Mallard sparks chaos and consternation, alleged Parliament predator stood down

Yesterday morning the Speaker Trevor Mallard sparked consternation when he said that the Francis report suggested there was a sexual predator in Parliament. There was widespread reaction in media, and behind the scenes party leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges met with each other and with the Speaker. By the end of the day a staffer was stood down.

Stuff: Speaker Trevor Mallard believes bullying report alleges rapes in Parliament

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says some allegations made to a review into bullying and harassment at Parliament amounted to rape.

Debbie Francis’ review included interviews with employees, past and present. Five reported sexual assault to her and all the allegations involved male on female violence. “Three of the alleged incidents disclosed to me in interviews were in my view extremely serious and some appeared to be part of a multi-year pattern of predatory behaviour,” she said.

Speaking to Radio NZ on Wednesday, Mallard said his impression from the report was that one person was involved in the three extremely serious incidents.

“I don’t know that this is an MP, and if it’s not an MP then it will be the Parliamentary Service, of Office of the Clerk, or Ministerial Services chief executives who will be the individuals who will take leadership.” Mallard said he hoped any one involved in such an incident would go to the police or Rape Crisis, or other support agencies.

“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said.

Asked if people had been raped in Parliament, he said: “that is the impression I get from the report, yes.” The impression he had was that It happened within the past 4½ years.

“Clearly it’s an intolerable situation.”

A number of people spoke up about how intolerable they thought the situation was.

One pointed claim on social media was that if there was a suspected murder or drug pusher loose in Parliament the police would be called in immediately.

1 News: Paula Bennett calls for police to be involved ‘immediately’ over alleged rapist at Parliament

Speaking to media later this morning after the Mallard interview on Breakfast Ms Bennett said there was a “duty of care to people working in this place that police are involved immediately”.

“There are people here feeling unsafe, uncomfortable and nervous at the moment, particularly after the Speaker’s comments this morning.”

“In light of the Speaker’s comments this morning about there being alleged sexual assault and rape happening for staff members and others on premises here in Parliament…. I think there is a duty of care for Debbie Francis and the Speaker to have police involved immediately so those allegations can be followed up and the safety of people working here be put first.”

“They have a responsibility to make sure if there is someone here that has alleged criminal activity, this is not just a bit of inappropriate behaviour, the Speaker is alleging a very serious criminal act, I’m not convinced that everything is being done that should be.”

RNZ: Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

Political party leaders held a meeting with Speaker Trevor Mallard this afternoon, following his comments to RNZ this morning that he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

After the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said she was very concerned when she heard Mr Mallard’s comments on Wednesday morning.

“We have to ensure that the people who work with us are working in a safe place,” Ms Ardern said.

“Ultimately that’s the job of the Speaker.

Labour MP and party whip Kiri Allan had said after the meeting if there were allegations of rape then police should be involved.

She said discussions were held between Labour female MPs and “there will be further action taken by our leadership”.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said if the allegations of rape were true then it was very serious.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the allegation of rape was substantiated then “it’s right for the appropriate action to be taken”.

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he couldn’t talk about the meeting with the Speaker and other party leaders but said Mr Mallard had assured them that he’d taken “immediate steps to secure the campus”.

A bizarre report: Winston Peters says alleged Parliamentary rapist is not MP, staffer

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the alleged serial sexual offender at Parliament is not an MP or Parliamentary staffer.

“It is not a parliamentarian and it is not a parliamentary staffer – that’s number one – all the parties are clear on this matter,” Peters said on Wednesday.

“You just can’t go out and have an allegation where everybody’s now under scrutiny when none of them should have been.”

When asked what that’s based on, Peters said: “It’s based on going and finding out, because I wasn’t prepared to hear what I heard this morning.”

Peters appears to have been wrong.

By late afternoon (RNZ): Parliamentary service staffer stood down after sexual assault allegation

Speaker Trevor Mallard said a female staff member came forward following his interview with RNZ where he said he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

The woman made a complaint to the Parliamentary Service general manager and the matter is now an employment investigation.

“I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.

“Because the matter is now under investigation as opposed to being part of a review, it’s not appropriate into further detail,” Mr Mallard said.

Parliamentary Services said the alleged incident had been previously investigated but, after a direct approach from the complainant to the newly appointed GM of the Service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, he reopened the investigation today.

It said the original investigation was not into allegations of rape.

