Another National embarrassment

When things swing against political parties it can be hard to turn it around – especially when they keeping doing or saying silly things.

Steven Joyce dragged National down last week when they were already flagging behind Labour in the polls.

Today 38th ranked MP Simon O’Connor has National in the negative news column after a Facebook comment on Sunday night:

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With opponents and journalists looking for something to kick of the week with this got a good airing.

Newshub:  No apology from National MP Simon O’Connor over suicide comments

Hundreds gathered outside Parliament on Sunday to urge the Government to do more on mental health. New Zealand has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, with more than 600 victims in the past year.

O’Connor’s tweet was in response to Jacinda Ardern’s involvment in that.

“It’s strange that Jacinda is so concerned about youth suicide but is happy to encourage the suicide of the elderly, disabled, and sick. Perhaps she just values one group more than the others? Just saying.”

Not surprisingly:

Hundreds expressed outrage on social media, including a number of MPs.

Ardern responded:

Ms Ardern told Newstalk ZB on Monday morning euthanasia and suicide were “completely different issues”.

“The 600 people in New Zealand who have taken their own lives will shock and appal all New Zealanders. The fact our mental health services aren’t doing enough for those people, that’s something we should be talking about this election.

“To draw then a comparison to the issue of the people having the ability to make choices about their own end of life if they’re facing terminal illness, is absolutely a completely different issue again.

“I’ve said openly that I believe people should be able to make their own choices in those circumstances. Mr O’Connor disagrees, he chaired a select committee on this issue and disagreed there too. That’s a conscience vote for us all.”

O’Connor said that no apology was necessary.

But rather than withdraw the comments Mr O’Connor is doubling-down, telling Newshub on Monday he had nothing to apologise for.

Mr O’Connor said he didn’t doubt Ms Ardern’s sincerity, but said she should “also be sad about those who are old or depressed or disabled who are also looking to suicide”, and called her views “inconsistent”.

“The intention of taking one’s life is called suicide. There are some who say that there are legitimate opportunities where it should be allowed, and we call that euthanasia or physician-assisted dying. So no, it’s just an inconsistent approach.”

“At one level saying youth suicide is bad, but saying other forms of suicide are acceptable, that’s an inconsistency. That’s always been the approach I’ve had,” he said.

“You cannot allow suicide for some and prevent it for others”.

Predictably Bill English was asked about it and all he could do was lamely slap O’Connor’s hand:

NZH: Bill English tells Simon O’Connor he’s wrong over euthanasia comments

National leader Bill English says he has texted his colleague Simon O’Connor to tell him it was wrong to link suicide and euthanasia.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, English said he didn’t agree with O’Connor.

“We don’t link euthanasia and suicide,” he said.

“In both cases, what’s important here is compassion for people who are vulnerable.

“For suicide, we’re trying to find better and wider solutions as a practical expression of that support for people who are at risk.”

But the damage had been done. This makes National look out of control and out of touch.

O’Connor completed training as a Catholic priest but didn’t seek ordination. He has previously expressed strong views against euthanasia.

But he isn’t totally devout in catholic practices.

Stuff in February last year: National MP Simon O’Connor to marry Minister Simon Bridges’ sister

National MP Simon O’Connor kicked off the new year proposing to Transport Minister Simon Bridges’ sister.

O’Connor’s fiance, Rachel Trimble, who still uses her ex-husband’s name, says politics really runs in the family and she’s joked to O’Connor that he should take her maiden name for fun.

“It’s quite confusing, I’ve had people think that I’m dating Simon Bridges, and I have to explain that he’s my brother,” Trimble said.

“I’m quite surprised he even likes me, considering I have five children…he’s a really kind and caring guy,” she said.

The kids are “great” and “fundamentally they still have a Dad, and it’s not me,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor admits when he was studying to be a priest in the seminary a decade ago he didn’t expect he’d end up marrying an older woman with five children.

Between 1995 and the end of 2004 O’Connor was studying for the priesthood with the Society of Mary.

He completed his studies but when it came to being ordained he decided it wasn’t for him.

