Abortion Legislation Bill passes Second Reading 81-39

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

From Abortion Legislation Bill — Second Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abortions for ‘sex selection’ was an issue raised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contentious objection:

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

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

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

Closing:

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

Other speakers:

AGNES LOHENI (National):

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

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

Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn):

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

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

GREG O’CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu):

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

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

PAULO GARCIA (National):

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

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

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

Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central):

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

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

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

ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour):

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

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

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

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

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

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

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

NICOLA WILLIS (National):

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

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

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

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

DARROCH BALL (NZ First):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personally I don’t support a referendum on this.

CHRIS PENK (National—Helensville):

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

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

JOANNE HAYES (National):

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

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

Effectively yes, up to 20 weeks only.

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

Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills):

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

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

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

JAN LOGIE (Green):

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ayes 80
  • Noes 28

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

  • Ayes 81
  • Noes 39

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

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

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

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

 

New court rules for rape cases

NZ Herald – Courtroom shake up: New rules in rape cases hailed as decades-overdue

A woman’s sexual history or how she dresses will be out of bounds in future court cases under a raft of reforms designed to protect victims from being unfairly treated and retraumatised.

Such information, called “rape myths” by survivor advocacy groups, will only be admissible in a court if the judge deems it should be, and if not doing so would impede the course of justice.

The new rules about rape cases in court are contained in the Sexual Violence Legislation bill, which will have its first reading in Parliament today and is expected to become law early next year.

The bill seeks to maintain fair trial rights while improving the court experience, which complainants have described as retraumatising, hostile, and a compelling factor in deterring victims from coming forward at all.

An estimated one in four women and one in seven people experience sexual violence in their lifetime, but most cases are unreported, and of those reported to police, only a third go to court and one in 10 end in convictions.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he hoped the bill would eventually encourage more complainants to come forward, though it was difficult to say if it would have any effect on conviction rates.

The bill would:

  • See more alternative ways to give evidence – such as via video conference or in a cleared courtroom – to protect complainants appearing in front of the accused or the accused’s supporters.
  • Protect complainants from unduly invasive questioning, such as questions about sexual history or choice of clothing; relevant details would be established before a complainant is questioned. A judge would also be required to direct the jury to ignore rape myths.
  • Require a judge to intervene in inappropriate lines of questioning, such as ones that are improper, unfair, misleading, or needlessly repetitive.
  • Allow a survivor to give an victim impact statement to a courtroom cleared of the public.

Justice Under-Secretary and Green MP Jan Logie said the myths about rape – including sexual history and a complainant’s choice of clothing – unduly influenced court cases.

“You can consent to sexual activity with somebody at a particular time and not at another. Consenting the first time does not automatically [mean] you have consented the second time. Choice matters.”

What someone was wearing or doing in thee past, even the recent past, has no bearing on consent or lack thereof  at the time of an alleged rape. And as Logie says, prior consent does not mean ongoing current consent.

Rape cases that argue consent can be tricky when there are only two witnesses, the accused and the complainant. But I think that it is fair to assume no consent unless it is clear that consent has been given.

Chief Victims’ Adviser Kim McGregor said that cross-examination was the most destructive and distressing part of the court process, and better protections for complainants were long overdue.

“I have heard from those who feel broken, humiliated and worn down after hours and sometimes days of repeated questioning.”

She said complainants accepted that evidence needed to be tested, but will welcome the changes in the bill that would disarm the process of hostility.

Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association convener Steph Dyhrberg said it was important to require judges to direct juries about the misconceptions around rape.

“The general public is remarkably ill-informed about the realities of sexual violence and how survivors experience it and behave. Those assumptions and prejudices and misinformation, jurors take into the courtroom and jury room.”

Perhaps lawyers need to be educated on the realities of sexual violence. And if they stray in defence of an alleged rapist thee judge should be able to stop them from unfair questioning.

This was echoed by Wellington Rape Crisis agency manager Kyla Rayner.

