Government accepted or considering 38 of 40 mental health recommendations

This has taken some time for something the Government had claimed was an urgent problem, but following last year’s Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction and subsequent recommendations the Government has ‘accepted, accepted in principle, or agreed to further consideration’ of 38 of the 40 recommendations of the Inquiry Panel.


Taking mental health and addiction seriously

“The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction laid down a challenge to the Government and to all New Zealanders. We need to transform our thinking and approach to mental health and addiction – and that is what we are committing to today,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We all know people who have lived with mental health and addiction challenges. This touches every community and every family and we must do better.”

Inquiry recommendations accepted include:

  • Significantly increase access to publicly funded mental health and addiction services for people with mild to moderate needs
  • Commit to increase choice by broadening the types of services available
  • Urgently complete the national suicide prevention strategy
  • Establish an independent commission to provide leadership and oversight of mental health and addiction
  • Repeal and replace the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992

“The recommendations of He Ara Oranga are wide-ranging and comprehensive. Delivering on the Panel’s vision of a people-centred approach to mental health and addiction that meets the full range of need will be a major undertaking.

“Just delivering on the first recommendation around services to meet mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs will be transformational.

“We will need to build entirely new services, train hundreds of new staff and build new facilities across Aotearoa.

“All this will take significant and sustained investment. That begins with tomorrow’s Wellbeing Budget but will take years,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Health Minister David Clark says for too long mental health has been considered somehow less important than physical health and that has to change.

“It has been said before, but there really is no health without mental health.

“Supporting and maintaining people’s mental wellbeing must become part of the daily routine of our health services. When New Zealanders are in distress they need to know there is appropriate support available and it has to be easily accessible.”

The Government rejected two of the Inquiry’s recommendations:

  • Directing the State Services Commission to report on options for creating a ‘locus of responsibility’ for social wellbeing within Government
  • Set a target of 20% reduction in suicide rates by 2030

Health Minister Dr David Clark said all of Government needs to be focused on social wellbeing and it does not need its own separate agency.

He said the question of a suicide target was considered at length, and as acknowledged in He Ara Oranga, views are mixed about establishing a target.

“We’re not prepared to sign up to a suicide target because every life matters, and one death by suicide is one death too many.

“This Government is committed to tackling our terrible record on suicide. The Ministry of Health is in the process of finalising a draft suicide prevention strategy and is working on options for an office of suicide prevention.

“There are no quick-fixes for these issues. The drivers of mental health and addiction issues are deep seated and long standing, but as a Government we are committed to tackling them.

“New Zealanders in distress deserve our support, plain and simple,” said David Clark.

Government response to the Tax Working Group recommendations

Most of the attention on the Government response to the recommendations from the Tax Working Group report was on the scrapping of plans for any new type of Capital Gains Tax. See CGT backdown, everyone claims victory.

But the report also covered a number of other tax changes.

Beehive:  Govt responds to Tax Working Group report

The Coalition Government today released its response to the recommendations of the independent Tax Working Group report.

The report found that on the whole New Zealand’s tax system was working well, but made a number of recommendations to improve fairness, balance and structure.

The Government is not adopting any of the recommendations on capital gains taxation and has agreed no further work is necessary on that aspect of the report.

Winston Peters said no, so Labour and the Greens agreed that their CGT plans were stuffed.

“The final report covered all aspects of the tax system, and a number of the recommendations will now be considered for inclusion in the Government’s Tax Policy Work Programme,” Grant Robertson said.

“That includes exploring options for targeting land speculation and land banking.

“We intend to direct the Productivity Commission to include vacant land taxes within its inquiry into local government funding and financing,” Grant Robertson said.

Exploring options? I thought that’s what the TWG was supposed to have done.  But now they are going on to exploring more and doing another inquiry. Given the supposed purpose of the TWG, this sounds like further kicking of the tax can down a dusty potholed road.

“Officials have been directed to prioritise work on the TWG’s recommendations on ways to encourage investment in significant infrastructure projects and improve the integrity of the tax system to crack down on tax dodgers,” Stuart Nash said.

