NZ to follow Australia on medical cannabis

New Zealand is likely to wait on Australia and follow them in allowing wider use of medicinal cannabis, according to Peter Dunne and common sense. We don’t have the resources to do the necessary testing ourselves.

But in the meantime Ministry of Health guidelines that are being reviewed may make it easier for patients to import their own cannabis derived medicines.

Jo Moir at Stuff: Guidelines for medicinal cannabis applications are under review as access looks set to broaden

The reality is simple. The Government is not sitting on its hands doing nothing. In fact Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne is one of many driving change.

Just last month he called for a review of the guidelines for considering medicinal cannabis applications.

As it stands the only approved medicinal cannabis in New Zealand is the mouth spray, Sativex. It is not funded by Pharmac and costs over $1000 a month. Any other product must be approved by Dunne.

As of the end of January the ministry had received 120 applications for medicinal cannabis, of which 105 have been approved. Another five are still in progress and 10 have not been granted for various reasons.

So there it is – people are applying for access to medicinal cannabis and in most cases being granted it.

Dunne is on the record saying he is keeping a close watch on research and random-control trials of cannabinoid products in Israel and the United States. Once manufacturers make a product and it passes MedSafe checks it will be available in New Zealand.

The point in doing it this way is that it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel in New Zealand.

We’re not big enough to have the medical professionals and patients available to do the trials so it makes sense to piggy-back where possible, including in Australia.

And in an interview on Radio NZ Peter Dunne repeats the ‘follow Australia’ line: NZ likely to follow Australia on medical cannabis

New Zealand is likely to follow Australia once it provides medical cannabis for use, says Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

Mr Dunne said trials to assess the safety of such drugs were underway in Australia but were probably still two years off completion.

“Clinical trials that produce viable products in Australia that the therapeutic goods agency approves as being able to be prescribed, it’s very likely that MedSafe would follow suit.”

Mr Dunne said no manufacturers had come forward expressing an interest in conducting clinical trials in New Zealand for a medical cannabis product.

For medical cannabis products to be approved they need to have passed clinical trials. For the good of patients and for the good of the availability of cannabis products they must be proven to be safe enough to use.

Dunne also said he did not expect people to be prosecuted for using medical cannabis.

“I do not expect, and it’s not my responsibility anyway, but I do not expect the police or the authorities to be running around persecuting people who are using cannabis sourced illegally.”

However it has happened – see Rebecca Reider’s legal costs.

Helen Kelly has admitted self medicating with cannabis products, but I think there would be an uproar if she was investigated or prosecuted.

I doubt that police or politicians would want to stir that one up.

The drug is already legal for medical use in several American states, and both Queensland and Victoria in Australia expect to legalise it next year.

If you are prescribed cannabis products overseas you can carry a month’s supply into New Zealand. Travelling to the US to stock up would be expensive, but Australia would be more attractive. But once Australia legalises more medicines New Zealand seems likely to follow soon after.

Moir points out:

In short, if the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves something in America, which is only a matter of time, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be of a good enough standard for New Zealand.

Then it would be a case of Pharmac negotiating a price and potentially subsidising it.

But not yet.

National MPs including Prime Minister Key have been resisting any loosing of cannabis laws, but that may not be needed.

Prime Minister John Key moving away from his staunch position that there was no need to look at the system as it stands, to instead being open to research and evidence that shows the efficacy of medicinal cannabis.

A law change is almost entirely unnecessary. It would simply be a case of having medicinal cannabis products regulated under the Medicines Act 1981.

But safety has to be assured.

We live in a country where there’s processes for doing things and, yes, they’re tedious at times, but the flipside of that is we live in a country where making sure people aren’t put at greater risk is considered a priority.

Patients need a little more patience.

But if I was dying and thought that medicinal cannabis may help ease my suffering I’d be bloody impatient.

Another high profile cannabis user

Paul Holmes’ widow has revealed that he self medicated with cannabis while dying of cancer.

Stuff: Sir Paul Holmes turned to cannabis for pain relief, widow reveals

Broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes turned to marijuana for pain relief in the weeks before he died, his widow has revealed.

