Peter Dunne on recreational cannabis regulation

On Q+A last night peter Dunne was asked where he now stands on cannabis use and law.

Corin Dann: You’ve been on top of this issue for many years, as a Minister, under a lot of pressure from both sides. Where do you sit now personally on the issue of cannabis?

Peter Dunne: I’ve set my view out probably pretty clearly over the last two or three years.

I think we can move to to treat cannabis for recreational purposes in a regulated market, where we determine the level of risk, where we determine how it’s to be sold, to whom it’s to be sold, and we can have a limited amount of personal cultivation and personal manufacture, pretty akin to the market we have now for tobacco actually.

It keeps it under tight control and the government…

Corin Dann: R18…

Peter Dunne: no advertising, price set by the state effectively…

Corin Dann: It’s interesting that you;ve reached that position. Were you there ten years ago?

Peter Dunne: probably not ten years ago but i think over the last five years I’ve moved to that.

But can I just say one thing. For the referendum to be effective you’ve got to have that model effectively set up to go once the referendum result occurs, a bit like we did when MMP came in. If the vote was yes, here’s what happens. If you just left it as an open ended question you’ll see more of what we saw this evening and no progress.

That’s what Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is proposing. See Q+A: Should NZ legalise recreational cannabis?

Peter Dunne: …that brings you back to how this whole process is structured. I don’t think the Government’s got it’s head properly around this at the moment.

If you’re going to have a referendum which is going to be definitive in some way, then you need to have a proper considered period of education and information dealing with all of these issues beforehand.

Probably the best part of a year actually, which means if you’re going to have the referendum you’d probably want to have it at the latter part of next year clear of local body elections next October, and well before the general election.

I think they’re a way behind the 8 ball on that frankly.

That’s how it appears to me. Last week Minister of Police spoke of treating drugs as a health issue, Jacinda Ardern has said that in the past, but it appears to be all talk and little action apart from Swarbrick doing her best to push things along.

Full panel discussion:

Dunne “more than extremely stunned” by National’s ‘war on drugs’ reversal

After Donald Trump promoted continuing the ‘war on drugs’ Simon Bridges said that a National-led government would sign up to it. Peter Dunne, a minister in the last National-led government, says that he is “more than extremely stunned” by this.

On Monday:  National would sign up to international drug effort

A National-led Government would sign up to the latest international push to tackle drugs, overturning the Labour-led Government’s decision not to, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.

“Combatting the manufacture and supply of drugs requires governments and law enforcement agencies from right around the world to work together. And we must share ideas about how to tackle addiction and drug use.

“That’s why the Prime Minister’s decision not to sign New Zealand up to the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem at the UN this week, distancing New Zealand from those international efforts, is concerning.

“More than 120 countries including some of our closest partners from Australia to the US, the UK and Canada have signalled their intention to do their part.

“The Prime Minister’s excuse for not signing up, that the Government is taking ‘a health approach’ isn’t good enough. The strategy calls for countries to do more to address addiction and provide more treatment as well as working more closely together to clamp down on manufacturing and supply.

“Taken together, that’s how we will deal with the drug problem.

“But by distancing New Zealand from that work the Prime Minister risks making New Zealand an easy target and sending the message that her Government is soft on crime and drug dealers.

“This is the latest example of this Government’s soft-on-crime approach. It’s failing to act quickly on synthetic cannabis which continues to become a bigger issue and it’s promising to make it harder for people to be sent to prison and easier for them to get out.

“National will sign up to the agreement, we will support those with drug and alcohol issues but we will also hold those who peddle these drugs to account. The Prime Minister needs to properly explain why she won’t.”

National, particularly Judith Collins but increasingly Bridges, have been running a ‘soft on crime’ campaign against the Government, and Bridges has run this line again here.

Peter Dunne’s response (The Spinoff): I am stunned by National’s somersault in backing Trump’s ‘war on drugs’

Just two years ago I had the privilege as then associate minister of health of addressing the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. That was while the previous National-led government was in office.

In my address I made the following comments:

“Last year at CND 58, I spoke of the importance of three fundamental pillars of drug policy – Proportion, Compassion and Innovation. New Zealand has woven these principles throughout its approach to addressing drug issues, including them as central tenets in its recently launched 2015 National Drug Policy. But perhaps there is a fourth pillar that is missing – boldness. Incremental movement, if any, has been the norm for drug policy development for as long as I can remember – and the movement has not always been forward. As encouraging as the shift has been, the fact is that compared to the global narcotic industries, we are moving at a glacial pace, hamstrung by an outdated overly punitive approach.”