“I’m still a man who has beliefs but it’s not a big part of who I am.”

“I don’t regret a day of being in the seminary but you can’t be a politico and a cleric.”

Trimble and O’Connor married in December last year. Unless rules have changed they would not have been able to get married in a Catholic Church.

This latest controversy is a relatively minor embarrassment for National but it could be another nail in their campaign coffin.

Euthanasia bill does not infringe human rights

David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill has been passed by the Attorney General, who is required to check bills against the Bill of Rights Act.

RNZ:  Euthanasia bill gets legal tick from Attorney-General

A bill proposing to legalise euthanasia has been given a legal tick by the Attorney-General, who said it would not infringe basic human rights if enacted.

Proposed laws are tested using routine assessments by the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, who weighs legal validity under overarching legislation such as the Bill of Rights Act.

In a report, Mr Finlayson said the bill was consistent with rights regarding freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

His report related to the legal framework, not any moral or philosophical questions.

Mr Seymour’s bill provides for a legal landscape in which people with a terminal illness or a ”grievous or irremediable” medical condition [have] the option of requesting assisted dying”.

“It allows people who so choose, and are eligible under this bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.”

Seymour is pleased his bill passed this test.

“Critics of my bill, short of substantive arguments, have called it ‘poorly drafted’.

“[The] report from the Attorney-General debunks those claims.

“Opponents will now need to explain why they would not allow dying people, in extreme suffering, to have a choice about how and when they die – rather than hiding behind those straw men.

“The report says that the eligibility criteria are narrow enough, and the safeguards strict enough, that the bill will not cause wrongful deaths, and that assisted dying will be available only to the group the bill intends – incurably or terminally ill, and in unbearable suffering.”

Parliament will rise next week and ity looks unlikely the Members’ Bill will get it’s first reading before the election.

Parliamentary report on medically assisted dying

In June 2015 a petition was presented to Parliament from then MP Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others requesting:

That the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the
introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.

Parliament’s Health Committee has just released their report on this. It looks in detail into many aspects of assisted dying and euthanasia.

This is a separate process to the Private Members’ Bill of David Seymour that was drawn from the ballot earlier this year, which hasn’t had it’s First Reading in Parliament yet (unlikely before the election).


Report on the petition of Hon Maryan Street presented

During its consideration of the petition, more than 21,000 individuals and organisations submitted their views to the committee. Over 108 hours, 944 people took the opportunity to share their opinions.

The petition requests that the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition that makes life unbearable.

Recommendation:

The Health Committee has considered Petition 2014/18 of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974
others and recommends that the House take note of its report.

This report gives us the opportunity to summarise, for the benefit of the House and the
public, what we heard and considered during our review of more than 21,000 submissions from the petitio extremely contentious. We therefore encourage everyone with an interest in the subject to read the report in full, and to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence presented in it.

Background

The petitioner, Hon Maryan Street, was a member of Parliament between 2005 and 2014.
While a member, she sought to introduce the End of Life Options Bill as a member’s bill.
The purpose of this bill was to provide individuals with a choice about how they end their life and allow them to receive assistance from a medical practitioner to die under certain circumstances. The petition originated with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand (VES) before being adopted formally by Hon Maryan Street. Since leaving
Parliament, Ms Street has become the President of VES.

There have been two first reading debates in Parliament on similar bills. Both were
unsuccessful. In 1995, members voted 61 to 29 against Michael Laws’ Death with Dignity
Bill. In 2003, members voted 60 to 58 against Peter Brown’s Death with Dignity Bill.
The petitioner’s bill was formally removed from the members’ bill ballot in December
2014.

Full report here

Conclusion

We thank the petitioner for bringing this petition before the committee and encouraging us to ascertain the views of New Zealanders on ending one’s life in this country. We appreciate that people come from a range of backgrounds and that this is a subject on which people hold strong views. We believe that the written submission and oral hearing process has provided a platform for people to share these views and discuss the issues with us. This report gives us an opportunity to summarise what we heard for the benefit of the House and the public.