RNZ:  Speaker accepts some responsibility for chaotic way rape allegations emerged

Mr Mallard said he accepted it would have been better had the day not played out as it did.

“I have some responsibility for that, and I accept it. The main thing now is to minimise the further trauma that was caused.”

He has urged anyone who has been assaulted to go to the police or Parliamentary Service.

So a clumsy start to the day by Mallard, followed by chaos, but sort of sorted out in the end.

There was probably no tidy or easy way of dealing with this. At least what Mallard started precipitated fairly rapid action.

 

 

Bennett refuses to appear alongside Swarbrick in cannabis discussion

National deputy leader Paula Bennett has refused to appear alongside Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick on Q&A last night to discuss the cannabis referendum. This is a continuation of Bennett, National’s ‘Spokesperson for Drug Reform’, refusing to take part in drug reform discussions.

This is extraordinary arrogance (that an opposition MP can ill afford), or fear of being shown up by Swabrick, who is very well informed on cannabis issues. Bennett has a habit of misrepresenting cannabis information, and scaremongering.

This isn’t the first time that Bennett has refused to discuss cannabis issues with Swarbrick. She has repeatedly  has refused to join a cross party group dealing with cannabis law reform.

 

I think that’s a fair response from Swarbrick.

It turns out that Andrew Little is going to lead the cross-party group, but National made a different excuse to not take part.

More on this from Stuff in National Party won’t commit to enacting result of 2020 cannabis referendum:

National Party leader Simon Bridges said his party cannot commit to enacting the result of the 2020 cannabis referendum if elected as he has not seen the draft bill yet.

Sort of fair enough on this. But…

“I would need to see the law and I would need to have answers to some basic questions like: What’s the tax rate going to be? Will gangs be able legally to sell drugs in New Zealand? Will edible gummy bears be legal?” Bridges said.

“Of course I trust the public, it’s the Government I don’t trust.”

This is nonsense. The public will vote on whatever the Government produces in their draft bill. Bridges is effectively saying he wouldn’t trust the decision made by voters who get a chance to judge the draft bill for themselves.

Bennett has rejected invitations from Green spokeswoman on drug reform Chloe Swarbrick to join this group in the past.

She said today she would be happy to join if it was led by a minister.

“I just don’t see how with all respect a junior member of Parliament that is not part of Government is the spokesperson on drug reform which could change the social fabric of this country,” Bennett said.

“If they are serious about cross-party, put a cabinet minister in there and I will happily sit with them and any other member of Parliament,” Bennett said.

If Bennett was serious about contributing to drug law reform she would have been contributing to the cross-party group already.  It sounds like excuses from her – and the excuses keep changing.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Andrew Little confirmed he would be leading the group.

Bennett still did not commit to joining the group.

“We will want to see terms of reference and what the group will be doing before deciding,” Bennett said.

This is a very disappointing attitude from Bennett and National. Their petty arrogance in Opposition, and their apparent determination to disrupt drug reform initiatives, is likely to hurt their support amongst the all important floating voters.

Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.

Half arsed apology, Ardern ‘reins in’ MPs, but Willie Jackson ‘hits back’

Labour list MP Willie Jackson remains defiant despite a half arsed apology, after he was criticised for questioning how Māori Paula Bennett is. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was reported to have reined him in, but instead Jackson has ‘hit back’.

For background see Labour Maori versus Paula Bennett continues.

Jaskson was interviewed on RNZ yesterday morning where he apologised to those who he may have offended (that is, a half arsed insincere apology) – Jackson sorry for offence after Māori comments (audio):

Employment Minister Willie Jackson has sparked a heated debate about which MPs are allowed to identify as Maori. Mr Jackson called National MP Paula Bennett’s heritage into question, saying she doesn’t know from one day to the next whether she’s Maori. National’s Paula Bennett says she’s identified as Maori since she was born, and the comments made in the House went too far.

Jacinda Ardern got involved – Prime Minister reins in MPs over attacks on Paula Bennett’s Māori heritage

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reined in two of her Ministers for getting personal about Paula Bennett’s Māori heritage.

A very public slanging match erupted this week when three senior Māori members of the coalition government went on the attack against the National Party deputy leader and her whakapapa.

Mrs Bennett described it as a “racist attack” and out of sync with Ms Ardern’s attempts to make Parliament a kinder place.

