New deputy predicted for NZ First

There has never been any doubt who will lead NZ First while Winston Peters remains an MP, but the deputy spot is less secure. In 2015 Ron Mark got the numbers to oust Tracey Martin, but it looks like the knives are out for Mark, with the position up for a caucus vote next week.

Martin and Shane Jones appear to be too busy to consider going for it, so it looks like the way is open to Fletcher Tabuteau to take on some more responsibility.

Stuff: NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark looks set to be rolled at caucus on Tuesday

They say what goes around comes around and in Ron Mark’s case he’ll be hoping that’s not the case.

Mark rose to be NZ First’s deputy leader in 2015 after he challenged Tracey Martin and got enough support in the caucus to roll her.

But the party’s deputy leadership is up for grabs again on Tuesday and it’s understood the job is NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau’s – if he wants it.

Tabuteau was fourth on the NZ First list last election, behind Peters, Mark and Martin (Jones was 8th).

Mark need not worry about Martin, whose popularity amongst colleagues exceeds his, as it’s understood she’s not interested in the job due to her heavy ministerial workload.

NZ First new-comer but old-timer in terms of political experience, Shane Jones, has long been touted to take over the leadership from Winston Peters if he ever decided to throw it all in and head to Whananaki to retire.

But he’s not interested in the job either – he says he’s got one billion trees to plant and a $1 billion regional economic fund to spend, which would keep him far too busy for anything else.

So it looks like a contest between Mark and Tabuteau, if Mark doesn’t read the writing on the wall and say he’s too busy being a minister.

While he (Jones) says it’s not a “priority” for him to be deputy leader and in the short term he has a “hell of a role” he possibly also doesn’t see the deputy job as any sort of assumed stepping stone to the leadership.

 

Peters reconfirmed leader, NZ First deputy going to a vote

Winston Peters has been reconfirmed as NZ First leader – no one should be surprised by that – but the party’s MPs will vote for a deputy next week. Ron Mark is currently the deputy.

NZH:  NZ First leader Winston Peters re-elected, deputy vote next week

NZ First has joined the fray of leadership elections, although the only vote in its caucus will be for deputy leader.

In a statement, NZ First said leader Winston Peters had been confirmed as the party’s leader at caucus.

“His sole nomination was carried with acclaim.”

Shane Jones, often tipped as a successor to Peters, would not comment but is unlikely to contest it.

They don’t say why Jones is unlikely to contest.

None of the MPs would comment – but possible contenders include current deputy Ron Mark, Tracey Martin and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Martin was deputy from 2011 to 2015 when caucus elected Ron Mark instead.

With both Peters and Mark now ministers with jobs that involve overseas travel (Foreign Affairs and Defence) it would make sense to have a more New Zealand based deputy. I don’t think Mark is particularly popular either.

Greens may have to support waka jumping bill

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

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Democracy

• Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

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

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

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

Some Greens are not happy.

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

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

 

Most parties support improved TPP

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

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

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

NZ First say they will now support the agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

A weakness of parties, not of MMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It isn’t ‘a wonky system’.

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

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

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

Peters defends his waka jumping bill

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill (aka ‘waka jumping bill’ or ‘party hopping bill’) has been criticised as being anti-democratic and giving too much power to party leaders. See:

It is a Government bill as a result of a coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First, with the initial support at least of the Greens, who had previously strongly opposed this sort of legislation.

In response to criticisms Winston Peters has come out in defence of his bill. Stuff – Winston Peters: ‘Waka-jumping’ bill makes our democracy more responsive to MMP

When voters go to the ballot box every three years they are choosing between alternative political directions for the country as a whole, expressed through their party preferences.

Under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system, the party vote determines the overall distribution of parliamentary seats and then parties seek to form a government that reflects those preferences to offer purposeful and stable leadership.

Next to the voters themselves, political parties are the linchpin of our democratic system. They are democracy’s gatekeepers by recruiting parliament’s representatives. Parties then supply Cabinet members, making it essentially party government. It is recognised that MPs are expected to follow the collective opinion of their party colleagues.

In New Zealand this has been the general custom, but is it really a linchpin of our democratic system? Democracies in other countries, such as the UK and the US, operate without strict adherence to following party dictates.

Party discipline is therefore acknowledged as a guarantee of the voter’s choice.

Who acknowledges that?

Peters (like anyone) cannot know what voters want when they vote for a particular party. Somewhat ironically I think that quite a few NZ First voters are choosing Peters as an individual because he promotes himself as a maverick, not as a strictly conventional politician.

What if a party doesn’t do what they promised during an election campaign? NZ First has already reneged on some of their promises, so voters have no guarantee of getting what they thought they were voting for.