Holmes died in 2013, after battling heart problems and the return of prostate cancer.

Lady Deborah Holmes told NZME. Paul was not a drug user but “in the final weeks it was the one thing that could give him peace and comfort”.

He was allergic to morphine and the alternative concoction of drugs “sent him off to la la land”, she said.

He smoked the drug, as the couple was unaware of cannabis oil.

Why the hell do dying people still have to break the law to get some relief and comfort?

This follows recent publicity about Martin Crowe also using medicinal cannabis.

Former England cricketer Mike Selvey produce a moving tribute piece for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, where he says Crowe opened up to him about his medical struggles in New Zealand during the World Cup last year.

Selvey says Crowe told him he was sleeping 15 hours a day and using cannabis oil rather than undergoing more chemotherapy for his second bout of lymphoma.

“The apparently hale nature of his condition was a camouflage. When he was awake, he said, he did indeed feel good, but rather than undergoing yet more chemotherapy he was by then self-medicating with liquid marijuana and sleeping 15 hours a day. Happy hours though,” he said.

And union leader Helen Kelly has admitted illegal use while her attempt to obtain cannabis products legally got bogged down in Ministry of Health bureaucracy. As a result the MOH processes are being reviewed, but this time delay is not any help to Kelly.

Kelly was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer just over a year ago.

She continues to source cannabis illegally, which she takes at night to help her sleep and control pain.

Previously Kelly has said it was a “huge relief” for her when she discovered cannabis oil.

In the meantime four police officers have been shot in what looks like a reaction to police searches in the Bay of Plenty for marijuana crops.

Something is seriously wrong with how we deal with a relatively harmless drug that can provide comfort and relief, if not medicinal benefits, to people who are suffering and dying.

Review of medical cannabis guidelines

Peter Dunne has asked the Ministry of Health to review their guidelines for dealing with applications from medical specialists for their patients to use medicinal cannabis products.

I hope they come up with something that gives the comfort and needs of suffering and dying people a much higher priority than bureaucratic and overcautious process.

Dunne requests further consideration of medical cannabis criteria

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has asked Ministry of Health officials to review the guidelines for considering medical cannabis applications.

Mr Dunne said this is a new policy area for New Zealand’s Ministry of Health and the wider medical profession, so there will inevitably be fine tuning as the process develops.

“The guidelines were set up at my request following the Alex Renton case in 2015, so far the only case where ministerial approval was granted, following an application from Mr Renton’s treating clinicians to administer the restricted product Elixinol,” said Mr Dunne.

The guidelines  were more recently applied to an application for medical cannabis made on behalf of Helen Kelly but subsequently withdrawn by her oncologist before any Ministerial decision was required.

“While I am satisfied that on the whole the guidelines are sound, they were prepared as guidance only.

“They  allow for flexibility across different clinical situations, and are certainly not set in stone as some have claimed.

“Nonetheless, some further review would be beneficial and I have asked officials to undertake further consideration of them.

“I am not ruling out seeking external input into this review process”, Mr Dunne said.

Mr Dunne will also be discussing these issues in Canberra next week at the Australian Drug Foundation’s National Drug Summit.

While there he will also be meeting with Federal Ministers to discuss a range of drug policy issues, including medical cannabis and preparation for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugsb (UNGASS), which takes place in April.

The procedures were criticised after an application by Helen Kelly’s oncologist failed to provide the Ministry with sufficient information.

Oncologists and doctors can legally prescribe drugs like morphine that can impact significantly on the quality of a dying person’s life – and also impact on the length of their life.

It seems remarkable that they still have to jump through procedural hoops to give suffering patients something less dangerous and probably beneficial, at least in giving the patient some improved comfort.

Having to apply to the Ministry of Health still seems over-cautious and cumbersome, but I hope the Ministry will at least come up with ‘guidelines’ that make sense, make it much easier and put the needs of the patients first.

It can mean the difference between dying with less suffering and dying with more frustration (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some anger as well).