She said the rhetoric from senior Māori Ministers doesn’t gel at all with what Ms Ardern has been saying she wants to change about politics.

“So we have a prime minister who is constantly saying that she wants to change the way that Parliament is and how Parliamentarians treat each other, and she now has senior Māori ministers going out there and categorising other MPs as not being Māori enough, and I don’t think that gels at all with the kind of Parliament that she’s trying to create,” Mrs Bennett said.

The comments spilled into Question Time on Thursday when Mrs Bennett bit back using Mr Jackson’s Mana in Mahi youth employment programme to ask him whether you needed Māori-sounding surname to participate or would he be telling people with the name Bidois that they should go back to Italy.

That prompted deputy prime minister Winston Peters to go into bat for Mr Jackson.

Then Whanau Ora Minister Peeni Henare also joined in.

Mr Jackson walked back his comments somewhat on RNZ this morning, saying his point was that Mrs Bennett didn’t support National MPs like Nuk Korako who do contribute to kaupapa Māori.

“Of course she’s Māori, I’ve never said that she’s not Māori. I said in Question Time yesterday that she whakapapa’s Māori, how you identify with being Māori is by your whakapapa – is Paula Māori? One hundred percent.

“So she’s twisted this and spun it and she’s got away from the real deal here, which is her reluctance and her non-support of a tremendous Māori MP who has advocated kaupapa Māori and te reo Māori everyday,” Mr Jackson said.

Jackson is the one twisting things. More about that soon.

“I think the point he raised was valid and raised in only the way Willie can. And my experience and upbringing tells me whakapapa certainly is one thing but if we look at what makes a Māori through a Pakeha lense then we’re only looking at either a classification or a blood quantum and what i’m saying is that is one part of it but there’s so much more to being a Māori,” Mr Henare told Radio Waatea.

This is disappointing from Henare. Surely being Māori is different for different people, and so it should be.

The Prime Minister has had to go into damage control.

A spokesperson said while the Prime Minister understood her MPs’ desire to hold all members to account on the work they do for their local communities, she has an expectation that this doesn’t become personal.

The Prime Minister didn’t respond to questions about whether she had spoken to her ministers and what message she had passed on.

So despite the headline there is no sign of Ardern reining in anyone.

And Jackson is not acting reined in. He posted at The Daily Blog yesterday: Willie Jackson hits back

Well what a busy last couple of days I’ve had in the House. Yesterday after supporting International Worker’s Day (May Day), I decided to attack the Māori MPs in National in my General Debate.

The main reason I did that was because they have showed very little support for a fine man and good Māori advocate, Nuk Korako, who resigned because he was basically sick and tired of the zero support he would get for Māori issues.

I called some of the National MPs useless and singled out Jo Hayes, Simon Bridges, Dan Bidois and Paula Bennett – I make no apologies for calling them useless. When you’re in the Chamber, particularly in the General Debate, it’s all on and you take no prisoners. That’s how it’s always been and you can either handle it or not.

That’s not how it’s always been for all MPs, Some like Jackson seem to think it gives them licence to launch over the top attacks, but most MPs manage to not launch outlandish attacks.

She is trying to spin the line that I don’t think she’s Māori which is not what I said in my speech – I said some days she’s Māori and some days she’s not, and that’s an undeniable fact.

What Jacksons thinks Bennett may think on a day to day basis is obviously not factual, it’s his opinion. He can’t know how she thinks.

And what he claims he said in Parliament is inaccurate. He said” Paula Bennett, well, she doesn’t know if she’s a Māori, some day’s she does and some days she doesn’t”.

Again, not facts, just assertions, he cannot know  what he claimed.

“has she ever advocated for Māori; has she ever taken a pro-Māori stance or a Kaupapa Māori stance – and the answer to that is unequivocally no.”

I think that that claim is unequivocally false.

The National Government that Paula Bennett was a part of took a number of pro-Māori stances. Leading ‘significant policies’ at Fifth National Government of New Zealand (Wikipedia):

Treaty of Waitangi/Settlements

The involvement of the National government within this particular area was seen through their approach in settlements. National government’s involvement of Treaty affairs:

  • Ngai Tuhoe deed of settlement[1]

These involved discussion and planning of guidelines which were negotiated with two significant iwis of Taranaki. This also involved Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson.

