Futile Peters posturing on Māori seats

In May a member’s Bill was drawn that aims to improve protection the Māori seats in Parliament. Winston Peters says he wants the bill to include a referendum or two on whether the Māori seats should be retained at all.

Given that it is a Labour Māori MP’s bill, and there is no coalition agreement for NZ First’s policy to have a referendum on the Māori  seats, it must be futile posturing by Peters.

In July last year in his speech to the NZ First congress:

I am therefore announcing today that the next government we belong to will offer a binding referendum mid-term to do two things:

Retain or Abolish the Maori seats.

And there will be second referendum on the same day and that will be to Maintain or Reduce the size of Parliament to 100 MPs.

More in Peters wavers over Maori seat referendum

See also (RNZ): Peters promises referendum on Māori seats

However as we know, a campaign ‘promise’ is no more than policy posturing, wholly dependent on what is negotiated in setting up a Government after the election.

Just after last year’s election (RNZ): Peters appears to shift on Māori seat referendum

New Zealand First appears to have shifted its position on a referendum on the Māori seats, now the Māori Party has been voted out of Parliament.

Before the election campaign, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters pledged a binding referendum on whether to abolish the seven Māori electorate seats. He argued Māori electorates had failed to deliver what Māori really needed and were a form of “tokenism”.

During an interview yesterday on Australia’s Sky News, Mr Peters was asked how the referendum could affect coalition negotiations.

“The Māori Party itself – which was one of the driving things behind us saying it – the Māori Party itself, a race-based, origin-of-race party, got smashed in this election, and it’s gone.

“And so some of the things that, or elements to the environment on which a promise is made have since changed. That’s all I can say.”

That doesn’t say much. It is typically vague of Peters.

Labour, having just won all Māori seats, did not concede anything to Peters on the seats in their coalition agreement.

Then in May this year: Bill to protect Māori seats selected

A bill which will entrench Māori electorate seats in Parliament has been selected from the members’ bill ballot today.

The Electoral Entrenchment of Maori Seats Ammendment Bill introduced by Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene ensures Māori seats have the same protections as general electorates seats.

Mr Tirikatane said that under the Electoral Act the provisions establishing the general electorates are entrenched, meaning only a 75 percent majority can overturn them.

However, only a majority of 51 per cent is needed to abolish Māori seats. Mr Tirikatene said the bill was about fixing the constitution.

“We should be able to have equal protection just like the general seats.”

Yesterday: Winston Peters wants ‘two-part referendum’ on Māori seats

Acting Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is calling for a two-pronged referendum on whether Māori seats should be entrenched, or should go altogether.

New Zealand First campaigned on holding a binding referendum on whether to abolish the seats.

At the time as Labour leader Jacinda Ardern ruled out a referendum, saying that would break faith with Māori voters.

Mr Peters said he still believed the matter should be put to the public.

“If you want to make changes to the electoral system, you should go to the country, not just do it unilaterally,” he said.

New Zealand First would not support the bill as it stands, Mr Peters said, but would reconsider if an amendment was made in the committee stages to include the referendum.

“If they put an SOP [Supplementary Order Paper] in for referendum, then it will be all on.

“That’s when we put all our cards on the table as to whether there should be Māori seats and, if so, should they be entrenched.

“There should be a two-part referendum,” he said.

‘They’ – Labour – are unlikely to put a SOP in the bill for referendums. Labour’s Māori MPs are not going to want a turkey vote for Christmas.

Peters and NZ First got nowhere near any mandate for this in the last election. They got nothing on it from their published coalition agreement.

If Peters pressures Labour and they roll over on this they risk getting slammed by Māori voters. They surely aren’t that silly.

This looks like futile posturing by Peters.

I presume he was speaking as NZ First leader and not as acting Prime Minister.

Four new members’ bills drawn

Now the new Government has settled in the National Opposition is dominating members’ bills. This isn’t surprising as they dominate the number of MPs who can submit bills.

RNZ: Saliva testing bill drawn from parliamentary ballot

National MP Jami-Lee Ross’s oral fluid testing member’s bill would allow the police to test the saliva of motorists for residues of meth, ecstasy and cannabis.

Labour’s Rino Tirikatene’s Electoral Amendment Bill would entrench Māori seats in legislation – bringing them into line with general seats.

Another bill by National’s Ian McKelvie would allow Justices of the Peace and Community Magistrates to hear category one dog control cases, in a bid to ease delays in the courts.

National’s Paula Bennett also had her firearms prohibition bill drawn. It would ban gang members from owning guns.