Eighty percent of submitters were opposed to a change in legislation that would allow assisted dying and euthanasia. Submitters primarily argued that the public would be endangered. They cited concern for vulnerable people, such as the elderly and the disabled, those with mental illnesses, and those susceptible to coercion. Others argued that life has an innate value and that introducing assisted dying and euthanasia would explicitly undermine that idea. To do so would suggest that some lives are worth more than others. There were also concerns that, once introduced, eligibility for assisted dying would rapidly expand well beyond what was first intended.

Supporters of assisted dying feared their loss of dignity, independence, and physical and mental capacity. Submitters also spoke about the fear of pain and of having to watch loved ones suffer from a painful death. Supporters stressed their personal autonomy and that they should have the choice as to when to end their life.

Many submitters discussed their experiences of palliative care. We commend the service
given by palliative care providers and hospices. However, we were concerned to hear that there is a lack of awareness about the role of palliative care, that access to it is unequal, and that there are concerns about the sustainability of the workforce. We urge the Government to consider ways in which it can better communicate the excellent services that palliative carers provide, address the unequal access, consider how palliative care is funded, and address the workforce shortages.

The relationship between assisted dying and suicide was a common concern for submitters. Some believe that assisted dying should not be considered until New Zealand’s high suicide rate is reduced. Others believe that the lack of assisted dying legislation means that people are more likely to suicide.

We recognise that a lot of work and investment has gone into suicide prevention programmes and support services. However, we were concerned to hear that people feel that there is a lack of grief counselling. We therefore encourage the Government to investigate improving access to these services.

We have not made any recommendations about introducing assisted dying legislation. We understand that decisions on issues like this are generally a conscience vote.

The petitioner asked us to investigate attitudes towards the introduction of legislation that would permit assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable. However, some submitters thought that the criteria would or should be broader than terminal illness or an irreversible condition. This has made it difficult for us to consider what the safeguards should be. We were particularly concerned about protecting vulnerable people, such as individuals with dementia or reduced capacity. Some of us remain unconvinced that the models seen overseas provide adequate protection for vulnerable people.

We would like to thank all of the submitters for sharing their stories with us and for the
respect submitters showed for opposing views when they appeared before the committee.

This issue is clearly very complicated, very divisive, and extremely contentious.

We therefore encourage everyone with an interest in the subject to read the report in full and to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence we have presented.

New Zealand First minority view

New Zealand First congratulates the petitioner for bringing this issue before the Select Committee. Medically-assisted dying is a serious matter and is so serious that it is not one that should be taken by temporarily empowered politicians. New Zealand First cannot support such a fundamental change without a clear sign that this is the will of most New Zealanders. That would be achieved by either a binding Citizens’ Initiated Referendum, or a Government Initiated Referendum held with a future General Election thus allowing for a period of informed debate.

74% poll support for euthanasia

Colmar Brunton’s latest poll included a question about support of euthanasia.

Asked do they think a terminally ill person should be able to receive assistance from a doctor to end their life:

  • Yes 74%
  • No 18%

This is similar to previous polls, and is a strong reason why Parliament should debate the member’s bill drawn recently.

1 News:  Poll support for euthanasia a wake-up call for undecided MPs says Seymour

ACT leader David Seymour says a 1 NEWS Colmar  Brunton poll showing three quarters of respondents support voluntary euthanasia should be a wake-up call for MPs undecided about his assisted dying bill.

MPs will vote soon after the September election on Mr Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill.

Most parties will have a conscience vote and a number of MPs are yet to make up their minds.

“Too many MPs have ignored public opinion and in a democracy you do that at your peril,” Mr Seymour said.

However…

…anti-euthanasia campaigner Renee Joubert of Euthanasia-Free NZ says poll respondents “were not asked to consider the practical implications in the real world of dysfunctional relationships, domestic and elder abuse, mental health issues”.

That’s the sort of things that Parliament should debate and seek input from the public on.

I support the freedom to choose what to do with one’s own life and death so support euthanasia in general, and I strongly support Seymour’s bill passing it’s first reading so it can be properly debated in Parliament.

