Greens may have to support waka jumping bill

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

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Democracy

• Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

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

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

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

Some Greens are not happy.

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

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

 

Government at risk of revolt against the TPP?

There were large protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership when the then National Government passed the agreement through Parliament. Labour was vocal in it’s opposition to the TPP, and some of their MPs were actively involved in the protests.

It wasn’t clear how much of their opposition was just political opportunism and trying to make things difficult for National. It’s also not clear (to me at least) how much Labour was involved in organising the protests and supposition.

Then in November in Vietnam the now Labour Government worked on getting a revised CPTPP agreement between the eleven countries (Trump had pull the USA out).

And last month an agreement was reached, with NZ First also switching to support of Labour, but also needing National’s support. The Greens remained opposed, but their protests have been conspicuously muted.

Jane Kelsey immediately complained, but it has taken a while for other TOP opponents to start to complain.

John Minto at The Daily Blog in 100 days and the first broken promise

In their first 100 days Labour has offered us “not-National” policies but little else – unless a Woman’s Weekly Prime Minister is considered in the common good.

I’d like to be able to offer well-deserved praise to the Labour-led government but their policy offerings from their first 100 days have been uninspiring.

In each case the issues involved are central to the public interest and the new government is acting quickly and firmly to mop up the previous government’s failures.

In each case the public support was already assured for each announcement so there was no chance of serious kickback from National or its vested interests.

On the other hand, three crucial decisions of the new government will have a wider impact on the country and in each case Labour has failed the public interest in favour of vested corporate interests.

TPP:

Having done their best, before the election, to pretend they were opposed to the TPP and the secrecy around its negotiation, the new government has simply helped repackage the agreement with a few cosmetic changes to make it seem more palatable. It isn’t. It’s the same old bill of rights for foreign corporations to plunder our economy that its always been.

Minto and his fellow protesters were happy for Labour “to pretend they were opposed to the TPP” when it suited, but now they have woken up to being duped – although it had been obvious that Labour was milking as staunch opposition some fairly minor points of disagreement.

Political activist and trade unionist Elliot Crossan wants the Greens to actively oppose the CPTPP rather than whimper and roll over, to the extent that he thinks they should threaten to drag down the Government.

Against the Current: IT’S TIME FOR THE GREEN’S TO PLAY HARDBALL ON THE TPPA

Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power? If the answer is the latter, what do we do to stop this corporate stitch-up of an agreement once and for all, now that Labour and New Zealand First have betrayed us?  

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her coalition government intending to  sign the reheated agreement on March 8, Elliot Crossan says its time to play hardball.

It cannot be understated just how crucial it is to any progressive vision of Aotearoa that we stop TPPA. TheInvestor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms were the main catalyst for concern around which the opposition movement mobilised.

But Labour and the other countries now call the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive TPP!

LabourNew Zealand First and Green politicians turned up to our marches against the TPPA, and made political capital from voicing their concurrence with the demands of our movement.

Then-frontbencher Jacinda Ardern said of TPPA that “it is unlike any free trade agreement we’ve been party to before”, and that “it wasn’t just state to state, it was corporate to state.” The Labour Party’s minority submission in the Select Committee concluded with the statement “the TPPA will have ramifications for generations of New Zealanders.

Winston Peters went so far as to write a piece for theDominion Post entitled “With the Trans-Pacific Partnership, New Zealand is signing a blank cheque”, and opining that “being a beacon of free and fair trade is what New Zealand once claimed it stood for.

Barry Coates, who was one of the leaders of the campaign against the TPPA, briefly served as a Green MP, and was highly placed on the party’s list going into the election; the Greens were sounding alarm bells about TPPA as far back as 2010, and of the three parties in government, have the most consistent record of opposition.

The Greens have been consistently opposed, but not consistent in how actively opposed they are. A roar has become a whimper.

Now that they are in power, both Labour and New Zealand First have decided to support what campaign group It’s Our Future are calling “the Zombie TPPA”, the revived agreement minus the United States.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister David Parker are desperately insisting that their sudden shift of stance is “nota u-turn”, while Winston Peters is claiming that “the deal is not the deal inherited, it’s different … with substantial changes with the types that the Canadians were holding out on as well, that we both have seen changes that mean we can support this deal”.

Only the Greens remain against it, with new MP and trade spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman maintaining staunch opposition and outlining how the Greens believe that disagreement and protest within government, including on the TPPA, are essential to the Green vision.

