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).

Ardern’s positive ‘Pacific reset’ tour

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters, have been on a tour of Pacific Islands this week. This is an annual tour, but this year Ardern says the aim is ‘a Pacific reset’.

As well as good PR for Ardern with a daily dose of ‘photo opportunities’, this looks like positive engagement with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

RNZ (Monday):  PM’s Pacific tour begins ‘Pacific reset’

The government has kicked off what it calls the “Pacific reset”, with Jacinda Ardern beginning her first trip to the region as Prime Minister.

It comes after Foreign Minister Winston Peters promised to boost aid and embark on a new strategy with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

Mr Peters will accompany Ms Ardern for the week-long trip, which will stop in Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

It will also give the Prime Minister a chance to meet the heads of the countries one-on-one before the Pacific Islands Forum later in the year.

This year’s annual Pacific Mission will focus on recovery and resilience, especially for Tonga, which was badly hit by Cyclone Gita last month.

The Council for International Development welcomed the so-called Pacific reset.

Director of the Council for International Development, Josie Pagani, said the move “signals a massive boost of energy for our work in the Pacific”.

“Improved conditions mean greater independence for the Pacific, and that’s the ultimate goal of any aid budget.”

Last year New Zealand committed over $4 million to solar panels in Niue, greatly increasing its renewable energy generation.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who will also be on the trip, said New Zealand would continue to invest in green initiatives like that.

“[Winston Peters] is taking the lead on the Pacific strategy, but climate change is a central part of that strategy that is emerging,” Mr Shaw said.

“I don’t want to say we did everything wrong [because] we have a pretty good track record, but we want to build on that, and to broaden it and deepen it.”

A small business delegation will also be on the Pacific Mission trip as well as other Ministers including Carmel Sepuloni, Aupito William Sio, Fletcher Tabuteau, and National MPs Gerry Brownlee and Alfred Ngaro.

It is normal for a cross-party delegation to do the tour.

RNZ (Friday): PM’s breakneck tour a hit with islands

Jacinda Ardern has completed a whirlwind trip of the Pacific Islands, stopping in Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

It was her first trip as Prime Minister, where she took the chance to meet with all the heads of the countries.

The tone for the Pacific Mission was set by foreign minister Winston Peter’s speech last week, when he said a “Pacific reset” was needed.

Jacinda Ardern referred to this ‘reset’ several times on the trip and said it was about shifting from a donor-aid relationship to a partnership.

Money was given to Samoa and Tonga for cyclone recovery, more help is on its way for Niue’s renewable energy projects, and there’s been a shift in pension rules for Niueans and Cook Islanders.

But in the words of Mr Peters, these islands are now “attracting an increasing number of external actors and interests”.

That could mean many more trips of the like to ensure New Zealand keeps up its presence in the Pacific Islands.

Peter Dunne Speaks:

Every year the Prime Minister leads a delegation of senior politicians from all parties and business leaders on a Pacific Islands tour. This week’s Prime Ministerial visit to Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands is the 2018 version. Inevitably, there will be those who will dismiss such tours as little more than a junket, a description which is unfair.

Having taken part in a number of them over the years, I can confirm that they are a valuable way of strengthening our relationships with the various Pacific Island states, as well as creating mutual business and trade opportunities.

However, this year’s visits have the potential to break the mould, especially if the Government’s rhetoric of the “Pacific Reset” is to be believed.  Such a reset is certainly overdue.

The goodwill towards New Zealand, and the close bonds of connection are strong, right across the Pacific. For its part, New Zealand needs to be seen to be working closely with its Pacific partners to achieve mutual social and economic progress. New Zealand’s response to the threat climate change poses to low-lying islands and their peoples will be an early test. But, so far, the first signs from this week’s visit are that the Pacific Reset is going to be positive all round.

Newsroom (Friday): Pacific trip provides shape of challenges to come

A trip to the Pacific must be a political propagandist’s dream.

The colourful clothing, beautiful backdrops and warmth of the locals meant Jacinda Ardern’s five-day visit was almost guaranteed to be a success before she landed.

That is not to do her a disservice: Ardern made the most of her stay, greeting as many locals as she could, speaking in the native language where possible and offering both aid and assurances about the region’s importance to New Zealand.

(As a side note, those carping about a waste of taxpayer money should note both John Key and Bill English made regular trips to the Pacific and partook in their fair share of photo opportunities.)