A refreshed tax policy work programme will be released mid-year.

So yesterday they announced what they plan on announcing later in the year.

The Coalition Government reiterated it will not introduce resource rentals for water or a fertiliser tax in this term of Parliament.

Another Peters veto of Labour and Green plans?

Other priorities for the Government this year include progressing legislation for research and development tax incentives; GST on low-value goods from offshore suppliers; a discussion document on a digital services tax, and further work to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax.

On to a discussion document and further work on things that have been talked about for years.

Summary of the Government’s responses to the recommendations

In that summary there are a number of TWG recommendations flagged as “Endorse the TWG recommendation” – in just about every case the recommendation is not to change anything.

There are several recommendations flagged as “Consider as a high priority for work programme”, meaning no decision has been made on what to do.

What was this Government response for? It has done little but admit they were abandoning any CGT plans indefinitely.

Tax Working Group final report

The final report from the Tax Working Group has been released. It’s a long report, with a long summary so I won’t post even that.

The bottom line for me seems to be that I would benefit from the tax cuts (about $1000 per year for the household),  the CGT would have little or no effect, but the environment taxes could have an impact.

That is, if the Government adopts the recommendations. Labour seem to be distancing themselves from the report, and Winston Peters has strongly opposed a CGT in the past.

Capital Gains Tax is the big talking point. Stuff: Capital gains tax: Tax Working Group announces support for capital gains tax, cuts to income tax

KEY FACTS

– Capital gains to be taxed through income tax.

– Family home (one per person) to be excluded from tax, within some limits

– Gains to be taxed from date tax comes into effect on assets people already own

– Tax generally to apply when people sell assets, with limited “rollover” relief if proceeds are reinvested

– Rollover relief to apply on death/inheritance

– Capital gains won’t be adjusted for inflation

– Investors to have up to 5 years to have some assets valued.

– Personal possessions, including artworks that may be held as investments, to escape net

– Capital losses could “generally” be offset against other taxable income.

– Income tax breaks worth between $420 and $595 a year to almost all taxpayers

– Low and middle-income KiwiSavers to benefit from reduction in tax on employer contributions

– Wealthier KiwiSavers to lose out from taxation of funds’ Australian and New Zealand shares

Funnily, the pop up video advertisement accompanying this was on ‘How to boil and egg”.

RNZ – Capital gains tax recommendations: What you need to know

The group, chaired by Sir Michael Cullen, has recommended the following:

  • Tax the capital gain on sale of land, shares, business assets, intangible assets such as intellectual property.
  • Tax to be imposed when the asset is sold, and levied at the seller’s marginal tax rate.
  • The tax would NOT apply to the family home, and personal assets such as cars, paintings, jewellery, and household appliances.
  • A holiday home WOULD be taxed on sale.
  • No change to GST and no exemptions for certain types of products, such as food and drink.
  • The capital gain on shares in companies would be taxed but in some circumstances capital losses would also be able to be offset against other income.
  • The capital gain on the sale of a business would be taxed, including the goodwill.
  • No changes to income tax rates, but a recommendation to raise the income threshold for low and middle income groups.
  • Environmental taxes: changes to the emissions trading scheme to be more like a carbon tax.
  • Dirty taxes on solid waste to reduce volumes to landfills.
  • Taxes on water pollution and water extraction.
  • Taxation of fertiliser use. Consider congestion charges to tackle traffic issues.
  • The government’s full response, including any planned new taxes, is expected in April.
  • The intention is to have legislation passed ahead of next year’s election, but changes won’t come in until 1 July, 2020.
  • National would have the opportunity to repeal the legislation if it wins the election.

It is all here:

But these are just TWG recommendations. The Government say they will decide what if anything to implement, and any changes would not take effect until after next year’s election.

Labour camp review recommendations, but no holding to account, victim appalled

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said a report on the Labour Youth Camp near Waihi in February had made a number of recommendations which would all be adopted – but I can’t find any details on anyone being held accountable for the use of alcohol by young people, the lack of supervision, and the slow and poor response by party officials.