Is the ban on gang members from owning guns ‘virtue signalling’. It seems unnecessary. There are already rigorous checks done before firearm licenses are issued and also reissued – I am currently re-applying for my own license (ten yearly) and this includes a home visit.

 

Synthetic drug supplier bill passes first reading

National MP Simeon Brown’s Member’s Bill that proposes a quadrupling of maximum prison sentences (to eight years) for suppliers of synthetic drugs  passed it’s first reading today, with the support of NZ First.

I replied to that:

It’s addressing the wrong problem the wrong way. It might crowd prisons a bit more but doesn’t address the core problems that all parties keep avoiding, drug laws that are failing badly.

Drug Foundation:  Clearing the air on ‘synthetic cannabis’: a primer

Executive summary:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids appeared in Europe in 2005 and the following year in New Zealand.
  • The chemicals in illicit smoking packets in 2017 are different to – and very likely more dangerous than – those on the market before the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013, and those briefly regulated under the Act.
  • The recent “bad batch” in Auckland is likely to be “bad” because of the way it’s dosed, rather than the presence of impurities or contaminants.
  • The wave of acute ED presentations and deaths in Auckland is not a nationwide problem. Even in Auckland, detox and services are seeing fewer people dependent on synthetic cannabis than they were in 2014.
  • Acute presentations have come in waves in other countries too.
  • Legalising natural cannabis now isn’t likely to be a magic wand.

Cross party crapping on cannabis bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Party will back the government legislation this afternoon.

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

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

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

But some Labour MPs may vote against it.

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

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

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

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

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

Winston Peters has said he will oppose the bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Public help sought for cannabis bill

The Government promised legislation on medicinal cannabis but watered it down substantially, and have virtually said that the best real chance of real change is the Member’s Bill on Medicinal Cannabis being driven by new Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, who took the responsibility over from Julie Anne Genter when Genter became a Minister.

The bill is due for it’s first reading next month. It will be a conscience vote, so it is worth lobbying individual MPs.

Swarbrick is seeking public support for her bill.

1 News: ‘I could really use your help’ – Chloe Swarbrick pleads for public support on medicinal cannabis bill

First-term Green MP Chloe Swarbrick has taken to Facebook to ask for the public’s help in getting her party’s new medicinal cannabis bill passed.

Video of Ms Swarbrick explaining the ins and outs of the medicinal cannabis legislation proposed by her party was posted to Facebook today, where it has quickly sparked a flurry of comments, some of which the Green MP has taken the time to reply to.

At the end of the video Ms Swarbrick makes a plea to the public to try and help sway the opinion of MPs who may be undecided in which way they will vote on the matter.

“I could really use your help, contact your local MP, or any MP that you feel represents you by sending them an email, a Facebook message, dropping by their office or giving them a call.

“Ask them to support this bill at its first reading,” she says.

I hope she gets plenty of support. This bill should at least get past it’s first reading next month.

 

Members’ Bills could be dominated by National

Once they get their act together with their large size in Opposition National could dominate Members’ Bills.

Labour, NZ First and Greens will be aiming for much bigger things in Government. David Seymour is the only other MP who will be in Opposition.

Members’ Bills are mostly submitted by Opposition parties and drawn from the ballot, although some government back benchers join the lottery. As an under-secretary outside Cabinet David Seymour also submitted Members’ Bills, his End of Life Choice Bill 2017 was drawn late last term and will work it’s way through Parliament this term.

There are actually 22 Members Bills currently in the Parliamentary system.

By the look of Proposed members’ bills the biscuit tin is emptied when a term ends, so MPs will need to fill it up again.

Some proposed Members’ Bills from the last term may be resubmitted.

Some will be redundant, as Labour, NZ First and Green MPs will be getting or trying to get their legislation onto the new Government’s order paper.

I don’t think incoming Ministers can submit Members’ Bills so that will rule out some.

Parties in government will be busy trying to govern.

So this may largely leave Members’ Bills to National and to David Seymour.

National MPs will have been hoping to get things done from the Government benches, but they suddenly find themselves in Opposition.

It could take them time to decide on, write and submit Members’ Bills, but it is likely that in time Members’ Bills will be dominated by National.

This is likely tosubstantially improves the chances of being drawn, especially if the Opposition manages the type and number of Members’ Bills well.

Of course that doesn’t mean success. Any Member’s Bill still requires a majority in Parliament, and National and ACT don’t have that.

I haven’t observed the transition to a new Government before.

It will be interesting to see how National uses there advantage with Members’ Bills. I hope they submit thoughtful and potentially useful Bills, and avoid the petty point scoring (and inevitably futile) attempts of some past MPs and parties.

