Half a billion dollars spent on movie making subsidies

Over half a billion dollars has been handed out to movie makers to encourage them to come to New Zealand.

Is this money well spent? Or is it subsidising the already rich?

Matt Nippert (Herald) – Inside Wellywood: How NZ taxpayers forked out $575 million for Hollywood to film here

Act leader David Seymour isn’t willing to dance around this issue of whether subsidising Hollywood’s costs – including for their celebrity starlets – is worthwhile: “I think New Zealanders can decide for themselves whether they feel good about likely having given Scarlett Johansson $3m.”

“Every dollar spent on subsidies is a dollar that can’t be spent elsewhere. Who amongst us believe politicians are the wisest at investing our dollars?”

An otherwise boosterish recent government evaluation of the latest iteration of the subsidy scheme, released yesterday, found $177.1m in grants paid out over the past three years resulted in a significant economic boost for the country but only generated $126.9m in additional tax revenue, costing the government $50m.

It isn’t stated how widely additional tax revenue was considered in that equation. It would be difficult, for example, to quantify the financial and tax benefits that tourism gets out of movies made here.

While Seymour put a firm foot forward in opposing the decades-old scheme, Grant Robertson, the Minister of Finance but perhaps more saliently member for Wellington Central – the location for two-thirds of the country’s subsidised film production – was keen to stay light on his feet.

Robertson wasn’t willing to weigh in on whether ScarJo was worth it, but said criteria letting productions qualify for the maximum subsidy had “been tightened in recent years”.

“I think it’s an area we want to be in. There are obviously always limits to how much you put in – what the scale of any subsidy scheme might be – but from my perspective, New Zealand has done well, produced good people, and this is part of being in that particular industry,” he says.

Sounds a bit like Labour’s immigration rhetoric while in opposition turning around to a more pragmatic approach in Government.

There’s a lot more about it in the Nipper article, and Rod Emmerson has his take on it too:

New name for ACT party?

It looks like the ACT party are considering renaming themselves. They have to do something to turn their lack of support around, they are virtually nothing but the MP for Epsom.

Frank Newman: ACT re-branding

…David Seymour says they are looking at a possible name change.

In an interview on Radio NZ on 15 June he said he did not want to give anything away about the new name, but he did mention various options were being considered, like Liberal Party or something more radical like Reason Party.

Well, he actually has already given a fair bit away on this topic.

On the 8th of October 2017 he registered the domain names, liberalparty.org.nz and liberalparty.co.nz. He has not registered domain names involving Reform Party or Reason Party, and those domain names remain.

The registrations were modified recently. But it’s still only ‘possible name change’ at this stage.

The question is whether changing the name will change the public’s perception of the Party.  Changing the name of a dead horse from Jake to Jack, does not bring the horse back to life.

It will take more than a name change – it needs other people involved who look like they could contribute to a party in Parliament, and one of the first hurdles is being seen as serious prospects by media, who are effectively the gatekeepers of any new entrance into politics.

Being rich and eccentric seems to be a prerequisite. Kim Dotcom, Colin Craig and Gareth Morgan all spent millions of dollars and attracted significant media attention, but that didn’t get them over the MMP line (5% threshold).

Seymour has a significant advantage though. If he holds on to Epsom the threshold doesn’t matter, thanks to the failure of the last (National) government to make MMP fair.

History of ACT party vote and MPs:

  • 1996 – 6.1%, 7 list MPs
  • 1999 – 7.04%, 9 list MPs
  • 2002 – 7.14%, 9 list MPs
  • 2005 – 1.51%, 1 electorate MP (Rodney Hide) and 1 list MP
  • 2008 – 3.65%, 1 electorate MP (Rodney Hide), 4 list MPs
  • 2011 – 1.07%, 1 electorate MP (John Banks)
  • 2014 – 0.69%, 1 electorate MP (David Seymour)
  • 2017 – 0.50%, 1 electorate MP (David Seymour)

So even a step up to one more MP will require a tripling of their 2017 party vote unless they can win another electorate.