Ghahraman has voiced some opposition, but her party doesn’t seem to care much about reviving the protest movement they were an active part of.

Here lie two essential questions. Was the movement against the TPPA just protesting the National Party, or was it about a broader opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites no matter which party is in power?

It was both, sort of. There was staunch probably not very broad  “opposition towards control of Aotearoa by business elites”, including the Greens. But Labour used this to build broader protest against the National Party.

If the deal goes to a vote in the House, then National, ACT, Labour and New Zealand First will vote for it, with only the Greens opposed. It will pass 112 votes to 8. But the opposition to TPPA must not melt away quietly, resigned to defeat. It may be that we cannot stop the deal now, but there is no question that we have to try with all our might to bring it down.

So what  is to be done? Firstly, we need to educate people on how the “CPTPP” is no different from the deal National tried to sell us. Jane Kelsey is going on a speaking tour to this purpose this month—you can find your local meeting here.

When the TPP protests were being supported by Labour Kelsey had a speaking tour then too, and I went to her meeting in Dunedin. Now Labour minister but then Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark attended, and spoke at an anti-TPP rally in the Octagon see Labour’s Mad McCarten Moment? and David Clark on the TPPA.

Secondly, we need to organise to hold demonstrations as big if not bigger than our protests against the original TPPA. We should not tone down our resistance when so-called progressive parties are in power—we should be angrier!

Would it be any more than Twelve Angry Activists?

Thirdly, we need to mobilise forms of protest which show the threat people power can pose to those who seek to govern us. The unions should strongly consider strike action to demonstrate the high political price any government will pay if it tries to serve the interests of profit over looking after the wellbeing of the people and planet.

Union strikes against the union supported Labour led government would be interesting.

 

Perhaps unions could threaten to withdraw their financial support of the Labour Party, and threaten to withdraw from Labour’s leadership selection arrangement.

I make my fourth argument as someone who has been a member of the Green Party for three years and served in 2017 as the Co-Convenor of the Young Greens. The Greens only have eight MPs, three of whom are Ministers outside of Cabinet—apart from the areas agreed in our Confidence and Supply agreement, the party has little to no power over government… other than the power to bring the government down in a situation desperately important enough. And I would argue that TPPA presents such a situation.

The founding document of the Greens simply cannot be implemented within the structures TPPA would entrench. This poses an existential threat which cannot be ignored to the hopes and dreams that Greens, and progressives in general, have for the future of Aotearoa.

Bringing down the government is a drastic move to make, especially so early in its term. There are few things which could necessitate such a play being made, but TPPA is, in my view, undeniably one of them. There is simply no alternative if we are serious about creating a better future.

What would the effect of the Greens withdrawing Confidence and Supply be? Given it is far too late now for Winston to make a u-turn and support National, and given the Greens would never prop up National, neither National or Labour would have the confidence of the House. This would mean Ardern would have to choose whether to concede to the Greens, or to call another election.

Withdrawing from the Confidence and Supply agreement would likely remove any doubt that the Greens would be a liability to any government and could not be trusted. The Greens must have known the likely outcome of the TPP when they chose to support Labour and NZ First into government.

What would happen in another election?

Polling taken in 2012 through 2016 indicates a broad public opposition to TPPA. An election held on the basis of the agreement would favour the Greens well, as long as the party could effectively communicate the gravity of the threat posed by the agreement, and hammer home that we are the only party who have never wavered in our stance against it. Given their u-turn on the trade deal so many of its members and supporters despise, Labour would be at risk of losing its progressive base to the Greens.

There would be a far greater risk of:

  • Green support plummeting and never recovering due to being viewed as too radical and unreliable to be in Government or in Parliament.
  • NZ First support remaining where it currently is according to the latest polls, below the threshold.
  • Labour support dropping, dragged down by anti-TOPP activists and punished by voters for trusting the Greens.
  • National would likely win a forced election and become a one-party government.

The CPTPP would be already signed so nothing would be achieved except political chaos and a strong swing rightward.

Perhaps a compromise is in order. Given the fact that Labour and New Zealand First went into the election opposing TPPA, and given that it permanently removes democratic rights from New Zealanders, the very least that the government should do would be to allow a binding referendum to take place before agreeing to the deal.

A referendum on the CPTPP could not be forced and organised before the signing next month. And it would be quite undemocratic for a small minority to force a delay and referendum when a huge majority in our representative Parliament supports it progressing.