“We don’t want to see the continuation of discrediting survivors’ experiences or colouring outcomes with rape myths.”

Questions to witnesses should be respectful, relevant and fair, and she said it was appropriate to require a judge to intervene when questions were improper, or even harmful.

Wellington Sexual Abuse Help foundation chief executive Conor Twyford said a person’s sexual disposition should never be considered as evidence against them.

“Survivors have a right not to have their sexual history used against them, full stop.

“A person’s prior sexual activity should have no bearing on the case at hand.”

For sure.

If someone is the innocent victim of a car accident their past driving record isn’t relevant either.

Logie said the bill was the first phase of change.

The second stage would look at the nature of consent, the role of juries, and alternative process including an inquisitorial system that, for example, focuses more on fact-finding than challenging evidence under cross-examination.

She said the current system was so poor at the moment that people working in the system have said they wouldn’t advise their own family members to lay complaints.

A sad reality of our current legal system.

This sounds like very good (and yes, long overdue) reform.

And I agree that Jan Logie has stepped up very well as a Minister – I admit I wasn’t a fan of hers when she was an Opposition MP, but she has switched to the responsibilities of being a Minister in Government and has generally done a very good job promoting the resolution of important issues effectively. This is one example of her effectiveness.

 

Pre-budget announcement addressing family and sexual violence

It is good to see the Government putting more into initiatives and the budget to try to address family and sexual violence better. It will be difficult, but more needs to be done. Violence is one of the biggest problems in New Zealand. It affects families, communities, health, education, imprisonment rates, employment and productivity, and increases the number of beneficiaries.


Breaking the cycle of family and sexual violence

Breaking the cycle of family and sexual violence and better supporting survivors is a major feature of the Wellbeing Budget, with the Government delivering the largest ever investment in family and sexual violence and support services.

The budget package will deliver more support services delivered to more New Zealanders, major campaigns aimed at stopping violence occurring and major changes to court process to reduce the trauma victims experience.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jan Logie today announced a new and collaborative approach to tackling one of the country’s most disturbing long-term challenges.

“There has never before been investment of this scale in preventing and responding to family violence and sexual violence,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Every year about one million New Zealanders are affected by family and sexual violence, including almost 300,000 children. This is something I know New Zealand is ashamed of and the Government is taking a major step forward in fixing on the budget.

“Wellbeing means being safe and free from violence. That is why this package is such a significant cornerstone of the Wellbeing budget.

“My goal has always been for New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child and that means supporting parents and communities to ensure children grow up in secure homes free from violence,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The family and sexual violence package, which sits across eight portfolios, is the result of the first ever joint Budget bid from multiple government departments. It includes funding and support for:

• 1 million New Zealanders covered by Integrated Safety Response sites (Christchurch and Waikato), and 350,000 by the WhāngaiaNgā Pā Harakeke and Whiria Te Muka sites (in Gisborne, Counties Manukau and Kaitaia)
• 24/7 sexual violence crisis support services for up to 2,800 children and young people every year, and an additional 7,700 adult victims and survivors from 2020/21
• Funding for major advertising campaigns and intervention programmes to reduce violence occurring
• Using video victim statements to reduce trauma for up to 30,000 victims of family violence every year, and reduce time spent in court,
• Enabling victims of sexual violence to give evidence in court in alternative ways in order to reduce the risk of experiencing further trauma, and providing specialist training for lawyers in sexual violence cases
• specialist training for lawyers in sexual violence cases
• improving the wellbeing of male victims and survivors of sexual violence through peer support services – up to 1,760 from 2020/21 onwards
• dedicated funding for a kaupapa Māori response to sexual violence
• training for health practitioners in District Health Boards to provide effective screening and referrals for family violence
“We know this is a long-term project. The package we’re announcing today lays the foundations for a violence-free Aotearoa New Zealand,” Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) said.

“The package announced today gives providers funding security, while making available significant extra resource to break the cycle of violence and provide more women, men and children the help they need.