Kelly’s cannabis request rejected

Helen Kelly’s oncologist applied to the Ministry of Health to be legally allowed to ease her discomfort as she dies with cannabis related products. This has been rejected, with the MoH asking for more information and claiming the oncologist hasn’t provided it.

This has been a rapidly evolving story that I haven’t had time to cover properly.

Some links to information as the story unfolds:

Stuff: Former union boss given two months to live – nearly a year ago

“But it doesn’t cure me, it just gives me time … I don’t know what the prognosis is now, but it’s still death and it’s still months.”

Kelly continues to source cannabis illegally while she awaits the outcome of her application to the Ministry of Health for medicinal cannabis.

Currently her application has been deferred while the ministry waits for more information from her oncologist.

But Kelly says she’s been asked to provide things she doesn’t have access to, and the ministry should be stepping up and helping source information.

“Why doesn’t the Ministry of Health have a list, which they’re satisfied meets their criteria? Instead you have all these people Googling away and Skyping American producers trying to work out what they’re saying.

“I’ll try and find the information they want and see whether that goes through and, if it doesn’t, then I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Kelly’s situation is very sad – she’s dying. And it’s also sad that the Ministry of Health is making it hard for her to obtain what she wants legally.

Russell Brown has a good post at Public Address on developments: Helen Kelly’s letter.

There’s some concerning issues but some possible positives:

The good part is that the criteria for applications like Helen’s can be improved without changing the law. They’re not part of the Medicines Act. I think Peter Dunne needs to ensure,  as minister, that the process is fundamentally improved. Because a process so designed as to frustrate all medical cannabis applications will not prevent the use of cannabis in this way.

In the end, we do need to revisit the law – as the Law Commisison and two Parliamentary select committee inquiries have already said. Palliative care is not the only element of medical cannabis policy. But it’s certainly the place we should start, given the growing use of cannabis this way in defiance of the law. When we fail to do this, we impose risk and stress on desperately ill people and their doctors – and we’re saying we don’t care enough to properly regulate for their safety.

But the situation with Kelly is awful.

No one is going to prosecute Helen Kelly for treating her symptoms with cannabis. But what the system currently says is that it can’t and won’t make that safer for her. We need to do better than this. A lot better.

Surely we can do a lot better.

Brown attributes most of the blame on the National caucus and by implication John Key.


Life and Death and Cannabis

Helen Kelly has a guest post at The Standard on Life and Death and Cannabis.

I am taking Cannabis Oil to manage my pain as my lung cancer takes over my body. It’s sort of as simple as that really. For some people talking about dying is confronting but actually talking about it allows us to think about how it happens – it is actually as much a social event as a physical one and knowing someone is comfortable, getting good treatment and pain relief is very much part of the social dimension as the physical one.

She then details what is required to get to use a cannabis derived medical product. And what she is having to try because that’s such a rigmarole.

I have been taking Kytruda (the drug all the publicity is about – a break though for melanoma and has had some success with lung cancer but not with me). I have paid for is (this is what Kiwisaver will be for in the future – to subsidise our underfunded health system). It is completely experimental and the Doctors admit it – they don’t know who it works with, why, exactly how or really even how to administer it the most efficiently – but oh fill me up with it – exactly because I have nothing to lose. I have also had whole brain radiation – massively dangerous – huge side effects possible – I have been lucky – but I can’t take cannabis?

What she wants:

 I would like a referendum on the issue at the next election – and I am hoping a Bill might be sponsored to that effect  (collecting signatures is not necessary and John Key has shown with the flag – you just need a Bill). It could be run at the election to save money and my bet is it will be overwhelmingly supported.

I think we could change this situation with a little more push – a few leaders speaking out in support, an exposure of the current system refusal by refusal and with real stories of people with real illness just wanting to live the end of their life with a bit of dignity.

It’s very sad that a dying person is having to hope that our politicians will stop ducking for cover, avoiding addressing something that many other countries are advancing on, including the US, Canada and Australia.

It’s bloody stupid that one of the mostly widely used drugs in the country cannot legally be used by someone in the last months of their life.

The whole post is well worth reading – especially by our politicians.

Life and Death and Cannabis.

Awards and choking on a Minto

There’s been a lot of frothing over the New Year honours.