Dunne to support Genter’s medicinal cannabis bill

When Green MP Julie Anne Genter’s medicinal cannabis bill was drawn from the Member’s ballot Peter Dunne said he would decide on whether he would support it or not when it cam time to vote on it at it’s first reading in Parliament.

Dunne said he had major reservations about the bill and it was unworkable.

However Dunne has now said he will support the bill at it’s first reading when he was taking part in a panel discussion  at the Drug Symposium.

RNZ: Peter Dunne to back first reading of medicinal cannabis bill

Today Mr Dunne said he’d been talking to Julie Anne Genter and he will vote in support of the bill in it’s first reading.

“There are a lot of things in the bill that would need to be changed before it could proceed further, but I think it’s a useful discussion to have, and to see where the Select Committee gets to”.

Getting Dunne onside at least for the first reading is a success for Genter, but the bill will still requite support from NZ First or from at least a chunk of National if they are allowed a conscience vote.

At the symposium MPs from the ACT, Maori, Green and Labour parties said they would all support the bill, but more votes from wither NZ First or National would be needed.

National MP Chris Bishop said his party hasn’t made it’s mind up yet.

“It’s one of those issues where we do want to have a good discussion about it as a Caucus. We may decide to have it as a conscience vote where MPs can vote individually. We may also decide to have it as a party vote where the National Party takes a party position.

Polls show there is strong public support for changes to cannabis and drug law, especially related to medicinal cannabis.

It would be a travesty of democracy if Parliament didn’t allow this bill to at least progress past the first reading.

 

Dunne, Seymour, Flavell on euthanasia bill

Three minor party leaders were asked about their positions on the End of Life Choice Bill that was recently drawn from the Members’ ballot in a joint interview on The Nation yesterday.

Obviously ACT leader David Seymour supports his own bill.

Mr Seymour, I want to bring up your bill that was pulled from the ballot this week – euthanasia. Is it good timing for you, or could this end up being a bit too controversial for an election year?

Seymour: Look, I think it’s an important issue, and I think that the fact that it’s come up in election year is probably the best time for the bill, because MPs are overwhelmingly out of step with public opinion. I think that there are a majority of MPs that will support it, but nowhere near as close as the overwhelming support—70%, 80% of New Zealanders want this change.

From a 2015 post here:  Two polls strongly support euthanasia

One News/Colmar Brunton:

Should a patient should be able to request a doctor’s assistance to end their life?

  • Yes 75%
  • No 21%
  • Undecided 5%

3 News/Reid Research

Should law be changed to allow “assisted dying” or euthanasia?

  • Yes 71%
  • No 24%
  • Unsure 5%

Stuff:  Most Kiwis support euthanasia for those with painful, incurable diseases

  • Support: 66%
  • Neutral or unsure: 21.7%
  • Strongly oppose: 12.3%

Total response 15,822 in a University of Auckland study taking it’s results from the 2014-15 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) survey, which Lee said provided “reliable demographic and personality differences in support for euthanasia”.

You have quite a conservative voter base, though. What do they think? Is this party policy for Act?

Seymour: I think that people in the Act Party are in favour of freedom and choice. The Act Party board blessed me putting this bill into the ballot.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell:

Te Ururoa, you’re not keen on passing this bill, are you?

Flavell: No, and I suspect that many of our own people are. There’s some issues around whakapapa that are hugely important here. And the decision-making – actually, who has the decision-making right at the last minute, the ability of whanau to have an influence in the decision—

So is it a definite no for you?

Flavell: At the moment, it is leaning towards no, but we’re led by our people, and I’m pretty sure that that’s the feeling of many Maori.

If your people tell you otherwise, will you vote for this?

Flavell: We have to give it consideration. I mean, it’s a conscience vote, so we’ll cross that at the time. But certainly, this is one of the major issues that you’ve just got to go back to the people on.

That’s what all MPs should do on conscience votes – they should represent to conscience of their constituency.

United Future leader Peter Dunne:

Dunne: Well, I think you’ve got to respect the rights of people who are terminally ill to make their own decisions and to have those upheld by those around them. But I think—

So you’ll vote for this bill?

Dunne: No, what I’m saying is I think this is an issue where we’ve got to be very careful that we have a very clear sense of where the community stands. I’m going to do a lot of listening over the next few weeks, because this bill is not going to come before parliament – probably in the life of this parliament – but I want to hear what people say, because I think this is—

But as Mr Flavell says, it will be a conscience vote, so what does your conscience vote?