I thought that Seymour had a fairly good first term considering he had to set up as an electorate MP and set ACT up inn Parliament with no prior experience. But ACT lost ground.

Seymour is trying a dancing stunt to get attention at the moment, but I don’t know whether that will help ACT’s chances. Perhaps his dance party will run as deputy leader.

Ardern: “Because it was in the agreement and they’re contracts”, except…

Going by the Question Time transcript of the first few questions (there doesn’t seem to be video available yet) it was a bit of a shambles today. Perhaps everyone had been unsettled by a pointless waste of time going on about a baby somewhere else in the word – it could be chaos with a more local birth in a month or two.

One short exchange was more effective than the rest of the shemozzle.

David Seymour: Why is the Government honouring existing irrigation contracts?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because it was in the agreement and they’re contracts.

David Seymour: Why is that different with partnership schools?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve given partnership schools an option, and the majority of them look to be taking it up.

That may be ACT’s only questions for the week, but Seymour did a good job with them. Ardern really set herself up.

Partnership Schools had contracts, but the Government pretty much ignored that and gave them a choice of ‘taking up’ one option, or being forced to shut down.

Charter school report – ‘most parents happy’

A report into Partnership Schools says that there have been positive results and most parents are happy, but it was too soon to judge academic achievement.

David Seymour says that it justifies a reversing of the current Government policy to close Partnership Schools, but Minister of Education Chris Hipkins says “does not tell us much” apart from what students and parents thought about the schools. Isn’t that kind of important and relevant?

RNZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Students at charter schools are being stood down less frequently than they were at other schools and most parents are happy with the schools’ performance, a report commissioned by the previous government says.

However, the report by consultancy firm Martin Jenkins, the third in a series, failed to cover the schools’ academic achievement because they had not been operating long enough and their NCEA data was presented in a way that was not comparable to that of other schools.

 

The report said its authors worked with the Education Ministry to shift the focus of the evaluation away from student outcomes in part because it was too early to determine the schools’ success.

“Schools/kura were still becoming established, numbers of students that had received a ‘full dose’ of the PSKH [Partnership School Kura Hourua] intervention were low, and efforts were ongoing by the Ministry to define and agree contracted outcomes,” the report said.

The report has been published at a critical time for the schools, which must apply to join the state school system as special or designated character schools or face closure.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins…

…said the report “does not tell us much” beyond an insight into what students and parents thought about the schools.

“It doesn’t tell us for example about academic achievement and progress and obviously that’s where a lot of the attention really should be focused.”

ACT MP David Seymour: Hipkins must reverse charters decision after glowing report

“The Education Minister must now reverse his decision to close Partnership Schools after the final report from independent consultants Martin Jenkins painted a glowing picture of the model”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The report cuts through the spin on Partnership Schools, delivering blow after blow to Government’s hopes it could kill off the model quietly.

“The final report shows Partnership Schools are strongly focused on disadvantaged kids with complex needs. Students are largely Maori and Pasifika from low-decile schools. Before attending the Partnership Schools, many students were transient, disengaged, with poor academic histories and complex socio-economic needs. They often lacked positive aspirations and role models.

“The schools are meeting learners’ needs using innovative practices and high-quality standards. Sponsors are driven by a vision to provide an alternative for students who have been underserved. Innovations enabled by the flexible funding model are across the board, in governance arrangements, staffing, student engagement and support, pedagogy, teaching and learning.

“Student engagement has significantly improved. Stand-downs and length of suspensions are lower. Students give positive feedback. Whānau feel more involved and more confident communicating with schools. Very few learners are opting out.

“It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most positive news our education system has had for some time.

“It simply beggars belief that Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins would end an educational model that has delivered so much for students that have been so poorly served by our state system

“The Government must now reverse its position on Partnership Schools”, says Mr Seymour.

Last year an earlier Jenkins report: NZ’s charter schools given good report card

Most of the first eight charter schools are good at teaching and testing children from Māori, Pasifika and poor backgrounds, an independent evaluation says.

