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.

 

United Future disbanding

There are a number of news reports that the United Future Party has agreed to disband. They were already in terminal decline, and Peter Dunne’s retirement effectively delivered the party’s last rites.

Damian Light made a decent attempt to take over the leadership but with little support and no money it was a hopeless task.

A letter announcing the disbanding is being reported on and linked to despite being clearly headed ‘Press embargo until 10:00am Tuesday 14 November 2017‘.

Can the media be trusted on anything these days?

United Future has been one of the most successful small parties, having been a part of several Labour and National governments but has been in what turned out to be irreversible decline for a decade.

The prohibitively high MMP threshold will make it very difficult for any new small parties to find a way in to Parliament.

Millions of dollars of funding didn’t help the Conservatives, the Internet Party (and Mana), and Garteh Morgan’s TOP, although people were also a problem for al of those parties.

Unless the threshold problem is addressed the only possibility of seeing any new parties in Parliament is if they are led by existing MPs who split of larger parties.

Dunne’s legacy

Peter Dunne’s 33 year political career hasn’t set the world on fire – Donald Trump may do that in 33 months – but he is regarded by those who know as a competent and effective politician in Parliament, and a hard working electorate MP.

He has practiced pragmatic incrementalism, but now sees himself as not fitting in with volatile media driven politics, nor with ideology driven revolution.

Brent Edwards at RNZ:  Dunne: A great survivor finally runs out of support

Dunne has supported governments led by both Labour and National and held ministerial posts in both. He has been an under-secretary and minister for just on 15 years, serving seven different Prime Ministers.

Few politicians have done better, yet few have been ridiculed more, whether for his coiffured hair or bow ties.

Despite the ridicule, Mr Dunne has been an extremely effective politician who has worked well with both sides of politics.

Mr Dunne’s resignation is not just United Future’s loss. It is also a blow to National, probably more so. It loses a crucial vote irrespective of its final result in the election.

In the meantime time the MP for Ōhāriu ends a 33-year parliamentary career by taking what he is likely to see as a pragmatic, commonsense approach to politics.

There is a need for pragmatism and common sense in politics, but it tens to not excite media or voters.

Southland Times editorial Dunne dusted as Nats lose ally:

The outgoing MP deserves to be remembered as an adept politician. And since that in itself is a fairly wan claim to integrity we can go further and acknowledge the areas in which the man himself suggests he’s drawn the most satisfaction:

  • Modernising drug policy,
  • making fluoridation in drinking water more widespread,
  • establishing Fire and Emergency New Zealand,
  • bringing back 10-year passports, and
  • overseen New Zealand help form the D5 group of digitally-advanced nations.

How many people, you have to wonder, would have immediately have brought him to mind if asked to identify the politician behind that little lot?”

As Minister of Revenue he was also involved in the modernisation of IRD’s computer systems. And there will be many other things he has played a part in.

He has received far less media attention and help than Winston Peters but has achieved much more as an MP.

He has also achieved more in Parliament in 20 years than the whole Green Party.

Sam Sachdeva: Peter Dunne’s cautious crusade ends

Along with those highlights, there have been low points, notably when he resigned as a minister during an inquiry into the leak of a GCSB report (he was later vindicated), but Dunne says the sun always came up.

“Politics is a tough game, it’s unforgiving, it doesn’t show much sentiment, it is demanding, and you’ve got to have the stamina and the mental rigour, I guess, to cope with that…

“The interesting thing was for me through that whole [GCSB] process I learned a lot about my own resilience and determination.”

Pragmatic incrementalism by design:

He concedes his political career has been marked more by pragmatic incrementalism than bold ideology, but says that has been by design.

“I have always railed against what I call bright ideas in politics. I think if you look around the world over history, societies have failed when politicians with bright ideas, good or bad, have got in control.

“I’m always wary of the politician with the big grand vision, the bold picture of the future, because it’s invariably founded on feet of clay, and I think the politicians who believe they can make a massive difference are deluding themselves and their country.”

Bold ideology and grand vision tends to flounder on the fringes in new Zealand politics. It rarely survives through the party system that anyone wanting to get into Parliament must work their way through and up. It almost always takes years to get into Parliament, and more years to become a significant influence.

That mindset is evident in what he labels as his proudest accomplishments: reforming the tax system, unifying the Fire Service after 70 years – “what everyone said was impossible” – and improving the housing of constitutional documents like the Treaty of Waitangi and the Women’s Suffrage Petition.

Someone has to do unheralded bigger things and important little things.

He says New Zealand is “a vastly better country” than when he first entered Parliament: more mature, more diverse, with broader horizons and more opportunities seized.

“I hope that we’re able to continue to do that, that we don’t get captured by backward thinking, people who want to try and reinvent yesterday.

A swipe at his oldest adversary, Winston Peters.

“Yesterday’s important in terms of what you did and what you achieved, but it’s not necessarily a guide to the future: tomorrow is where it all opens and you’ve got to be nimble.

Dunne has been adept at adapting for the future for decades, but now sees a need to stand aside.

“It’s just the sense of people feeling that old boundaries have gone and they can go every which way and if they go this way, then it doesn’t really matter because if they get it wrong, they go that way…

It’s very difficult to provide stable politics in that environment and be someone who likes to stand for a consistent line when suddenly all around you is swirling like a great maelstrom”.