Dunne: Well, I’ve told you where I’m tending, but what I’m saying is that this is a decision that will have very widespread ramifications whichever way it goes. It’s important that we take the bulk of the population with us and we understand what their concerns are, and that’s why I’m going to do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking.

Again the right approach, but leaving how he might vote uncertain at this stage.

It seems unlikely the bill will go to it’s First reading and first vote before the election so not all current MPs will get to decide for us on this.

While I think it’s likely Seymour and Flavell will keep their seats it is less certain for Dunne.

It’s likely most Green and Labour MPs will support this bill at least past the first reading. I don’t now how NZ First MPs might vote. Most National MPs may vote against it.

But a lot may depend on who returns to Parliament after the election.

Bill English opposes euthanasia but if National lose power he may well resign.

There were two other bills drawn

For some reason only two of the four bills drawn from the Members’ ballot today got people excited. The other two were:

Ian McKelvie’s Sentencing (Livestock Rustling) Amendment Bill

This bill is designed to deter people from engaging in livestock rustling, by identifying it as an aggravating factor at sentencing.

McKelvie is National MP currently holding the Rangitikei electorate, which he won by 10,060 votes from Labour’s Deborah Russell in 2014. Russell looks set to take over David Cunliffe’s New Lynn electorate this year .

Jonathan Young’s Local Government (Freedom of Access) Amendment Bill

This bill clarifies the law to ensure that persons who obstruct council enforcement officers or local authority agents from performing their duties, or fail to give true and sufficiently particular details when required by the Bill, are liable to be arrested without a warrant, and widens the scope in which an enforcement officer may remove and seize property.

Young is the National MP for New Plymouth who has beaten Andrew Little twice, by 4,270 votes in 2011 and by 9,778 votes in 2014.

 

Medicinal Cannabis Bill

Green MP Julie Anne Genter’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill was drawn from the Members’ ballot today. It seems unlikely it will make it into it’s First Reading in Parliament before the election.

Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

The purpose of this bill is to make it legal for New Zealanders who are suffering from terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

Greens:  Medicinal cannabis finally on Parliament’s agenda

The Green Party is thrilled that Parliament will consider whether to finally legalise medicinal cannabis in New Zealand.

Green Party health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill was drawn from the Member’s Ballot today. The Bill will make it legal for any New Zealander who is suffering from a terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis or cannabis products with the support of a registered medical practitioner.

“We are finally going to have the conversation about medicinal cannabis that New Zealanders have been crying out for,” said Green Party health spokesperson.

“No Kiwi should have to live in pain because of an archaic, uncompassionate law.

“Medicinal cannabis must be available by prescription at the doctor but it also must be affordable.

“The recent ‘softening’ of the law, announced by Peter Dunne, goes only part of the way to ensuring New Zealanders can get the pain relief they need. It does not guarantee medicinal cannabis products will be affordable for the average New Zealander – in fact, it relies upon the import of expensive overseas-developed medicines.

“Why should New Zealanders have to pay thousands of dollars to buy imported medicinal cannabis products when we can produce our own effective and affordable medicines here?

“My Bill will ensure that sick people and those in pain will actually be able to afford the cannabis products they need.

“The change to cannabis laws that New Zealanders have been wanting for years is now within reach. The hard work of everyone who has campaigned on this issue, including Rose Renton and the late Helen Kelly, may finally be realised.

“New Zealand can finally catch up to the much of the rest of the world on cannabis – now it’s up to my colleagues across the aisle in Parliament,” said Ms Genter.

See also from Public Address  Genter’s Bill: Starting at last on medical cannabis

Julie Anne Genter’s private members bill on medical cannabis emerged from the ballot this morning – and it raises some interesting questions.

You’ll recall me posting to the effect that the scheduled rewrite of the Misuse of Drugs Act – a process I’ve been told could begin as soon as November – makes drug policy an election issue. Even though it will presumably be subject to a conscience vote, Genter’s bill being drawn makes it even more so.

But it’s complicated, Genter’s bill is written as an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act. It’s entirely likely that the MoDA reboot and voting on the bill will aiming to amend it will overlap, and that the two could be in select committee at the same time. Genter’s bill – if it passes its first reading –  would go to the Health select committee. These things are political decisions, but consideration of new Misuse of Drugs Act might also go to Health. It will need to be managed.

It seems possible subsequent readings of the bill could be deferred until there’s a new MoDA to amend – which could be years. I guess it’s also possible the bill could give impetus to the rewrite process, or be used to expedite the relevant parts of the new MoDA. Again, all that will be political.