These comments, as noted above, were all consistent with New Zealand’s National Drug Policy adopted by the Cabinet after much debate in 2015. The policy and the speech, and others I gave at the annual UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs meetings through to 2017 made it clear New Zealand rejected the “war on drugs” rhetoric and approach that had dominated international drug policy for too long, in favour of the more compassionate, health centred approach set out in the National Drug Policy.

I am delighted that the prime minister has repeated these messages and confirmed in reality the direction of the National Drug Policy in her address to the UN General Assembly this week, and that she has rejected outright the backward focusing approach of the president of the United States to try to reignite the “war on drugs” when most countries have been looking to move on from that.

That refers to Jacinda Ardern’s address.

However, I am more than extremely stunned that the National Party, which could have claimed the high ground and pointed out she was just copying policy already in place, has instead done a complete somersault on its previous position and apparently now supports the Trump proposition.

It is hard to find – let alone justify – a credible reason for this about-face. Certainly the few public statements I have seen go little beyond the uninformed and the platitudinous. So it becomes difficult to believe that the driving principle behind this decision is anything but a perverse determination to take a different view from Labour, whatever that view might be, and no matter what your own government’s record on the matter. It is a very dark day for National’s ongoing credibility on this issue.

It all seems a far cry from when a New Zealand government minister could stand before the UN General Assembly just two short years ago, and say that our country believed that “responsible regulation is the key to reducing drug-related harm and achieving long-term success in drug control approaches.”

The bipartisan focus on drugs as a health issue seems to have been tossed aside as a political inconvenience, especially when knee jerk opposition for the sake of it is so much easier. That is to National’s ongoing shame.

When in Government National dragged the chain badly on addressing out of control drug problems, but this is a backward step even by their standards.

Hopefully decent change will happen before national get back into government, but Ardern and Labour have a lot of stepping up to do on this, and converting some of their rhetoric into real changes to how we deal with drug problems. So far they haven’t even had the guts to deal with cannabis apart from dabbling on medical cannabis use.

For someone who claims to lead a progressive government the progress on drug law reform is very disappointing so far. If Labour actually got something meaningful done they would put Bridges and national to shame.

For and against a CGT and Michael Cullen interview on the Nation

Michael Cullen, ex finance minister and now chairman of the Tax Working Group, will be interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning at 9:30m am (repeated Sunday morning 10 am).

Following the release of the Tax Working Group’s interim report, Simon Shepherd sits down with its chairman Sir Michael Cullen to look at how tax changes could increase income equality and help the environment.

Future of Tax: Interim Report (PDF)

The contentious hobbled CGT should be a talking point.

Stuff:  Ministers issue fresh request to Tax Working Group to ‘consider inequality’

The Government has given the Tax Working Group a prod along after it stopped short of reaching a recommendation on the merits of a broad-based capital gains tax in its interim report.

It set out two models for what a broad-based tax on capital gains could look like in its interim report published on Thursday.

Chairman Sir Michael Cullen said “the key issue” it had looked at was tax on capital income, but said it was not a “no brainer”.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash immediately released a letter they had sent to the TWG.

The letter asked the TWG to “consider a package or packages of measures which reduces inequality, so that New Zealand better reflects the OECD average whilst increasing both fairness across the tax system and housing affordability”.

The ministers also asked the TWG to examine which of two models for taxing capital gains that the TWG considered “would be best to ensure the tax system was … fair and balanced”.

A source close to the TWG said the letter sent “a strong signal” about the Government’s desire for a broader capital gains tax.

Max Rushbrooke for a CGT and pro-equality tax changes: Tax report highlights NZ’s inequality issues

Though it may not have settled on an answer yet, yesterday’s interim report by the Tax Working Group was crystal clear about the problem: we have a tax system that does very little to enhance fairness and reduce inequality.

The need to restore fairness runs like a silver thread throughout the working group’s analysis. Hence one of its preferred options is to tax nearly all the gains that people make from selling assets.

…it would also help reduce inequality, because these so-called capital gains will be largely the preserve of the very well-off. Indeed, many of these people have become adept at disguising their income as capital gains in order to avoid paying tax.

There are, of course, some downsides to introducing a thorough tax on capital gains. It creates more reporting requirements, and could encourage people to hold on to assets for longer. But these seem like minor problems when set against its major benefits.

Peter Dunne is against it: It’s time to bury the capital gains tax

The spectre of a capital gains tax on residential property sales and other substantial assets has loomed large over the New Zealand tax scene for about fifty years now.