Timeline (Newsroom and RNZ):

  • 9-11 February 2018: Labour Youth Waitawheta Camp near Waihi in February
  • 12 March: Sexual misconduct alleged at boozy Labour Party camp
    The Labour Party has been hit with claims that four young supporters were sexually assaulted at one of its annual ‘Summer School’ camps near Waihi last month.The four – two males and two females – are all 16 and were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp. Newsroom has been told the man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.
  • 12 March: PM investigating reports of sexual assault at Labour event
    Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton didn’t notify the Prime Minister, the police or parents that four teenagers were allegedly sexually assaulted at its summer camp last month.
  • 13 March: Labour camp misconduct: Victim reached out to Megan Woods
    It has been revealed that Cabinet Minister Megan Woods was contacted by a victim raising concerns about incidents of sexual assault of teenagers at a Labour Party summer camp.
  • 14 March: Second Labour sexual assault incident alleged
    Another person has contacted the Labour Party saying they too were sexually assaulted at a Labour event several years ago. Labour has already apologised to four teenagers who were sexually harassed by a 20-year-old man at a Labour youth camp in Waihi last month.
  • 19 March: Details of Labour’s sexual assault review revealed
    The review into how Labour handled complaints of sexual assault is expected to take up to three months and every party member will be contacted.
  • 22 June: Andrew Kirton steps down as Labour Party general secretary
    The Labour Party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, has resigned to take up a senior position with Air New Zealand.
  • 5 July: Labour Party camp accused in court, name suppressed
    A 20-year-old man has appeared in court charged with indecent assaults at a Labour Party youth summer camp. He denied six charges of assaulting four victims believed to be aged 16 to 18. The man was arrested on 26 June.
  • 29 August: Review reported on

The report was “expected to take up to three months” but has been partially reported on five months later.

RNZ:  Labour to review policies after Young Labour camp incidents

The Labour Party says it will implement all the recommendations of a report into indecent assaults at a Young Labour camp in February.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth said Labour had committed to putting in place all the recommendations and had established a process for that work to be completed.

The recommendations:

  • Develop a more tangible and effective relationship between Young Labour and the Labour Party
  • Review and/or develop policies on The party’s code of conduct – along with consideration as to whether that should apply to the Young Labour Party, or whether a modified or separate code should be developed
  • Review and/or develop policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault, alcohol, events and host responsibility, bullying and complaint procedure
  • Incorporate updated event registration and parental consent and risk disclosure information requirements and forms to ensure compliance with current best practice and all legislation relating to the care of minors when participating in party held events.
  • Ensure at least one Labour Party representative should also attend the entire event and be available throughout (solely or jointly with another nominated adult supervisor) to ensure compliance with safety and welfare expectations and the Young Labour Party should also nominate a welfare officer to attend all events
  • Introduce a new, over-arching alcohol policy, formulated in consultation with expert external advice
  • Introduce a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice.

However, Mr Haworth said he would not be releasing the report.

One of the victims:

“As far as I’m concerned the failure to release the report to the media is absolutely disgraceful”

“I feel to a degree that there is conflict of interest in a sense – one of the most influential figures that was aware of the original complaint, which is the President of the party, is also the person that is in charge of implementing the recommendations of the review.

“Further to that, the fact that it hasn’t been released to the media shows an absolute lack of transparency, but a copy also hasn’t been released to the victims or the people that were interviewed for the review, which from my perspective as a victim is absolutely disgraceful.”

Jacinda Ardern…

…said she has yet to read the full report, however, it would not be made public because the events detailed in it were still before the court.

The review was undertaken for a reason and the party knows there were things it needed to do differently, Ms Ardern said.

I understand the need to not make the full report public due to matters still being ‘before the court’.

There seems to be no reason why victims should not be given the report, except that Labour may want to keep things from being revealed that could impact on the prosecution.

Perhaps Labour have given their report to the prosecution to help with the facts of the matter, but I can’t see any indication of this having been done.

I can see no indication of anyone apart from the alleged offender being held accountable.

