Drug policy proposals

Drug policy proposals that the NZ Drug Foundation responded to with “This aligns with our thinking (which we are going to canvass at the symposium).


The 2015 National Drug Policy introduced a number of specific actions to reinforce the central message that drug issues are primarily health, not legal, issues, and foreshadowed a major rewrite of our creaking 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act during the next term of Parliament, once these actions have been completed.

…now is the time to be looking at what that next set of steps might be. I envisage a two-stage process.

First, we should move to an overall approach similar to the full Portuguese model, where the cultivation and possession of all drugs remains illegal, and all drug users are referred for assessment and treatment, but where there is a tolerance exercised for the possession of what are essentially Class C drugs under the current Misuse of Drugs Act. In that event, persons caught with – say – no more than the equivalent of one week’s personal supply would be referred directly to treatment rather the Courts, in an extension of our current diversion scheme.

This would require significant additional investment in the provision of assessment and treatment services, but that makes far more sense than investing similar amounts more in the Courts and prison services for the same purpose. At the same time, it would free up more Police resources to concentrate on catching the criminals behind the New Zealand drugs scene.

The second stage of the process, when the Misuse of Drugs Act is rewritten, would be to transfer the current Schedule of Class C Drugs from that Act to the Psychoactive Substances Act.

This would mean that they would be regulated the same way as synthetic substances, where the test is evidence based around the risk posed to the user, and where there are clear controls on the manufacture, sale and distribution of any such products that might be approved.

For its part, the Psychoactive Substances Authority would be required to determine an alternative to animal testing – the prohibition of which is what currently prevents that Act from working fully.

One issue that is often properly raised in the context of drug law reform is the role of the gangs as producers and distributors of drugs like cannabis. It is argued with some validity that legalising cannabis would legalise the criminal activities of the gangs and deliver them total control, something none of us are in favour of.

But, the Psychoactive Substances Act provides a way of resolving this issue. Under the Act, before a product can be submitted for testing, the producer first has to have been granted a “fit and proper person” licence.

No criminal organisation will be ever meet that standard or be granted such a licence, which would completely exclude the gangs. Instead, we would have a regulated market for all drugs, synthetic or otherwise, that the Psychoactive Substances Authority considers pose a low risk to users. The possession and supply of all other drugs would remain illegal, and the law would take its course.

The approach UnitedFuture proposes therefore has three key components:

  • mandatory and comprehensive treatment for everyone caught with drugs;
  • a pragmatic approach to anyone caught with minor amounts of low level drugs;
  • shutting the criminals out of the cannabis industry.

As such, it fits four square with the compassionate, innovative and proportionate approach drug policy I have long advocated.


It should be obvious now that this proposal is from Peter Dunne – I left his name out of it in the introduction to try to get people to read this with an open mind.

All options and opinions should be on the table when it comes to reviewing our drug laws, and while Dunne cops a lot of flak from those who want drug laws liberfalised and modernised he has more knowledge and expertise than most on what doesn’t work, what might work and what is possible politically in New Zealand.

Dunne speech on drug policy

Yesterday Peter Dunne gave a speech on New Zealand Drug policy in the keynote address at the 8th Australasian Drug and Alcohol Strategy Conference, Te Papa, Wellington.


It gives me great pleasure to be here to talk about our shared interest in influencing attitudes towards alcohol and drug use. It is an honour and a privilege to be asked to give one of the keynote speeches.

I also look forward to taking your questions afterwards.

Drug policy in New Zealand is an ongoing balancing act. And because the tightrope tends to move, it is vitally important for us to keep checking whether we have our balance right.

Because we need to cover overseas as well as local experiences, today’s speech is going to be a rather rapid fly-by view of both international and local drug policy.

Recently, I had the good fortune to be in Vienna to take part in the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. It was one of the most constructive and encouraging international events that I have attended.

I was delighted to express New Zealand’s support for the work of the Commission and the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime.

Over the last few years of attending such meetings, I have seen welcome signs of an increasing shift internationally towards a health focus on drugs, rather than drugs being treated as primarily a law and order issue.

This has profound implications for how we treat drug users. It means drug use disorders should be treated in the health system. So people with these disorders need access to essential medicines, including controlled drugs, but we need to minimise the risk that these drugs will be diverted or misused.

It also means people need continued support for recovery through their rehabilitation and reintegration into everyday life. We all know health is more than just the absence of ill health, or treatment of it.