Government is a little different, but the outcome seems likely to be the same. While this time the Government has left open the possibility of a capital gains tax, it is the Tax Working Party that looks likely to rule it out, saying the issue is ultimately a political one. And, given the Government’s commitment not to introduce such a tax before it gets a specific renewed electoral mandate, the prospects look as distant as ever. Very few governments win elections promising to introduce more taxes.

All of which raises the question as to why the capital gains issue keeps getting raised, especially since the arguments in favour from both a revenue gathering and efficiency perspective are not that strong.

Advice I received when Minister of Revenue was that it could be over a decade from the time of introducing a broader based capital gains tax until it produced any significant revenue gain for the Government.

Also, it has been long accepted that the family home would have to be exempted from any such regime, further diminishing its likely impact. Even in the rental sector, the impact would likely be negative for tenants, with landlords boosting rents to offset any negative tax impact when those properties are sold.

… the application of a capital gains tax to other substantial items would be just as fraught, as items will appreciate over time at different rates, while some will depreciate. The administration of such a tax will impose additional strains and complexities on an already struggling tax system for not much revenue gain.

When tax policy moves too far into the area of engineering income redistribution or social equity complicated issues invariably arise at the margins, which the tax system, by virtue of its blanket approach, is not well designed to cope with.

All of which means that the Government would do far better to focus its ongoing attention on ensuring that the greatest amount possible of all taxes currently levied is collected before embarking on the imposition of new or additional taxes.

For all these reasons it is time to bury the capital gains tax argument for good, and focus afresh on tax policy that works, rather than just feels good.

 

UPDATE:


Audrey Young: Capital gains tax defining issue for Labour, NZ First

Tax could make or break Government at the next election. Illustration / Guy Body

One thing is clear after this week’s tax report – tax could make or break the Government at the next election, and a capital gains tax (CGT) will be a defining issue for the relationship between Labour and New Zealand First.

The tax blunder last time taught Jacinda Ardern and then finance spokesman Grant Robertson that the “how” of progressing a policy is as important as the “what”.

Capital gains tax has been an integral part of the post-Clark Labour story. In a sense, Robertson owes his job as Finance Minister to it.

It may be that New Zealand First sees CGT as such a defining issue for Labour that it is obliged to support it as an article of good faith.

Both parties will also be mindful of the integrating effect of the policy on the Coalition.

Because the capital gains tax would not take effect until after the election, it would bind the Coalition partners, Labour and New Zealand First, closer together and require Peters and Ardern to campaign jointly under their tax policy.

That will fundamentally change the dynamics of the next election, whatever the merits and disadvantages of a capital gains tax itself.

 

 

Disgraceful lack of action from David Clark and Labour on drug crisis

The drug abuse crisis continues to hit the headlines,with ongoing and growing problems, more and more deaths, and the Labour-led Government continues to do bugger all if that.

The wellbeing and lives of many people are at risk, this should be getting urgent attention, but the Labour-led government looks as bad as National was in being to gutless to address the problems.

Yesterday from Stuff:  Warning issued over synthetic cannabis use after eight people hospitalised

At least three people have been admitted to intensive care and others treated within 24 hours in Christchurch after using synthetic cannabis.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) issued a warning about the illegal drug after a rush of people suffering from potentially severe synthetic cannabis toxicity ended up in Christchurch Hospital.

Emergency medicine specialist Paul Gee said there had been a noticeable increase in people needing emergency help due to the side effects of synthetic cannabis use.

Eight people have been treated in Christchurch over the last 24 hours, with three having to be admitted to the intensive care unit.

Also Synthetic cannabis users gambling with their lives after a ‘bad batch’

Synthetic cannabis users are gambling with their lives, a health official warns following a spate of hospitalisations in Christchurch.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) issued a warning on Thursday evening about the illegal drug after a rush of people suffering from potentially severe synthetic cannabis toxicity ended up in Christchurch Hospital.

As a Minister in the National-led Government Peter Dunne copped a lot of flak for dysfunctional drug laws and growing drug abuse problems, especially the growing use of new drugs often inaccurately referred to as synthetic cannabis.

It suited National to allow the blame to fall on Dunne while they did virtually nothing to deal with obvious drug law problems and growing use of dangerous drugs. And there has been many ignorant attacks on Dunne.

On 1 News yesterday Dunne suggested a rethink on how we deal with natural cannabis: Legalising recreational cannabis could stem NZ’s epidemic of ‘zombie drug’ deaths, Peter Dunne says

Synthetic cannabis has killed more than 40 people in New Zealand since June last year, a massive jump from the previous five years, the coroner recently reported.