‘Natwatch’ at The Standard: Sir Lynton Crosby and Dame Paula Rebstock

The British Conservative Government and the New Zealand National Government have both rewarded their friends with titles.

Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog: Honours List is dishonourable – TDB Honours list 2015

We need a ‘People’s Honours’ list for those who have challenged the state – not those who have acted for the State.

And John Minto at The Daily Blog: What’s that? – choke, splutter! – Dame Paula Rebstock???

If you choked on your muesli at the news Paula Rebstock has been made a Dame in the government’s New Year’s Honours list then join the club.

Rebstock’s award is confirmation of the highly political nature of our national honours system.

In giving an award to Rebstock John Key is giving the finger to us all.

A look through the main awards shows a vastly disproportionate list of addresses from Remuera and Parnell and other well-to-do suburbs. National is hard at work rewarding its biggest supporters.

It’s curious that there have been no comments on Minto’s post and only two on Bradbury’s.

It may be true that the main party in power tends to favour people on it’s side of the political spectrum with honours.

But what we don’t know is who turns down honours offered to them, we only get to find out about people who are offered honours and accept them.

It may be that people from “from Remuera and Parnell” put more value on status symbols like flash properties and titles so are more likely to be offered them and accept them.

Bradbury lists his own ‘TDB Honours list 2015’ which includes:

  • Helen Kelly for services to humanity, cannabis reform, worker rights and being an incredible human being.

I think it would be fair enough for Helen Kelly to get some sort of honours recognition. I don’t know if she was offered anything or not but it wouldn’t surprise to me if she had greater priorities at the moment.

And I wonder if Bradbury, Minto, and others complaining about those who they think were deserving of honours missing out, nominated anyone. That’s how people get to be considered for honours.

Here’s how it works: NOMINATIONS FOR HONOURS

Nominations may be made by any person or persons by completing a nomination form.  Nomination forms and information on the honours system are available from the Honours Unit, Members of Parliament and Electorate Offices.

“Care for people rather than the economy”

There was an interesting line up on Q & A this morning, with a repeated theme of people versus corporations and the economy.

First Tim Groser was interviewed on the Government view on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Then Labour leader Andrew Little was interviewed, also about the TPPA. He said things like “our moral duty is to protect the interests of New Zealand citizens”, “we will legislate to protect New Zealanders” and “I’ve got to make judgement calls on what’s the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders”.

On the panel were two who were pro-TPPA – international relations specialist from Auckland Uni Dr Stephen Hoadley and Government Relations Consultant Charles Finney.

Also on the panel was Helen Kelly, President of Council of Trade Unions, who was against the TPPA, seeing it as corporations versus people/workers.

If you think the economy is just existing for corporations and they should be able to do whatever they like  without Governments actually being able to put in restrictions or make laws that are in the the interests of New Zealand people then you might say that these sorts of deals are ok.

Curiously, following this, there was an interview of someone also pushing people versus the economy lines. Greg Presland has posted about this at The Standard.

Anat Shenker-Osorio on the creation of left metaphors

Communications Anat Shenker-Osorio has some simple messages for Labour in its quest for Government.  The left’s strongest advantage is its care for people rather than the economy and the message that will resonate is a positive one emphasising the care of people and the environment.

For unions she proposed that it should be emphasised that they are not somewhat dated third parties but a collection of people.

“We have a better brand.

“Our brand is that we love people and we are on the side of people and we are on the side of the nation and we just need to stop having the argument about who loves the economy best.”

If you want a flavour of her approach to politics and her scathing critique of the current infatuation of some with “middle ground” or “third way” politics then the video below provides this. Basically her message is that the left should engage the base, persuade the middle rather than cater to them and if it is not alienating the right it is not doing things properly.

Shenker-Osorio is in New Zealand to give a talk to the CTU Conference.

So Q & A had a triple hit on people versus the economy:

  • A staunch Unionist
  • A Unionist who has become leader of the Labour Party
  • A communications expert, researcher and political pundit 

Anat Shenker-Osorio is a communications expert, researcher and political pundit whose one-of-a-kind work is challenging the way dozens of organizations and political figures talk about the most pressing issues of our time.  She’s the author of the acclaimed book“Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy.”