There are important details and safeguards to work out so I can’t say whether I would support the bill passing into law without seeing it’s final form.

End of Life Choice Bill

David Seymour’s ‘End of Life Choice’ Bill was drawn from today’s Members’ ballot. It is unlikely to be debated before the election, so a new intake of MPs will get to decide whether it progresses through Parliament.

I hope that it at least passes the First Reading vote and goes to select committee for consideration and for public submissions. From there it will depend on what form the bill ends up taking, in particular what safeguards are included, and then it should be up to conscience votes.

End of Life Choice Bill

This bill gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.

It is a controversial subject and will no doubt be keenly debated, and there is likely to be  a lot of lobbying.

From ACT: Campaign to legalise assisted dying begins now

The End of Life Choice Bill has been drawn from Parliament’s ballot.

“The campaign starts now,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“We are long overdue for a compassionate response to the anguish faced by the small but significant minority of grievously and irremediably ill, or terminally ill, people. Current law leaves them no choice but to endure intolerable suffering and loss of dignity in the final days of their lives. The End of Life Choice Bill would allow people who so choose and are eligible to end their life in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.

“Polling consistently shows strong support for allowing assisted dying for those with terminal illness or who are grievously and irremediably ill. It’s time to translate this support into action. This issue will likely be decided by a conscience vote, so I encourage all supporters of this cause to write to their local MPs and urge them to support the Bill at first reading so that the issue can be thoroughly considered through the select committee process.

“This is a debate which will take place around the country, not just in the media, but online and at homes and churches. I hope people respectfully engage in the discussion with friends and family, and also submit on the Bill as it reaches select committee stage.

“A copy of my Bill, together with further information including answers to common questions and criticisms, can be found on the campaign website, lifechoice.org.nz.”

Euthanasia ok for the King

I don’t know why this old news popped up in  Twitter, about King George V being euthanised on 1936.

1936 SECRET IS OUT: DOCTOR SPED GEORGE V’S DEATH

As he lay comatose on his deathbed in 1936, King George V was injected with fatal doses of morphine and cocaine to assure him a painless death in time, according to his physician’s notes, for the announcement to be carried ”in the morning papers rather than the less appropriate evening journals.”

The fact that the death of a reigning monarch had been medically hastened remained a secret for half a century until the publication today of the notes made at the time by Lord Dawson, the royal physician who recorded that he administered the two injections at about 11 o’clock on the night of Jan. 20, 1936. That was scarcely an hour and a half after Lord Dawson had written a classically brief medical bulletin that declared, ”The King’s life is moving peacefully toward its close.”

That ”close” came in less than an hour after the injections. Lord Dawson, according to his notes, had already taken the precaution of phoning his wife in London to ask that she ”advise The Times to hold back publication.’

”A Peaceful Ending at Midnight,” said the headline the next morning in the newspaper that was deemed to be the most appropriate vehicle for major announcements to the nation.

British class snobbery with media.

Lord Dawson’s notes assert that he had been told by Queen Mary and the Prince of Wales that they did not want the King’s life needlessly prolonged if his illness was clearly fatal. There is no indication that the King himself had been consulted.

It is not clear from the notes how explicit Lord Dawson was in the exchange he reported with the Queen and Prince about the method of ending the King’s life, or whether this conversation had been initiated by the family or the physician.

Ten months later Lord Dawson spoke on euthanasia in a debate in the House of Lords.

The royal physician spoke against a bill that would have legalized the practice but he did so without condemning euthanasia. Instead, describing it as a ”mission of mercy,” he argued it was a matter best left to the conscience of individual physicians rather than official regulators.

”One should make the act of dying more gentle and more peaceful even if it does involve curtailment of the length of life,” he told his fellow peers. ”That has become increasingly the custom. This may be taken as something accepted.”

Calling for a ”gentle growth of euthanasia,” rather than a removal of all restraints by legislation, Lord Dawson went on to say, ”If we cannot cure for heaven’s sake let us do our best to lighten the pain.”

Left to the conscience of individual physicians, and stuff the law, and don’t consult the dying person?