Party secretary Andrew Kirton resigned in June and left the party in July.

Labour need to maker sure things like this don’t happen again in the future, so it is good to see recommendations on that.

But there appears to be no holding to account for those that allowed underage drinking at February’s camp, enabled alleged sexual assaults to happen, and then tried to deal with it alarmingly inadequately, and secretly.

Newsroom:  Victim slams Labour summer camp report

One of the victims from Labour’s youth summer camp scandal has slammed the party for its “absolutely appalling” handling of a review into what went wrong, saying nobody is being held accountable.

“Failing to release the report shows a blatant lack of accountability and from my perspective as a victim, is absolutely appalling.”

The report should have been released with the redaction of any information which could have identified people, they said.

The victims and witnesses involved in Austen’s inquiry were not given a copy of the final report either.

They also questioned the news that Haworth would lead the work on changing Labour’s procedures, given the failures of the party in handling the initial complaint.

“The person in charge of implementing the recommendations is the person that hasn’t been trusted in the first place to provide support and resolve the issue…I don’t see accountability there.”

The victim believed alcohol should be banned entirely from events which had significant numbers of people under the age of 18, rather than allowing adults to drink while in attendance.

Labour have failed again to address concerns of at least one victim.

 

 

Electoral Commission recommendations for improving democracy

Bryce Edwards has a good summary of an Electoral Commission report: 10 ways to improve our elections

Last week the Electoral Commission released its report on the 2017 general election. It contained useful information about voting last year but, more importantly, it made a number of important recommendations to Parliament about improving New Zealand elections.

Recommendation 1: Fix MMP by dealing with earlier recommendations

The most important recommendation to come out of the report is for Parliament to again consider the 2012 Review of MMP. This report came up with some significant improvements, but was buried by the then-National government, which claimed there was not adequate consensus in Parliament to implement the changes.

It remains a disgrace that the 2012 review was ignored by self-interested politicians.

Notably, this 2012 report suggested that the MMP threshold of 5% should be lowered, because it had proved to be too high, in terms of being a barrier to new political parties gaining election to Parliament. To back up this point, the Commission’s recent report includes a table of information about the declining number of parties representing in Parliament.

With both NZ First and Greens just bettering the threshold in the 2017 election and at real risk of dropping below it next election there is a real risk that the number of parties will drop even further, with little chance of a new party getting into Parliament.

The 5% threshold is a failure for representative democracy and should be reduced at least to 3%, if not lower. It has been retained to protect large parties and is anti-democratic.

Recommendation 2: Update the prohibition on electioneering on election day and during the advance voting period

The Commission says the current election day rules, which essentially prohibit electioneering, are inconsistent with the rules in place during the advance voting period. This means there are only very limited rules for the couple of weeks prior to election day – when about half of votes are now made – but suddenly things become extremely restrictive on the actual final day of voting.

The current election day only rules have become a nonsense.

Recommendation 3: Fix the election broadcast allocations and prohibitions

This is especially a problem in terms of the money allocated each election to the parties, which they can spend on television, radio, and now also internet advertising. Last year the Commission allocated $4.1m to parties, but notes the ongoing complaints about lack of fairness in these allocations, drawing particular attention to smaller parties who claim to be disadvantaged by the unequal distributions of monies.

The Commission recommends a review. But these issues fall into both the “too hard” and “self-interest” baskets of the current parliamentary parties who benefit from the broken system.

The major beneficiaries of a badly flawed system should not be the ones who decide on a system that favours them.

Recommendation 4: Update rules about the misuse of electoral roll data

All sorts of companies, such as debt collectors and marketers make use of the printed electoral roll in order to carry out their commercial activities. There are huge privacy issues involved, which the law appears to be ignorant of, and there are people who therefore choose not to enroll to vote precisely because they don’t want their residential addresses to be made public.

The risk is made worse by the fact that the political parties are provided with the electoral roll in electronic form. This is a provision designed by the politicians so that their parties can more effectively send election advertising to voters and so forth. It’s questionable whether the parties should be given this data, and it seems that it’s an accident waiting to happen, as there are no procedures or guarantees that any of the 16 registered political parties will prevent this personal data falling into the wrong hands.