What if, for example, a New Zealand First MP voted in Parliament for what they promised rather than what Peters had u-turned on for political convenience? The waka jumping bill would potentially give Peters the power to throw that MP out of the party and out of Parliament.

It is also necessary to ensure that the party delivers on its commitments commensurate with its party-vote share and its strategic location inside any governing arrangements.

What about commitments made to voters?

Peters appears to be putting precedence on enabling party leaders to wheel and deal as they please once they get power, regardless of what voters actually wanted.

Given these verities, why should the individual will of one disgruntled Member of Parliament subvert the general will of voters expressed on election day?

Verity: a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance

Why should the will of one party leader be able to put aside the wishes of voters as soon as the election is over in order to negotiate a position of power for themselves in Government?

The people are sovereign so except in the rarest of circumstances New Zealand First believes it shouldn’t, which is why the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill forms an important part of the democratic improvements set out in the Coalition Agreement.

The people are sovereign? The people had no say in the coalition negotiations. How many of ‘the people’ support the waka jumping bill? Has Peters bothered to find out?

So electoral integrity and legal integrity are questionable claims from Peters.

The so-called ‘waka-jumping’ bill protects the uppermost value in a proportional electoral system, namely proportionality, and we believe that decision should always be the preserve of voters, not politicians.

Except the bill would give a party leader (a politician) more power, and the voters nothing.

The bill does not, as claimed, give too much power to party leaders to get their MPs to bend to their will. There are protections built in to the bill and any party leader who does not have good reason for initiating action against one of their members or who does not understand or follow party principles of natural justice will pay a steep political price for it, whether with their own colleagues or the voters.

Party principles of natural justice? In 2011 people voted for the NZ First list that included Brendon Horan, who became an MP. In 2012 Peters expelled Horan from the party, claiming “substantive material” that caused him to ‘lose confidence’ in Horan.

In 2014 the executor of the Horan’s mother’s estate said they had found no evidence to support claims about Horan.

A police investigation subsequently cleared Horan: “There has been a comprehensive investigation by the Western Bay of Plenty criminal investigation branch into these allegations over the last two years, including a review of the file by senior detectives. After consideration of all relevant information and the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines, police have determined that there is insufficient evidence to charge any person with a criminal offence.”

See Former NZ First MP Brendan Horan cleared by police after Winston Peters complaint

But Peters had claimed he had evidence and judged and politically executed Horan.

New Zealand First considers it patronising and an insult to suggest that in these circumstances voters can’t discriminate between the principled actions of an electorate MP standing up to a wayward party and its leader or a more mundane expression of flawed character.

What if the flawed character is a party leader?

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is one of several democratic reforms the coalition sees as making our democracy more responsive to MMP. The new seating arrangement inside Parliament is another example of our better reflecting the collaborative nature of the new coalition.

That reflects the power of the Cabinet. It reflects collaboration between parties in Government, responsive to their own power, and not responsive to the people.

New Zealand First believes that democracy works best when people claim it as their own, so no apology is offered for reinforcing the centrality of proportionality to help achieve that worthy goal.

Peters would have done far more for ‘reinforcing the centrality of proportionality’ if he had negotiated a bill that substantially reduced the threshold, which is the biggest impediment to proportionality by far.

Instead Peters has put forward a bill that claims more power as his own, and the people remain powerless to stop him doing as he pleases as soon as the election is over.

Waka jumping bill “abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy”

Former Green MP Keith Locke on the ‘party hopping bill’ – “The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.on the proposed.

NZ Herald: Party-hopping bill is a restraint on MPs’ freedom of speech

The bill before Parliament to stop party-hopping has been misnamed. The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill should be called the Party Conformity Bill because it threatens MPs with ejection from Parliament if they don’t conform to party dictates.

Winston Peters has ejected MPs from the party in the past, and this is suspected to be because they don’t conform to his dictates. He is often claimed to effectively be the party.

The Bill is before Parliament due to a coalition agreement between NZ First and Labour: “Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill”.

A coalition agreement between two parties without a majority can’t guarantee it will be passed in Parliament. Greens or National will have to also support it.

Personal political integrity will be constrained, except on a few selected “conscience” issues, like the assisted dying legislation, where MPs are free to vote as they want.

The bill contravenes the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech. The idea that individual MPs should be legally restrained in what they say is abhorrent in a parliamentary democracy.

It also runs counter to the spirit of parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs more freedom than the rest of us to say what they want, without the danger of libel suits, when speaking in the chamber.

No other Western democracy has laws to stop party-hopping. In fact West Germany has a constitutional provision that once elected MPs are “representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions, and subject only to their conscience”.

It is common in the British Parliament to see MPs “crossing the floor” and it can serve a useful function.

Under our proportional system parties rise and fall, often helped by rebels from other parties. In fact, each of the smaller parties which have won seats in our MMP Parliaments have initially been led by rebel MPs from existing parliamentary parties.