One way to serve a blow to the market for the so called zombie-drug in New Zealand would be to legalise recreational cannabis, former MP and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today on TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

But the suggestion came with a caveat.

“It would certainly remove some of the incentive for people to try some of these substances,” he said. “But…some of these (synthetic drugs) are so potent and so powerful that people may well feel they’ll get a better high from these rather than the real product.

“While on the face of it the answer would be yes (to marijuana legalisation), I don’t think it’s necessarily that simple.”

“I don’t think we ever anticipated we’d get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm,” NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS yesterday.

So what is the current Government doing about it? very little as far as I’m aware. Health Minister David Clark seems as reluctant as National was to address the problem, and most of the Labour-led Government seem to be gutless – the exception is Green MP Chloe Swarbrick who is working hard to try to progress long overdue drug law reforms.

The only official press release from David Clark since becoming Minister was this last December: Medicinal cannabis to ease suffering. Labour have been very disappointing in their handling even of medicinal cannabis.

Nothing from Clark mentioning ‘synthetic’. What the hell is he doing apart from nothing?

NZ Herald (31 July 2018): Health Minister David Clark in favour of liberalising drug laws

Health Minister David Clark is personally in favour of more liberal drug laws because prohibition has not worked in the past.

But Clark would not commit to abiding by the result of any referendum on loosening laws around cannabis use, saying he preferred to wait for advice from his colleagues.

“I think it’s highly likely that that’s the course we would take … all I’ve said is I want to wait for advice.

“I haven’t had a conversation with colleagues about how that referendum’s going to be framed and what question we’re going to be asking the public.

“Broadly, I favour at a more personal level, more liberal drug laws because I think in the world when prohibition has been tried, it hasn’t worked.”

We have multiple drug crises, with both synthetics and P (methamphetamine). Natural cannabis is far less dangerous, but it is getting more expensive and harder to obtain because drug pushers make more money out of getting people addicted to P and synthetic drugs. They have no trouble finding more victims to replace those who die.

National’s lack of action on drug abuse and drug laws was extremely disappointing.

Clark and Labour are acting just as poorly. This is disgraceful.

GDP and Tax Working Group announcements today

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Prime Minister’s mix-up could have led to a much more brutal economics lesson

Jacinda Ardern’s confusion over two sets of figures is understandable, given the volume of material crossing her desk, as well as never-ending negotiations with her governing partners.

But with her control of the Government coming under scrutiny, it was exactly the kind of simple mistake she did not need.

On Tuesday, Ardern was asked a clear and straightforward question about her expectations for “the GDP numbers on Thursday”, economic growth figures due out in two days

Although her answer hinted that she and host Mike Hosking were not exactly on the same page, she acknowledged “the GDP numbers” – listeners would probably believe she was giving a hint that the figures were good. “I’m pretty pleased.”

Instead, she was talking about the Crown’s financial statements – the Government’s books – which are not due to be released for about three weeks, and which few people outside Parliament or bond trading circles care much about.

To some it will seem like a meaningless mistake, but the integrity of market-sensitive information is critical to New Zealand’s reputation as a transparent economy.

No-one gets the inside word, or at least, no-one should, even though lots of people want it. Ardern’s comments left the impression that she not only knew, but that she had not kept the secret.

Whatever the economic growth figures do show this week, they will almost certainly move the currency and other parts of the financial markets, amid speculation that new Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr is prepared to cut interest rates if the economy slows.

The speed with which Ardern’s office acknowledged the mistake underlines how important it was that the comments were not amplified without clarification.

Peter Dunne: It’s time to bury the capital gains tax

All of which raises the question as to why the capital gains issue keeps getting raised, especially since the arguments in favour from both a revenue gathering and efficiency perspective are not that strong.

After all, given both the long and variable lead times involved between the purchase and sale of taxable assets, a comprehensive capital gains tax is at best likely to be a somewhat unreliable and unpredictable contributor to annual revenues. Advice I received when Minister of Revenue was that it could be over a decade from the time of introducing a broader based capital gains tax until it produced any significant revenue gain for the Government.

Also, it has been long accepted that the family home would have to be exempted from any such regime, further diminishing its likely impact. Even in the rental sector, the impact would likely be negative for tenants, with landlords boosting rents to offset any negative tax impact when those properties are sold.

 

National “too scared” to address cannabis issues

Peter Dunne has said that National were ‘too scared” to address dysfunctional cannabis and drug laws – and Labour seem to be barely better.

It’s widely known that cannabis law (and drug laws generally) are not effective and create more problems than they solve. However successive governments have failed to deal with them.

