Police managed the firearms buy back scheme well – Auditor-General

The Auditor-General has investigated the firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme that was put in place following the deaths of 51 people at the Christchurch mosque shootings, and says that the Police managed the scheme well, but advised that “more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.”

The Minister of police summarised the findings of the report in Gun buyback well run, ongoing work needed

  • The buyback scheme was complex, challenging, and high risk, and Police managed it effectively,
  • 61,332 prohibited firearms were collected, destroyed, or modified, as at February 2020. Every single one of them was tightly traced and accounted for during the process.
  • Compensation of $102 million was paid and the final cost is forecast to be $120 million. Police took a principled and informed approach to compensation prices,
  • Police communicated well with the public, and treated gun owners with empathy and respect. There was a wide range of opportunities for people to hand in guns,
  • No one could be certain how many prohibited firearms existed before the law change. Police estimates, scrutinised by NZIER, suggested it could range from 55,000 to 240,000 firearms. NZIER advised part of the uncertainty was because guns could be easily modified with certain parts to make them a prohibited firearm,
  • There were deficiencies in how information was recorded in the past for military style semi-automatics, or E-category firearms. However Police were successful in locating them and are actively following up outstanding items,
  • The buyback scheme was supported by good systems and processes, with a robust level of oversight,
  • It cost more to administer the scheme than first anticipated. The initial estimate of $18 million grew to $35 million which Police met from internal budgets. The OAG found financial controls were appropriate and there was no wasteful spending,
  • More work is needed to process some applications. The OAG Report lists the number of outstanding applications as at February 2020, but the figures are now lower. Police are expected to keep publicly reporting on this till it is complete,
  • The scheme is important for the well-being of New Zealanders and Police should carry out a formal evaluation to look at compliance with firearms laws and improvements to public safety over time.

From the OAG report:

As part of the response to the attacks, Parliament passed the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019 on 11 April 2019. The Act prohibited firearms with the ability to cause harm in a rapid and highly destructive way from a distance.

The Act, supplemented by a set of associated statutory regulations, included a provision for a firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme (the scheme). The scheme allowed owners of newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts to hand them in to the New Zealand Police (the Police) in exchange for compensation. The purpose of the scheme was to improve public safety. We examined how effectively and efficiently the Police implemented the scheme.

We thought it important to provide the Police with real-time feedback so that they could make any improvements the scheme needed quickly. The Police were open to receiving and acting on Ernst & Young’s feedback and recommendations. I commend the Police for the open approach they took to this assurance work.

We make no comment on the policy decision to have a buy-back scheme because commenting on policy decisions is outside of my statutory mandate.

The Police managed the scheme effectively

Implementing the scheme was a complex, challenging, and high-risk task, and the Police had to do it in tight time frames.

The Police communicated with the public well

We found that the Police, assessors, and support staff treated people handing in firearms with empathy and respect. Firearms assessors were trained extensively to make fair decisions on compensating people for their firearms.

The scheme was supported by good systems and processes

The Police used a software system to register and track handed-in firearms and process compensation payments. This system was well designed and thoroughly tested before it went live. Although it mostly worked well, some internet connectivity issues caused delays at some local collection events.

Compensation payments did not exceed what was appropriated, and ACC’s contribution was compatible with its statutory functions

The 2019 Budget included an appropriation of $150 million in Vote Police to fund compensation payments for people handing in their prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts. The Police’s provisional information at 20 December 2019 shows that compensation payments to that date totalled $102 million.

Administering the scheme cost considerably more than estimated

In March 2019, the Police produced an initial estimate that administering the scheme would cost $18 million.

he Police now estimate that, once fully completed, administering the scheme will have cost up to $35 million. This includes costs of tracked staff time, contractors, and goods and services.

The Police need to finish implementing the scheme and make improvements to support their regulatory responsibilities

The Police still have much work to do to complete the scheme.