“I want to acknowledge and thank Ministers Andrew Little, Carmel Sepuloni, Tracey Martin, Nanaia Mahuta, Chris Hipkins, Stuart Nash, Kelvin Davis, Iain Lees-Galloway, and Jenny Salesa for their support and commitment to this work,” Jan Logie said.

The Wellbeing Budget 2019 family violence and sexual violence package comprises initiatives across five areas:
• Preventing family violence and sexual violence [$47.8 million over 4 years]
• Safe, consistent and effective responses to family violence in every community [$84.3 million over 4 years]
• Expanding essential specialist sexual violence services: moving towards fully funding services [$131.1 million over 4 years]
• Reforming the criminal justice system to better respond to victims of sexual violence. [$37.8 million over 4 years]
• Strengthening system leadership and supporting new ways of working [$20.0 million over 4 years]
• The total monetary value of the package is $320 million (comprising new operating funding of $311.4 million, and $9.5 million of capital funding).

 

Victim focus from new family violence laws

Changes in the Family Violence Amendments Act emphasise the well being of victims in an attempt to reduce awful levels of family violence. This includes changes to the  Bail Act 2000 which makes the safety of victims the priority.

RNZ: New law aims to reduce family violence and put victims first

The new Family Violence Amendments Act will significantly improve the response to domestic violence, a domestic abuse organisation says.

The act aims to keep victims, including children, safe and reduce family violence. It also creates three new offences, including one of strangulation or suffocation, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.

The new legislation allows victims to give evidence via video recording made before the hearing. It also makes changes to the Bail Act 2000 by making the safety of the victim and their family the primary consideration when granting bail and imposing conditions.

Shine director Jane Drumm said the new legislation will help agencies and organisations deliver a unified approach to dealing with family violence.

“What they’re doing is they’re reflecting on all of the gaps that we’ve currently got and how we respond to family violence and they’re starting to mop those up,” Ms Drumm said.

“These amendments put the victim first. The challenge now will be ensuring these laws are enforced and supported by policies and procedures across a range of government agencies and service providers,” Ms Drumm said.

The safety of victims and potential victims should be the priority in dealing with family violence, but the rights of offenders and alleged offenders need to be protected as well (in a minority of cases allegations can be trumped up or overstated).

Green MP Jan Logie was interviewed about the changes on Q+A last night.

A focus here is changes to assault by strangulation or choking (it is horrendous what some people inflict on others).

Q+A Panel on new domestic violence legislation – & Meng Foon:

The Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill passed in July and starts to come into affect today.

Bridges, Mitchell negative as justice summit progresses

The justice system summit currently under way in Porirua is trying to find ways of doing justice better – something that could certainly do with improvement.

It’s disappointing to see how negative the national opposition is: Simon Bridges dismisses Government justice summit as a ‘talk fest’ – says it will lead to a ‘softening’ of laws

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Criminal Justice Summit due to begin today is simply a ‘talk fest’ that will likely lead to a “softening” of bail laws.

Justice Minister Andrew Little yesterday told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that New Zealand’s prison system is not successfully reintegrating people into society.

“Sixty per cent of those in prison will re-offend within two years of being released,” Mr Little said.

“We’ve had thirty years of the auction of more penalties, more crime, more people in prison but it’s not working, it’s not making us safe.

Mr Bridges, speaking this morning on TVNZ 1’s Breakfast programme, said it sounded like “Andrew Little knows what he wants to achieve out of it” and dismissed it as a “talk fest”.

“He doesn’t want to build more prison beds so he has to cut the prison population by a third,” Mr Bridges said.

“If I thought they were grappling with really hard issues to reduce actual offending, rather than just those prison numbers, and it was rehabilitation, reintegration, I’d go along with it.

“But it seems to me it’s pretty clear what’s going to come out – and that’s softening up the bail laws, the sentencing laws and the parole laws.

National’s justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell has also been critical of the summit.  It would be good to have seen cross party support for doing something about a prison system described by Bill English last year as a “moral and fiscal failure”.

But the summit can work without National.