I wonder if these sorts of views figure in opposition by doctors to change the law on euthanasia now.

The King’s last words:

The King, who was 71, had been in failing health for some months with a chronic bronchial complaint, but his final illness was brief. It was only four days before his death that the Queen sent for Lord Dawson. On the morning of his last day, he managed a 10-minute meeting with his privy counselors.

After his death, it was reported that his last words had come in the form of a question to his private secretary. ”How is the Empire?” he was said to have asked.

But Lord Dawson’s notes report a subsequent exclamation, which came after dinner when he was injected with a small dose of morphine to enable him to sleep more easily. ”God damn you,” the King said, according to the notes, as he fell asleep.

No indication who or what ‘you’ was.

Later that evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, prayed at the bedside of the unconscious King. Once the Archbishop retired, Lord Dawson prepared the fatal injections, consisting of three-quarters of a gram of morphine and one gram of cocaine.

Was the King’s death a result of collusion between the doctor and the Archbishop?

Ten months later, the Archbishop followed Lord Dawson as a speaker in the euthanasia debate in the House of Lords, praising the speech the royal physician had just given.

Euthanasia still has not been legalized in Britain. The Voluntary Euthanasia Society said today that it had not yet decided what, if anything, it wanted to say about the death of King George V 50 years ago.

The plebs still have no choice (legally) in how they might die. Perhaps King George had no choice either – that is something that suggested euthanasias would protect.

These days timing someone’s death for the convenience of The Times probably wouldn’t happen.

Would it be the doctor or the priest tweeting “We knocked the bastard off”?

 

English, Little, Ardern on abortion laws

1 News chose to make Bill English’s views on abortion it’s headline story from the Q+A interviews with English and Andrew little on Sunday.

English, Little at loggerheads over abortion law reform

‘Loggerheads’ is nonsense – English and Little have different views on abortion but neither sound interested in putting much priority on doing anything about our sham abortion laws.

English even indicated he had no inclination to change the current law – “I mean, it’s a law that’s stood the test of time.” He then diverted to other social issues he was more interested in dealing with.

Political editor for 1 NEWS Corin Dann asked Mr English about the issue on TVNZ’s current affairs show Q+A this morning.

Mr Dann mentioned that prime ministers tended to set the tone for conscience vote issues, and said Mr English’s vote would be quite significant in an issue like abortion.

“The Abortion Supervisory Committee has recommended an update of our abortion laws, they’re outdated and clumsy,” said Mr Dann.

“Would you stand in the way of that, given that you’re not in favour of liberalising abortions?

Mr English replied: “That’s right, I’m not, and I wouldn’t vote for legislation that did”.

The Prime Minister went on to say that it would be an issue dealt with in a parliamentary vote, and his would be one vote in 121. He hoped that others would vote with him.

Despite the headline there was no mention of Little, his views or his differences with English.

Here is the whole section of the interview:

CORIN But it’s a different story when you’re Prime Minister because we saw with John Key when he voted for gay marriage, that was a big impetus to that legislation. We’ve seen it with the smacking legislation in previous years gone by. Prime ministers set the tone, and if you’re socially conservative, what I’m curious about is how you behave around a social conscience vote is quite significant. For example, the Abortion Advisory Committee has recommended an update of our abortion laws; they’re outdated and clumsy. Would you stand in the way of that, given that, I’m presuming, you’re not in favour of liberalising abortions?

BILL That’s right, I’m not, and I wouldn’t vote for legislation that did.

CORIN What about a law that just updated it, modernised it, which is what they’re calling for?

BILL Well, I think what they mean is liberalise it, and we wouldn’t do that. I mean, it’s a law that’s standed the test of time. But, look, the Parliament has ways of working with this. They know how I would vote, but also they can— You know, I’m focusing on a whole wider set of issues, and many views that I think have traditionally been regarded as socially conservative turning out to be pretty useful. For instance, cracking some of our worst social problems is about trying to rebuild families that have been shattered by dependency, offending, abuse, and as a government we’re focusing on achieving that.