Ardern’s deputy and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the region is his top priority, and laid out plans for more political engagement, greater funding and a closer relationship during a “Pacific reset” speech.

Speaking to media on the final day of her visit, Ardern expressed contentment with what she and her ministers had achieved.

“I’d rate this mission highly, off the back of the fact that so many of the leaders have remarked on the repositioning that this government has focused on in the Pacific that was set out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs which says, ‘Look, actually we do a lot of work across the globe but actually our relationships here in the Pacific are key, they’re increasingly important, we need to move to a partnership’, and that has been incredibly well received wherever we’ve gone.”

Peters was even more effusive: “The Prime Minister’s being extremely modest about this trip because she’s leading it, but I’ve been on a lot of Pacific trips, this has been the most successful by a long long way.”

Talk of a partnership of equals has been well received, with good reason: as Ardern pointed out, many of the Pacific nations are longstanding democracies with sophisticated leaders, some approaching developed nation status.

Writing for the Samoa Planet, Lani Wendt Young said Ardern’s remarks about the Pacific “joining” New Zealand in this generation’s nuclear-free moment were “a tad bit condescending, considering how long Pacific Island nations and advocacy groups have been championing this issue on the world stage and in the region”.

It’s always going to be difficult to get the right balance, but Ardern should learn from this – as one of a number of leaders in the region she is not going to create a revolution on her own.

The warmth of the Pacific welcome will stay with Ardern for some time, but genuine progress may prove a higher hurdle.

It always will be, but Ardern has got off to a promising start in the Pacific.

 

 

The SIS dictated secret trial in Wellington

There was an unusual top secret trial in Wellington last week, where neither a Melbourne woman contesting the cancellation  of her New Zealand passport, nor her lawyer, nor any media, were allowed to attend the hearing.

Andrew Geddis at The Spinoff:  The bizarre case of the NZ court case hidden from public and media scrutiny

Something quite strange is happening at the High Court in Wellington this week. Journalists doing their regular rounds of that place’s pathos, bathos, high drama and human frailty came across a closed courtroom with nothing to say what was going on inside its doors, heightened security outside of them and strange “men in dark suits” lurking in the nearby halls.

Upon asking what was up – journalists are pesky like that – they were told they weren’t allowed to know before quickly being ushered away by court security officers. Which, of course, simply makes everyone that much more curious about what on earth could be going on.

The suspicions of at least some of us were confirmed when Justice Venning, the Chief High Court Judge, released a statement confirming the subject of the case.

The statement:

Geddis:

How do we know this? Because her case already has been before the High Court last year, when she sought to challenge the government’s claim that not only did her appeal have to be held in secret, but that neither she nor her lawyer were allowed to know the reasons why her passport had been cancelled.

Those reasons, said the government, constituted “classified security information”. And under the Passports Act 2002, it’s not just the public and press who can’t be in the courtroom to hear the content of such information. Neither can the person whose passport is cancelled, nor that person’s lawyer.

That does sound bizarrre.

So, here’s what is happening in the High Court in Wellington. A woman is asking to get her passport back after the government took it off her. She is doing so without knowing the evidence the government has for deciding she represents a security risk, without being able to be in the court to watch the case being argued, and without being able to have her own lawyer present to argue for her (although some unnamed “advocates” have been appointed to “assist with issues that have to be dealt with” in her absence).

And none of us can go in and watch the case. Nor can the media go in to watch it on our behalf.

Closed justice, in a country where open justice is supposed to be an important principle.

Matt Nippert at NZH:  Secret Wellington High Court national security hearing lambasted as ‘Kafkaesque’

A Wellington basement courtroom last week became the scene for what a Green MP called “Kafkaesque” and civil liberties advocates described as “security theatre performance”.

MP Golriz Gharaman, the Green Party spokesperson for security and intelligence issues, said the court’s acceptance of classified information in this one-sided fashion was unjust.

“The courts are asked to base their decision on so-called facts, presented by just one side. It’s Kafkaesque – you can’t answer the case against you, because you can’t know the case against you,” she said.

The woman’s passport was cancelled in May 2016, but the protocols to allow secret trials was signed after that, in January 2017.

The Herald can reveal the case concerns a Melbourne-based New Zealander who in May 2016 had her passport cancelled on national security grounds by then-Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne.

A copy of the protocol governing passport cases where courts are asked to consider evidence classified as secret… signed last January by then-attorney-general Chris Finlayson and chief justice Sian Elias, prescribes: The extensive use of “tamper-proof envelopes”; requirements for court staff to stand watch over locked cabinets during lunch breaks, and; a ban on the public, media and even those accused by such evidence – or their lawyers – from being present during its presentation.