A truly health-focused drug policy has to include building resilience and responding to the reasons why people use drugs. And it has to respond in a balanced way to the harm associated with drugs.

While there is still a long way to go in some instances, it is generally encouraging to see this happening more and more. Yes, a number of countries still impose the death penalty for drug offences – and a small minority condone the barbaric extra-judicial killing of drug users and dealers.

New Zealand will always stand firm in opposing that.

But on the whole, drug policies the world over tend to take a wider frame of reference and look for a proportionate response to drug-related harms.

I will just focus for a moment on what this means to us in New Zealand. We have seen a shift away from a relatively narrow punitive approach to drugs to a more balanced view.

You can see this shift in our national drug policies. New Zealand’s National Drug Policy balances three complementary elements. These strategies – problem limitation, demand reduction, and supply control – have been part of all the drug policies that we have had.

The goal, however, has changed and become more broadly health-focused. While the previous policy had a harm minimisation goal, the current one explicitly aims to promote and protect health and wellbeing as well as aiming to minimise alcohol and drug-related harm.

That may sound straightforward, but there are several questions worth raising about that goal. For one thing, how much do we know about alcohol and drug-related harm in New Zealand?

It is all very well to talk about effects on individuals and the community. These are very real, and we all see the weekly media articles about them. But we do not have accurate measurements of the size of the problem.

We have a New Zealand Drug Harm Index which gives us some indication, but we know that the drugs being used and the way they are being used are changing. So the index has to be a living, changing document.

Knowing about the harm is one thing, but knowing when we have minimised is more complex. And whose health and wellbeing are we promoting and protecting?

The easy answer is to say ‘everyone’s’. But is everyone getting the same degree of protection and promotion?

These questions are not easy to answer. But we know that our health services, enforcement services and others working together to strike the right balance of education, support and enforcement is the best way to address them.

It requires a people-centred approach where a range of agencies – health, police, correctional services, social services and others – work together to respond to individual, family, and community needs.

As a small country, we know the value of working together. We do not usually have the resources to get things done other than by cooperating with each other.

As the leader of a party which has a confidence and supply agreement with the government, I also have a particular appreciation of the need to work collegially and find common ground in order to make progress.

But it is not always the norm in other, larger countries, where achieving inter-agency co-operation is in itself a challenge. Our agencies cooperate with each other via an interagency committee on drugs, tasked with the challenge of achieving the objectives of the National Drug Policy.

In the area of interagency cooperation, New Zealand has seen particularly encouraging collaboration between Police and Health at local, regional and national levels.

During my attendance at the UN this year, I had the opportunity for a bilateral meeting with the Portuguese delegation. The Portuguese approach of putting the health system front and centre when drug use is an issue is admirable and something to aspire to.

Unfortunately, whenever Portugal is mentioned, the focus is often solely on the tolerance they apply to low-level use of drugs, while overlooking the other side of the story about possession and cultivation remaining illegal, and the very strong use of mandatory assessment and treatment programmes in place for all drug use.

I have long felt that pursuing sick and disabled people for inconsequential cannabis use related to their ailments is both imprudent and a poor use of Police resources – formal Police guidelines for such situations would be a welcome development.

An excellent example of positive collaboration between Police and the Ministry of Health is illustrated in a new approach to reducing demand for methamphetamine.

Police and the Ministry of Health developed the approach together last year. The idea for this new approach grew from Operation Daydream. It began as what you might call a standard operation in the sense that police arrested a number of people who were supplying methamphetamine.

However, it departed from standard practice when it came to users identified during the operation. Rather than prosecute, police contacted them to discuss their issues and offer referrals to treatment services. This proved to be a positive and productive approach.

The users engaged with officers, and gave them some insights into the reasons that they were using methamphetamine. What they then did with the information was set up a public meeting with some users and some members of the community who had never set eyes on methamphetamine.

Getting these two groups of people together was a powerful experience for all concerned. Even something as simple as talking to each other can make a positive difference to people’s lives. So we are building on this initiative.

The current pilot programme brings together police, health and community efforts to respond to the needs of a particular area and its people – in this case, Northland. That will in itself be a positive thing that brings people together.

It also represents a shift in attitudes, with a district health board partnering with local police and community organisations to improve outcomes for people in the area.

Innovation also happens centrally of course.

The unique part of New Zealand’s response to the issue of new psychoactive substances is of course our Psychoactive Substances Act.