CORIN I think you’ll find the Abortion Advisory Committee does not think it’s standing the test of time and that it’s an outdated, clumsy, sexist piece of legislation.

BILL Well, look, they’re free to have their opinion. They know what my opinion is. The Parliament would deal with the issue, I’m sure, one way or another if it came up.

CORIN But would you stand in the way of it? You’re Prime Minister; you’re signalling that’s something you’re not interested in reforming.

BILL Well, I’m signalling that as a parliamentarian with one vote out of 121, and I hope others would vote with me.

CORIN Yeah, but the most important vote, isn’t it?

BILL Well, no, on conscience issues you are just one vote. I’ve seen this process work in the past, and I’d vote my way.

CORIN But it sets the tone, doesn’t it?

BILL Well, look, if it does, in that case, I’m quite happy that it sets the tone of not rushing into big changes in abortion law.

English remains opposed to abortion but seems unenthusiastic about changing how things work at this stage.

Little was asked about abortion in his interview:

CORIN Andrew Little, likewise, if you are Prime Minister, it will be you who sets the tone often with these issues. You’re not so keen on euthanasia, is that right? Where do you sit on the issues, these social issues that come forth if you are Prime Minister?

ANDREW I personally support euthanasia. I personally support Maryan Street’s bill. I just did not regard it as a priority for Labour when we just had an election where we got 25% of the vote. There were bigger priorities to deal with. On abortion, I support the recommendation to have an inquiry to update and upgrade that legislation. I support women’s choice.

CORIN What do you make of Bill English’s comments? He thought this was an attempt by the advisory committee at liberalisation. I mean, are you surprised that he would feel that way, that the law isn’t outdated in his mind?

ANDREW I mean, he is a social conservative. He’s deeply conservative on an issue like abortion. I happen to differ from him on that. I think that the advisory committee is right. The legislation has been around for the best part of 40 years. It does need to be reviewed and upgraded, and I agree with Jacinda. We should not have it in the Crimes Act. It is not a crime.

But as with his reluctance to put forward attempts to change the law on euthanasia (he canned a Labour private Member’s Bill on it)  Little is unlikely to make abortion law reform ‘a priority’.

Abortion was one issue that Jacinda Ardern showed some depth of knowledge and opinion on:

CORIN Jacinda, if we could turn to some of the social issues in that interview with Bill English. Where do you sit on this issue of abortion law? Does it need to be reformed?

JACINDA Yeah. And these are, as he rightly pointed out, all conscience issues. I think a lot of New Zealanders would be surprised to know that currently those laws are contained in the Crimes Act 1961. And so, for obvious reasons, that has been raised by the Abortion Supervisory Committee. So they’ve called for a review, and when you’ve still got abortion in the Crimes Act, that’s understandable, and it would be timely. But my position on issues like this has always been regardless of what my view is, why should I impose that view on others and remove their choice? I had the same view when it came to things like civil unions or marriage equality – that people should have that choice available to them. And is it our position as lawmakers to stand in the way of people accessing choice that should be there?

CORIN So if, for example, you were in a position where you were a minister in government, you wouldn’t pick up those recommendations; you’d leave it to a member’s bill? Is that what you’re saying?

JACINDA Look, I think those recommendations do need to be pursued. That’s my view, but it is a conscience vote.

As both Ardern and English pointed out it’s a conscience issue, so it won’t be a major party versus party election issue.

Corin Dan was trying to make a contentious story out bugger all.

Currently abortion is legal in New Zealand if two certifying doctors determine there is a risk of serious danger to the life or mental health of the mother (those signatures are easy to get in practice) , and in cases of severe mental or physical handicap of the fetus, incest, or severe mental subnormality of the mother.

Interview transcripts:

http://business.scoop.co.nz/2017/03/12/tvnz-1-qa-prime-minister-bill-english/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1703/S00151/tvnz-1-qa-andrew-little-and-jacinda-ardern.htm

Key refuses to act on euthanasia inquiry

John Key is refusing to do anything about euthanasia legislation, regardless of the outcome of the current select committee inquiry.