“All schools/kura report that high proportions of their students have poor achievement histories and are achieving below the age/stage-related standards that could be expected on entry to the school/kura,” it said.

It said the schools showed mostly good and in some cases innovative practice in their approaches to working with the children.

Last month from Seymour: Why is Hipkins Hiding the Final Charter Schools Report?

ACT Leader David Seymour is questioning why Education Minister Chris Hipkins is suppressing the final Martin Jenkins evaluation of charter schools.

“I wonder if Mr Hipkins is not bullying Martin Jenkins into modifying the report to talk down the schools?”, asks Mr Seymour.

In 2014, the Ministry of Education contracted Martin Jenkins to deliver an independent evaluation of the performance of the charter school model. Its reports were to be delivered between 2014 and 2017.

“The first report found the flexibility of the model was enabling charter schools to deliver ‘innovative educational provision for students who have been under-served by the education system.’

“In its second report, Martin Jenkins said charter schools were reaching priority students – those at higher risk of not achieving.

“The final report appears to have been completed, but not released. What does it contain? Why is Chris Hipkins hiding it? Is the Minister having the report altered to suppress glowing reviews about charter schools?

“Chris Hipkins can’t hide the report forever. At some point, New Zealanders are going to learn what 1500 students already know: charter schools change lives for the better”, says Mr Seymour.

It isn’t hidden any more, but is seems unlikely that Hipkins will change his mind about Charter Schools, he (and the teacher unions) has been always strongly opposed to them.

Closing the schools has been awkward for Labour as some of their Maori MPs have been involved in and support partnership schools. They may stay open but under a different description.

Tobacco retailer safety

With the continually rising price of tobacco and cigarettes, and a presumption (mine) that people inclined towards committing crime and those associated with them  also tend to be inclined towards smoking, the number of robberies related to tobacco have increased. These robberies are often violent, and dairy owners and staff  are often the victims.

Dairies can choose whether to stock tobacco products or not, but it is a major source of revenue for the small businesses. Who should be responsible for their safety?

Of course the police have a duty to protect any retailer of legal products from theft and violence – to an extent. They cant be at every dairy all the time.

ACT MP David Seymour is suggesting that the Government direct more of the substantial amount of tax and duties they get from tobacco into paying for retailer safety.

Another suggestion is to admit that escalating taxes and prices have created an unintended consequence, and lowering the taxes would alleviate the theft and violence problem but that is debatable.

Today’s ODT editorial looks at the problem, and comes up with what should have been an obvious answer – tobacco product suppliers should protect their retailers.

ODT: The smoking gun of tobacco taxes

Dairy owners are again starting to worry that the next person who enters their shop may be a thief who could turn violent as he or she demands cash and, increasingly, tobacco products.

A search of media outlets shows a pattern of increasing crime against sellers of tobacco products, as their price has escalated through increased excise taxes.

The New Zealand tobacco industry says it makes a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy in terms of government revenue, retail sales and employment. It pays more than $1.8 billion in total taxes each year.

Tobacco products make their largest financial contribution to the economy in the form of excise taxation. The industry also says tobacco is an important source of revenue for about 5000 New Zealand retailers, the vast majority of whom are small, independent retailers and dairies.

A debate has again broken out about who should pay for the protection of the retailers selling the tobacco products. Fewer outlets are now selling tobacco and communities celebrate the success, believing fewer people are smoking as outlets reduce.

However, aggressive cost-cutting has helped some of the largest tobacco companies retain their profits, despite falling sales.

One of the arguments being made to help protect dairy owners is to just stop selling tobacco, of course ignoring the fact tobacco is a legal product and a genuine part of a service dairy owners can offer their customers. Unless another high-margin product emerges to replace it, dairy owners will still sell tobacco.

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour is at the other end of the spectrum, saying after two violent robberies in less than a week, it is only a matter of time before someone is killed.

The money collected by the Government each year in tobacco tax revenue is blood money, obtained by putting the lives of people at risk, he says.

But Mr Seymour is somewhat off the mark when he calls for the Government to direct 10% of tobacco tax revenue to protect vulnerable business owners.