The process of implementing the scheme is ongoing and has proved more challenging than the Police anticipated. Some firearms still need modifications to comply with the new regulatory requirements, and the Police are still processing applications for endorsements to use newly prohibited firearms for a limited range of purposes. In my view, the Police should continue to report publicly on the performance of the scheme until they have completed this remaining work. The Police should also report to Parliament about the final outcomes of the scheme.

Importantly, the scheme is only one component of firearms regulation the Police have to implement. The Government introduced a Bill on 13 September 2019 that includes a wide range of controls on the use and possession of firearms. Parliament was considering this Bill at the time we were writing this report.

Concluding thoughts

The Police managed the scheme well. They were effective in providing people with a wide range of opportunities to hand in firearms and receive compensation, which was paid in a timely manner. The public was kept safe at local collection events, and the Police made considerable efforts to treat people with empathy and respect. However, there is still much work to be done, and the Police should continue to focus on completing the scheme.

We do not yet know how effective the scheme was in removing all newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts from the community. This is because there is no reliable picture of how many newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts remain in the community. Without this picture, I cannot determine whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money.

In my view, given the high level of public interest and expenditure, and the importance of this scheme for the well-being of all New Zealanders, more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.

Read the whole report (52 pages)

 

Labour staffer ‘sexual assault’ report

As some predicted the report into the accusations against a Labour staffer who worked in Parliament has been released just prior to Christmas.

And predictably the outcome has dismayed some people, particularly the complainants.

Concern has been expressed over the welfare of some of the complainants, with reports that a mental health crisis assess team was called for one complainant, and another had been treated in hospital.

RNZ: Sexual assault allegations against ex-Labour staffer ‘not established’

The inquiry into the allegations of sexual assault made by one Labour member against another has cast major doubts over the accuracy of the chief complainant’s story.

Labour released the executive summary of the report – conducted by independent lawyer Maria Dew QC – this afternoon.

It found “insufficient evidence” to back up the most serious allegations and ruled critical elements of the complainant’s version of events were incorrect.

It also said the complainant had since admitted providing “misleading information” to the investigation.

The man at the centre of the sexual assault allegations said the report came after a “thorough investigation” and a fair and transparent process.

RNZ has not named the man, but in a media statement through his lawyer, he said he had answered all questions and provided all of the information, asked of him.

He says the report backs up his repeated denials of serious sexual assault, finding no evidence to substantiate the claims.

The allegations had taken a toll on him and family, he said, and he thanked those who had supported him.

The complainant had given media a screenshot of an email and an attached document which she said she had sent to the Labour Party outlining her complaints of sexual assault.

Ms Dew concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that document was not attached.

The report also rejected the complainant’s claim that she had outlined her complaint in person to Labour’s investigation panel, saying that was “improbable” when assessed against the weight of other witness evidence.

RNZ includes a copy of the Executive Summary of the report.

Similar from Newsroom: Labour: report finds no sexual assaults, harassment

The Spinoff – ‘Worst nightmare’: Labour staffer complainants respond to Dew report

Complainants involved in the Labour Party inquiry into the conduct of a party staffer say they are “angry” and “disappointed” following the release of a report into their allegations. The Spinoff has spoken to some of the former Labour volunteers since the release of a summary of findings by Maria Dew QC into allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying by a Labour staffer. Despite hearing from five complainants, Dew found that almost all the allegations were “not established”.

Citing the confidentiality agreement that all complainants and the respondent were required to sign, the woman who alleged sexual assault said she could not address the details of the report. She did, however, say that she had only received a full version of the report this morning, and stressed that she stood by her account as shared with The Spinoff. She said she also wished to acknowledge the “huge plethora of women who aren’t able to prove sexual assaults”.

“This isn’t the result that we wanted and we are disappointed,” another complainant involved in the process said. “I still believe all the complainants and their stories and am proud of the work that they did in coming forward.” Another described experience as a whole as amounting to “the worst nightmare” for anyone considering speaking up about sexual violence. “I just feel shattered.”

Newshub – Labour Party sexual assault investigation: Complainants distressed claims not upheld

Complainants have told Newshub how distressing the report is and say they asked for more time before the investigation findings were released on Wednesday.