Recommendation 5: Allow Māori voters to change rolls at any time

Māori voters should be able to switch between the general and Māori electoral roll at any time according to the Commission. Currently, people of Māori descent can only change during the Māori Electoral Option period, every five-six years.

It seems odd that roll switching can only happen at specific times each 5-6 years.

Recommendation 6: Electoral offences system needs updating

When someone is deemed to have breached election rules, the Electoral Commission’s only remedy for this is essentially to refer the case to the Police for prosecution.

A substantial review of these laws is called for by the Commission. And although the politicians would surely welcome a chance to fix up some of the problematic rules they have to deal with, this area is a minefield of difficulty which could cause all sorts of prolonged debate about how to ensure elections are properly run without undue influence.

And the Police usually do nothing, or if they do something it takes so long it is ineffective.

Recommendation 7: Ban rosette wearing in polling places

Following last year’s election there were 342 complaints to the Commission about political party scrutineers wearing their party lapel badges or rosettes at the polling booths. Currently this is legal, but there seems to be an expectation that all voting places should be “campaign-free”, and therefore the Commission recommends a ban.

Seems trivial, but “campaign-free” polling places seems reasonable.

Recommendation 8: Allow voters to enroll on election day

Currently, voters can enrol to vote right up until election day. They can even enrol to vote at the same time that they make an advance vote in the two weeks leading up to election day. And of course, there are always a number of unenrolled voters who attempt to vote on election day, and have to cast a “special vote”, but have these disallowed. In 2017, 19,000 people had their votes disallowed. But the Commission suggests they should be allowed to enrol voters on election day.

A no-brainer – the current election day ban on enrolment is dated and ridiculous.

Recommendation 9: Introduce a fixed date for elections

The current rules for setting the triennial general election date are deliberately loose, allowing incumbent governments the choice of when to go to the polls. The Commission raises the prospect of changing the law to provide for a fixed election date – they suggest some discussion about this. They say that this would provide more certainty for voters, campaigners and candidates.

Is this fixing a problem that isn’t really broken? Some flexibility and pragmatism about election dates can’t be a problem.

Recommendation 10: Update where voting booths can be sited

The locations were people can cast their vote should be modernised according to the Commission. Currently there are a number of prohibitions relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol, which was historically meant to prevent voting in pubs where undue influence might occur. But now the Commission wants to set up booths where voters regularly gather, such as supermarkets and shopping malls.

In fact, in 2017 the Commission was remarkably successful in setting up advance voting booths in such places. But for election day, the rules are stricter, which meant that the booths had to be removed.

Bizarre. You can buy a bottle of wine or beer at a supermarket and then vote before election day but not on election day.

Finally, there are plenty of other recommendations of various levels of importance in the report.

The full Electoral Commission report.

Shewan reccomendations all go

When the Panama Papers were pushed publicly John said there was nothing wrong with how we allowed foreign trusts to use New Zealand, and he claimed that there was nothing wrong with disclosure requirements (as I remember it).

Under pressure Key appointed John Shewan to investigate and report. His recently released report said that our foreign trust laws were not fit for purpose and put New Zealand’s reputation at risk.

Today the Government responded and said they would implement all of Shewan’s recommendations, albeit with a few tweaks.

The official response: Government to adopt Shewan recommendations

The Government is acting on all recommendations from the Shewan Inquiry into foreign trust disclosure rules, Finance Minister Bill English and Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse announced today.

The Inquiry made a number of recommendations which propose improvements to registration and disclosure of information, anti-money laundering rules and increased information sharing between government agencies.

“The Government has always been open to making improvements to New Zealand’s already strong tax settings if that was warranted,” Mr English says.

“The Shewan Inquiry’s recommendations are sensible and well-reasoned and by acting on all of them, we will ensure that our foreign trust disclosure rules are strengthened and New Zealand’s reputation is protected.