I have a history with this Act as the Minister responsible for its introduction. Prior to the Act, we had a losing battle on our hands with new psychoactives. This was because new substances were emerging in the market too quickly for us to establish the level of risk that they posed.

This system meant that users of new psychoactives were consuming drugs that were not fully understood, and risking all sorts of harm to themselves and others.

Previously, New Zealand faced precisely the same problem as other jurisdictions. We had a range of unknown substances, posing unknown risks.

The existing controls were based on the old world of well-known and well understood substances. For the old drugs, the risks could be judged, and they could be scheduled in our Misuse of Drugs Act with the appropriate controls.

But that approach depends on the substances being understood. The government could legislate based on the risk of a substance, but it had to know the risk first.

For something like cocaine, where we can draw a picture of the molecule, and identify risks and medicinal uses in detail, that approach works well.

For the new psychoactive substances, that approach simply did not work. By the time it had been identified, investigated and legislated against, the original substance could be replaced by 10 new ones.

Instead, New Zealand’s response was to reverse the onus of proof. Under the new legislation, licences must be obtained by people or businesses who wish to import, research, manufacture, wholesale and retail psychoactive substances and products.

The Act also restricts the sale of these products, when approved, to people aged 18 years and older. That is an apparently simple change, but a world-leading solution that has effectively reduced the level of harm to users of new psychoactives.

The Act was amended in May 2014 to prohibit animal testing data being used for the purpose of product approval.

At this time the necessary tests cannot be done using entirely non-animal methods. I do not see this situation changing for the foreseeable future. I am advised it will likely be at least 5 years before any applications for product approval are received, as they must wait for non-animal test methods to be validated.

Once this happens, we will have the flexibility with our psychoactive substances legislation to fully control the window of opportunity. At that time our innovative policy approach will fully come into effect.

The work we are doing now on new psychoactive substances is bringing to bear expertise from both within and outside government to develop an early warning system that will help identify and respond to emerging drugs. Early warning systems were a popular topic at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting.

As you may recall, I spoke about having seen an increasing international shift from a law and order focus to a broader focus on health. One thing that particularly stood out from the Commission’s discussions was alternative approaches to the possession of drugs.

My colleagues in Vienna agreed there are many ways in which the system can send a message that illegal drugs are unacceptable – and that these ways do not always need to involve criminalisation. We can take these ideas forward in developing options for further minimising harm within our National Drug Policy framework.

As I said to begin with, New Zealand’s drug policy continues to be a balancing act.

This year agencies will check the initial agreed actions in the National Drug Policy, to ensure we keep on striking the right balance. To change attitudes and minimise the harm that can come from the use of alcohol and other drugs, we must stay open to new ideas and new frames of reference.

I have said many times that the principles of compassion, innovation and proportion underpin our national drug policy. Consistent with that theme we need to be constantly open to alternative approaches and ways of doing things, always so long as robust pharmacological, clinical, and criminological evidence is there to back up the positions we take.

I hope this conference builds on existing efforts to change thinking and behaviour towards alcohol and drug use and I wish you all a rewarding and productive time here in Wellington.

“Labour’s Looming Train Wreck”

The gloves are off as parties position themselves for the election.

Peter Dunne Speaks: Labour’s Looming Train Wreck

Dunne tries to draw parallels between UK Labourt and NZ Labour, and between Jeremy Corbyn and Andrew little.

For those who follow British politics, the prospect of the coming General Election turning into a major train wreck for the British Labour Party looms large. Barely a day passes without another set of contradictory views or comments emerging from senior members of that Party.

Most of the criticism inevitably finds its way back to the Party’s veteran socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a man who, in a long political career has never been chosen to hold any Government office. For afficiandos, it is all fun and games, happening sufficiently far away not to be too bothered about.

However, there are some similarities with the New Zealand situation which should not go unremarked upon.

And remark upon them he does.

Jeremy Corbyn was never elected leader of the British Labour Party by the Party’s MPs – indeed, only a few months ago, they passed overwhelmingly a vote of no-confidence in his leadership. Yet he remains, having twice been selected by the Party at large and its trade union base to be Labour’s standard bearer.

New Zealand Labour has a similar selection system – current leader Andrew Little was installed in his role in 2014 with the backing of well under half his MPs, and then only narrowly because of the union vote.