The report also found while the staffer’s other actions didn’t amount to unlawful bullying, the staffer had accepted his conduct was at times overbearing and aggressive, and that he had made three comments of a sexual nature.

But he denied the more serious allegations.

“We are not here to seek blame or seek malice,” Ardern said on Wednesday. “We are here to try and restore a process that should have been in place in the first place.”

Labour Party president Claire Szabo said she “would like to acknowledge the discomfort and distress that these matters have caused a number of our people”.

One complainant told Newshub the report has caused significant distress to some of the complainants and that’s been communicated to the party.

They’re worried significantly for the welfare of some of the complainants and had to call a mental health crisis assess team for one complainant, while another had been treated in hospital.

Newshub informed the Prime Minister that complainants are distressed that the investigation’s findings have been released.

She replied: “None of this should have been dealt with in this way.”

Alison Mau (Stuff): Labour sexual harassment complainants ‘told PM of suicide risk’ from report’s release

The prime minister’s office was warned the release of the Maria Dew report into sexual harassment by a former Labour Party staffer posed an immediate suicide risk to some of the complainants, one of the group claims.

Stuff understands a sexual assault counsellor told the office on Wednesday that at least two of the young people who participated in the review were at risk of harming themselves, and should be given more time to look at the report before it was released publicly.

A spokesperson for the prime minister confirmed “mental health” issues had been discussed with a support professional on Wednesday afternoon, but maintained the issue raised was not more time needed, but the release of any information at all.

He said Labour had been clear from the start that “some form of summary” would be made public.

He said the report’s release was intended to avoid the results being “played out” in the media.

“We understood that there were concerns, but we also ensured there was adequate support in place.”

The complainant said she was first alerted to the report’s imminent release in an email from a solicitor at 7.30pm on Tuesday. The email included a draft press release timed for 12 noon on Wednesday.

She said she and others in the survivor group asked the solicitor to go back to Labour and plead for more time. “We didn’t have enough notice,” the woman told Stuff.

Through tears, the woman said she was frantically worried about one of the other complainants, who had “gone AWOL” and had not been in contact with anyone since reading the report.

The woman said she had been told that any release process would be done with full collaboration with the complainant group.

“They haven’t done that. They have said this is what we are going to say, and they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway.

“The rationale was that they wanted the party not to be asked too many questions. We needed more time and they ignored it.”

So again Labour’s handling of this issue is being questioned.

The prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed to Stuff that all complainants, witnesses, and the alleged perpetrator had been asked to sign confidentiality agreements both at the beginning of the process as a condition of their participation, and again before being allowed to read the report on Wednesday.

He said these were not Non-Disclosure Agreements that would prevent complainants from sharing their thoughts about the report or the process.

“It was done to ensure that personal details didn’t enter the public domain. The requests around confidentiality primarily came from the complainants,” he said.

Complainants were asked to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure they didn’t put their details into the public domain? That seems odd.

The report had been delayed. Labour may have wanted this issue dealt with and closed off before the end of the year, but this timing would always be viewed cynically.

And it looks like the issue has not been closed off effectively.

Head of Safe and Effective Justice calls for cross-party consensus

While Chester Borrows was an ex-National MP he is also an ex police officer and lawyer, so was a good appointment as head of the Safe and Effective Justice advisory group set up by the Labour led government.

The group has just released it’s report after extensive consultation – see Te Uepū report – Transforming our Criminal Justice System

Borrows is now calling for cross-party consensus on reforming the justice system.

RNZ: Time for cross-party consensus to transform justice system – Borrows

The head of a group that found racism embedded in every area of the criminal justice system says it’s now time for a cross-party consensus to tackle to the issue.

Māori were over-represented as both victims and offenders of crime, with Māori making up 51 percent of the prison.

Chairperson of the government’s Safe and Effective Justice advisory group, Chester Borrows, told Morning Report the report highlighted the need for “transformational change” and said any political party would be foolish to disregard the report’s contents.