As Associate Health Minister under the previous National led Government Peter Dunne bore the brunt of political criticism over cannabis and other drug law failures, but he has become increasingly critical of the role the National Party played.

Newshub:  National ‘too scared’ for cannabis reform while in Govt – Peter Dunne

Former leader of United Future, Peter Dunne has called out the National Party for only putting forward a medicinal cannabis bill once they were ‘in the safety’ of opposition.

“In government they were frankly too scared – they were really paranoid about the potential impact any change in this area…would have on their rural and provincial support base. They didn’t want to be seen as soft on these things. That was their prevailing mindset.

“I am frustrated that now they’re in the comfort of opposition, the impotence of opposition, they think this is a good course of action to take,” he told Newshub Nation on Friday.

I believe Dunne on this.

I was approached in 2011 to stand as a candidate for United Future. It was always going to be an extremely long shot, but it gave me a great perspective of politics and our democratic system.

One condition for standing was that if I won the equivalent of political lotto (the odds were probably greater) I would be able to promote cannabis law reform. Dunne was happy with this.

I had contact with him over the years, and he always expressed a willingness to try to deal with drug law issues, and he showed frustration that he was being limited by National.

Dunne was used by National as a scapegoat to take attention away from their own gutlessness in avoiding drug law reform.

Labour haven’t been much better. They effectively trashed Chlöe Swarbrick’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill when it went before Parliament earlier this year – see Chloe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis bill fails at first reading.

Also Chloe Swarbrick: MPs out of touch over medicinal marijuana (RNZ are out of touch using the term marijuana):

During the first reading Ms Swarbrick told Parliament something had to change.

“You do not find a solution to a problem by beating it with a blunt and broken instrument.

“The law here is broken and good, kind otherwise law-abiding people are risking jail to help their neighbours and those in their community currently experiencing unnecessary suffering.”

Ms Swarbrick urged National MPs who wanted to support her bill to do so – despite the official party line being to oppose it.

“I would like to invite any National Party MPs who support this to stick their neck out and to be on the right side of history tonight – it will not pass without you votes.”

On Tuesday, National MP Chris Bishop said he would be backing the bill, but voted against it.

Nikki Kaye had been given dispensation to vote for it but also ended up opposing it.

Now Labour have put up their own inferior and flawed alternative.

National and NZ First were the main culprits in blocking this bill, but eight Labour MPs also voted against it. Parliament failed to reflect strong public opinion (in one poll 78%) who supported cannabis law reform.

Current Health Minister David Clark has taken the responsibility for medicinal cannabis law has failed to show leadership on this, as has Jacinda Ardern.

It reflects poorly on National and Labour that the most prominent champion of cannabis law reform is first term *and the youngest) MP Swarbrick to try to represent public wishes on this.

Haumaha mess up-murks

Controversy over the appointment of Wally Hauhama as deputy police commissioner has up-murked even more.

NZH: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ‘hugely frustrated’ with ‘drip feed’ of information after promotion of Wally Haumaha

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is “hugely frustrated” information which should have been considered before Wally Haumaha was promoted to deputy police commissioner is being “drip fed” after the appointment was made.

“I’m hugely frustrated to be in a situation where an appointment has been made and now we’re having information being drip fed out, which should have been made available at the time of the appointment. That’s why we’re undertaking this work,” said Ardern, referring to the inquiry.

She has come back onto the job after the fuse was lit on this stink bomb left behind by Winston Peters, who has been implicated in questions over the appointment and NZ First connections with Haumaha.

More murk yesterday:

Her comments came after an ongoing Herald investigation into the promotion today revealed three women working on a joint project walked out of Police National Headquarters because of Haumaha’s alleged bullying towards them.

The policy analysts – two from the Justice Ministry, one from Corrections – were based at PNHQ in Wellington working in the Māori, Pacific, Ethnic Services division run by Haumaha, a superintendent at the time.

They were excited to be working on the cross-sector project, which started in October 2015, to improve “justice outcomes” for Māori, who are over-represented in arrest statistics and the prison population.

A number of alleged verbal bullying incidents, including a particularly heated exchange in which one of Haumaha’s senior staff intervened, contributed to the three women leaving PNHQ in June 2016 feeling “devalued and disillusioned”.

The three women told their managers, did not return to PNHQ, and continued working on the project from the Justice Ministry offices.

And:

The inquiry into Haumaha’s appointment was announced the day the Herald revealed comments he made during Operation Austin, an investigation into historic police rape allegations made by Louise Nicholas.

He described his friends Brad Shipton as a “softie” and Bob Schollum as a “legend” with women, while one officer told the 2004 investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha described Nicholas’ allegations as “a nonsense”.