As with Mr Corbyn, Mr Little knows that the key to his retaining the leadership, lies not with his MPs, but with the Party’s trade union affiliates. He has already shown his recognition of that by his installation of trade union officials as candidates in a number of seats around the country. Many are likely to feature high up on the Party’s “democratically” selected list.

And, like Mr Corbyn, he has eschewed any prospect of Labour claiming the centre ground of politics, indeed going so far as to dismiss the political centre and those who occupy it as “irrelevant.”

Both Mr Corbyn and Mr Little believe naively that there is a latent Labour majority out there – the missing million voters New Zealand Labour keeps talking about – that has only to be offered a “true” Labour Party for them to return home, and that in the meantime, there is therefore no need to reach out to any other voting group

As the Antipodean Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Little must have groaned when Teresa May called Britain’s election for early June. New Zealanders are going to be able to watch a preview of his performance and likely fate, well in advance of our own election.

And when the inevitable blood-letting takes place after the British train wreck, New Zealand Labour will struggle to avoid the spotlight being turned on its own Jeremy Corbyn, and his journey down the same track.       

Dunne and others will no doubt try to have the spotlight shone on similarities between Corbyn and Little, and between UK Labour and NZ Labour.

Genter v Dunne on medical cannabis

In Parliament yesterday Green MP Julie Anne Genter questioned Associate health Minister Peter Dunne on the ease of access to medical cannabis.

Dunne said that the Australian system of registering medical users wasn’t working well, and the way the police are supposed to be ‘compassionate’ when deciding whether to charge cannabis users in New Zealand is ‘pragmatic’ and more effective.

But it means many medical users of cannabis products are still acting illegally.

Dunne suggests that those wanting to use medical cannabis should visit the Ministry of Health website for information:

Prescribing cannabis-based products

Please note that the Government does not support the use of unprocessed or partially processed cannabis leaf or flower preparations for medicinal use.

There are three types of cannabis-based products that may be considered for Ministerial approval:

  1. Pharmaceutical grade products that have consent for distribution in New Zealand. Consent for distribution means that the product has been determined by Medsafe to meet acceptable safety and efficacy requirements for distribution in New Zealand. The only product meeting this criterion currently is Sativex® for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. It may also be prescribed as a non-consented product for some other medical conditions.
  2. Pharmaceutical grade products that do not have consent for distribution in New Zealand, for example a product that has been manufactured by a pharmaceutical company overseas.
  3. Non-pharmaceutical grade products, that is products that are not manufactured to internationally recognised pharmaceutical manufacturing standards. They may, or may not, have been intended to be used as medicines.

The MoH has Guidelines to assess applications for Ministerial approval to prescribe, supply and administer

It looks very unlikely that National will even consider any possible law changes on cannabis, which means that under the current Government the current limitations are likely to remain at least until after the election.

Draft transcript:


Drugs, Illegal—Medical Cannabis

12. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Will he recommend his Government change the law so that New Zealanders with terminal illnesses using medical cannabis are not at risk of being raided by the Police and prosecuted.

Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): Patients using approved cannabis-based products, such as Sativex and other approved non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis products, are not at risk.

For those choosing to use raw cannabis or unapproved cannabis-based products, I have received a number of assurances from the Commissioner of Police that small-scale use by the terminally ill is not a priority, and that approach is consistent with the emphasis on compassion set out in the Government’s 2015 National Drug Policy.

I have considered the compassionate access scheme implemented in New South Wales. However, following very frank discussions with the Australian delegation at last month’s United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting about the workability of such a scheme, I have concluded that New Zealand’s more pragmatic approach based around the pillars of compassion, proportion, and innovation that underpin the National Drug Policy is the more appropriate course to follow

Julie Anne Genter: So rather than changing the law to reflect the fact that we think that it is acceptable for sick people to use cannabis to alleviate their suffering, is he suggesting that people should continue to break the law hoping that the police will not pursue them?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I make two points in response. Firstly, there is huge distinction to be drawn between raw cannabis and cannabis-based medicinal products. The Government has no interest in making any legal change, nor does any other party in Parliament, as far as I am aware, to the status of the raw cannabis plant.

With regard to cannabis-based medicines, the best advice I would give any patient who feels they might benefit from such a medicine is to talk to their general practitioner and their specialist about accessing the pathway that is in place.

They can view that at the Ministry of Health website; it is a very simple pathway to follow and if it is determined that that is the best treatment available to them, then it can be made available to them.

For people who choose to go outside that system, then they do run the risk, particularly if they are using the raw product, but, as I said earlier, I have been assured by the police that they will adopt a compassionate approach.