Newsroom:  Much talk, some action at justice summit’s first day

Ministers laid out the cracks in the criminal justice system on the first day of the Government’s criminal justice summit. Claims that the event would be just another “talkfest” seemed to be initially borne out, but a better balance developed as the day wore on, as Sam Sachdeva reports.

About 700 people attended the first day of the Government’s criminal justice summit, the starting point for what could be years of reforms if ministers have their way.

Justice Minister Andrew Little…

…contrasted the image of New Zealand as a “small, peaceful country with no obvious enemies on our border” against the country’s darker side: record homelessness; grinding poverty; strained mental health and addiction services; and a skyrocketing prison population.

Little said there were fundamental questions about the justice system that needed answering: how to tackle high levels of domestic violence and reduce over-representation of Māori in prison; and how to ensure prisoners get the support they need to reduce their risk of reoffending.

“Many years of public debate and public discussion about criminal justice [have] focused on one thing: how are we going to lock them up and get them out of our way…

“We haven’t much talked in the last 30 years about what we do to change people, at least those who can be changed because they have understandable, identifiable problems and challenges in their lives which with a bit of effort we can turn around.”

Little made a point of singling out the National MPs in attendance despite their publicly expressed concerns about possible reforms, in a sign of the political battle the Government knows it has on its hands.

“If one of the things that we get from the conversation that we get to trigger in these two days is understanding, an agreed understanding about the gaps in national policy, about the way forward, some things we can do better, some things we can do differently, then that will help the debate,” he said.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis…

…asked for a show of hands from those who thought the justice system was perfect – predictably, none were raised – before asking the crowd to “ask hard questions” of the Government and provide ideas for change.

“None of us are precious about what’s going on, and we know things have to change, so we have to have the courage to challenge the status quo.”

Maori imprisonment rates are a significant part of the problem, so Davis needs to step up on this. It will require a lot of consultation with Maori communities.

Police Minister Stuart Nash…

…who on Monday announced the details of where the 1800 extra police funded by the Government would go, said that boost would not mean an equivalent rise in prison numbers as police took new approaches to crime.

“I do believe when I talk to people who are not politically aligned or socially aware, they are uncomfortable with the level of incarceration, they are uncomfortable with the fact that Corrections’ operating budget has increased by a billion dollars a year over the last 12 years, and they’re open and receptive to an alternative vision.”

Parliamentary undersecretary Jan Logie…

…a Green MP who is working under Little on domestic and sexual violence issues – work he described as “profoundly important” – then spoke about the flow-on impact of sexual and family violence on people who then went on to offend themselves, and the need to provide better support services.

Some frustration bubbled over as Logie finished her speech, with an interjector standing up and urging the organisers to “let Māori speak for us”.

“We don’t need to hear some organised speech, a pre-written speech to talk about us,” Anzac Wallace said.

National’s justice spokesman Mark Mitchell…

…seized on the “boilover” as a sign of the Government’s failure to properly plan the summit.

“They feel that there’s been too much talk, too many working groups, no action, and that’s basically what we’ve been saying…this has basically been like a big counselling session, and although these voices are important, this isn’t the right format.”

National had said it would support reforms which made a difference, Mitchell said, but did not support where the Government appeared to be heading.

“At the moment, and this was part of our discussion, fundamentally we’re going down two different tracks: we believe that at the heart of any good criminal justice system, public safety and victims should be at the heart of that.”

Talk and public engagement are important parts of political processes, so long as they lead to significant changes and to improvements.

The proof will be quite a bit further down the track – there are no quick or easy fixes.

Shades of Green – “cracks in the green revolution”

Greens have not been united on everything in the past, but in opposition they were at least able to appear to be largely working together.

A simple reality of being in Government means that those MPs who are ministers – James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage, and to a lesser extent Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jan Logie, have heavy workloads, and have had to make decisions that follow the will of Government rather than the ideals of the party.

The other four MPs have much more of a free rein, and three of them in particular are fairly prominent doing their own things on social media.