While Haumaha has apologised, Police Minister Stuart Nash said he was unaware of the “deeply disappointing” comments when he gave Haumaha’s name to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the deputy commissioner role.

Under questioning in Parliament by National MP Chris Bishop yesterday, Nash also confirmed the “Wally” he mentioned in Facebook video post about lifting weights was Haumaha.

“Peeni Henare, Wally and Alf – Just calling out those who doubted. All in the name of trying to keep the ageing body in some sort of shape. Hard on a parliamentary diet,” Nash posted in April, referring to fellow MPs and Haumaha.

Nash said he did not lift weights with Haumaha and they did not have a personal relationship.

National MP Chris Bishop has been keeping the pressure on the Government over the appointment.

The comment was “odd”, said Chris Bishop.

“I certainly think it’s strange you’ve got the Minister calling out on social media someone who is now the Deputy Commissioner of Police.”

Also from Bishop:

From RNZ: Government confidence in Wally Haumaha wavers

Senior government ministers are not falling over themselves to back Mr Haumaha. Police Minister Stuart Nash, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern all gave similar answers to the question of whether they had confidence in him.

Also Haumaha ‘disrespects and bullies women’ – Louise Nicholas

Louise Nicholas says several women have approached her over the years complaining about Wally Haumaha’s attitude towards women and his bullying behaviour.

Ms Nicholas said there wasn’t a lot of information given to her at the time but she wasn’t surprised that the women were saying this was what Mr Haumaha was like.

“One in particular said to me ‘how the hell did he get to where he is with the way he treats women, it’s not right’.”

The women told Ms Nicholas that Mr Haumaha was a bully.

“They felt they weren’t listened to, they were in positions of doing the job they were employed to do, if I can put it that way, and yet it didn’t matter what they were saying or doing, it was kind of like he was slam dunking them, he wasn’t listening to them.”

She hopes the inquiry is wide enough to cover these concerns.

“Wally Haumaha has done amazing work in his capacity as iwi liaison, we can’t take that away from him. My concern, and the concern of other women has been that he disrespects and bullies women, that is what’s come to my attention and that is what I know.”

Ms Nicholas said she warned the executive when they were looking to appoint Mr Haumaha.

“I said ‘it’s going to come back and bite you in the arse, it’s something you should not be doing’.”

The Government arse is getting a bit of a biting over this.

The inquiry should address most of these concerns, but first a new inquiry needs to be appointed.

Ardern and her Government should be checking things very carefully before making that appointment.

‘Synthetic cannabis’ crisis requires urgent action

Synthetic drugs, inaccurately referred to as ‘synthetic cannabis’, have been causing major problems for years. The National government got spooked by bad publicity and neutered a ground breaking way of dealing with them in 2013  – Psychoactive Substances Bill a ‘game-changer’ but National lost the plot after some adverse publicity.

But these drugs are still a major problem – in part because of Parliament’s failure to address the ongoing failure of current drug laws, especially for cannabis which is far safer than synthetics.

National have tried to address things through a Member’s bill, but this has been slammed: ‘Naive nonsense’ – Peter Dunne slams Simeon Brown’s bill increasing synthetic cannabis penalties, saying it just won’t work

Former Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has slammed a member’s Bill proposing to increase penalties for dealing synthetic drugs, saying penalties simply will not solve the problem.

Numerous deaths, especially in the Auckland region, were attributed to deadly batches of synthetic drugs last year.

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown’s Bill, which would amend the Psychoactive Drugs Act 2013, would increase the penalty for dealing the substances from two years in prison to 8 years, and has passed its first reading.

National’s Mr Brown wrote that “this Bill is necessary in order to protect our communities and young people from these harmful drugs, to deter those who are supplying them into the market, and to give Police stronger powers to crack down on suppliers”.

Mr Dunne, speaking this morning with TVNZ 1’s Breakfast called Mr Brown’s Bill “naive nonsense” and put it down to being an “easy win” for him.

“It’s been the easy one over the years – make the penalties tougher, hit those who are supplying,” Mr Dunne said.

“There is a case for changing the penalties, because they are a bit out of line with the Misuse of Drugs Act, but to suggest that is the answer is simply naive nonsense.”

Mr Dunne said synthetic drugs were under control in 2013, but parliament had backtracked due to “moral panic” from the public about the drugs.

“These drugs had actually been on the market for years – we’d brought them under control,” he said.

“Parliament then backtracked and decided to change the law and the consequence of that, plus the unrelated but pretty important issue of a ban on animal testing of these substances, meant the law has been stymied for the last four years and the market’s gone underground.