He said the legacy of colonialism had meant Māori entered prison after being socially and economically disenfranchised.

“People tend to think that this is something that is really historic,” he said. “In fact, if you take away the economic base of a community and them under-educate them in a foreign language it’s not surprising that a few generations down the track they are corralled into the lowest decile suburbs failing in every area of the social sector.

“What we have in New Zealand is people don’t really touch the justice system until they’ve been failed by all those other areas such as health. education, welfare, the economy and employment… We’ve allowed that to happen. It’s a pattern and we’ve done nothing about, in respect to prisons, in 30 years.”

The former National minister said it was now time both political parties and government departments came together to untangle the legacy, so that policy and its implementation reflected one purpose. He said a transformational change in the way government and political opposition looked at justice was key to success.

“Any party would be foolish to disregard this report, which is so comprehensive, I think this is where people in the middle of the political spectrum are. The changes that need to be made are fundamental.

“We have no single driver of the justice sector and yet we’ve got five different departments who are in it, all measuring themselves against their own KRA, but not with one single goal in mind and that’s a ridiculous place to be… If they are not all facing the same thing and heading towards a common goal then they are stuck but they start.”

He acknowledged this would be difficult, due to the criminalisation of Māori and a punishment-based focus on the criminal justice system being made political positions at election time. But said the public was now sick of that approach. “It is too important for it to remain political all the time,” he said.

It will be difficult reaching political consensus on major reforms of the justice system, but it shouldn’t be difficult for all parties to work together on this.

Simon Bridges is a lawyer and has been a Crown prosecutor. He could use that experience, and show real leadership by ensuring that National engages positively on seeking reform.

Mark Mitchell is National’s spokesperson for justice. I haven’t seen either him or Bridges respond to the Safe and Effective Justice report. I hope that means they are seriously considering contributing to finding solutions.

Andrew Little – New Zealanders want a better justice system

Minister of Justice Andrew Little in response to the Te Uepū report – Transforming our Criminal Justice System.


New Zealanders from across the country are calling for the criminal justice system to be overhauled, says Justice Minister Andrew Little.

The Minister today released the interim report He Waka Roimata from Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group, which captures feedback from New Zealanders on the current state of the justice system and offers insights on how it can be improved.

“I welcome the first report from Te Uepū, which clearly demonstrates a public appetite for long-term sustainable and enduring transformation in the justice system,” says Andrew Little.

“This report follows comprehensive engagement with the community and shows New Zealanders want to see less offending, less re-offending, and fewer victims of crime, who are better supported.

“The report provides sober reading. There are many stories and examples shared by victims, families, offenders and organisations that are upsetting, especially those that demonstrate failings in the system that could be avoided through simple, early and appropriate interventions.

“The report also offers hope. The overwhelming sense is that we can make change for the better, and deliver safer and more effective justice for all New Zealanders.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has given their voice especially those who have been victimised.

“Te Uepū is now developing reform options for the Government that it believes will contribute to a safer and more effective justice system,” says Andrew Little.

The interim report can be found at: http://www.safeandeffectivejustice.govt.nz/about-this-work/te-uepu-report

Te Uepū report – Transforming our Criminal Justice System

Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group – has released a report after consultation around the country.


The overwhelming message from New Zealanders is that regardless of how they come into contact with the justice system, it is failing them and their families and there is a need for transformative and sustained change, according to a new report released today.

The report from Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group, He Waka Roimata (A Vessel of Tears), provides valuable insights into public attitudes and ideas about New Zealand’s justice system, says Te Uepū’s Chair Chester Borrows.

“Our advisory group was set up by the Justice Minister to conduct an honest and constructive conversation with New Zealanders on how we can deliver safer and more effective justice,” says Chester Borrows.

“We listened to thousands of New Zealanders from all over the country at our public events, through our website and social media, and at events we attended. We heard from interested members of the public, as well as those who have been victimised, prosecuted for offending or who offer services to communities that have been affected.

“The overwhelming impression we got from people who have experienced the criminal justice system is one of grief. Far too many New Zealanders feel the system has not dealt with them fairly, compassionately or with respect – and in many cases has caused more harm.