There could not be anything more destructive to the Greens than to allow a trade deal to pass through parliament which would allow corporations to sue governments.

Yes there could – Greens self destructing, destroying the Government and putting National back in control.

Even if the Greens succeeded in turning Labour against signing the CPTPP this would likely confirm people’s concerns about the Greens being in Government, damage the Government significantly, and consign it to a single term, if it lasted that long.

I also question Crossan’s assertions about the degree  the CPTPP “would allow corporations to sue governments”, but that’s another story.

Green plans for female co-leader

Metiria Turei resigned as Green co-leader last August, leaving James Shaw as sole leader since then. Shaw has just announced plans for finding a new co-leader.

Any female MP or party member can put themselves forward, with Marama Davidson, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage touted as likely contenders.


Timeline announced for Green Party Female Co-leadership election

The Green Party will have a new Female Co-leader by April 9, following the announcement today of an early special election for the position and a truncated campaign period of two months.

The Female Co-leader position has been vacant since Metiria Turei’s resignation in August last year. Green Party Co-leaders are normally elected annually at the party’s AGM but the party executive has decided to bring the election forward in order to fill the vacancy sooner.

“We are keen to get a new Co-leader in place as soon as possible. The party has decided to bring the election of the Female Co-leader forward, with nominations opening next Friday, closing the week after, and then moving into a shorter two month campaigning period,”  said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“The last Co-leader election was drawn out over a five month period and in hindsight was too long. Two months is plenty of time for the candidates to get out among the party members and for members to have their say.

“Like we did when deciding on joining the new Government, we will be using video technology extensively in the campaign, with video calls for members and delegates planned. We are excited about using technology in the campaign and giving all members a chance to connect with the candidates.

“I would advise Green Party member to make sure that their membership is up to date so that they can vote in their branch deliberations and they get to know the candidates and participate in this process.

“A lot’s happened in the period that I have been sole Co-leader, not least that we are now part of Government. It will be great to get a new Co-leader on board as we traverse our first term in power and start to implement good green change and grow our party,” Mr Shaw said.

The Co-leadership will be chosen by Green Party delegates, representing the party’s branches. Branches will have a number of delegates proportionate to their local membership size. The vote will use the single transferable vote system.

Election timeline:

Fri Feb 2 – Nominations open – all female current Green Party members are eligible to run

Fri Feb 9 – Nominations close

Mon Feb 12 – Full list of nominations announced, however candidates can individually announce their candidacy any time after nominations have opened and they’ve filed their paperwork

Sat Mar 3 – Co-leader candidate session at Green Party policy conference in Napier (open to media, details to be advised closer to the time)

Sun Mar 25 – All delegates Zoom (video) call with Co-leader candidates.  This will be a virtual version of what normally happens at AGM with co-leader candidates giving speeches and answering questions from delegates

Mon Mar 26 – End of official campaigning

Mon Mar 26 to Sat Apr 7 – branch consultation and delegates cast their ballots

Sat Apr 7 – Balloting closes

Sun Apr 8 – Ballot counting and winner announced

Most parties support improved TPP

New Zealand looks set to join ten other countries in signing a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in Chile in March, although after being a strong advocate National say they want to see the final text before giving their full approval.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the revisions have substantially improved the agreement, but it’s probably closer to being a few final tweaks.

It has been reported that Ardern has spent some time over the holiday period encouraging Canada’s Justin Trudeau to get on board after backing away late last year. Canada look like they could lose the NAFTA agreement (with the USA and Mexico) so being left out of the TPP would have isolated them more.

NZ First say they will now support the agreement.

Greens say they will still oppose it, but the three larger parties plus ACT make up most of the votes in Parliament.

Jane Kelsey and a few others will continue opposing the deal, probably regardless of what is changed.

There may be some protests but I think they will be nothing like the protests here in 2016 – Labour won’t be organising protests against themselves obviously, and while the Greens remain opposed they are likely to be far less active acting against the interests of the Government they are now a part of.

Most voters are unlikely to care much, and are unlikely to be motivated to moan.

So it looks like a done deal that will get approved by a select committee, ratified by Government and signed in Chile in March.

A weakness of parties, not of MMP

Karl du Fresne claims that the way coalition negotiations were conducted (with Winston Peters in charge) is a problem with MMP, but I think he has the wrong target. Peters was allowed to run the post election process because National, Labour and the Greens let him.

