied Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman

When asked by TVNZ1’s Breakfast host John Campbell if the comments made by Mr Seymour on radio show Magic last week were bullying, he responded “yes”.

“In my opinion that did step over the line,” Mr Mallard says. “It’s not a breach of privilege because it didn’t happen in the House. It’s not a criminal offence but I think it showed poor judgement.”

He said bullying needed to be called out, and said it was leaders and senior staff who needed to step up against bullying.

Seymour responded: Free speech debate shows hate speech laws are a bad idea

The response to my recent comments on free speech proves we cannot trust government to enforce hate speech laws”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Speaker Trevor Mallard is the latest to denounce my views and try to shut down any criticism of those who would take away our right to freedom of expression.

“Imagine if the state had even greater powers to punish speech at its disposal.

“The Government, emboldened by the Twitter mob, would now be using that power to investigate and punish a sitting MP’s genuinely-held views.

“Hate speech laws turn debate into a popularity contest where the winners get to silence views they don’t like by using the power of the state.

“We find ourselves in an astonishing situation: an MP can vigorously campaign to take away our right to freedom of expression, but, if another MP criticises them, Parliament’s Speaker says they are a bully.

“Freedom of expression is one of the most important values our society has. It cannot be abandoned because anyone, let alone Parliament’s Speaker, weighs in with accusations against anyone who defends it.

“ACT will continue to defend the critical principle that nobody should ever be punished by the power of the state on the basis of opinion.”

Calling out bullying speech is also free speech. As a number of female MPs have done:

Newshub: Women MPs urge David Seymour to apologise for Golriz Ghahraman remarks

A cross-party group representing women in Parliament has urged David Seymour to apologise for remarks he made about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.

Signed by Labour MP Louisa Wall and National MP Jo Hayes – co-chairs of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) New Zealand group – the letter asks that Seymour “reflect” on his “behaviour”.

“We ask that you reflect on your behaviour and consider offering a public apology to Golriz for the comments made, preferably in the House,” the letter addressed to Seymour reads.

The co-chairs said they’d received requests from members of the CWP group urging them to “take appropriate action” on their behalf in response to comments made by Seymour “in reference to a member of the House, Golriz Ghahraman”.

The letter acknowledged how Seymour didn’t make the comments in Parliament and couldn’t be held to account by Standing Orders – the rules of procedure for the House.

But it went on to tell Seymour: “We, as women MPs, consider your behaviour towards a colleague who has been under attack with death threats and is already in a vulnerable position is unacceptable”.

Again Seymour was unrepentant.

Seymour responded to the letter saying he was “disappointed” to receive it, and that the group “seem to believe that expressing a sincerely held view on an important topic makes me responsible for threats of violence”.

Seymour said the comments he made “do not come close to giving me such responsibility”, adding: “Your belief would absolve the real perpetrators, those making the threats, of responsibility.

“You also introduce a worrying implication that some MPs are unable to fully participate or be criticised because there are violent threats. You are effectively letting violent thugs set the agenda.”

No, they are trying to confront violent thugs from setting the agenda.

Seymour is getting into very risky territory here. He is appealing to the alt-right in social media but I think may be being fooled by how much voter support this might represent.

It has been reported that Act intends rebranding as a party this year. Seymour seems to be already attempting a rebranding.

But I think he would do well to consider the responsibilities of how an MP speaks in relation to free speech, especially when associated with hate speech.

For MPs, what they say can have consequences. They can give credence and support to abusive minorities. And they can also affect voter support. If Seymour lurches too far alt-right he risks becoming too toxic for National to make it easy for him in Epsom.

 

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

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

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

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

RNZ: Green MP Golriz Ghahraman gets security escort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Hamilton RTM @SikotiHamiltonR:

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

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

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

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

@fhill16n Twitter:

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

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

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

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