Newstalk ZB: John Key: ‘No chance’ of Govt legalising euthanasia

There is zero chance of Government introducing legislation to legalise euthanasia even if an inquiry strongly recommends it, Prime Minister John Key says.

A select committee is part-way through a major inquiry on public attitudes to euthanasia in New Zealand, which is considering more than 20,000 public submissions and holding hearings around the country.

Key said today that regardless of the committee’s conclusions and the level of public support, the Government would not propose a change.

“There is no chance of it being a Government bill,” Key told reporters at Parliament this morning.

Key said he personally supported euthanasia. He would not take the step himself, but he believed others should be able to.

However, there was strong opposition to it within the National caucus, he said.

Senior members of the Cabinet such as Bill English and Gerry Brownlee have previously voted against bills which would have made euthanasia legal.

“Ultimately you’re dealing with a really sensitive issue and I think the process is best handled through a member’s bill, as I’ve said so often before,” Key said.

Saying it is “best handled through a member’s bill”, which is a long shot lottery, is gutless bollocks.

It may be Key-speak for ‘I am outnumbered in the National caucus on this’.

The Prime Minister said the select committee’s work was still useful because it would inform any debate if a private member’s bill on the issue was drawn.

That’s pathetic, effectively not allowing Parliament to do what it should, debate issues of public importance.

Andrew is little better.

Andrew Little said the Government should “at least” allow a euthanasia bill to come before the House so that a debate could take place.

However, he said a law change would not be a priority for a Labour-led Government.

He would personally support the legalisation of euthanasia if it had the same safeguards as former MP Maryan Street’s proposed bill.

Street’s bill was withdrawn from the member’s ballot ahead of the 2014 election at the request of former Labour leader David Shearer, who was concerned it could become a distraction in election year.

It was taken over by another Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, but Little asked him not to return it to the ballot.

The Labour Party passed a remit at its annual conference on the weekend which said MPs would have a conscience vote on any euthanasia legislation.

Little said he was unsure about the level of support for a law change within his party.

So Little is ‘unsure about the level of support within his party’ but nevertheless had a Labour member’s bill withdrawn from the ballot and consigned it to ‘not a priority’, which is much the same as Key’s refusal to address it.

Euthanasia is a difficult and sensitive issue, but making it as hard as possible for parliament to debate it is gutless politics.

Act’s David Seymour is the only Member of Parliament willing to push for debate on this. He has effectively taken over the bill from Lees-Galloway. The rest of them are ducking for cover when they should be representing the interests of us the people.

The outcome of a euthanasia bill is obviously unknown, but debate on it should be allowed.

I’m especially disappointed with Key’s refusal to do anything, very poor leadership.

Claim that talk of euthanasia encourages suicides

Bob McCoskrie has made an odd claim about the euthanasia Parliamentary select committee discussions – he has suggested it is encouraging suicides, but he says there is no scientific basis for this.

NZ Herald: Talk of euthanasia encouraging suicides, conservative lobby group says

Bob McCoskrie, the national director for Family First, said today that suicides and attempted suicides appeared to peak every time Parliament debated a law change around assisted dying.

He acknowledged there was no scientific basis for his theory and that other factors could have contributed to the rise in suicides in 1995, 2003 and 2012, when Parliament considered bills or proposed bills on euthanasia.

“But it cannot ruled out that there is risk related to the increased publicity given to the idea of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

Many things “can’t be ruled out” but making claims like this with nothing to substantiate it is poor in a submission from Family First.

It also can’t be ruled out that openly talking about euthanasia, and openly talking about suicide, helps lead to prevention of suicides.

McCoskrie made the comments to a select committee which is investigating public attitudes to voluntary euthanasia and deciding whether it should be legalised in New Zealand.

McCoskrie said any discussion of suicide should focus on prevention.

“In complete contrast, this inquiry is initiated and is driven by a desire to promote assisted suicide. You don’t discourage suicide by assisting suicide.”

The euthanasia discussions have only come up this year, and there are no recent statistics on suicide rates so it’s impossible to tell whether McCoskrie is right.