Image result for shades of green

It is now effectively a party of two halves.

And party has been particularly divided over their historic strong opposition to ‘waka jumping’ type legislation and their current opposition, and their decision to vote in favour of Winston Peters’ controversial bill.

Green supporters often react badly to criticism – some of them fervently believe their own hype and can’t countenance any possibility they and their ideals may not be perfect.

So they are not likely to take Matthew Hooton’s column in the Herald today very well – Cracks in the green revolution

True Greens are not concerned about climate change, poverty or endangered species per se, but see them as mere symptoms of the real problem, which is capitalism and the population growth it allows.

I wouldn’t call them ‘true Greens’, that’s a label more appropriate for Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, but there is a strong green mantra that social revolution is the main aim, with the claim that that will somehow fix environmental problems.

Hooton describes the current shades of Greens. James Shaw:

Far from having Norman’s True Green whakapapa, Shaw is a Wellington technocrat more at home at his former employer PwC than at a radicals’ rally.

He is part of a three-strong faction in Parliament but the other members are Labour’s David Parker and National’s Todd Muller, with whom he is trying to establish a multiparty consensus on climate change that might not save the planet but would certainly destroy the party.

Many Greens seem to abhor any attempt to work with ‘the enemy’, National.

Recently appointed co-leader Marama Davidson:

Davidson joins Hone Harawira as the only genuine radicals to have become party leaders.

It’s unsurprising that Davidson declined to participate in post-election negotiations with Labour.

Such processes are far too bourgeois for someone who deeply believes the New Zealand state is illegitimate.

Davidson may lead a faction of one in Parliament but she is a cult figure among Green activists who plan to insert her disciples into key party positions at its AGM this weekend.

The rest of the Green caucus:

Julie-Ann Genter is the smartest Green Minister and a genuine expert on transport and urban planning but her American heritage is a problem among the base.

Eugenie Sage is a genuine environmentalist rather than True Green but gets no credit for her wins on oil and gas, conservation funding and plastic bags.

Jan Logie worries more about the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi than about the details of the Paris Climate Accord.

The party’s longest-serving MP, Gareth Hughes, is on the outer, having been overlooked for promotion despite more than eight years in Parliament.

Hughes has a very low profile. He has championed environmental issues, but seems to have lost any drive he may have had – and that’s debatable. He is perhaps best known for his ‘Hey Clint’ moment, asking a staffer what he should say.

Chloe Swarbrick, 24, and Golriz Ghahraman, 37, compete to be the darling of the party’s millennials with their eyes on the longer term.

Swarbrick seems to have taken on her job as MP seriously and has been prepared to work with any other MP or party to try to achieve some wins, especially on cannabis law reform. I think that her efforts so far have been impressive, more so because she is a first term MP.

However Ghahraman has stumbled from controversy to controversy on social media. She joined with Davidson and supporters this week claiming to be female and non-white victims.

Are Davidson and Ghahraman a serious threat to ‘the establishment’? Or are they more of a threat to the Green Party.

While the Green ministers have low profiles buried in their portfolios, the party revolutionaries have time to get attention. I’m not sure this face of the Greens is attractive to the soft Green voters they need to rebuild party support.

All the Green MPs are learning the realities of being a part of Government, and this will evolve over the current term.

They have major challenges in trying to avoid being split by fights for power that any political party (ok, except NZ First and ACT) have.

If Davidson and her supporting faction see a revolutionary takeover within the Greens as necessary on the road to drive out ‘the establishment’ then the Greens are in for challenging times.

Will they split or grow?

Domestic violence bill passes

Green Party MP Jan Logie’s member’s Domestic Violence Victims Protection Bill passed in Parliament yesterday, with Greens, Labour and NZ First voting in favour and National and ACT voting against.

RNZ:  Domestic violence paid leave bill passes in Parliament

Parliament has passed legislation which will provide victims of domestic violence with 10 days of paid leave a year.

Ms Logie said the bill’s passing was a win for victims, employers, and society as a whole.