All political systems have weaknesses. It largely comes down to how much politicians try to exploit them or allow them to be exploited.

Stuff: Winston Peters top of the political pops with willingness to exploit wonky system

For the first time since New Zealand adopted the MMP system in 1993, the party that won the biggest share of the vote didn’t form the government. How we arrived at this outcome was down to one man: Winston Raymond Peters.

Nope. There were four parties and four party leaders responsible for the procedure and the outcome.

The Peters party, aka New Zealand First, won 7 per cent of the vote. It lost three of its electorate seats in Parliament, including Peters’ own.

That’s incorrect. NZ First only had one electorate seat, won by Peters in a by-election in Northland early last term. They lost that plus reduced their list seat allocation.

Despite this less than resounding endorsement by the people of New Zealand, Peters ended up determining the makeup of the new government.

Many insist, bizarrely, that this is an example of MMP working exactly as intended, but I would argue that it points to a gaping void in our constitutional arrangements – one that allows a politician whose party commanded an almost negligible share of the vote to decide who will govern us.

7% is not ‘almost negligible’ in this situation.

The MMP system allowed for a wide variety of ways for negotiations to be conducted and for a Government to be formed.

The National, Labour and Green parties al played a part along with NZ First, as did three party leaders as well as Peters.

Nonetheless, for his willingness to exploit this wonky system to his advantage, and for the sheer audacity of the way he went about it, Peters is a hands-down winner of my award for Politician of the Year in 2017.

It isn’t ‘a wonky system’.

It’s in the nature of politics for leaders and parties to work a political system to their advantage as best they can, it would be ludicrous if they didn’t.

Peters was allowed to run the negotiation process simply because the other parties and leaders allowed him to. That isn’t a fault in the MMP system. It was how all parties and leaders and MPs allowed it to happen.

And, so far at least, the end result has worked ok, with a secure majority in Parliament.

Official Information Act – reform, or just compliance?

Governments have tended to gradually get more tardy with complying with Official Information Act requests – if not deliberately obstructive.

The new Government has promised a review. Is reform needed? Or will ensuring that the current act is properly complied with be sufficient?

Slowness of supplying information on request is an issue of increasing concern, but quality information does sometimes take time to compile.

The key aim should be that making information available should largely be a civil servant procedure without manipulation or  interference from Ministers.

The key principle of that act is that “information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it”:

5 Principle of availability

The question whether any official information is to be made available, where that question arises under this Act, shall be determined, except where this Act otherwise expressly requires, in accordance with the purposes of this Act and the principle that the information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it.

A politician or their office not wanting awkward or embarrassing information made public is not a good reason.

ODT reporter Eileen Goodwin talked to the only surviving member of the Danks Committee that set out the principles of the Act that became law in 1982 – ‘Slippage’ affecting information Act

Ministers and officials need to “recommit” to the Official Information Act, but the law itself  need not be changed, Emeritus Prof Sir Ken Keith says. Sir Ken (80), of Wellington, is the only surviving original member of the Danks Committee that laid down the principles of the 1982 law.

It decreed information should be available unless there was good reason to hide it, and it should become progressively more available over time. Sir Ken said the Act fundamentally lived up to its promise, and maintains people forget how secretive things were before.

But there had been some “bad slippage”, he said, and officials needed to re-focus on the principles and purpose of the law.

So he thinks that the law is sound, but compliance with the principles and the law need improvement.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has promised to review the Act as part of her “open government” mandate as Associate State Services Minister.

It is not yet known how far the review will  go, but Ms Curran told online news outlet Newsroom she supported calls for the Ombudsman to be given the power to fine non-complying departments and ministers’ offices.

Fining non-complying Ministers may hit the right target.

Committee chairman Robin Williams, then chairman of the State Services Commission, knew he was making life difficult for officials, but pushed to make them accountable.

The late Dr Williams, a mathematician who had worked on the Manhattan Project, was a talented public servant and academic vice-chancellor whose achievements deserved to be more recognised, Sir Ken said.

“He was absolutely committed to the principle stated right at the beginning of the Act. The principle is that official information is to be available unless there is good reason to withhold it.”

Sir Ken said the law could possibly use some tinkering to bring it into the modern age, but the committee had shown some prescience.

“One of the skilful things we did in retrospect …  was to use the word information rather than documents.”

That is a useful word given the degree we have progressed into the electronic information age.

Dunedin journalist Elspeth McLean agrees culture change in the public service is needed for the law to work.