Before MMP (and since for electorate MPs) an MP could resign from Parliament, then stand as an independent or under another party in a by-election. This can still happen for electorate MPs, but it can’t be done by list MPs.

MPs in a list only party (currently NZ First and Greens) can only wait until the next general election.

Former Labour MP Richard Prebble was not an MP when he became Act leader but the other rebel MPs setting up new parties were all sitting in Parliament at the time.

  • Jim Anderton left Labour mid-term to set up NewLabour (which later merged into the Alliance).
  • Peter Dunne split from Labour to form Future NZ (which later became United).
  • Tariana Turia went from Labour to the Maori Party.
  • Winston Peters went from National to found NZ First.
  • Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons left the Alliance for the Greens.
  • Hone Harawira exited the Maori Party for Mana.

Splitting from a party to form another has been quite common, and has added substantially to the diversity of Parliament.

Resorting to legislation to get rid of an MP potentially involves the courts, which are not equipped to handle political or process disputes within parliamentary caucuses. It is safer, and more democratic, to leave decisions on the makeup of Parliament to the voters.

Rather than distorting the proportionality of Parliament, new parties set up by the rebels have provided the electorate with more political choice.

Previously, the Green Party and its co-leaders have been strongly opposed, in principle, to party-hopping legislation. As Donald said in the 1999 speech to Parliament, MPs are not “party robots”, “MPs must retain the right to be answerable to their own consciences, and political parties must not be allowed to take away from voters the power to unelect Members of Parliament.”

As a Green MP at the time I made similar points in the debate on that bill.

But the Greens have supported the Bill, initially at least.

Stuff – National: Waka jumping bill ‘an affront to democracy’

The Green Party is breaking its long-standing opposition to waka jumping legislation after getting several concessions from Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The Labour-led Government introduced the Election (Integrity) Amendment Bill to Parliament last week, part of a promise made by Labour to NZ First during coalition negotiations.

Green Party leader James Shaw said Little worked with the party to get the legislation to a point that the Greens were comfortable voting for it and ensuring it goes to select committee.

Shaw said while the Greens have traditionally opposed this sort of legislation, the MMP environment meant proportionality had increased as an “important principle in our Parliament”.

“It wasn’t on our list and of course we have opposed it in the past, but I think with the changes to the bill that have been made we’re preserving the principles of proportionality, which is important.”

Locke thinks that preserving the integrity of the principles of the Green Party is important.

The Greens have switched from strong opposition in the past to support after a few tweaks.

In 1999, speaking against an earlier party-hopping bill, Green co-leader Rod Donald reminded the House that “had this bill existed prior to the last [1999] election, we [Donald and Fitzsimons] would have been removed from this House and denied our opportunity to stay here for the full parliamentary term”.

Fitzsimons and Donald had been elected as Alliance list MPs in 1996 but left the Alliance Party in 1997 along with the rest of the Green Party. If these two MPs had been excluded from Parliament in 1997 it is unlikely the Greens would have reached the 5 per cent threshold for parliamentary representation in the 1999 election, or that Fitzsimons would have won the Coromandel seat.

This is something for the current Green caucus to ponder before continuing to support the current party hopping legislation.

It seems to be a done deal between Shaw and Labour. Did party members get a say?

It’s hard to understand why the Greens didn’t stick to their past principles over this bill.

Is Shaw concerned about unity in his Green caucus? Or did he do Labour a favour, putting his relationship with them ahead of his party and it’s past principles?

 

 

 

 

 

The tail wagging the dog and pup?

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

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

See Waka jumping bill and integrity.

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

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

A Curia poll in July shows strong public support:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff: Government downplays expectations on medicinal cannabis law reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

A virtual admission that their own bill is crap.

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

Important enough to be included in their 100 day plan.

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

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

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

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

We will see, but the signs look ominous.

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

 

A watered down Medical Cannabis bill?

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

Labour promised in Taking action in our first 100 days:

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

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

NZH: Bill to legalise medicinal cannabis introduced this week

Legislation to legalise medicinal cannabis will be introduced this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This stays in the mix:

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

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

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

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

Ardern and Labour should remember Helen Kelly.

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

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

My friend was dying.

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

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

Not so simple with a three party government.

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

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

 

Pike River Agency CEO liable if re-entry goes wrong

Andrew Little and Labour intend handing over responsibility of whether a Pike River re-entry attempt is made to the Recovery Agency they are setting up, and if re-entry is attempted and something goes wrong the agency chief executive will be liable. I suspect that applicants for the job may be limited.

Stuff:  Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive liable if re-entry goes wrong, not Andrew Little

The chief executive of the Pike River Recovery Agency will be held responsible if anything goes wrong with the re-entry of the drift.