She said everyone should be able to live free from violence, but too many people found it impossible to keep their jobs while trying to move house, attend court dates, and settle their children at a new school.

“This offers them a pathway to safety, it lets them know that as a country we’ve all got their back.

“That this isn’t just about government, this is about every single one of us doing what we can to support them to be safe.”

The new law will come into force on 1 April, 2019.

I have mixed feelings about this.

It’s important that there are better ways of addressing the serious problem of domestic abuse, but I’m not sure that another specific leave type be made available.

From 1 April 2019 when this bill comes into force these leave types will be available:

  • Annual leave – minimum 4 weeks
  • Public holidays – 10 days per year

So a minimum of six weeks leave per year. Plus special purpose leave:

  • Sick leave – 5 days per year which can accumulate to 20 days.
  • Bereavement leave:
    – 3 days per death if a spouse or partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or spouse or partner’s parent dies
    – 1 day on the death of another person if their employer accepts they’ve had a bereavement, based on how close they were with the deceased person, whether they have to take a lot of the responsibility for all or any of the arrangements for the ceremonies relating to the death, and if they have any cultural responsibilities in relation to the death
  • Domestic violence leave – 2 weeks per year
  • ACC injury – as long as required but the employer is responsible for the first week

Some employees take most or all sick leave available, some take little if any (I take about 1-2 days sick leave every couple of years, so average 1 day per year at the most).

Domestic violence leave should be a one off for most people unfortunate enough to have to deal with it. Id someone had to take the full 2 weeks in a year that would suggest a serious problem, and if it kept recurring year after year it would be both (probably) unusual, and should require some sort of preventative action.

I don’t know how willing victims of domestic violence will be to be open about it to their employers.

 

30% increase in funding for family violence services

One pre-budget announcement, a 30% increase in funding for family violence services, is long overdue.In dollar terms it isn’t a lot, but it is critical that much more is done to reduce both family violence and the effects of family violence.

I think it is one thing that was genuinely neglected by the National led government.

Significant funding boost for family violence services

Social services dealing most directly with the harm caused by family violence will get much needed support as the Government boosts funding to front line agencies for the first time in ten years.

“Nearly half of those receiving the increase are women’s refuges who provide vital support keeping women and children safe,” said Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.

“The 30 percent increase in funding is critical to the Government’s efforts to begin to turn around New Zealand’s tragic family violence record.

“Additional funding in 2019/20 will enable these critical front line agencies to expand into areas where there isn’t currently any support or start addressing over demand in existing services.

“Family violence has a damaging, yet often hidden, impact on victims’ lives including their ability to work and lead a normal life,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Through Budget 2018, the Government is allocating an additional $76.157 million over four years to support the delivery of Ministry of Social Development-funded family violence services for victims, perpetrators and their families.

Carmel Sepuloni said, “This funding will provide a boost to around 150 providers of family violence services nationwide.”

This has benefits across portfolios.

 Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice on Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues, also welcomed the new funding.

“This funding is an important first step, supporting organisations which do vital work but have been stretched to breaking point,” Jan Logie said.

“As we get started on the broader work of challenging and responding to family and sexual violence, it’s crucial that victims and their families are able to get the support they need now. Because they can’t wait.”

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said Budget 2018 funding would have an impact right across New Zealand.

“The announcement delivers on the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First to increase funding in this area,” Tracey Martin said.

Family violence feeds general societal violence, so it is critical it is reduced and dealt with more effectively.

I don’t care whether this funding was promised during the campaign, negotiated when the Government was put together, or has come later. Better funding to address awful amounts of family violence is something that had to happen.

Greens concede on benefit sanctions

The Greens have conceded their policy on abolishing sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries won’t be supported by Labour or NZ First so have backed off.

The Green Party has scrapped one of its core election promises championed by former co-leader Metiria Turei.

The party no longer believes in immediately abolishing all financial sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries.

I suspect some Greens at least still believe in no sanctions.