Julie Anne Genter: Without a clear legal framework or a register for patients, how will the police be able to judge who is a legitimate medical user and who to be compassionate with?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The member raises a good point, and it was one that I pursued with the Australians when I discussed the matter with them.

The absence of a register is actually no salvation in this regard because they find exactly the same problem with the register in New South Wales in determining who is a legitimate name to be included upon it—and bear in mind in the New South Wales case you can include up to 3 other people as supporters.

But they have also found that a number of people who are suppliers, when confronted by the police about being suppliers, say that they only supply to patients with terminal illnesses. So the whole thing has become, essentially, unworkable. I think the pragmatic approach that we have here, provided it is exercised with compassion, is the far more prudent course to follow.

Julie Anne Genter: Without a law change, how can he ensure that terminally and chronically ill patients in New Zealand will not find themselves in court for using cannabis to alleviate their suffering?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I did not hear the first part of the member’s question, but I think what she was seeking was some clarification as to how we can protect people from the potential risk. I come back to what I said in response to the earlier supplementary question.

The very best step that anyone who feels that they would benefit from a cannabis-based medical product can take is to talk to their general practitioner about accessing the pathway set out so clearly on the Ministry of Health website.

People who resort to just growing a bit in the backyard or talking to a mate and getting some from them do run some risks.

If they have genuine health issues, my absolutely strong advice is to talk to their general practitioner about accessing the pathway that is currently available.


For more information on medical cannabis in New Zealand see this support site:

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ

More response to Hit & Miss

Nicky Hager put in a big hit on the NZ Defence Force, but so far at least has missed out on getting the inquiry he wanted. He is convinced there has been a major cover up and he appears to be only prepared to accept total vindication of his accusations.

RNZ: PM trusting military’s word ‘a joke’ – Hager

…Mr Hager said it was “a joke” for Mr English to trust the military’s word.

The reality is that the Government has to have trust in it’s military.

“These are the people who are in trouble, so of course they don’t want an inquiry … No experienced minister should fall for that.”

He said the Prime Minister was being “irresponsible” by simply accepting the “selective information” he was shown.

There is no proof that English has fallen for anything, or that he has simply accepted selective information.

Mr English encouraged anyone with further information to come forward, saying the Defence Force would legally have to investigate it.

But Mr Hager said he “would not recommend” that his sources speak out while the military was “obviously in cover-up mode”.

“I hope they will come forward in the fullness of time, but that will be in a professional, independent context – not in the middle of a cover-up.”

No inquiry means that the public is left uncertain about the actions and word of the NZDF over the Afghan attack, but we are also left uncertain about how much solid evidence Hager has. His book raised a storm but lacked compelling evidence.

It is apparent that Hager knew he didn’t have compelling evidence, that is why he wants an inquiry so much, to find the evidence he thinks is being hidden.

Mr English said the footage of the raid backed up the Defence Force’s position. But he declined to release the video, saying it was “classified”.

“All the evidence is that coalition troops followed the rules of engagement to a degree of care that was pretty impressive,” he said.

Mr English described General Keating as independent, because he was not involved in the operation.

Mr Hager said that was “completely ludicrous”.

“Nobody would accept that from any other government agency and it’s actually an insult to the public to come up with that as an excuse.”

The Government relies on the word of public servants, and information that remains secret, all the time.

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was “laughable” for the Prime Minister to call General Keating independent.

“We’re entitled to be reassured that there is nothing being kept from the New Zealand public and that we can have full confidence in our defence forces.”

An independent inquiry was the only solution, said Mr Little.

That just about seems word for word what Hager is saying.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said Mr English’s assurance was not enough to clear up the uncertainty.

“I’ve got no desire to disrespect the prime minister’s assessment. I respect his judgement. And he’s obviously seen information that other’s haven’t seen. But I think it’s probably important for public credibility to get some of that out into the public arena.”

I think that it would help a lot if some information was made public, but that can genuinely be difficult when military operations are involved.

Hager is obsessed with alleging a cover up, and claims that the public needs to know about it, but does the public actually care much about it?

And how much would an inquiry achieve anything useful?

English (National) opposes cannabis law change

Bill English has confirmed that he and National by association oppose cannabis law reform, speaking to Duncan Garner this morning on Newshub’s morning programme:

NZ doesn’t want ‘marijuana industry’ – English

“We don’t want an official marijuana industry. We’re not going to be legalising it.”