The eight-page protocol also allows for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) to insist that hearings be relocated from a courtroom to any location or their choosing, or to require judges writing up their decision to only use a computer supplied by the intelligence.

Cate Brett, a spokesperson for the Courts, directed questions about the protocol to the relevant minister.

The processes and procedures adopted this week in Wellington were “required by law” and it was “not appropriate to a judge to comment on how a case is conducted”, she said.

Andrew Little, the minister responsible for the courts and the SIS, issued a statement backing the handling of the case.

“There’s a balance to be struck between the vital principal of open justice and the equally important need for national security to be maintained and I believe the current protocol achieves that balance,” he said.

The protocol was put in place before Little became Minister of Justice, but he believes it strikes the right balance. As leader of the Opposition Little was on the Intelligence and Security Committee sol may have been aware of the protocol when it was signed.

Dunne used powers available to him under the Passport Act to cancel the woman’s travel documents if he believed the passport holder was intending to take part in terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in a country other than New Zealand.

In earlier pre-trail rulings Justice Robert Dobson mulled the possibility of this classified information coming from agencies outside New Zealand.

The self-represented woman, whose identity is suppressed, is seeking a judicial review of Dunne’s decisions, but has faced a legal labyrinth over the protocols which requires her to challenge the Minister’s decision without being able to know why it was made.

In her absence the court has appointed special advocates – allowed to attend the secret closed hearings – to assist the court when considering the classified information.

The case is complex. The first scheduled date for a substantive hearing – in June 2017 – was abandoned and no new date has yet been set. An appeal lodged with the Court of Appeal by the women was then abandoned, and twice during the past year judgements have had to be amended and reissued.

Without a passport the woman must be stuck in Australia, unless they deport her to New Zealand. She presumably won’t be able to travel here without a passport, and wouldn’t be able to return to Australia.

Dunne on the Official Information Act

Retired politicians who are now outside the pressures and responsibilities of Parliament can give some good insights into topical issues.

The last National Government was strongly criticised, with good reason, for abusing the principles of the Official Information Act. Labour has already been criticised by a number of journalists for the disingenuous withholding of information.

Peter Dunne wrote recently about the OIA.


When it was passed in 1982, our Official Information Act was widely applauded and welcomed. It was seen as a positive step (at the height of Muldoonism) that would give the public much greater access to hitherto secret government information, thereby improving accountability by making government business and processes more transparent. Over the last thirty-odd years it has generally met its objective, although some major creaks are now starting to become obvious.

During my years in Parliament I worked with the Official Information Act (the OIA) extensively – and also in a variety of different roles. These included being a non-government MP seeking information about some aspect or other of government policy; or a Minister charged with providing such information; or, as an appellant to the Ombudsman urging the overturn of some obviously outrageous decision to deny my ever-so-reasonable request, or as a defendant urging the Ombudsman not to uphold a request to overturn a decision not to release certain information because of its sensitivity.

I came to know the OIA pretty well, and, as such, am reasonably well placed to offer some observations about its strengths and weaknesses.

While the role and purpose of the OIA is a fundamental part of our governance structure, the reality is that it is really only non-government politicians and the media, with an occasional irrelevant appearance from some or other otherwise unemployable graduate lawyer fancying themselves as a modern day Mr Haddock of A.P. Herbert fame, who get involved with the OIA. However, this is an issue where the often differing, but occasionally coinciding, interests of the media and the politicians do need to be taken into account and addressed. Our modern Mr Haddocks, though, can be ignored, and left to keep looking for real jobs.

The most obvious criticism of the OIA…

…is that governments, including the present one, can and do play games with it, either by denying or delaying the release of information on a technicality; treating requests so literally as to render them meaningless; or, releasing a swathe of documents at the most inconvenient of times – 3:00 pm on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend is the common classic example here.

I have always found such game playing to be petty and silly, and I think it should come to an end. Certainly, it was generally my practice as a Minister to pro-actively release all the major documents of a Budget or major policy decisions in my portfolios within a few weeks of their being made, and to indicate at the time of the policy announcement that such a release would be forthcoming. I do not recall the sky ever falling in as a consequence.