What Little, Kelly and Shenker-Osorio all failed to acknowledge (and possibly understand) is that a healthy economy is good for workers and for people in general. There is a very close relationship between the health of the economy and the well being of and opportunities for people.

Playing the economy versus people line might fools some of the people some of the time but most of those people may be the ideological players rather than the voters.

Incidentally I wasn’t very impressed with Shenker-Osorio but you can make up your own mind if you missed her this morning on Q & A:

Video: Expert advice for the political left (7:54) 

Anat Shenker Osorio, an expert in the science of linguistics who helps left wing or progressive organisations to help them target their political conmunication.


Helen Kelly on using medicinal cannabis

Helen Kelly was interviewed on The Nation this morning (it will be repeated tomorrow morning at 10 am). She has lung cancer, and she has admitted using medicinal cannabis for pain relieving.

Interview: Outgoing CTU President Helen Kelly

Helen Kelly looks back on a life spent fighting for the underdog and her own personal battle with lung cancer. She’s the first female president of the CTU is stepping down next week

. admits using cannabis oil for her cancer; but says she shouldn’t be forced to break the law.

Per Zedd in Open Forum:

I was more interested in the interview with Helen Kelly & her talk about Cannabis Oil as a possible alternative Cancer treatment. (being trialed overseas) She said:
* she currently has access to morphine for pain, but was aware that cannabis is a gentler, less toxic option. She said she intends to write to Dunne & ask that it be made available to her & others who could benefit from it.
* she said Aotearoa/NZ has a ‘small town’ attitude to new, alternative issues (like med-cannabis) & was more intent on shutting it down, rather than having a rational debate on it !
* unlike Clinton, she said “Yes, I DID inhale !”.. good onya Helen

Transcript on her use of medicinal cannabis:

 – I want to talk now about your health. Tell me —you’ve gone public with this – have you noticed that people treat you differently once they know that you are ill?

No, people have been very kind, and I come home and my garden’s been done by the pixies – I don’t know. There’s been all these amazing, beautiful outpourings of support, which have been really nice, but no, I haven’t noticed people treat me differently. People are surprised that I still look so well, I think, but, yeah, people want to talk about it, I guess. There’s been more conversations about my health than ever before, but, no, people don’t treat me differently.

 – But you’ve sort of engaged in some black humour, and even when you said you were coming on this show, someone put out a tweet that said ‘walking dead’, and you favourite that tweet.

Yeah, well, there is a bit of black humour, you know? I mean, I got a life membership of this new union the other day, and I was thinking, ‘The cheapskates – life membership,’ you know? They’re saving their money. Yeah, you have to have a bit of black humour, because otherwise you could disappear and, um, not live your life while you’re living. I mean, I feel like I’m living my life at the moment, not dying, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

 – You’ve had chemotherapy, and I think you’ve had some new immunotherapy as well, so how is all of that going for you?

It’s not going great. The immunotherapy’s a brand-new drug. It’s just being trialled, really, and they’re just trying to work out—they don’t know how it works or why it works. And I have tried it, and I– Well, it’s hard to tell, but the cancer’s progressing, which is a sign that maybe it’s not working as they hoped. So, yeah, I mean, that’s my lot, really.

 – But what about alternative treatments? Are you looking at that?

No. The only alternative stuff I’m doing is basically eating healthily and taking some various herbs and spices, but, you know, I would like to try some more alternative therapies that are coming on the market, like cannabis oil. I’m really brassed off that those sorts of remedies are not available.

Cannabis oil is now—the National Geographic is suggesting that it’s got some real curative qualities, which I’m not sure about, but it’s definitely got some healthy pain-relief qualities which I’d really like to access. I’m actually going to write to Peter Dunne, who’s got permission to give me cannabis oil, and I’m going to ask him to do that. I’ve known Peter Dunne sine I was a kid, basically.