Surely it is time for the tobacco companies themselves to start protecting the people they want to sell their products? Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $965 billion, generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $67.5 billion.

That’s a good point. If tobacco companies want to protect their sales and profits perhaps they should do more to protect their retailers.

A silly ACT

David Seymour getting desperate for attention?

Stuff – Below the Beltway: The ups and downs of the political week

DOWN

David Seymour – The ACT leader is going to be on Dancing With The Stars. He needs to find 15 hours a week to train, which will no doubt cut into the time he has for his Epsom constituents. Also, the show didn’t work out so well for the last ACT leader who took part – Rodney Hide dropped his dance partner during a lift.

Rodney Hide did a stint embarassing himself like that. Publicity stunts via ‘reality TV” are lame at best and likely to do an MP’s credibility more harm than good.

This will open Seymour to ridicule, and it has already started. The Standard:

Seymour’s decision shows his commitment to New Zealand politics. And what a poodle party ACT is.

It’s worse than posing for Vogue, because it drags out the exposure for weeks.

Save Charter Schools Rally

ACT (David Seymour) organised a rally to protest against Government (Chris Hipkins) handling of Partnership Schools, commonly referred to as charter schools:

“This Sunday, Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins will hear directly from students and parents who are devastated by their decision to close Partnership Schools”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government this week decided to disregard the popularity and success of the schools opting instead to listen to the teachers’ unions.

“Partnership Schools are working. Over 1500 students attend the fledgling schools, most of which have had to turn students away due to rapid growth. Struggling kids are having their lives turned around.

“Neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Education have visited a Partnership School, nor have they spoken to any of the sponsors of the schools they plan to shut down.

“On Sunday, they will get a chance to listen to the people they have so blatantly disregarded”, says Mr Seymour.

Hipkins seems to be driving an agenda on behalf of the teacher unions who strongly opposed partnership schools, with criticism of a lack of consultation with the schools that currently have contracts to operate.

ACT has a petition here (no numbers of signatories given):

SAVE CHARTER SCHOOLS.

TELL CHRIS HIPKINS TO LEAVE OUR KIDS ALONE.

The kids who go to partnership schools tend to be round bricks in a square education hole.

There was a sizable attendance on a wet day for an issue affecting a small number of people:

Stuff – Seymour: Govt’s ‘weasel’ words on charter school move

ACT leader David Seymour labelled Education Minister Chris Hipkins a “weasel” over legislation to scrap charter schools.

The Labour-led Government was “arrogant” in its consultative approach with charter schools, the MP for Epsom – and the political architect of such schools – said.

Seymour made the comments marching in driving rain with dozens of charter school pupils, their families and supporters up Auckland’s Queen St on Sunday.

Seymour labelled Hipkins a “weasel – so far he’s hiding behind misinformation”.

“He’s refusing to front up to the people that he’s truly affecting”.

“If he thinks making these schools into state schools keeping their special character that attracted the kids in the first place then he does not understand education let alone partner schools.”

“We’re here today to send a message to the government they cannot arrogantly cancel theses kids’ futures.

“If they wanted to be in a state school, they’d be in a state school – why take away their choice?”

Seymour said 12 existing and four planned charter schools officially given the previous National Government’s approval would be affected if the new government’s legislation passes.

“More than 1500 pupils” would lose the schooling their parents had chosen for them, Seymour said.

Several uniformed pupils from Albany’s military academy style Vanguard Military School attended the march.

“I hope the government will realise they’ve made an error that they need to take a take a step back and realise the success of these schools and ask themselves if they shouldn’t be keeping the partnership school model in some form rather than chopping it off the knees before they’ve even really consulted anybody.”

First-time protester Jan Franklin said she was marching “because I believe in these charter schools”.

Despite all his children being educated in state schools, Warkworth resident Barry Houlbrooke said he was there because he “liked the concept of charter schools”.

“I just want to get Jacinda [Ardern] out of education I just want to see people educate their kids outside the state system.”

The vast majority will be happy to remain in traditional type state schools, but they fail a significant number of children who for various reasons don’t fit in to normal education.