“The only way to get on top of it is to go back to what the Psychoactive Substances Act was all about – have products tested for the level of risk and sold properly through regulated stores.”

Mr Dunne said increasing penalties would  be popular with Mr Brown’s constituents, but it would not solve the problem.

“The problem is, because this market is underground and is expanding, we’ve lost control of it.

RNZ:  Govt departments urged to find solution on synthetic cannabis

Government agencies have been asked to urgently find ways to reduce the harm caused by synthetic cannabis.

Figures from the Coroner show 40 to 45 people died in the year to June because of synthetic cannabis, compared with two deaths in the previous five years.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said the ministers of health, justice, police and customs would seek advice from their agencies and put their heads together to find the best solution.

“There has been a lot of work on this in the past but I think we have to be honest in that we haven’t come up with the kind of solutions which have seen a turnaround or a victory against the people who are peddling this stuff.”

Mr Peters would not rule out including part of National Party MP Simeon Brown’s bill, which would increase the maximum jail sentence for selling or supplying synthetic drugs from two years to eight.

“The police say that that would not work.”

RNZ:  Synthetic cannabis crisis: ‘They are looking for help now on the ground’ – Drug Foundation

The Drug Foundation wants the government to come up with a practical response to the synthetic cannabis crisis, not a bureaucratic one.

Executive director of the Drug Foundation Ross Bell said his fear was that officials would look at policy responses or suggest tougher penalties – neither of which was a solution.

“We need action on the ground now, if you see a lot of the community voices, the parents who have suffered tragedy here, they’re not looking for policy responses, they’re not looking for tougher penalties, they are are looking for help now on the ground.”

Mr Bell said there were practical things that government agencies could be doing now, or should have been doing last year in response to this.

He said part of that was sharing information much more quickly.

“So that St John Ambulance for example, knows what the hell is going on, getting resources on the ground, helping those communities that are experiencing these issues, getting resources there around harm reduction, drug treatment and making sure people who need help don’t have to sit on a waiting list for so long.”

Mr Peters said it couldn’t be denied that governments had tried and failed to address the issues around synthetic cannabis.

“We have to look at what we’ve been talking about in the past and reviewing in the past, and with a multiplicity of agencies set out to provide some serious solutions and as fast as possible.”

But continuing to fail to deal with laws and policing related to natural cannabis is  apart of the problem.

Winston’s insistence of a referendum won’t cut it – it needs urgent and decisive action from those in power in Parliament.

2/2 The challenge now is to make that Act work as intended, not waste time reinventing the wheel while people die

IRD advised against good looking racehorse tax break

IRD advised against giving tax breaks to the race horse breeding industry nine years ago, as they did recently, this time warning it could cost ten times what Winston Peters has suggested. But the Government went ahead with the only tax cut included in this year’s budget.

Stuff: Officials warned against racing tax breaks

Inland Revenue officials have warned against tax breaks for the racing industry, saying they could cost the Crown up to $40 million in lost revenue – but the Government is proceeding regardless

NZ First and its leader Winston Peters had been backed at the election by prominent racing industry figures, who demanded those bloodstock tax breaks, as well as an all-weather track and control of the NZ Racing Board.

Peters’ policy was a big win for the racing industry, because they had failed to convince the previous National Government to implement the tax relief. Inland Revenue documents seen by Stuff warn of the potential for race horse owners to game the system.

Officials saw no need for tax relief to the industry, but worked on tax rule changes with tighter restrictions. But that policy was dismissed by industry players just before the election.

Peters’ policy allows tax deductions for an investor who buys a race-horse and declares an “intention to breed for profit.” He said it would cost $4.8m.  He’d previously tried to introduce the deductions when racing minister in the previous Helen Clark government.

Details of Peters’ new policy are vague. But a strikingly similar proposal was advanced by the Racing Board last year. Officials cautioned against it because the deductions could be claimed even if a breeding business never eventuated.  The Racing Board believed the policy would cost around $5 million a year.

IRD didn’t accept that figure and put the cost at around $40 million a year because it had the potential to apply to an extra 7000 horses a year.

My mother loved horses and every one of them looked good to her. It wouldn’t be hard to find someone who has an eye for good looking horses – which could be any that apply for the tax break.

I don’t know where the ‘7,000 horse a year’ come from – NZ Racing: “In 2015-16, the industry produced 3500 foals and exported 1700 horses”.

Stuff;

Former Revenue Minister Judith Collins confirmed she couldn’t reach agreement with the Racing Board. She said a 2013 court case involving IRD and a racing syndicate, known as Drummond vs the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, made it difficult to implement the tax breaks that the industry was asking for.