  • Apology to affiliate Te Arawa[2]

In relation to past Treaty breaches and the actions of the previous governments at the time of the land wars. John Key apologized for the actions and doings of the abuses to the Te Arawa iwi and hapu.

  • Negotiation with Te Atiawa and Taranaki iwi[3]

Through the nine years of government Key/English/Bennett worked with the Māori Party on many policies, bills and initiatives advocating for Māori interests.

Māori Party: OUR ACHIEVEMENTS (Just some of our achievements from October 2008 to June 2017)

The Māori Party has influenced more than $3 billion for kaupapa Māori initiatives and almost $3 billion for all New Zealanders.

They detail a number of achievements while in Government with National. They could only have done that with the support of National, including the support of Bennett.

I’m not a fan of Bennett, but I think that Jackson is wide of the mark with these ongoing attacks on her. Also Peters (not surprising from him) and Henare (I thought he was better than this).

In particular, it’s getting dirty questioning someone else’s ethnicity, whakapapa, and their authenticity. Bennett is correct saying this is a form of racism.

 

Labour Maori versus Paula Bennett continues

Yesterday I posted about Labour list MP Willie Jackson’s slagging off of the Māoriness of Paula Bennett and other National MPs in Parliament on Wednesday – “You have useless Māoris”.

Bennett followed up in Question Time in Parliament yesterday:

8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by his approach to Mana in Mahi, and how many Māori participants are involved in the Mana in Mahi programme?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): To answer the first part of the question, yes, I stand by the approach that this Government has taken, which is to deliver Mana in Mahi in a phased approach. To answer the second part of the question, a total of 143 clients have been placed in Mana in Mahi so far. Of these participants, 75 have identified as Māori—52 percent.

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, how does he determine whether the Māori in the Mana in Mahi programme are Māori enough to be counted?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Well, that’s easy—that’s easy. It’s a well-known fact in this country that if you acknowledge your whakapapa Māori, you can be part of the setup. It’s a little bit unlike when the National Party used to measure Māori by half-castes and by how much of a percentage you had. We brought in this rule that if you whakapapa to Māori, like the good member does over there, then you’re Māori.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he respect Māori participating in Mana in Mahi regardless of their background or skin colour, or, as he ascertained yesterday in this House, whether or not he thinks they’re Māori on that day or not?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I think the member might be talking about herself. The reality is that I have total respect for Māori, whether they speak the language, whether they were brought up in a Pākehā environment, Asian environment. If they choose to whakapapa to Māori, like the good member, I respect her and any other Māori.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister what happens when your discovery of whakapapa Māori is rather like Columbus’ discovery of America—purely by accident?

So Winston Peters has joined in the attack.

Hon Paula Bennett: Do the Māori in the Mana in Mahi programme need a Māori-sounding surname to participate, or will he be telling people with names like the name Bidois that they should go back to Italy?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I mean, these types of silly questions are not necessary. The reality is, and the member should know, that a general debate is a general debate, so get over it.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he expect, then, men in the Mana in Mahi programme to tell women, like he did yesterday, that they are useless while they’re working?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I take offence at that. I just said that some of the Māori MPs in National were useless, like that member.

 

Later yesterday NZ Herald:  National’s Paula Bennett says comments calling into question her Māori heritage were ‘racist’

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says she found comments made by a minister in the House yesterday, questioning her Māori heritage, racist.

Yesterday, in a speech during Parliament’s general debate, Minister of Employment and Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson took aim at the Māori members of the National Party.

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says she found comments made by a minister in the House yesterday, questioning her Māori heritage, racist.

Yesterday, in a speech during Parliament’s general debate, Minister of Employment and Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson took aim at the Māori members of the National Party.

“The reality is that I have total respect for Māori, whether they speak the language, whether they were brought up in a Pākehā environment, Asian environment. If they choose to whakapapa to Māori, like the good member, I respect her and any other Māori,” he told the House.

Speaking to media on his way out of Question Time, NZ First Leader – and Deputy Prime Minister – Winston Peters said Bennett’s claim that Jackson was being racist was “ridiculous”.

He also said the press gallery should “get a sense of humour” when pressed on the issue.

So attacks by Jackson and Peters are ‘humour’? That’s an old (and badly flawed) excuse.

MP for Tāmaki Makaurau and Whānau Ora and Youth Minister Peeni Henare backed Jackson this afternoon.