Hipkins is determined to deliver a promise made to education unions who support Labour, despite strong concerns of a number of Maori MPs – charter schools are popular as a Maori orientated alternative style of education.

Key questions:

  • Do Partnership Schools provide an effective alternative to kids who have failed in mainstream education?
  • Could ‘special character schools’ do as well within the State system?

 

Poll: most support euthanasia

Parliament is considering passing a euthanasia law that would allow terminally ill patients to choose to die, with the help and approval of their doctors. Do you support it?

  • Yes 71%
  • No 19.5%
  • Don’t know 9.5%

So three and a half times as many people support euthanasia as oppose it.

Newshub: Most New Zealanders support euthanasia

The vast majority of New Zealanders support euthanasia, according to the latest Newshub Reid Research poll.

A Bill to legalise assisted dying is currently before Parliament and it has 71 percent of the country’s support, with 19.5 percent against it and 9.5 percent unsure.

Written by ACT MP David Seymour, the End of Life Choices Bill seeks to give adults suffering a terminal illness or a grievous or incurable medical condition the option of medically assisted death.

The Bill passed its first reading in December through a conscience vote – 76 MPs voted in favour and 44 voted against.

The Bill argues some people are suffering unbearably at the end of their lives, and allows adults suffering from a terminal or irremediable illness to ask for a medically assisted death.

It’s currently being examined by Parliament’s Justice Select Committee, which is due to report back to the House in September.

Under the End of Life Choice Bill, a person wishing to end their own life must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be 18 or older
  • suffer from a terminal or grievous and irremediable illness
  • or be in an advanced state of irreversible decline
  • be in unbearable pain that can’t be helped by medication
  • be of sound mind to give consent

If those criteria are met, the applicant must be assessed by two doctors.

A dying person has no responsibility to extend their life in order to allow visitors to see them suffering and losing their dignity.

In the whole scheme of things, someone dying a few days or a few weeks earlier than they otherwise might is not a big deal.

People’s lives are commonly and frequently extended beyond when they would naturally end due to the intervention of drugs, technology and doctors. It is likely that most people who chose to end their lives slightly earlier would, in an earlier age (not that much earlier) have not lived as long as they did anyway.

It is common for people’s lives to end sooner than modern medicine would force them to live. ‘Do not resuscitate’ is one choice already available.

My father’s life was extended a number of times. He had two operations, and he had six or seven blood transfusions in the last few years of his life that kept him alive. And then his end was hastened with morphine.

My mother was allowed by doctors to starve herself to death. She could have been force fed or put on a drip, but fortunately she wasn’t. It was still awful to see her suffering in her last week.

A legal choice to end ones own life a bit sooner than might otherwise occur, with adequate checks and balances, seems like a no brainer to me, and it seems that most other people agree. We should have the right to choose a slightly sooner death if that’s what we want.

Cross party crapping on cannabis bill

Despite a Curia poll that showed 78% support for medical use of cannabis not to be a criminal offence (and just 17% opposed), it looks like there may be a less than 50% vote in parliament tomorrow on the Swarbrick medical cannabis bill.

If the bill fails to pass it will be very poor representation by MPs in their first test of conscience this term.

All the Green MPs are said to be voting for the bill – good for them.

Very disappointingly Bill English says that National will bloc vote despite it being a conscience vote, giving reportedly just three MPs an exemption to vote for the bill. This is a very poor start to the political year for English and National.

RNZ: Most National MPs to vote against Green’s cannabis bill

“We’ve never treated drug issues in the National caucus as a conscience issue, but we are flexible in the sense that if people have a strong view in this, related to issues of chronic pain, then they have the freedom to vote for it if they wish,” National leader Bill English said.

The National Party will back the government legislation this afternoon.

National health spokesperson Jonathan Coleman said Labour has missed an opportunity to hit the right balance on medicinal cannabis.

And National are crapping on an opportunity to hit the right balance by bloc voting against one bill.

Ardern and Minister of Health David Clark have said they would support the bill at first vote, some compensation for putting up their own pathetic bill.