Last month, the Prime Minister and Andrew Little – the Minister Responsible for the Pike River Re-entry, announced the Government would establish a government department by the end of January 2018 to assess the risk associated with a manned re-entry, and the best way to carry out the entry.

The entry of the mine’s drift, and the recovery of any remains of the 29 men killed in 2010, would be completed by March 2019.

Both Jacinda Ardern and Little said there would be risk involved with a manned re-entry, but it was up to the agency to assess the risk and to mitigate it, and if the level of risk was acceptable, go forward with the re-entry.

Despite promises by Winston Peters and Labour that there would be re-entry into the mine they are handing over responsibility to someone else.

At the time of the announcement, Little said the agency – Te Kahui Whakamana Rua Tekau ma Iwa (The Empowering Voice for the Pike 29) – would answer to him, and as the minister in charge, he would have the final decision.

Apparently not now.

He refused to respond to questions on who would be held liable, under New Zealand health and safety laws, if something went wrong.

However, documents relating to the establishment of the agency show the chief executive of the agency would be held legally responsible if something went wrong.

So Little wasn’t prepared to be up front about what he is organising, and is also handing over both the ultimate decision plus liability to someone else.

A ministerial briefing paper from November 3, said the liability would rest with those instructed by the minister, not the minister.

In order to remove that legal liability, health and safety laws would have to be changed – something the Government decided not to do.

Establishing an independent decision maker from the outset, would provide clarity on who was accountable for the decisions around safety, the briefing document said.

“It sets a clearer level of expectation around single focus and impartial decision making.

“If you wished to retain a departmental model to keep the entity closer to government, then the chief executive … could be given the statutorily independent role of determining whether re-entry should go ahead.

“In addition, without legislation, the Minister could potentially be exposed to accessorial liability in the event that something goes wrong in the course of re-entry activities.”

“A decision about safe re-entry will be best achieved by ensuring the decision-maker is independent,” the document said.

The decision-maker should be responsible for developing “a robust and credible plan” for safe recovery of the drift, including engaging fully with the Pike River families and their experts, and then charged with implementing this plan.

“This provides clear lines of accountability, with the decision maker and implementer of the decision being the holder of the key duties of care around ensuring health and safety.”

Gobsmacked.

December 2016: Winston Peters says Pike River re-entry is bottom line to election deals 

Winston Peters says re-entering Pike River mine is a “bottom line” to any election deal made next year.

In interviews this morning, Peters also reiterated his claim that he will enter the mine himself.

“I’m making no bones about it, we’ll give these people a fair-go, and yes this is a bottom line, and it shouldn’t have to be”.

Any political party seeking New Zealand First’s support to form a government in the 2017 election will have to commit to re-entering the mine.

September 2017: Pike River families give their blessing to Jacinda Ardern as she visits region where Labour started

Ardern met with family members at the Pike River memorial on the West Coast to re-state her commitment to re-enter the mine in which 29 miners died following explosions in 2010.

“After all this time, the least we can do is the right thing,” she told them.

Anna Osbourne, whose husband Milton was among those killed, said she was hoping for a change of Government to ensure the re-entry went ahead.

“We’ve had lies, we’ve had broken promises, so I’m hoping for a change of Government,” Osbourne said.

October 2017: Winston Peters meets Pike River families

Families spokesman Bernie Monk told media in Wellington they knew they had Mr Peters’ support.

“He’s a man of his word, and we’re going to support him the whole way… We’ve got full faith in Winston Peters and what he’s going to do.”

Asked if reentering the mine was still one of NZ First’s bottom lines, Mr Peters responded: “What do you think? How many times do I have to tell you?”

The Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement specifies: “Commit to re-entry to Pike River”.

October 2017: Pike River manned re-entry possible early next year – Little

The minister responsible for re-entry into Pike River, Andrew Little, hopes to get people in to the mine by April next year.

Mr Little told Newhub’s The AM Show today that he had two comprehensive reports and he believes manned entry is entirely achievable.

“There are risks – but there’s risks [in] doing anything.

“So lets clear all that stuff out of the way, lets look at what we know is there, what we know that the technology and the science tells us is possible, and work up that plan.”

The plan seems to be to make someone else make a decision on re-entry and to be liable if anything goes wrong.

4 December 2017: Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive liable if re-entry goes wrong, not Andrew Little

Ardern was asked whether she was comfortable with the legal liability resting on the shoulders of the chief executive.

“I’m confident that we’re going to go through a process that means we’re going to dot all of our i’s and cross all of our t’s,” she said.

“We’ve given ourselves enough lead time to make sure we do this properly.

“But the point ultimately is whether or not we’re doing right by families and that’s what we’ve undertaken to do.”

Gobbledegook and duckingdeduty.