“The changes to the foreign trust rules are a matter that the Government intends to move quickly on.

“The Government intends to introduce legislation to require a register that is searchable by Internal Affairs and the Police, and annual disclosure requirements in the coming months.”

Mr Woodhouse says that while the Government agrees with all of the recommendations from the Shewan inquiry, the way in which a small number are implemented will be tweaked.

“We have already committed to a course of action for strengthening New Zealand’s anti-money laundering rules, which will bring in more comprehensive requirements for lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and others,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“For example, lawyers and accountants will be included in AML/CFT requirements as soon as practicable, However due to issues around legal privilege and regime supervision this will form part of the more substantial AML/CFT reform programme already underway, which is being expedited.”

The good thing about this is that New Zealand’s foreign trust regime and reputation should both be strengthened.

And a lesson to learn is to not take too much notice of Key’s initial reaction to issues foisted on him. Wait to see what he will actually do once he has properly assessed things like need and political risk.

Dotcom and modernising extradition laws

Stuff recently reported that Kim Dotcom extradition appeal to be heard in August

Following the judgment in December they immediately launched an appeal and Justice Raynor Asher called a case review conference on Tuesday where he set a date for the appeal for August 29.

That would give him time to consider his decision and have a judgment ready before the end of the year, he said.

This was despite the United States asking for an earlier date, saying the appeal was of a matter of urgency.

No sign of urgency here, it is four years since Dotcom’s arrest.

Judge Nevin Dawson ruled the Mega moguls be eligible for extradition shortly before Christmas, following a lengthy nine week hearing at the North Shore District Court at Auckland.

He ruled the US had a “large body of evidence” which supported a prima facie case, and that Dotcom and his co-accused “fall well short of undermining the case.”

Dotcom and his Mega co-founders were back in the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday launching an appeal against an earlier District Court decision that he and his co-accused Mathias Ortmann, Fin Batato and Bram van der Kolk, were eligible for extradition to the United States on copyright charges.

David Fisher wrote Kim Dotcom might enjoy another summer

The charges relate to Dotcom’s Megaupload website, which was shut down in a global raid in 2012.

Yes, that’s four years ago.

The delays to this point have, to a great extent, been understandable. The Crown failed to cover itself in glory from the outset, and genuine questions needed judicial answers over discovery, illegal spying and search warrants.

The Crown today pushed for an earlier hearing but was defeated. The issues, said Dotcom’s team, were very complex and needed time to air. The High Court penciled in a date when the first signs of spring are starting to show.

Everyone can again display their expertise at length after the High Court scheduled the appeal for eight weeks from the end of August. That means it is scheduled to wander through to mid-October. Expect further appeals after that.

Guilty or not, liable for extradition or not, whatever — Dotcom looks likely to welcome in the 2017 New Year in New Zealand.

The Law Commission refers to the lengthy Dotcom extradition process in making recommendations for changes. The Herald reports Law change needed to tackle cross-border crime.

The growing problem of cross-border crime means the law should be changed to ensure New Zealand does its part, a review by the commission has concluded.

The report, released today, contains three key recommendations:

  • Requests from the vast majority of countries should be processed in the same way. Currently, the formal extradition steps vary considerably depending on which country is making the request, and treaties in place that are mostly over 100 years old.
  • Tailor-made rules should guide extradition proceedings. There should be a single appeal route, rather than the current regime that enables multiple and separate appeals and judicial reviews.
  • A new central authority should be created to manage all extradition requests. It would consider whether to commence an extradition proceeding, a call that would involve assessing the likelihood of success.

The Law Commission said making the extradition process more straightforward could be done at the same time as protecting the rights of the person sought.

The Law Commission has recommended that the court be given sole responsibility for deciding on nearly all of the grounds for refusal, with only a few grounds reserved for sole consideration by the Minister of Justice.

These recommendations won’t affect the Megaslow Dotcom case but if they are adopted they may speed cases up in the future.

It would help if the police didn’t cock things up in investigating and arresting people as well.

The Law Commission report: Modernising New Zealand’s Extradition and Mutual Assistance Laws