“I wouldn’t have or couldn’t have opened up a complete change in policy without actually complying with the law. The law was pretty clearly stated in [that case] that just buying a horse and hoping you might breed from it one day was not actually a business.”

Collins said she would be “deeply surprised” if Peters wasn’t given the same advice. “It does smack of a lack of rigor when it comes to policy development.”

A similar claim from former revenue Minister Peter Dunne.

Peters said:  “The same arguments against bloodstock tax rules were raised during my previous tenure as Racing Minister, they were false then and they are false now.  The evidence comes from when the previous Finance Minister Michael Cullen agreed to a similar approach and the positive impact that generated for the industry.

What would the IRD and previous Revenue ministers know.

“There are legitimate reasons bloodstock tax investment helps create investment in horse racing which in turn will generate greater revenue for the taxpayer.  It will become fiscally positive.

“The National Party has been naïve and poorly managed the racing industry, nor did it maintain the previous rules on tax write downs.  The racing industry has become at best static and has not been achieving its genuine potential. The bloodstock tax write downs announced in Budget 2018  help attract new investors to the breeding industry.  And next year’s Yearling sales at Karaka will be one to watch.”

Peters’ party got vocal and financial support at the election from industry players. ​

With the tax breaks he has given them there could be more spare cash available for donations and campaign assistance.

See Bloodstock tax rules to change

Minister for Racing Winston Peters today announced changes to bloodstock tax rules for the New Zealand racing industry as part of Budget 2018.

“The Budget allows $4.8 million over the next four years for tax deductions that can be claimed for the costs of high-quality horses acquired with the intention to breed”.

“These changes mean that a new investor in the breeding industry will be able to claim tax deductions for the costs of a horse as if they had an existing breeding business. To qualify, the horse must be a standout yearling.”

Yearlings don’t race. I don’t know how it will be decided if a yearling is a stand out so it qualifies for the tax break. This hadn’t been decided by budget time a month ago.

Stuff: NZ First gets tax change for race horse investors through the gates

Each yearling would need to be assessed based on the “virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

“Further consultation with the industry will be undertaken to finalise policy settings, draft legislation and set up administrative processes,” a statement released by Peters said.

Will IRD get to determine “virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”, or will ‘the industry’ be allowed to decide this for themselves?

Dunne on cannabis legislation and referendum

Peter Dunne has his say on how best to organise a cannabis referendum (slightly edited):


Suggestions that the Government wants to bring forward the timing of the referendum on recreational cannabis make good political sense. The current plan to hold the referendum at the same time as the next General Election makes sense from a costs point of view, but has the potential to be a political disaster for all concerned. It would be inevitable in such circumstances that the election campaign would be dominated by the cannabis referendum, something none of the political parties would want.

Resolving the logistics of the timing of the referendum is but chickenfeed, compared to what the referendum will actually be about, and how, in the event of an affirmative vote, the outcome will be implemented.

Some form of independent, properly resourced, expert panel will obviously be required to ensure all the relevant information is put before voters in a credible and dispassionate way. Ideally, the panel should run for some time before the referendum to give as many people as possible the opportunity to interact with it. But this is not an impossible task.

The bigger issues relate to the type of regulatory regime proposed for cannabis, should the voters say yes. Ironically, the way we treat tobacco might be the way forward. Tobacco products are sold in a heavily regulated market, with no advertising or promotion permitted, and sales restricted to those over the age of 18, with heavy Government taxes applied. At the same time, the domestic cultivation of tobacco plants is permitted, but those plants can only be for personal use, and any form of supply to others is a criminal offence.

If the Government is thinking along these lines, then the referendum will need to be designed to reflect this, so the public can be absolutely clear what they are being asked to vote upon. If the Government has another regime in mind, then it will need to present that to the public with equal specificity.

The best way ahead for the Government would be to follow the example of the 1993 MMP referendum. In that case, the new regime was put in place by legislation passed by Parliament before the referendum, and which was only triggered by a positive vote in the referendum, meaning that MMP could be introduced for the 1996 election. Under a similar scenario, the new regulatory regime for recreational cannabis would come into effect once the referendum voted yes, taking the issue off the 2020 election agenda.

To get to this point, however, will require a great deal of very considered and precise work by the Ministries of Justice and Health, and a Bill to be in Parliament within the next three months or so, and passed by early next year, so that the regulatory regime and the public information panel can be established in time for a postal vote in – say – November, (bearing in mind that the August-October period will be dominated by the local body election campaign).