And then there is the scope of the OIA. There has long been criticism at the exclusion of Parliament, and in recent years, there have been questions raised about the exemption for agencies like the Crown Law Office. My view is clear. I see no reason why the Parliamentary Service should be excluded, but I do think Members of Parliament in their roles dealing with constituents and the public and as members of a political party should not be covered by the OIA.

Any citizen who seeks to approach an MP, as either a constituent or as an interested member of the public, is entitled to the unconditional assurance that their dealings with the MP will be absolutely protected from disclosure – a standard similar to the Catholic Church’s Seal of Confession, if you like. The provisions of other pieces of legislation such as the Privacy Act and the Protected Disclosures Act are important protections here as well.

Equally, political parties are not public bodies like government agencies, and therefore should not be subject to the OIA. But in many other areas of their activities MPs are already subject to various forms of accountability – their expenditure, for example – and there is no reason why these areas should not be subject to the OIA.

Similarly, while I do not think it fair or practical that the Courts, the Judiciary, or Crown Law should be subject to the OIA with regard to individual cases – for obvious reasons – nor should the details of legal advice provided to Ministers on specific matters under consideration at the time come within the OIA’s ambit, again for obvious reasons, a case can be made to allow for more sunlight in other areas, including when a matter has been resolved.

So what to do?

The OIA is a cornerstone of our public accountability structure, so it is important that it is seen credibly in that role. The perception of a genuine commitment to transparency is as important as the reality. It is not necessarily the case at present.

Therefore, it is time for a joint working party, involving the Ombudsman’s Office, the news media, and the politicians (not just the government of the day) to be convened to prepare a new OIA that upholds its original principles and the good things about the current legislation, but which also modernises its scope, processes, and, if possible, operating culture in the light of contemporary circumstances. And then we should commit in these rapidly changing times, to carrying out a similar review every five years.

 

Outspoken and Dunne on medical cannabis

RNZ:  Outspoken – Medicinal Cannabis

The government’s medicinal cannabis policy released in December drew howls of protest from critics who argued it didn’t go far enough.

The policy would make medical cannabis more available for people with terminal illnesses, and protect them from prosecution for possession of illicit marijuana. But Health Minister David Clark insisted the policy was cause for celebration.

“It is real progress, it is a big step forward.”

It was widely seen as timid and barely any change. Even Clark said that for real change people needed to look at a Member’s Bill rather than his.

The bill proposes

  • Introduce a medicinal cannabis scheme to enable access to quality products
  • Introduce a statutory defence for terminally ill people to possess and use illicit cannabis
  • Remove cannabidiol from the schedule of controlled drugs

The most contentious aspects are that while terminally ill people will have a defence for using cannabis it is illegal for them to grow it or for anyone to supply it, and it excludes a defence for people suffering from chronic pain but not deemed to be at imminent risk of dying.

The executive director of the Drug Foundation Ross Bell said the Drug Foundation has always maintained you need a two-stage medicinal cannabis market.

“One, ultimately you need a gold standard medical cannabis system just as we have with other medicines where things go through trials. Once that has happened doctors know what to prescribe and at what dosage and how it interacts with other medicines,” he said.

“The second track is a compassionate scheme where you do allow people to grow, or have it grown for them, without fear of arrest – and again I don’t think the government’s proposal quite does that either.”

Bell speaks softly – Clark’s bill doesn’t come anywhere near that second track.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has a separate members bill that would also amend the Misuse of Drugs Act, due to come before Parliament.

“Where we would like to see the government’s bill go further would be on that issue of chronic pain … those who, for example, have cancer but it’s not terminal.

“There has been a thorough meta-analysis of all the research to date which has shown that [for] nausea and vomiting symptoms, there is a lot of evidence around how medicinal cannabis and CBD oil can help … and also with the likes of Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.”

Clark says he will support this bill and has said that it offers people something significant the his bill doesn’t.

RNZ:  Medicinal cannabis bill will send ‘clear signal’ to police

Health Minister David Clark said while the law did not allow people to grow cannabis, police were using a “huge amount of discretion” and the government’s legislation sent a strong message that was the right thing to do.

“The police are using discretion currently for personal use, and I expect this will send a clear signal that for the terminally ill it would be completely pointless to be prosecuting them for using it.”

People wanted legal changes, not ‘clear signals’ to the police to ignore law that is not fit for purpose.

Pearl Schomburg has been using cannabis to manage her pain for the past two years. She suffers from inflammatory pain, PTSD and nausea, but access to her chosen medicine won’t be any easier under the planned law change.