The original policy was announced at the Green Party’s AGM earlier this year, during a keynote speech by Ms Turei.

Right up until her resignation, Turei advocated for the rights of those on welfare, saying on July 16 that “no beneficiary should have to live with the threat of losing the money they need for the rent” – which is exactly the kind of threat Jones wants to make to those who refuse to plant trees.

Jan Logie said on July 20 that her party in Government will “immediately end benefit sanctions”.

Marama Davidson said on September 6 that benefit sanctions are “expensive to administer and push people further into poverty”.

But they are learning the pragmatism necessary for negotiating to be a part of a multi-party government.

It was forced to back down on the policy during coalition negotiations with Labour, which adjusted the wording so only “excessive” sanctions will be removed.

“Our policy is what the Government’s policy is. So now we’re in Government, we need to do what Government policy says,” says co-leader James Shaw.

“We only want to get rid of the most excessive sanctions,” he added.

I suspect that stance will dismay quite a few supporters. It’s an odd way to put it.

I’d have thought it would be better to say something like ‘we will work to reduce sanctions as much as possible but accept conmpromise may be necessary during this term’.

The policy u-turn means the Greens will be able to support Shane Jones’ plan to sanction beneficiaries who refuse to work on the Government’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ project.

There’s been a lot of pragmatism necessary in forming and being a part of this government, and this is just the beginning.

Given the number of policy compromises, back tracks and ditching there is something to remember for next election – there are no promises and no bottom lines, only wish lists.

Modest wins but big possibilities for the Greens

Compared to NZ First the Greens had modest wins on policy and ministerial positions, but they still have a big opportunity to achieve some of their goals.

Their ministerial appointments:

James Shaw

  • Minister for Climate Change
  • Minister of Statistics
  • Associate Minister of Finance

Dealing with climate change is Shaw’s big ambition and he now has a chance to do that, especially given similar ambitions of Labour (Jacinda Ardern has named it as the ‘nuclear issue’ of the current generation) and NZ First.

I don’t know whether he will have a major influence with Grant Robertson in Finance (they know each other well, having competed in the Wellington Central electorate for three elections now.

But it will be invaluable for a Green leader and MP to learn the realities of juggling needs, wants and not a bottomless pit of money, compared to the naive idealism of many Greens.

Julie Anne Genter

  • Minister for Women
  • Associate Minister of Health
  • Associate Minister of Transport

Learning the ropes as a Minister for Women will be useful experience, but Genter may make most impact as an Associate.

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has a huge workload (Housing and Urban Development) so Genter, recognised within the transportation industry as an expert, may contribute strongly.

And as Associate Minister of Health I presume she will take over the role Peter Dunne had dealing with drugs, both medicinal and recreational.

There is a promise to lift restrictions on medicinal cannabis almost immediately, plus a promise of a referendum on recreational cannabis. There is also support across Labour, NZ First and Greens to treat all drug problems as more of a health issue than a crime issue.

On these issues Genter may be a high profile and popular Associate Minister.

Eugenie Sage

  • Minister of Conservation
  • Minister for Land Information
  • Associate Minister for the Environment

Despite a low profile Sage is probably one of the more sensible and better respected Green MPs. She has a background in Forest & Bird and Environment Canterbury.

She will be working with Minister for the Environment David Parker, who has a very heavy workload with other portfolios, but also alongside another associate Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Jan Logie

  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues)

A relatively minor role but an important one. Sexual violences issues have been addressed a bit better than in the past but still neglected too much, with support organisations struggling for funding. Logie could make a real difference here, and if she does she will be applauded by many. She will need to take care she doesn’t alienate a demographic that she needs to have onside with her – men.

As stated these are fairly modest responsibilities compared to what NZ First MPs have, but they enable the Greens to address core issues they have been championing from Opposition for two decades.

If they do things well they could make a significant difference.  Perhaps their biggest challenge is transitioning from being advocates and activists and critics to very different roles as movers and shakers.

I hope they succeed in shaking things up and moving New Zealand society in a better direction.