McCoskrie hasn’t attempted to analyse trends and patterns, but avoiding talking about suicide in public, as has been the norm in the past, has done nothing to stem the growing number of suicides in New Zealand.

When publishing items on suicide media commonly also publishes help line numbers and links to resources about suicide prevention. Trying to ignore a growing problem hasn’t worked.

And:

One of the committee’s members, Labour MP Louisa Wall, said his argument was “fundamentally flawed” because he did not differentiate between medically-assisted dying and suicide.

“I don’t see them as congruent,” she said. “There is a huge contrast between people who are facing imminent death and people who are hopeless or depressed.”

“To say that someone like [euthanasia advocate] Lecretia Seales was committing suicide is just wrong.”

But to some people, like McCoskrie, anything other than letting life and death take it’s natural course is wrong.

Except that medical interventions that prolong life seem to have become acceptable.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Seymour v Collins on euthanasia checkpoints

David Seymour kicked off Question Time in parliament yesterday by quizzing Minister of Police Judith Collins on whether she believed “the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety.”

Collins avoided answering this and follow up questions by claiming she couldn’t respond even in general due to a specific incident being referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.


QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

PoliceRoadside Testing and Collection of Personal Information

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Although there is no ministerial responsibility for the genuinely held views of members of the New Zealand public, and both section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 and the Cabinet Manual preclude my intervention—in particular, with policing operations—I can confirm that the Commissioner of Police has referred this incident to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.

David Seymour: Does the Minister believe it is a good use of Police resources to interrogate law-abiding people attending a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 percent spike in burglary reported by Statistics New Zealand just this week?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have answered that question very clearly. This is not a matter that I can comment on. It is currently with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and for me to make a statement about it or have any sort of view would, in fact, actually try to influence the IPCA—and this is not a Labour Government; this is a National Government.

David Seymour: Can the Minister comment on whether she is completely satisfied with how Police currently allocates its resources, given increases in assault, sexual assault, abduction, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but no reported increases in rogue advocacy groups in Maungaraki?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the member is not aware that road policing is actually funded out of the Ministry of Transport, not out of Police. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister agree with the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, when he said “there would be pretty troubling aspects” to an operation that used the statutory power and, indeed, funding provided under the Land Transport Act to gather personal information for a different purpose?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure how many times I need to tell that member that I have no intention of wading into an investigation that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is undertaking. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would refer the member to not only section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 but also the Cabinet Manual on this issue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister have any views about how a police force should operate and how it should allocate its resources?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I do. One of the ways I believe that police should operate is to not have politicians telling them how to do their job. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

David Seymour: Will she guarantee that someone will eventually be held accountable for this gross breach of civil liberties?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I suggest he leave it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is the right and proper place and people to look into this issue.


Seymour followed up with a press release:

Minister ducks for cover on inappropriate use of police resources

The Minister of Police has failed to reassure New Zealanders that someone will take responsibility for any misuse of police resources to target euthanasia groups. She hides behind due process today while she is happy to crow about police operations when it suits, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“When New Zealanders see a blatant abuse of civil liberties, they expect someone to be held accountable. At the very least they expect the appropriate Minister to have a view on the principles of good policy. New Zealanders should be disappointed on both counts today.

“Astoundingly, Judith Collins refused to acknowledge what anyone can see: that surveillance of assisted dying advocates is ethically wrong and legally dodgy, not to mention a complete waste of police resources when burglary is spiking 18% in the last year.

“The Minister refused to share any view on this behaviour, saying it would be inappropriate given an inquiry is under way by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. ACT respects this due process, but it needn’t prevent the Minister from expressing a general view, particularly one who is not usually reluctant in sharing her opinions.

“She hasn’t shied away from crowing about other initiatives such as recent anti-burglary measures. Core police operations suffer when resources are thrown at harassing advocacy groups, but the Minister offers no comment. Apparently she only likes to comment on good news.”

It would be good if the Minister of Police could at least assure the public that breath testing checkpoints won’t be used illegally to detain members of the public travelling legally.