“There’s nothing in it for me today except hope that this is just the beginning.

“There’s a lot of disappointed people in the community, some of them are quite angry as well because they feel like they’ve been quite let down by Jacinda [Ardern].

Mr Clark said he would support Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s bill allowing people to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes at its first reading so it can go to a select committee and be tested, reviewed and receive submissions from medical experts.

But the government was not adopting the bill.

Peter Dunne is very critical of the Government approach.

NZH: Peter Dunne says the Govt’s medicinal cannabis bill will bring no immediate relief to patients

The former minister responsible for drug law reform is calling the Government’s bill on medicinal cannabis “half baked” and “a pretty sad gimmick” that fails to give sick people immediate access to good products.

Peter Dunne, who used to be associate health minister, said the bill was underwhelming and the product of a naive 100-day pledge.

If it wasn’t naive it was deliberate voter duping.

“It’s a pretty sad gimmick. It doesn’t really change anything. It doesn’t improve immediate access to people and it doesn’t do anything about the cost of medication.

“They allowed an impression to be created, whether they intended to or not, that they could solve the problem with the wave of a wand. A lot of people who were suffering believed that, and they feel pretty let down.”

From what I’ve seen the Government bill has disappointed many people.

He said the bill was “half-baked”, adding that it would have been more honest to say that the work simply needed longer than the 100-day timeline.

It’s less than half baked – Labour left out key ingredients as well.

“When they actually got to grips with the subject and found that wasn’t really possible (to fix in 100 days). So they said, ‘What can we do? I know. We will put in this stuff about compassionate use.’

People are not being prosecuted for compassionate use now.”

So the bill changes very little immediately apart from sending police ‘a clear signal’.

Helen Kelly openly flaunted the law when suffering from cancer, and Labour promised to honour her memory. Instead they have passed the parcel to the Greens while pretending to do something themselves.

This has been weak leadership from Jacinda Ardern.

Health Minister David Clark has said New Zealand will monitor the situation in Australia, where medicinal cannabis was made legal in 2016 and companies are preparing to deliver domestically made products within a few months.

Clark’s inexperience is showing. ‘Monitor’ is like ‘have an inquiry’ or ‘form  committee’ – avoiding responsibility. Worse, Labour are not delivering on what they promoted as an urgent (100 day) solution.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a law change last week to allow Australian companies to export medicinal cannabis products, saying: “We would like to be, potentially, the world’s number one medicinal cannabis supplier.”

Dunne said rather than monitoring Australia, New Zealand should be “piggy-backing” so quality products would be available to New Zealand patients at the same time as they are to Australians.

“Working with the Australians is likely to produce the quickest and best benefit. We have a free trade agreement. The medical safety standards in Australia and New Zealand are pretty much identical. So anything that would get the tick there should get the tick here.”

Maybe once the Australians are actually producing products Clark will escalate from ‘monitor’ to ‘form a committee of experts’.

The Government’ bill was softened to gain the support of New Zealand First, and should pass with the support of the Greens.

It does not go as far as Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s member’s bill, which would allow anyone with a qualifying medical condition to grow, possess or use the cannabis plant or cannabis products for therapeutic purposes, provided they have the support of a registered medical practitioner.

The Government has said those wishing for medicinal cannabis to be more widely available will have a chance to have their say when Swarbrick’s bill has its first reading, expected to be a conscience vote.​

 

Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill

Peter Dunne’s response to the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill that was tabled in parliament yesterday:

Prediction based on informed advice: there will be no immediate or significant increase in access to cannabis based medicines as a result of essentially cosmetic government legislation. It’s all about the 100 days commitment rather than doing anything substantive.

Sadly, I think he is right. It is sort of an improvement on the current law, but in practical terms it is far more political window dressing than practical or meaningful change.

The bill: Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill

3 Principal Act

This Act amends the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 (the principal Act).

An amendment to the act is notable, but it is largely symbolic.

4 Section 2 amended (Interpretation)

In section 2(1), insert in its appropriate alphabetical order:

CBD product means a product that—

(a) contains cannabidiol; and

(b) if it contains other cannabinoids usually found in cannabis, contains those cannabinoids in a quantity that, in total, constitutes no more than 2% of the total quantity of cannabinoids in the product; and

It has been pointed out that 98% ‘pure’ CBD is likely to be difficult to extract from a complex plant with many chemical components, and is likely to be expensive to manufacture.