Mrs McLean said there was far too much interference from government ministers, and Labour was  as bad as National in that regard. A prolific user of the Act, Mrs McLean pursues many complaints about refusals of information through the Office of the Ombudsman.

Through the Ombudsman, she uncovered emails between the Ministry of Social Development and the former Minister’s office about her request for information about a controversial risk prediction model for children. One ministerial aide even bragged about the usefulness of so-called “free and frank Friday”, an allusion to a section of the Act often used to withhold information by claiming it was advice given in a free and frank manner.

Section 9 states ” the withholding of the information is necessary to…maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through…the free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown or members of an organisation or officers and employees of any department or organisation in the course of their duty”.

A nine-page “risk assessment” had been written, which included a list of her unrelated roles and interests. While she appreciated the information about her was publicly available, the tactic made her  uncomfortable.

“You wonder what it would take for them to go a step further.”

She said it was a waste of money and overly intrusive.

Why should it matter who is asking for the information? It should simply be a matter of whether there was no good reason to withhold information.

The problems are not just with Ministers and their offices and departments. Reporting has changed.

When she returned to journalism in 2007 after a long time out of the industry, Mrs McLean looked forward to making use of a law that had not existed when she was a young reporter.

She was disappointed to find an atmosphere of defensiveness in which the Act was over-utilised for simple stories because reporters could not talk to ordinary staff in public organisations.

“Things got pushed through it that once  upon a time would have been answered in a simple interview.

“A legion of public relations staff prevented reporters from forming relationships and gaining an understanding of issues.”

Barriers have increased substantially (and deliberately) between reporters and ex-reporters who are now political PR protectors.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has made changes to speed up the handling of complaints, but Mrs McLean cautioned fast decisions were not always good ones. She has modest hopes for the new Government’s pledge to review the Act and be more open with information. She hoped it would usher in a system of proactively releasing often-requested documents.

A lot may depend on how much Clare Curran and Labour put into practice what they had pushed for when in Opposition.

There was nothing about the OIA in Laabour’s 100 day plan, nor in their coalition agreement with NZ First, but there was a commitment in the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement under ‘Fair Society’:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and
transparency around official information.

Labour doesn’t have much to say about information availability in their 2017 manifesto.

The Greens do: Open Government and Democracy Policy

From Key Principles:

7. Freedom of information and openness of government and its procedures are essential elements of a democracy.

From Specific Policy Points: 8. Cabinet decisions to be published 

People have a right to know what has been decided by Government, not just when it is announced, but soon after Cabinet has signed it off. The Green Party will:

  1. Ensure that Cabinet minutes and decisions are published on the internet within one month of each Cabinet meeting unless there is a pressing and valid reason not to publish.
  2. Publicise when decisions or minutes are withheld, including the reasons why, and ensure the ability to request a judicial review of such decisions. Further ensure that withheld information is published as soon as the risk subsides.

From Specific Policy Points: 9. Changes to the Official Information Act (OIA) 

It is vital that the political system is more open and accountable. The OIA needs to be
more effective so that people can access the information they want without lengthy
delays or censorship. The Green Party will:

  1. Support legal responsibilities and penalties for public servants to keep good
    records, and make sure staff have training in the proper implementation of the
    OIA.
  2. Require agencies to respond promptly to OIA requests and narrow the exclusion
    provisions to withhold important information. Ensure the security exclusion is
    only available where the issue has been reported to, and the exclusion
    approved by, the responsible Minister, and review the use of the commercial
    sensitivity exception in light of concerns that public organisations have become
    more market oriented.
  3. Require all OIA and Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act
    request responses to be published on a designated website seven days after
    they have been sent to the requester, operating similarly to the Parliamentary
    questions for written answer (QWA) system. All information will be published
    unless the requester asks that the information not be and the Ombudsman
    agrees, or it is not in the public interest to do so. This includes where privacy
    would be compromised.
  4. Ensure the Ombudsman has the resources needed to respond to all OIA
    complaints in a reasonable timeframe, and greater powers to censure agencies
    for non-compliance or lack of co-operation.
  5. Investigate removing the Cabinet and local government ‘veto’ power over an
    Ombudsman’s recommendations.
  6. Stop the practice of excluding application of the OIA to certain agencies, and
    bring Parliamentary Service under the OIA (while keeping in mind the resourcing
    constraints for opposition parties), with an exemption to protect communication
    between constituents and MPs and to protect opposition parties from
    government intervention.
  7. Remove charging for OIA requests and require costs to be met out of
    Departmental baselines with an exception for vexatious, excessive and frivolous
    requests.
  8. Ensure that, where information relates to a decision being made by a public
    body, the information is released as soon as possible, with consultation
    deadlines amended to facilitate maximum public participation wherever
    possible.
  9. Apply the changes above to the Local Government Official Information and
    Meetings Act as well.