When I was in Karori, at the teachers’ college, he was the MP there. I’ve worked with him. He knows that I’m not a drug addict —not that that should matter – but it’s for health reasons. I’ve exhausted all of the normal medicines. I could get morphine as much as I like, which is a horrible drug.

And I would like access to cannabis oil – both because I’m interested in its curative effect; actually I think there’s something in that – but particularly because it is a mild pain relief that really works on aches and pains and bones.

 – How do you know it works?

Well, just from the research that’s been developed and what you read about it. It’s a non-toxic drug. In America they’re manufacturing it to need. So if it’s pain relief you need, they can manufacture it. If it’s a kid that’s got seizures, they can manufacture it. Here you’re forced to go on the black market; you’re forced to deal in that way. You don’t know what you’re getting.

 – Have you been forced to do that? Have you given it a go yet?

Yes, I have given it a go, and I don’t like doing that, and what I would like is to be able to access it legally.

 – So you’ve taken some already?

Yeah, I’ve inhaled.

 – But now you want that rubber-stamped.

Yeah, and I’m going to write to Peter Dunne, and he’s said he can give medical exemptions, and it’s time this country woke up and realised that, actually, while we’re running short of money on drugs, and there are very, very important drugs that I can’t get on the public health system that would help me in terms of giving me a better quality of life, they’re restricting other drugs that people can take in an organised way and get some benefit from.

 – Because the thing is – treatments like this, end-of-life care – they’re big personal issues, but they’re also big political issues, aren’t they? Where do you stand in terms of terminally-ill people? Should they have the right to seek medical assistance to end their lives?

Yes, I think in the right circumstances they should be able to, and those include their ability to consent, the medical prognosis and whether their symptoms can be managed so they can have a quality of life that most people would expect.

 – Some people might find that interesting, though, because you’ve spent such a large chunk of your life fighting for vulnerable people, and a lot of the argument against legalising euthanasia is that vulnerable people need protection. So how do you–?

Well, you’re not more vulnerable than when you’re dying of a terrible illness and you’re in pain, are you? And so ‘vulnerable people need protection’ could mean that you support them to make choices about whether they want to keep on living.

So, you know, this is a little fishing village, this country. People don’t like new ideas and are challenged by people who put their hand up and say something completely out of the normal space, and they’re often shut down. But we can’t even have a decent debate in this country on the issues of things like use of cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, euthanasia.

There’s this hysterical need to shut down those debates and not have them properly, and people are even shocked, I think, that I’m so open about speaking about my illness and what’s going to happen to me. It’s time we started talking to each other about the issues in this country and supporting people who have got alternative points of view.


Helen Kelly right and wrong on Gilmore

Helen Kelly has added to the growing criticisms of Aaron Gilmore – Unions call for Gilmore to resign

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said Gilmore’s behaviour toward the waiter demonstrated his ”completely unacceptable attitude”.

Gilmore had abused a position of power, she said, and shown an ”absolute disregard for the law, and the respect for working people”.

He had also not considered the impact the ordeal would have on the waiter and his livelihood, she said.

”You put yourself in this young person’s position and that’s a very very difficult position to be in.

”In a place like Hanmer where employment is not plentiful it’s a huge threat.”

Kelly believed Gilmore should face serious consequences for his actions.

So far Kelly is right.

”If he won’t resign I think they should kick him out,” she said.

No, Gilmore is a list MP and can’t be kicked out,. That’s why Brendon Horan remains an MP despite Winston’s disapproval of him.

”This issue raises questions on the nature of the National Party.”

Not really, no more than Kelly getting involved in petty political pointscoring would raise questions about the nature of the Council of Trade Unions.

This is clearly the actions of one MP who wouldn’t have been returned to Parliament if Kelly’s Labour Party hadn’t done so badly in the last election.

Whether Gilmore resigns or not his political future looks short. Colin Espiner explains:

There isn’t an awful lot Key can do to Gilmore in the short term, given he has no portfolios to be stripped of and no real responsibility for anything besides his account at Bellamy’s. The Heritage Hotel has said it is unlikely to file a complaint that could trigger disciplinary procedures against him.

But list MPs live or die by the party’s favour, and Gilmore shouldn’t expect a particularly high list ranking next year.