In his view “blood quantum simply isn’t enough” when it comes to being Māori.

“I’ve always felt that you have to reach a threshold of need, participation and contribution in Māori Kaupapa. If you don’t, of course, questions are going to be raised.”

He said he was “more than happy” for those questions to be raised of anybody who claims to be Māori who does not meet that threshold.

https://twitter.com/PeeniHenare/status/1123853652890935297

Jackson has long been provocative, but it’s different (and disappointing) seeing an MP like Henare joining him in this slanging match.

It is sad to see the Labour MPs using Māoriness as a political weapon.

Tova O’Brien:  Willie Jackson, Paula Bennett locked in fierce racism row

And no matter which side you’re on, it’s an ugly row. Racism, whether it’s actual or perceived, has no place in Parliament – or New Zealand.

I wonder where Jacinda Ardern stands on this? Or is she as powerless and impotent with the Labour Māori caucus as she is with Winston Peters and Shane Jones?

“You have useless Māoris”

A Labour list MP attacked National Māori MPs in Parliament yesterday. A non-Māori person could not have made this speech without being damned widely.

I want everyone to tell Simon today, the Māori support him in Labour. He’s got our full support. Peeni Henare, has offered to do a waiata for him. Willow-Jean Prime will help him with his reo, because it’s so tragic. We will support Simon, even though the National Party won’t.

Look, I understand most of the Māori in the National Party are useless. We understand that—apart from our good man, Nuk Korako, who’s going today. What a good man, sad he’s being [Interruption] it’s so sad he’s being booted out of the National Party because he supports tino rangatiratanga and the Māori in Labour.

So the only good ones in there: Nuk; Shane Reti because he delivered Peeni Henare’s babies; and Harete Hipango.

That’s about it, the rest are useless. Paula Bennett, well, she doesn’t know if she’s a Māori, some day’s she does and some days she doesn’t; Dan Bidois, he needs to go back to Italy; and Jo Hayes, Jo wouldn’t have a clue. A great example of that with Jo was when she did her whānau ora attack on us and failed miserably…

So I want to say to the National Party today, who are split and divided, yes, you have useless Māoris, apart—but the good one is going today, one of the best is going today, Nuk Korako. However, we’re backing Simon. Please get that message to him, because he’s desperate. We saw him today. He’s desperate there, grovelling for more support, shocking the way he was insulting us. But he’s from Ngāti Maniapoto, I’m from Ngāti Maniapoto, and I’m obliged to help him. Kia ora tātou.

That speech should be seen as disgraceful from anyone. And while Willie Jackson may have delivered it without any sign of shame, it should have embarrassed his Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

In particular, questioning a person’s Maoriness was condemned.

 

Peters the elephant in Labour’s CGT room

Labour told the Tax Working Group what they couldn’t do, and the Tax Working Group final report seems to be largely a Labour prescription. It even uses Labour-like terms such as Future of Work as well as Future of Tax. This isn’t all that surprising given the involvement of Michael Cullen.

But while the Group’s recommendations, especially on Capital Gains Tax, may look like a Labour wish list, the elephant in their room is Winston Peters and NZ First. With National saying they are against the CGT Labour will need NZ First support to get anything done.

Greens have already said that the Government won’t deserve to be re-elected unless they introduce a CGT – see James Shaw slams tax timidity, calls on Labour, NZ First to be bold with CGT.

An exchange in Parliament yesterday after the release of the report gives a good indication of where Peters is at on the CGT.

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with comments by the Rt Hon Winston Peters in regards to capital gains tax that, “They won’t work in this country. They won’t work in any other country. They never have worked.”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the responsibility of the Prime Minister is for comments made by Ministers when they were Ministers, not beforehand. And, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I should not have to tell that member that.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with comments by the Rt Hon Winston Peters that, “You can’t possibly go into an election saying, ‘My tax policy will decided by a committee.’ “?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, for the second time now, I am not responsible for comments made by members of Parliament before they held a ministerial warrant under my premiership. That’s the substance of the matter and whether she agrees or not here’s the fine point about a democratic constitutional Government: that is, we’re going to consult with the people of this country in the next two weeks. [Interruption] I tell you what we can trust: somebody that hasn’t got a massive vested interest in this case, somebody that hasn’t got a massive vested interest in property, and is not now thinking about the country but just her narrow, selfish, egotistical self.