I hope the Greens work with Curran and the Labour led government and push hard for ensuring better practices under the OIA.

 

Greens’ “push for more caring medicinal cannabis law” may be futile

The Green Party say they will support the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which is a largely toothless sop to try and look like the Labour is fulfilling a 100 day promise.

But just prior to this bill being tabled in parliament yesterday the greens showed their lack of confidence in what it does with this press release:

Greens to push for more caring medicinal cannabis law

The Green Party is supporting the Government’s medicinal cannabis legislation introduced to parliament today, but is encouraging the public to use the select committee process to push for improvements to expand the law in relation to New Zealanders suffering from chronic pain and other medical conditions who could benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis, but who are excluded from legal protections in the Bill.

So they don’t think the bill is good enough.

“This Bill represents a significant improvement from the status quo and delivers on the promise to legislate for medicinal cannabis. It represents the consensus view across the governing parties,” said Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick.

It is nonsense to claim it is “a significant improvement from the status quo”. It “delivers on the promise to legislate for medicinal cannabis”, but it is a Claytons’ bill.

“We will vote to improve access to medicinal cannabis, but we are disappointed the Bill does not provide coverage to all people suffering from conditions who could benefit from its use, limiting access to a legal defence to only those with a terminal illness.

“Parliament has the opportunity to improve the Bill through the select committee process and through supporting my Member’s Bill, which offers sick New Zealanders better access to medicinal cannabis pain relief.

“The Green Party has always campaigned for a compassionate approach to medicinal cannabis, and as a partner of the Government we want to see this done right.

“We are encouraging New Zealanders who want to see the Bill widened to include sufferers of chronic pain and other medical conditions to make their voice heard at the select committee. We will support them and keep pushing for a better Bill.

“New Zealanders overwhelmingly support the use of medicinal cannabis for the alleviation of pain, so it’s disappointing the Bill excludes these people. A Curia Research Poll commissioned by the New Zealand Drug Foundation this year showed 78% of New Zealanders support growing and using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain,” said Ms Swarbrick.

The problem is even if people put in an effort to lobby for decent changes through this bill, as encouraged by the Greens, it is a Government bill and unless NZ First agrees with any amendments they are doomed.

A problem with “encouraging the public to use the select committee process to push for improvements to expand the law in relation to New Zealanders suffering from chronic pain and other medical conditions who could benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis” is there is little chance of significant change – and that appears likely given the toothless nature of the bill, then Greens may be raising false hopes.

The tail wagging the dog and pup?

When comparing two bills currently in the news it looks like the NZ First tail is wagging the Labour dog and green pup.

Labour and the Greens say they are allowing NZ First to progress their waka jumping bill. The Greens in particular have compromised their principles significantly in order to allow the bill to pass with a unified majority.

See Waka jumping bill and integrity.

But NZ First seems to be responsible for neutering changes on Medical Cannabis, a bill that is important enough for Labour to include in their 100 day plan, and important enough to the Greens to keep a Member’s Bill that goes further (and for Labour to support leaving that bill in), indications are that NZ First, with 9 votes to Labour-Greens 54, seems to be getting away with crippling the bill.

It’s not just a clear majority in Government that NZ First are stuffing around.

A Curia poll in July shows strong public support:

• Growing and/or using cannabis for any medical reasons such as to alleviate pain
17% illegal
21% decriminalised
57% legal

• Growing and/or using cannabis for medical reasons if you have a terminal illness
15% illegal
22% decriminalised
59% legal

• Possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
31% illegal
37% decriminalised
28% legal

• Growing a small amount of cannabis for personal use
41% illegal
32% decriminalised
23% legal

• Growing a small amount of cannabis for giving or selling to your friends
69% illegal
16% decriminalised
10% legal

• Selling cannabis from a store
57% illegal
11% decriminalised
23% legal

The poll was conducted from July 3-18, with 938 people participating. The margin of error is +/-3.1 per cent.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11906718

We will see what the bill looks like when it is introduced today, but Ardern, Shaw and Minister of Health David Clark have all talked down expectations in advance.