(c) does not contain any other controlled drug; and

(d) does not contain a psychoactive substance (as defined in section 9 of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013)

terminal illness means an illness from which a person can reasonably be expected to die within 12 months

Dying people are theoretically given an exemption from illegal cannabis use, but in practice it will be difficult or very expensive to obtain product.

5 Section 7 amended (Possession and use of controlled drugs)

(1) In section 7(2), replace “subsection (3)” with “subsections (2A) and (3)”.

(2) After section 7(2), insert:

(2A) A person who contravenes subsection (1)(a) does not commit an offence if the person—

(a) procures, possesses, consumes, smokes, or otherwise uses any plant or plant material of the genus Cannabis, any cannabis preparation, or any cannabis fruit or seed; but

(b) has a certificate from a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner certifying that the person has a terminal illness.

That sounds ok for people who are certified to be dying, but excludes people with severe medical conditions or pain.

But:

(3) After section 7(3), insert:

(3A) In any proceedings for an offence against subsection (1)(a) in respect of possessing or using any plant or plant material of the genus Cannabis, any cannabis preparation, or any cannabis fruit or seed, the defendant may provide evidence that, at the time of the possession or use, the defendant had been diagnosed by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner as having a terminal illness.

A dying person can posses or use cannabis, but they can’t get it legally – it is illegal for anyone to supply them.

So what do you do if you are told you have 6 months to live – find some seeds without anyone supplying you, and hope the plants grow before you die?

[Update – I have this wrong, Minister of Health David Clark says it remains illegal for anyone to grow cannabis.]

6 Section 13 amended (Miscellaneous offences)

After section 13(1), insert:

(1A) However, in any proceedings for an offence against subsection (1)(a) of possessing a pipe or other utensil (not being a needle or syringe) for the purpose of possessing or using any plant or plant material of the genus Cannabis, any cannabis preparation, or any cannabis fruit or seed, the defendant may provide evidence that, at the time of possessing the pipe or other utensil, the defendant had been diagnosed by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner as having a terminal illness.

Again, allowed to have a pipe or utensil, but somehow you have to get it.

7 Section 14 amended (Licences)

After section 14(1), insert:

(1A) Without limiting subsection (1), the Governor-General may, by Order in Council on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations to prescribe the minimum quality standard that must be met by a product or class of product—

(a) that contains a controlled drug; and

(b) that may be manufactured, imported, or supplied under a licence granted under this Act.

The Minister can determine standard – that may be a good thing or a bad thing.

So what does all this mean? Probably not much – it is still difficult or expensive to obtain cannabis products if you are dying, and still illegal if you suffer from chronic pain or some other serious ongoing medical condition.

The Greens have agreed to support this bill, but are still proceeding with a Members’ Bill that will have a go at making real change. Jacinda Ardern has said that via a conscience vote she will support the Green bill, which is hardly a vote of confidence in this bill.

 

“We should be an independent republic”

A challenge to the new Parliament to “Seize the moment now, and begin the process of wider constitutional reform by committing to our next Head of State being the first President of the Republic of New Zealand.”

I strongly believe the time has well past for us to have severed the umbilical cord to Grandmother England.

We should be an independent republic within the Commonwealth – like India, or South Africa and the majority of other Commonwealth nations.

It is not just my Irish heritage, but more my sense of pride and confidence in our country and what it can be that is why I am so staunchly of the belief we can do so much better than continue to bend our knee to a hereditary monarch on the other side of the world.

We have consistently shown over the last thirty years or so, that we can produce many quality New Zealanders to serve as our Governor-General.

There is no reason why we could not do likewise with a non-executive President in that role, and frankly the time for change is long overdue.

So, let me conclude with a challenge to our new Parliament.

You are in the main the millenials whom will shape our future for the next generation and beyond.

Seize the moment now, and begin the process of wider constitutional reform by committing to our next Head of State being the first President of the Republic of New Zealand.

From Peter Dunne’s ‘valedictory’ address to the Victoria University of Wellington’s post-election seminar.

I agree with Dunne on this, but I’m not sure that the time is right for Parliament to address it. There seems to be a reluctance of parties to address important issues like this for fear of being unpopular with some voters.

The flag change process was, unfortunately, a political debacle. If parties couldn’t deal with that sensibly then I don’t like the chances of them properly progressing a discussion on becoming a republic in the Commonwealth.

It will take more than prompting from an outgoing old MP to get a republic discussion going, it will take a bold young leader unencumbered by an older old MP holding the balance of power.