National are most likley going to have less MPs after the election next year anyway, and if Gilmore makes it onto the list it sounds like it will be too low to make the cut.

In 2011 Gilmore was the lowest ranked sitting MP on National’s list at 53.

Droughts and farmers versus beneficiaries

As areas of New Zealand declared drought zones in social media there’s been a growing number of comparisons made between assisting farmers compared to not assisting low paid workers and beneficiaries.

Martin Bradbury at The Daily Blog: How the hardship of farmers and beneficiaries differ

Don’t you love how when farmers face hardship the Government can’t rush fast enough to their aid with drought welfare, yet when the poor face hardship the Government responds with drug testing, contraception for solo mothers and 40 hours forced labour in a private prison.

Helen Kelly at The Standard: We’re all beneficiaries now

The recognition of the need to provide income support to farmers during this drought period is illustrative.  It illustrates the importance of having a comprehensive social protection system that steps in when things go wrong including the weather as in this case.   It illustrates the benefit of Farm Owners of having a union that the Government supports and is prepared to fund to provide much needed services such as co-ordination, animal welfare advice and counselling.

Solo mums are a bit like these farmers.  They are working but not earning and need community support to do that.  For them, they now have to attend job preparation courses and look for work.  They can be drug tested, boot camped and have their benefits cut if they don’t answer the phone when WINZ rings them about something. 

Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish (satire): Bennett announces drought relief get-tough measures

Ms Bennett accepted that there was no evidence of widespread abuse of the scheme by farmers.

But she insisted that the new rules were necessary to keep farmers on the straight and narrow. 

“Struggling farmers who are doing their best to manage and who are looking to find alternative work have nothing to fear,” said Bennett. “These rules are about helping to break the cycle of farmer dependency. Some of this dependency is inter-generational. We can’t afford as a nation to have hundreds of farmers begging for help each and every time a drought is declared.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a farmer or a solo mother,” said Ms Bennett. “If you want a handout from this government then the same rules apply.”

Robyn Norrison New Zealand Labour Party Facebook:

As a side note the farmers moan cause they have no feed for their animals and the govt pays them compensation, what about all the low paid families out there that are having trouble feeding their children where is the govt then, making things worse for them.

Mickysavage at The Standard:

There is a certain irony that farmers, who have a reputation for denying that climate change is occurring and opposing provision of social welfare for members of our community who need it should now be seeking a benefit because of a drought that is undeniably a symptom of global warming.

(micky, a one season adverse weather event in parts of one small country in the world is not “undeniably a symptom of global warming”.)

Comments on blogs follow similar themes of “poor beneficiaries” and “undeserving farmers”.

Low paid families already get government assistance continually through benefits, Working For Families, accommodation allowances, doctors subsidies etc etc. (some farmers may also qualify for some of these).

Some are questioning that farmers facing extreme short term difficulties are getting state assistance.

And they want people who are already getting state assistance, sometimes long term, to get more assistance.

It’s financially tough for people on low wages and benefits.

But it’s hard to compare assistance programmes for farmers who are having short term one off problems due to an abnormal weather event, and a mother who some say should have the freedom to choose the DPB for twenty years without question. Or a worker who receives Working For Families tax credits year after year without question.

And I find it highly offensive to make sweeping statements like “… farmers, who have a reputation for… …opposing provision of social welfare for members of our community”.

Also offensive is the “farmers make money so are bad and deserve any kick in the guts they get” attitudes alongside “poor beneficiaries deserve more and more and more”.

This is just blind bias or ideological pissy politicking.

I acknowledge that it’s only short term tough for farmers – but this means with short tyerm assistance they will be back to earning money and paying taxes again soon.

And I know that being stuck on a benefit without being able to find a job is tough, often for longer than a season of dry weather. And solo mothers and families on low wages can experience long term tough.

But that doesn’t justify denying any other state assistance from anyone else.

Farmers who go broke may become beneficiaries.

We are all a part of our state, we are all due some level of state assistance when justified, and we have to understand there will always need to be tough decisions made about the level and length of state assistance provided.