So Dunne has decided to step out of the maelstrom. A modestly successful MP of the past but he doesn’t see a future in politics any more.

Peter Dunne calls time on his political career

Another leader stepping down- this time it’s Peter Dunne who has decided not to stand again this election, meaning the end of his 33 year career as an MP.

He has served in four different Governments, two National led and two Labour led, and has served under seven Prime Ministers.

He had many critics and detractors and his style was not very modern, but he was widely regarded as a hard working and effective electorate MP, and was the most successful MP over time under MMP.

It seems certain that his United Future party will retire with him.

There has been some genuine comments from some politicians and others, and a lot of awful an uninformed criticism.

Statement from Hon Peter Dunne

“The current political environment is extremely volatile and unpredictable. However, I have concluded, based on recent polling, and other soundings I have been taking over the last few weeks, that, the volatility and uncertainty notwithstanding, there is now a mood amongst Ōhāriu voters for a change of MP, which is unlikely to alter. This shift in voter sentiment is quite at variance with polling and other data I have seen throughout the year, upon which I had based my earlier decision to seek re-election for a 12th term as MP for Ōhāriu. While I am naturally extremely disappointed after 33 years of service at this apparent change of feeling, I recognise and understand it, and respect absolutely the electorate’s prerogative to feel that way.

“I have therefore decided that it is time for me to stand aside, so the people of Ōhāriu can elect a new electorate MP. Consequently, after much consideration and discussion with those closest to me, I am announcing today that I will not be putting forward my nomination for election to the next Parliament. I do so with considerable reluctance, but I have always understood that holding public office is a temporary privilege granted by the people, and can never be taken for granted.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the Ōhāriu electorate in its various forms since 1984. I thank my constituents, my supporters, my Party, and all those staff members who have worked so loyally and professionally alongside me over the years, but above all, I pay huge thanks to my wife Jennifer, my sons, James and Alastair, raised in the heat of politics, and my entire family for their loyal support, patience and encouragement for so long.

“I am especially proud to have worked alongside successive National- and Labour-led Governments in the collaborative environment of MMP, and to have had the privilege of serving as first an Under-Secretary and then a Minister under seven different Prime Ministers for just on fifteen years. I am very proud of the many changes I have been able to make in my portfolios over the years to make New Zealand a better place in which to live and raise a family.

“Over the last three years alone, I have been very pleased to lead the work to modernise New Zealand’s drug policy towards a stronger health focus; and to make fluoridation of drinking water more widespread. I was delighted to establish Fire and Emergency New Zealand which unified our urban and rural fire services in the biggest reform of our fire services in 70 years. I was also very pleased to have been able to bring back 10 year passports. The D5 group of the world’s most digitally advanced nations meets in New Zealand early next year. Having overseen New Zealand help form the D5 group in 2014, I will be very sorry not to be chairing that meeting. Lastly, I have enjoyed being part of the continuing drive to make the taonga of the National Library and the National Archives more widely available to all New Zealanders.

“Ōhāriu has been a very large part of my life. I have lived continuously in the area for more than forty years. Jennifer and I raised our family in Ōhāriu. It is our home. Working for the community and its people over the last 33 years has, at all times, been an absolute delight. I will miss hugely that direct engagement with so many aspects of the life of our community, and I will never forget the huge honour Ōhāriu gave me by electing me, first as a young 30 year old, and then for the next ten elections after that.

“But good things cannot last forever. Now it is time for me to put all that behind me, take the election hoardings down, say goodbye to Parliament without bitterness or regret, and get on with life.

“Finally, my thanks and best wishes for the future go to Brett Hudson MP, National’s List MP based in Ōhāriu, for the support he has shown me throughout this year.”

This is a typically pragmatic decision. Dunne has plenty of experience at reading the mood of his electorate.

It looked quite likely he would lose the electorate, so not standing avoids not just a defeat but the vacating of his office under the shadow of a loss.

If Dunne managed to retain his seat he faced being shut out of government by Labour, or by Winston Peters.

Going now on his own terms look like the least worst option for him.

RNZ has a good career summary:  Dunne: A great survivor finally runs out of support

Ignorant criticism was especially prevalent on drug issues. Russell Brown covers reality well at The Spinoff: Peter Dunne, the flawed reformer

 

Recycled campaigning

Party campaign strategies seem to be trying to put as much out as often as possible. They risk driving people away from the election through overkill.

And to fill their sound bite targets parties are resorting to recycling old stuff.

Yesterday the Greens launched their new campaign without Metiria Turei – by ditching their new slogan and going back to their 2014 election slogan.

Today Labour announced a School Leavers’ Toolkit to equip young people for adult life – which was largely a rehash of policy announced in 2015 with a bit of detail added.

Also today National announced details of a $100m social investment mental health package – which had already been announced in the budget in May. They have just added some details.

David Seymour kept banging on about how different Act are to National – Forget boot camp, fix failing schools – and also attacked Labour – Labour’s civics classes: dodgy dodgy dodgy – and NZ First – Winston’s Racist Attack against Sikh’s Freedom of Religion.

The only original announcement was from peter Dunne, but this was not party news, it was as Minister of Internal Affairs –  NZ govt says Australia’s Joyce is NZ citizen.

So far this week the Aussies are beating us hands down for interesting political news.