SPEAKER: I am going to remind the Deputy Prime Minister that he is speaking as the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: No, no, let him go. Does she agree with the comments by the Deputy Prime Minister just yesterday who said, “The farming community, they are in for the long haul and there is no way a capital gains tax would have any effect on them at all.”, when today’s report says it will cost farmers $700 million a year?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I have read the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments on the farming show. I know that he comes from a seriously agrarian background and understands the long-term ownership aspirations and intergenerational aspirations of farming families around this country, and not one of them who aspires to that will be affected by any capital gains tax.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: That’s not right. That’s not right. Read it.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I’ve done some work in my time, son, not like you.

SPEAKER: Order! The pair of you.

Hon Paula Bennett: If the Prime Minister is correct in her comments, then why on earth would they be saying that it would cost $700 million a year if a capital gains tax is applied to farms?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there is the rub. Who is saying that and what do they mean by “if”? I mean, the criteria would be whether or not this is an expanded tax, and at this point in time it is not. It’s merely a report with a number of options—all 99—and what I’d like to know on behalf of the Prime Minister is: how come they had only four hours to study this and yet had already put out their views before the report came over their desks?

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the comments by the Hon James Shaw recently who said, “The only question we should be asking ourselves is: do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t.” with regards to implementing a capital gains tax?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that is a fact, and I’m glad about that. This is the first fact I’ve heard thus far in question time—that Mr Shaw said that. Mr Shaw’s a visionary Minister and is looking to the full debate and discussion that’s going to take place over the next eight weeks. Why don’t we all show some patience and be prepared to consult with the public of this country, the businesses of the country, rather than give your own narrow venal views.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can she confirm that any changes as a result of the recommendations in the Tax Working Group’s report will be revenue-neutral?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it’s very difficult to come to a report—

Hon Paula Bennett: Grant just told you to say that you haven’t made any decisions.

SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Unlike that member, doesn’t need instructions, able to think for himself, doesn’t need a speech writer, not embarrassed by being shown up every day—no. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and her colleagues are not going to come to a decision until they have had the full consultation. And I must say, the most interested person in this is the Minister of Finance—the consultation process—and when that consultation is finished, we will share with the public our findings.

Hon Paula Bennett: You got that right.

 

Bennett takes pot shots at cannabis debate

Paula Bennett has launched into her new role as National’s spokesperson on drug reform with a lot of gusto and questionable assertions – put another way, with bullshit bluster.

Claire Trevett (NZH): National’s Paula Bennett takes on Big Pot

Bennett’s job is to appease the conservative base in National while trying to look as if the party is being constructive about the issue of liberalising cannabis laws.

Bennett announced she was undecided on the matter and a realist rather than “a prude”.

She has not led a sheltered life and can not be dismissed as an arch-conservative on this issue, although her initial comments might look that way. There are political reasons for that.

The issue feeds in nicely to the law and order narrative National is pushing, and the hope voters will decide the Government is distracted by social reforms and punish Labour accordingly.

Judging from Bennett’s beginning, National is likely to continue to beat the drum against liberalisation.

It is ripe for a bit of scaremongering and Bennett was up for the job.

She said she had many questions and her own vote would depend on the regime wrapped around any reforms.

She had many answers too which indicated she may well not be undecided.

She warned of the downfall of decent society as we know it should marijuana be decriminalised. Not a crevice of New Zealand would be weed-free.

She predicted that in 30 years time, those who voted to decriminalise in 2020 would be apologising to their children.

Weed iceblocks would be there right in the supermarket chiller next to those delicious Kapiti plum ice creams. Children would be buying dollar mixes of electric puha lollies. Mr Whippy would become Mr Ganja.

Russell Brown, an authority on drug issues, took issue with Bennett.

I can’t help but note that both of the above claims are well-worn Bob McCoskrie talking points. Does National really want to go *there*?

Going by Bennett’s opening pot shots it appears that it is a deliberate strategy by her and National.

And finally for now: if you don’t want kiddy cannabis lollies, propose that we follow all the other jurisdictions that prohibit them. We’re not fucking helpless here. Parliament will define exactly how this works.

Chloe Swarbrick also takes issue with Bennett’s bullshit bluster. Stuff: Chloe Swarbrick accuses Paula Bennett of ‘cynical politics’ over drug debate

When asked by host Hayley Holt if the ‘War on Drugs’ was working, National’s deputy leader said it wasn’t.