Stuff: Government downplays expectations on medicinal cannabis law reform

Clark would not comment on the details of the bill, before it was announced. But his comments suggested the Government could be preparing to widen access for medicinal cannabis products, while not necessarily allowing for the full legalisation of medicinal marijuana in its raw form.

“The bill itself, represents what we know the Parliament is willing to progress. There’s another member’s bill in the name of Chloe Swarbrick that will test if the Parliament has an appetite to go further,” he said.

Clark said the party “drew on the experience it had through the campaign” when drafting the policy. But admitted some would be left disappointed by the legislation.

“It won’t make all of the activists happy. There will be some who would wish that we would go further – we believe we have struck a balance, which represents good progress.

Referring to ‘activists’ has made a lot of people unhapy, especially those who are genuinely campaigning for wider and cheaper medical use of cannabis products.

“And the Parliament will get its chance with Chloe Swarbrick’s bill to decide whether it wants to go further,” Clark said.

A virtual admission that their own bill is crap.

“The Government has created its own piece of legislation to progress medicinal cannabis; it was part of our 100-day plan. We wanted to make sure that medicinal cannabis is more accessible to people with terminal illness or chronic conditions and the piece of legislation will make progress.”

Important enough to be included in their 100 day plan.

Not important enough to stand up to Winston Peters, despite Labour and the Greens compromising for NZ First’s pet bill.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said members would have options with the presence of both bills.

But the Government bill would “improve on the status quo”.

“We can guarantee with the bill we have got we can do that. We can’t guarantee that with the member’s bill. There are differences and you will see that when the bill is introduced.”

We will see, but the signs look ominous.

The tail appears to be wagging the dog and pup vigorously.

 

A watered down Medical Cannabis bill?

It looks like Labour’s promise and Green’s hope of a medical cannabis bill is being watered down by NZ First, to the extent that Greens are keeping their Members’ Bill in the ballot.

Labour promised in Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

There are growing concerns about how far they will now go.

NZH: Bill to legalise medicinal cannabis introduced this week

Legislation to legalise medicinal cannabis will be introduced this week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the bill would be introduced this week during her post-Cabinet press conference today.

She declined to give details on the legislation, including who would be able to access cannabis and in what circumstances.

Ardern said the Green Party and NZ First had been involved during the development of the Government’s bill.

She indicated the Government bill would not go as far as the measures in Swarbrick’s private member’s bill, because it was necessary to put up something that NZ First would support.

“What we are producing is a bill that we know has the support of the House to get through,” Ardern said.

“We have undertaken that we would improve on the status quo. And we are doing that. And we can guarantee with the bill we have got we can do that. We can’t guarantee that with the member’s bill. There are differences, and you will see that when the bill is introduced.”

But the Greens are obviously not satisfied that it will go far enough.

Green Party leader James Shaw said the Greens would not withdraw the private member’s bill, called the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

“That will be in there as an option. But the good news is we know there is also a Government bill that has the numbers to pass the House. If we can also get the numbers for the other bill, then that is great.”

So it looks like NZ First is putting a spoke on the Medical Cannabis wheel.

This stays in the mix:

The Government legislation will be introduced as another private member’s bill, introduced by Green MP Julie Anne Genter but now in the name of her colleague Chloe Swarbrick, awaits its first reading.

It would amend the Misuse of Drugs Act to make a specific exemption for any person with a qualifying medical condition to cultivate, possess or use the cannabis plant and/or cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, provided they have the support of a registered medical practitioner.

This exemption would also apply to an immediate relative or other nominated person, so they can administer or supply cannabis to the person.

But that would also require NZ First support unless National backed it, which is unlikely.

Ardern and Labour should remember Helen Kelly.

Here is one reminder from last year: Jacinda v David: ‘The pain behind the medical marijuana debate’

It was sometime in the middle of last year when the political suddenly felt personal. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t even a social occasion. I was visiting my friend who had spent the evening periodically flinching, doubling over, and rocking, and was now reaching for a form of cannabis as she tried to deal with her pain.

My friend was dying.

I think that’s what gets me most about the medical marijuana debate. It’s the perfect example of the brutal reality of people’s individual situations, and the layers of complexity that emerge as soon as you dig into it as a politician.