But some Labour MPs may vote against it.

Labour MP Peeni Henare is concerned about how far that bill goes, and has met with his fellow Māori MPs to discuss the issue.

“I’ve seen [cannabis] ravage small communities, families, households across the country …and of course those ones are Māori.

“I’ve seen [it] destroy families, destroy people. And that’s enough concern for me, let alone any research that suggests it’s a gateway drug to anything bigger or heavier,” he said.

Henare is on the wrong planet here. He’s talking about almost entirely different issues to the use of medical cannabis. This apparent level of ignorance is alarming.

NZ First MPs can vote as they please but it is being reported that most or all will vote against the bill. If that happens, again very disappointing. I hope Grey Power, who support the bill, give them all a bollocking overnight.

Winston Peters has said he will oppose the bill.

1 news:  ‘It’s random, it’s haphazard, it’s free-for-all’ – Peters fiercely against Chloe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis bill

“It goes far too far. There is no restriction at all, it’s random, it’s haphazard, it’s free-for-all now.”

That’s just ignorant nonsense. Any hope that Peters might rise to the responsibility of being deputy PM (and acting PM mid year when Ardern has her baby) has flown out the Window. He sounds like an ignorant, out of touch old twit. I hope voters remember and hammer for this.

I haven’t seen David Seymour’s view recently but he has previously been strongly in favour of cannabis law reform. However the vote is shaping up to be not close enough for his vote to make a difference.

From the Curia poll in support of making cannabis use for medical purpose legal:

  • National voters 78% (18% against)
  • Labour voters 78% (17% against)
  • NZ First 77% (23% against)
  • TOTAL 78% (17% against)

If over 50% of MPs vote against the preference of 4 out of 5 people it will be a travesty of democracy.

 

Euthanasia and the value and meaning of life

Philip Matthews: Euthanasia debate reveals deep divisions about the value and meaning of life

In December, the End of Life Choice Bill passed its first reading in Parliament with 76 out of 120 MPs voting to send it up to the Justice Select Committee on the slow process to becoming law.

Despite the deep nature of questions it raises about the meaning and quality of life, the Parliamentary debate was unusually polite and respectful. There was, as former MP and pro-euthanasia campaigner Maryan​ Street notes, a pleasant absence of grandstanding, time wasting or personal abuse.

The details may change but the bill presently would allow for a New Zealand citizen or resident over 18, who is suffering from a terminal illness that is expected to end their life within 6 months or has a grievous and untreatable medical condition, to opt for an assisted death. There are safeguards of informed consent and assessment by two doctors.

The pro-euthanasia camps argue that civilised countries like ours at this point in history should allow for death without suffering, a painless option. You hear a lot about the dignity of the dying.

“In a modern and compassionate society, the law should allow for a decent death,” said Chris Bishop, one of the 21 National MPs to vote for the bill.

The strongest opposition in Parliament came from Simon O’Connor​ who said that “fundamentally, I do not believe doctors should be killing their patients”. O’Connor was one of the 35 National MPs who voted against.

Nine Labour MPs voted against, including Pasifika MPs Jenny Salesa​ and Poto Williams, Māori MP Rino Tirikatene and Pākehā MPs Phil Twyford and Damien O’Connor.

All NZ First MPs voted for it at this stage, but want to see a referendum on euthanasia. All of the Green MPs backed it.

David Seymour’s bill was drawn from the members’ Bill ballot.

“It is not pleasant to talk about painful death,” said Act MP David Seymour, whose bill continued the unfinished business of Street’s earlier attempt to make assisted dying legal.

In this corner there is compassion and dignity, while opposition to euthanasia is often imagined as medieval and unenlightened, a product of redundant religious faith. But actually, Street says, arguments are more complex and nuanced.

It is a complex issue. I am generally in favour of legalising assisted dying/euthanasia and certainly want to be able to make choices for myself about the way I die if I get the chance, but have some concerns about how legislation will both give personal choice but also protect against abuse or misuse.