“Oh goodness, it can’t be. We see too many people addicted, too many ruined lives, too much of it in our streets, from meth to synthetics and others.”

Bennett called herself “relatively open minded” to drug reform and potential marijuana legalisation, but said there were still many more questions to be answered.

If she is open minded it doesn’t show. It looks like she has a deliberate anti-reform agenda in mind.

“It scares me and it should. I’ve got kids I don’t want people dating people who are addicted.”

Bennett said she was concerned that legalisation would mean more companies marketing towards children in the same way that alcopops or RTDs appealed to younger drinkers.

“Where it has been legalised, there has been a huge increase in the number of people under the age of 18 who have taken marijuana and there is evidence that it can fry little brain cells when you’re younger. That is of concern to me.”

Swarbrick agreed that there were concerns that were being addressed, and they were being debated openly.

Swarbrick challenged Bennett, asking what evidence the National MP was referring to. Bennett said that the lack of evidence was part of the problem, because it had been on the market for such short time, but claimed that in Canada and the eight US states where cannabis has been legalised, there had been a six per cent increase in car crashes and “more young people showing up to emergency departments with drug issues.”

Swarbrick accused Bennett of relying on the “thoroughly debunked” Rocky Mountain report. She was referring to a 2017 report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a US government funded drug prohibition enforcement program in Colorado.

The report was widely criticised for inaccuracies and bias. Forbes labelled the report “dishonest.” In one instance, the report included a column chart showing a dramatic increase in “marijuana-related emergency department visits” between 2012 and 2013 when the legislation took effect, even though the report’s own footnotes noted that “2011 and 2012 emergency department data reflects [sic] incomplete reporting statewide. Inferences concerning trends, including 2011 and 2012, should not be made.”

Swarbrick said the use of that report “seems a lot like a bit of a cynical political move that belittles and degrades the tone of the debate”.

More than a bit of cynical politics from Bennett.

Bennett said Swarbrick was being “passive aggressive and “trying to put me down,” but said she’s “been in politics for far too long to jump at that one”.

That’s a ridiculous and worrying retort from Bennett. She wasn’t being put down, her bullshit and unreliable sources were challenged with facts.

As I have already said, this is a very disappointing move by Bridges, National and Bennett. They have cynically decided to disrupt the drug debate for political purposes – but I think they will lose support with this approach. I for one am moving further from voting National than I have been for a decade.

Bridges and Bennett say they want ‘drug reform’ debate but would vote no anyway

National leader Simon Bridges has announced that Paula Bennett will take on a new role as National’s spokesperson on ‘drug reform’. This could end up being a positive move, but Bridges has tainted the announcement with political niggles that don’t set things off on a positive non-partisan footing.

Simon Bridges: National announces spokesperson for Drug Reform

National Leader Simon Bridges has appointed Paula Bennett to the new position of Spokesperson for Drug Reform as the Government pushes ahead with its agenda of drug decriminalisation, to signal National’s commitment to holding them to account.

This is disappointingly negative from Bridges. Re-evaluating New Zealand’s failed drug laws is long overdue, and there is a lot of public support for some sort of reform, but Bridges has chosen partisan niggling.

“New Zealanders expect their Government to be firm but fair. When it comes to drugs we need a well-thought through and evidence-based approach to drug reform that balances public safety with the need to help vulnerable people.

“This Government’s confused and dangerous commitment to decriminalisation and its soft approach to crime shows it’s not up to that task.

More petty swipes.

“Our work creating a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime shows we are and that’s why I’ve created this new portfolio which will coordinate the work being done across our policy teams in health, education and law and order.

“It will build on our significant work in Government around the Meth Action Plan, cracking down on drug dealers and stopping trafficking at our borders, while ensuring those who need rehabilitation get access to the best services.

“There is no better person than former Police Minister Paula Bennett who has a thorough understanding of the issues to coordinate this work.

Paula Bennett also took a negative approach:  Coordinated approach to drug reform needed

A coordinated approach across health, education, law and order and border control is needed to counter the complex issues around drugs in New Zealand, National’s new spokesperson for Drug Reform Paula Bennett says.

“The Government’s confused, contradictory and ad hoc policy on drug reform is likely to cause more harm and shows that a measured, sensible and coordinated approach is needed.