The headline says ‘NZ doesn’t want’ but I think the ‘we’ that English is referring to is the National led Government, which means the National Party opposes any law change.

English is less staunch in his position on medical cannabis.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Prime Minister Bill English said there’s already a “compassionate” and legal route for patients to get cannabis products – if they need them.

“The minister’s just changed the rules so that’s a little bit easier, with the Ministry of Health now approving it instead of each one going to the minister.

“As far as we can see, that’s going to work pretty well and we don’t want to take it any further.”

He fears increasing access to medical products based on cannabis will increase recreational use.

“We just think the long-term damage of large-scale use of marijuana is pretty bad.”

The ‘we’ again I think meaning ‘National’ – or at least a  majority of the National caucus. Younger National MPs like Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop are likely to have a more pragmatic and progressive view.

The minister that English refers to is not a National MP, it is Peter Dunne, who has pushed medical use as far as he probably can within the current laws. And…

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says he would welcome trials of other products here in New Zealand, but our market is too small.

“We need manufacturers with product to say ‘we would like to trial these formulations in New Zealand’, and the sad truth is that for many of those manufacturers they do not see New Zealand as a sufficiently large market to make it worthwhile,” he told The Nation.

“It’s the same story we have for clinical trials generally, but there’s no prohibition for sourcing cannabis for medical trials in New Zealand.”

That’s all he is able to do, promote possibilities under current law.

English and others in National won’t allow any law changes.

It will require either a change of Government or a change of generation in the National caucus to get any cannabis law changes.

Unless Dunne and David Seymour are able to negotiate a coalition deal with National that sorts out a mess of a cannabis situation

More depth to ‘Hit & Run’ reports now

Some pundits and journalists were excitedly demanding immediate action after a quick look at Nicky Hager’s and Jon Stephenson’s ‘Hit & Run’, launched on Tuesday evening.

There are far better reports coming out now that people interested in looking at the issue in more depth are publishing their views.

More investigation from David Fisher: Exclusive interview: NZSAS says civilians were killed in fatal raid, including two by Kiwi sniper fire

What he has found out supports some of the book’s claims but disagrees with some, in particular the claim that it was a revenge raid.

But the soldier’s account also conflicted with claims in the book that the NZSAS were motivated by “revenge” over the death of O’Donnell.

He said the NZSAS soldiers would have been “angry” over the death but “revenge” had no part to play in how they did their jobs.

The soldier said: “SAS boys are a different breed. Everything is a lot more calculated.”

Rather than “revenge”, the Herald was told by the former Governor of the neighbouring province, the raid was to target insurgents who threatened the New Zealand base at Bamyan, about 50km away.

So those who claim that Hager never gets anything wrong may want to reassess that view.

Toby Manhire: Books damning claims demand inquiry

Hager and his co-author, Jon Stephenson, have stressed both these points.

The then prime minister did sign off the raid, which apparently killed six civilians and injured at least 15 more, but there is no claim that he masterminded any coverup.

“I suspect we know far more about what happened than John Key was told,” said Hager.

Some of the conclusion jumpers commenting at The Standard have missed that bit.

Hit and Run is an important book. Whether you admire or viscerally loathe its authors is immaterial to the evidence it documents.

Not all of the allegations are new, but the depth of research and detail are compelling.

Any journalism that heavily depends on unnamed sources should, of course, be subject to scrutiny, even if, as here, they are numerous and corroborated.

Critically, many of the sources would be willing to speak to an appropriate, independent investigation, says Stephenson.

For their sake, for the sake of the NZ Defence Force, whether to censure or vindicate, for the sake of the government, for the sake of respecting international law, for the sake of the dead, and in the public interest, that investigation needs to happen.

Not to do so for fear of creating difficulty for our military bosses or politicians or, even, the Americans, would be wrong.

“We’re not going to be rushed into an inquiry,” was an early response from the prime minister, and that is fair enough, but the case is now urgent and overwhelming.

I prefer time is spent doing things properly rather than jumping to the demands of journalists and activists.

Peter Dunne joins Labour, Greens and NZ First in asking for an inquiry.

Afghanistan Inquiry Now Inevitable – Dunne

UnitedFuture leader Hon Peter Dunne says an inquiry into allegations New Zealand SAS forces were involved in an incident that led to civilian deaths in Afghanistan now seems inevitable.