As policy makers, we are meant to park the personal, and deal with the big picture. But perhaps it’s those personal experiences that force us to figure out a way to get back to some simple principles. There are people who are terminally ill, who are experiencing extraordinary pain, and who are asking to access relief that works for them without being blocked by a minister of the Crown, and without being criminalised. Simple.

Not so simple with a three party government.

If NZ First won’t support decent legislation there’s not much Labour and the Greens can do but offer us crumbs of medical cannabis.

We may be surprised when we see the legislation some time this week, but the signals are not encouraging.

 

Consultation before drafting Zero Carbon Act

A Zero Carbon Act commitment to “pass binding climate change legislation in the first 100 days in Government” as”the single most important thing we can do” is being slowed down by taking it to public consultation for about a year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced there will be consultation before drafting a Zero Carbon Act, despite Labour having this goal in their Taking action in our first 100 days plan.

  • Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission

This is from the Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement:

Sustainable Economy

Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050,
with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form,
energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent
Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions
and industries.

a. Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
b. All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.
c. A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability
indicators will be developed.
d. A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be
established.

But this will go to public consultation before the Zero Carbon Bill will be introduced in October 2018 – and that will also include normal consultation as a part of the Bill process.

Consultation is a good thing, but I would have thought that the Greens in particular and also Labour would have been doing some consultation before putting such a high priority on Zero Carbon goals.

Stuff: Government to consult before drafting ‘Zero Carbon Act’ to reduce emissions

The Government will go to the nation to consult on what targets should form the basis of a Zero Carbon Act.

It means legislation will not be introduced this year, as the Government looks to consult over next year before it’s drafted. An “interim” Climate Change commission will be set up, to begin setting New Zealand on a course to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the first step toward establishing New Zealand as a carbon-neutral nation alongside Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

Cabinet agreed to a process of consultation in 2018, before the Zero Carbon Bill was introduced in October.

Ardern said consultation would begin from May next year. It was in the Government’s “100-day plan” to set the carbon zero goal, and Ardern said it had been achieved with the “bare bones” announcement, but a lot of work still needed to be carried out.

So Labour and the Greens made major commitments and promises on Zero Carbon goals but now say a lot of work still needed to be carried out.

I presume this slow down is Labour’s doing, given what the greens committed to in the election campaign:

Greens commit to Zero Carbon Act in first 100 days

The Green Party announced today it will seek to pass binding climate change legislation in the first 100 days in Government. Green Party leader James Shaw made the commitment to a Zero Carbon Act on Newshub’s The Nation debate this morning.

“If we are to treat climate change like our generation’s nuclear free moment, we need to back that up in law”, said Green Party leader James Shaw.

“Successive governments have allowed New Zealand’s climate pollution to keep growing. Only the Greens have a plan to turn that around.

“A Zero Carbon Act will provide an anchor for government action on climate change and drive decisions across the economy to make sure New Zealand is doing its fair share to keep global warming under 2 degrees.

“The Act will mean that climate targets are legally binding, and the Government will be obliged to have a detailed plan about exactly how it will meet those targets, detail that has been desperately missing under National.

“This is what real action on climate change looks like.

“Reducing pollution will mean investing to create a better New Zealand. It means investing in fast, electric and clean light rail in our cities, in warm insulated, energy efficient housing, in solar energy and cheaper electricity.

“This is the single most important thing we can do to ensure that we are protecting the health of our climate, and of our country, for future generations,” said Mr Shaw.

From “the single most important thing we can do” and “seek to pass binding climate change legislation in the first 100 days in Government” to consultation and a delay of about a year.

The single most important thing the Greens seem to have learned is that being a small party in Government can involve major compromises.

However this should come as no surprise as the change in urgency was signalled by Shaw last month.

Newshub: Zero Carbon Act to give businesses ‘a pathway’ to investment 

Mr Shaw, who has taken up the role of Climate Change Minister in the new Government, is set to announce the finer details of the Zero Carbon Act in the next few months.

He told The AM Show the targets will be unveiled in the new Government’s first 100 days, and enshrined in law at some point in 2018.

“We’re very keen [to get environmental targets into law], and in fact all three parties of this Government have the idea that there will be a binding target to become carbon-neutral by the year 2050,” he said.

“The actual legislation will come through next year. We want to do a good job of it, so we need to make sure we consult widely and so on, but we are going to introduce the target in our first 100 days.”

What if consultation shows that the target they set in their first 100 days is unrealistic?

UPDATE: Russel Norman us speaking of the urgency in taking action on RNZ right now.