“As we see changes coming in by stealth, along with the upcoming referendum there are many unanswered questions and no evidence that the Government is thinking them through.

If it is decided by public referendum, probably in about 20-22 months, with a lot of discussion and debate already, then it can hardly be ‘by stealth’.

In an interview yesterday Bennett conceded that the Police already took a very light handed approach to enforcing current drug laws regarding cannabis use – this was happening under the previous National government.

“When it comes to legalising marijuana, there are serious questions around drug driving, the effects of younger people accessing and using, youth mental health, and how this fits with our ambitions to be smoke free.

These things are already being widely discussed.

“What would a regulated industry look like? Will gangs be able to grow and sell marijuana? Will THC levels be regulated? Will drug testing be done on the roadside? What will the legal age be?

“There is evidence from other jurisdictions that have legalised marijuana that road deaths have increased, younger people have increased consumption and there are negative neuro-psychological issues for teenagers that use marijuana while their brains are still developing.

“National has shown that it understands the issues around drugs through our Members Bill around medicinal marijuana which was widely recognised as superior to the Government’s legislation.

This is partisan crap.

“We welcome a debate on legalising marijuana however I am concerned that the Government has gone into this half-heartedly and as a distraction. The debate needs to be informed and at this stage all we have seen is an announcement by the Prime Minister about a referendum without her even knowing what the question will be.

“I will be holding her and the Labour-led Government to account.”

Bennett and Bridges seem more intent on trying to score petty political points here than working together for the good of the country.

Bennett raises some valid issues, but her language is laden with negatives.

And it gets worse.

Stuff:  Paula Bennett appointed National’s drug reform spokesperson

Bridges, meanwhile, told reporters he’d never tried the drug.

The Opposition leader said the new portfolio was intended to hold the Government to account ahead of a binding referendum on personal cannabis use at the 2020 general election.

“Let’s learn from Brexit. Let’s not have a simple ‘Yes, no,’ thing, and then after that go through and answer all the complex, hard questions. Let’s have that debate beforehand.”

Bridges said he was likely to vote against legalisation, and that without major debate, the referendum risked being a “cute distraction” from more serious issues.

Bridges is insisting we “have that debate beforehand” (which is already happening), but seems to have already made up his mind to “likely to vote against legalisation”.

Bennett, too, said she was tempted to vote “no”.

“When it comes to legalising marijuana, there are serious questions around drug driving, the effects of younger people accessing and using, youth mental health, and how this fits with our ambitions to be smoke free,” she said.

“I’m one of the more liberal, and if the vote was tomorrow, based on all of these questions that we’ve got that haven’t even been answered, I would be voting against it.”

She says she would vote against something that is not defined yet. That’s a very poor position to take.

Bennett was worse in an interview where she scaremongered, suggesting the possibility of drug laced lollies. Newshub:  Paula Bennett gets new drugs portfolio in National Party shake-up

She issued a series of warnings over the legalisation of cannabis on Tuesday morning, saying cannabis-infused ice creams and lollies have been sold overseas.

This is a very disappointing start in her new role, and Bridges is just as bad.

This is a very poor start to the political year for National – not just on their drug reform stance (more like anti-reform), but also on their partisan approach. They look to be out of touch with wide public support for reforming our current failing drug laws.

Mixed messages from Jamie-lee Ross

Newshub gave Jami-lee Ross top billing on their news tonight with an exclusive interview.

He gave mixed messages, saying that he didn’t want to throw bombs or be vindictive, but he wants to put his side of stories forward, which targeted Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett, who both disputed his assertions.

Ross also raised a police investigation of the MP who he had had a relationship with and who texted him saying she thought he deserved to die, which is apparently being investigated as possible incitement to self-harm.

Ross also said that the people of the Botany electorate ‘didn’t deserve’ the cost of a by-election, but clearly a by-election wouldn’t cost them anything. Ross won’t want a by-election as it would likely mean the end of his career as an MP.

This doesn’t look like the end of the Ross saga, but he has a lot to do to get some credibility as an MP back. His return to Parliament in a few weeks is likely to be quite awkward for him.

It is notable that the journalist who started the unravelling of Ross, Tova O’Brien, was the one who secured this interview. her role in all of this has been justifiably been questioned.

UPDATE: Ross has followed up this news spot with a lengthy statement on Facebook. See JLR: “…didn’t get everything right. I am sorry. I will do better.”