“In the wake of the comments in the Hagar book ‘Hit and Run’ there has been a rising fog of confusion, about what may or may not have happened.

“Recollections now seem to vary sharply, and I think it is inevitable some form of inquiry will be necessary to clarify and resolve these.

“New Zealanders are rightly proud of the reputation of our SAS and Armed Forces generally, and do not wish to see that diminished, so they deserve open reassurance that our forces have not behaved inappropriately.

“The current saga of claim and counter-claim will not provide that, therefore some form of independent inquiry is appropriate,” Mr Dunne says.

Some meaningful response from the Government seems inevitable, bit according to Legal Beagle Graeme Edgeler it should be an investigation instead. It’s worth reading his whole detailed post – A war crimes inquiry; or why Nicky Hager is wrong.

He concludes:

There is nothing to stop the Government starting an inquiry. There will be some aspects of what has happened that will be able to inquired into without risking prejudice to a Police investigation, but, as is generally the case with coronial inquests, we will need to recognise that not every question of importance can be answered while questions of whether there will be criminal charges remain unanswered.

In New Zealand, such investigations are a matter for the Police, and decisions over whether to prosecute (in the High Court) are ultimately for the Solicitor-General or Crown Prosecutors. Alternatively, allegations against soldiers may be a matter for the Military Police, leading the possibility of trial at a Court Martial. Neither will have much experience investigating war crimes. In the circumstances, I think the Police are better placed in the case.

There are sometimes reasons to prefer a Court Martial. For example, if the result of the investigation is that there is insufficient evidence to file war crimes charges, but that charges under the Armed Forces Discipline Act for failure to comply with the rules of engagement could be laid against some involved, this could only be done at a Court Martial. However, that is not possible here. There is a time limit for such charges to be brought to Court Martial, and it has well passed. A Police investigation would likely involve assistance from Military Police, and Crown Lawyers in any event.

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson have authored a book alleging war crimes; they’re not necessarily certain who, but the describe events that could amount to war crimes committed by New Zealanders. This has consequences.

When confronted with allegations of war crimes, New Zealand is obliged not just to find out what happened, but to investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute. But it would be wrong to pursue an inquiry that may prejudice the rights of those now under suspicion of committing war crimes. Commissions of inquiry do not investigate crimes. This is the job of the Police.

Where Police fail to investigate an alleged war crime, New Zealand has agreed, with the approval of Parliament, that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court can step in instead. We should not let that happen.

What to do about obesity?

The obvious answer to what to do about obesity is to eat less and to eat better foods. But many people obviously have difficulty with this, to the extent that obesity is being called an epidemic. There have been claims that due to obesity the trend of increasing life expectancy will reverse.

Stuff: For our Food for Thought series, we asked each party currently represented in Parliament how to improve Kiwis’ diets.

David Seymour: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor

One in three Kiwis are obese.

New Zealand’s biggest problem is our ease of access to cheap, delicious, high-calorie food. We’re a victim of our own success.

The strange reality of obesity is that it’s an epidemic of choice.

The problems start when kids are affected, when the poorest communities suffer disproportionately, and when healthy taxpayers have to fork out for other people’s heart surgeries.

Some suggest removing GST from fruit and veges.

Another popular idea is advertising restrictions.

And that brings us to the real issue: shielding people from real-world decisions sends them the message that they are dumb, and government is smart. “Don’t take responsibility for yourself, or your kids. Nanny state will handle that.”

So what can politicians do?

ACT’s solution is the same as our solution to other social problems: empowering people with greater opportunity. That includes, but is not limited to, a useful education, an engaging job in a growing economy, and a realistic shot at a place of your own for every single New Zealander.

There is no “solution”. There could and should be more done to reduce the problems of poor health due to overeating. But it is a very very difficult thing to deal with in practice. Going cold turkey isn’t an option.

Peter Dunne: Education the key to improving Kiwis’ food habits

The answer to attaining healthier eating habits is not to have the Government become the parent of our nation’s parents. Rather, UnitedFuture endorses education as the pathway to empowering New Zealand consumers to make choices that are the best for their and their family’s circumstances.

UnitedFuture has three key policy areas we want to see changes to ensure that information is both freely available and publicised:

* We would develop a national fund to sponsor programmes to promote better nutrition, particularly for children and youth;

* We would use the tools of Government to facilitate public education campaigns that emphasise the importance of nutrition and exercise and the consequences of poor nutrition, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature aging;

* We would support stronger consumer information rules by encouraging more information about food products to be published that are easily accessible by consumers (such as calorie count);

UnitedFuture has confidence in New Zealanders that they can make decisions that are right for them and their families when they are equipped with full information.