There is no monolithic block for or against. Her years as the unofficial godmother of the euthanasia movement in New Zealand – she is now president of the End of Life Choice Society – have shown her that there are some Catholics for, as well as many against. There are Māori for and against, Pasifika for and against, Asians for and against.

The polling Street cites was conducted by Horizon in May 2017 and found that 75 per cent of New Zealanders support or strongly support the right to die, with support at its highest among Pākehā and other Europeans and lowest among Asians and Indians.

It is, Street knows, a deeply individual matter. Faith or politics may play a part, or politics or, more likely, life experience.

I have experienced the end of life and deaths of both my parents over years (father, emphysema) and months (mother, cancer). I believe my father was effectively assisted to die but I was shut out of the process (by the hospital he was in, possibly to protect themselves), this was a very difficult time. My mother died in a hospice, under the best possible care but still fraught – they reacted to her pain with just enough pain killers, until the next time she suffered.

This is where Raymond Mok comes in. What does it mean to say that those with serious medical conditions can legally opt out of life with the help of the able-bodied? Does it imply that their lives are less precious, less valuable?

It smacks of discrimination to him. We want to be progressive in our thinking but legalising assisted suicide for only the ill or disabled is not moving forward.

“I think it’s not the Government’s role to say who is eligible to live or die,” Mok says. “If it is the choice of the individual, then it shouldn’t be limited to people with severe illness or disability.”

This does present a genuine dilemma that gets to the heart of our ethics. In our rush to offer a compassionate death to those who are suffering, we might also be suggesting that they are somehow worth less than others. As Mok says, the important thing is that a consenting adult is making an informed and conscious decision to die, regardless of illness or disability.

Street steps carefully into this ethical minefield and says that “when it comes to people with disabilities, this needs to be treated with the utmost respect, because their lives are typically a struggle, society views them differently already, and they feel that because they are already vulnerable, they will be more vulnerable”.

She believes that two things underpin both the assisted dying bill and disability charters, and they are maximum autonomy and dignity. Just as disability rights activists want to enshrine those qualities, so too does the pro-euthanasia camp.

But yes, it is a highly tricky area that must be approached with as much sensitivity and empathy as we can muster. As for the palliative care backers, Street says that she too is a great supporter of it but “I only wish that in New Zealand it were universally accessible and it were universally of a high standard. Neither of those things is true.”

Hospices are as good as we could have under current law, but only a small number of people die in hospices.

The slippery slope argument is harder to combat, though. What happens if we keep normalising the right to die or keep expanding the parameters? How far does liberalism take us? Australian ethicist Xavier Symons made this point recently when euthanasia was debated and made legal in the state of Victoria. In the Netherlands, Symons noted, euthanasia deaths have trebled since 2002, and are now more than 4 per cent of all deaths, with increasing requests from people who are not terminally ill but simply “tired of life”.

Is it a slippery slope, or generally an increasing number of people choosing what they want?

There is something very sad about this trend: boredom, illness and loneliness in the most prosperous societies in history, where some would rather be dead and no longer a burden.

Whatever the reasoning and reason, it should be an individual’s choice, providing there are adequate safeguards.

Would we accept this in New Zealand? Street agrees it is not palatable and she has been adamant about safeguards that would restrict assisted dying to those old enough to vote and the need for citizenship or residency to stop New Zealand from becoming a site of death tourism, as has been seen in Switzerland.

The Swiss situation has only arisen because of a lack of legal choices in people’s own country.

Most of us already can make choices about committing suicide, but options are far from ideal.

One of the biggest fears is becoming incapable of taking our own lives but wanting to opt out of life.

One contradiction is the use of modern medicine to prolong life far beyond natural processes, but legally forbidding using medicine to easy one to their death a bit sooner than may otherwise occur.

It will be an interesting debate, with passion on both sides of the argument. I hope this debate can be conducted with dignity.

Matthews wraps one person’s illness, experience and views around his article, seeming to use that as a proxy for his own views, but there are many circumstances in which people live and die.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

* Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

* Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

* Gambling Helpline – 0800 654 655

* Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

* Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

* Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).