I see two major problems.

How do you educate the many people who are beyond school age? Compulsory night classes? Teaching kids at school is one possibility but for many school age is already too late, eating habits have already been established.

And education and knowledge doesn’t stop people from eating too much and it doesn’t stop people from making poor choices about what food they eat.

Many people know full well that scoffing junk food and gutsing too much is not good for their physical or mental health – depression and lack of self worth is a major factor in overeating, and it has a snowball effect as people approach the shape of a snowball.

Can growing obesity be stemmed? I really don’t know what would be effective.

It is very difficult to have any success telling someone not to eat as much.


After writing this I found more:

Jonathan Coleman, National: Tackling obesity is a priority for the Government
David Clark, Labour: Food labelling flaws make healthy eating hard for Kiwis
Julie Anne Genter, Green Party: Government must help kids, not food corporations to tackle obesity
Barbara Stewart, NZ First: Healthy eating a struggle for Kiwis
David Seymour, ACT: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor
* The Maori Party did not take up our invitation to participate

Greens not standing candidate in Ohariu

There have been reports and claims for months that the Greens would do a deal with Labour in the Ohariu electorate to improve Labour’s chances of winning the electorate.

A few days ago Labour confirmed that Greg O’Connor would stand for them – something also predicted months ago. Now the Greens say they won’t stand a candidate in Ohariu to try to increase the chances of changing the government, but they say they will still campaign for their party vote in Ohariu without a candidate.

One News from 29 November 2016

Good morning, @avancenz joins us soon with exclusive details of backroom deals between Labour and the Greens ahead of next year’s election

‘In Nelson the Greens feel like they can pick up a lot of votes’ @avancenz on backroom deals between Labour and Greens.

Green’s won’t stand a candidate in Ohariu, paving the way for a Labour candidate to battle with United Future’s Peter Dunne.

Green’s co-leader Metiria Turei will run in Te Tai Tonga, Labour candidate Rino Tirikatene told by party not to run.

See also: Exclusive: The backroom deals that Labour and the Greens are working on ahead of 2017 election

This has now been confirmed as an election strategy by the Greens.

Stuff: Greens step aside in Ohariu to help Labour’s O’Connor – despite misgivings

The Greens have dropped any plans to run a candidate in the Ohariu seat in a move aimed at giving Labour’s Greg O’Connor a better chance of winning the marginal seat – despite Green misgivings about his past views.

Green co-leader James Shaw said the decision was taken in the interests of changing the Government, which was the party’s  priority.

“We have been very clear with our supporters and the public about that since we signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Labour last year,” he said.

“Not standing in Ohariu increases the chances that we will be in a position to change the Government in September – it’s as simple as that.’

But in a statement released to Stuff confirming the decision Shaw made no comment about O’Connor himself.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has said in the past she does not agree with many of his stances.

Principles can become flexible when politicians and parties seek power.

The call was made “after many discussions” in the party, which would still campaign strongly for the party vote in Ohariu.

Greens have operated on the basis of using electorate candidates to campaign for their party vote. Without a candidate they will still be able to advertise for their party and put up party billboards, but they won’t have a candidate at campaign meetings or feature in candidate based media coverage.

The 2014 Green candidate Tane Woodley won 2764 votes compared to 13,569 for Dunne and 12,859 for Labour’s Virginia Andersen. National’s Brett Hudson won 6120 votes, with many National supporters swinging in behind Dunne.

National won 50.4 per cent of the party vote in Ohariu against 23.5 per cent for Labour, 15.07 per cent for the Greens and just 0.73 per cent for Dunne’s United Future.

It will be interesting to see how National deals with Ohariu now.

O’Connor for Labour for Ohariu

 

Greg O’Connor has been confirmed as Labour candidate for Ohariu.

He could start by getting a better photo.

He will stand against Peter Dunne, who won the seat by a meagre 800 votes in 2014 from ‘the very impressive Ginny Andersen’ who was regarded as ‘a rising star’ by ex party secretary Mike Smith. Andersen has switched to Hutt South, hoping to replace Trevor Mallard who won by a close margin last election.

The outcome may depend a lot on what National and Greens do, but will also be an interesting contest between O’Connor and Dunne, who may appeal to similar demographics.