“We heard that the current system simply isn’t delivering effective justice, and a 60 per cent reoffending rate within two years of a person leaving prison is some evidence of its ineffectiveness.

“We’re hearing that many victims are left with a sense that justice has not been done. People are feeling let down at their most vulnerable time.

“And for Māori the legacy of colonisation comes in many forms, many of them with tragic consequences, as is the case in all colonised countries where indigenous peoples are over-represented in prison. This legacy is a gross unfairness and something we should not tolerate in New Zealand.

“There is widespread recognition that at every point in their lives, and over generations, Māori experience disadvantage that increases the risk they will come into contact with the criminal justice system.

“We’re convinced from what we’ve heard that solutions already exist and that people from all sectors of society want to be actively engaged in building a justice system that all people can be collectively proud of.

“We’re now developing a response to the themes and ideas raised by the public, which we will provide later this year,” says Chester Borrows.

Te Uepū’s report complements ongoing work by the Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: Safe and Effective Justice Programme and the recent Victims Issues Workshop and Hui Māori: Ināia Tonu Nei Safe and Effective Justice forum.

Read the full report

Democrats versus Barr versus Mueller are not fading away

The Mueller investigation led to the Barr letter which was followed by the release of most of the Mueller report was followed by the release of a Mueller letter to Barr, and now Barr has been questioned in the US senate. And the controversies continue, predictably with many angles being taken by media and politicians.

Washington Examiner: 5 takeaways from the Barr hearing

1. Tension between Attorney General William Barr and Robert Mueller

Barr revealed a split with the special counsel over the pursuit of evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the probe. Mueller did not draw any conclusion on obstruction, despite gathering the evidence.

“The investigation carried on for a while as additional episodes were looked into,” Barr told the panel. “So my question was, why were those investigated if, at the end of the day, you weren’t going to reach a decision on them?”

Later in the hearing Barr dismissed a March 27 letter from Mueller complaining about Barr’s four-page memo to Congress about the report. “The letter’s a bit snitty and I think it was written by one of his staff people,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2. Barr didn’t review Mueller’s evidence.

Under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a former prosecutor who is running for president, Barr acknowledged neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the trove of evidencegathered by the Mueller team before he cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.

The Mueller report did not clear Trump of any wrongdoing, but Barr’s letter summarising the findings of the investigation were taken by Trump and others as doing that.

3. Barr is probing leaks to media.

Under questioning from Republicans on the panel, Barr said he is investigating Department of Justice leaks to the media regarding the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

4. Barr is examining the justification for surveillance warrants into Trump campaign.

Barr said he is investigating the basis for the Justice Department’s decision to secretly surveil the Trump campaign beginning in October 2016. Barr said he is working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to determine if a surveillance warrant was properly obtained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court the month before the election.

5. Senate Judiciary (probably) won’t call Mueller to testify.

Democrats are eager to hear testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, they said Wednesday. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., doesn’t plan to invite him.

“I’m not going to do any more,” Graham said after Barr’s day-long hearing. “Enough already, it’s over.”

But it appears to be far from over.

RealClear Politics – Pelosi: Attorney General Barr Committed A Crime; “He Lied To Congress”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of criminally lying to Congress about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Mueller’s letter relating to how Barr has characterized its findings.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” the Speaker told reporters.

Asked again about the accusation, Pelosi said: “He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law.”

Asked whether Barr should go to jail, the speaker said: “There’s a process involved here.”

There’s something for everyone to cherry pick from.

Antibiotic resistant superbugs ‘a global crisis’

The discovery of antibiotics had a huge impact on treating infections. They have saved many lives and contributed significantly to increased life expectancy.

But increased resistance to antibiotics, in part caused by overuse and misuse, has resulted in the growth of resistant ‘superbugs’. If solutions can’t be found a UN committee report warns that up to 10 million people may die annually by 2030 as a result of drug-resistant diseases – more than the combined deaths from all cancers.

Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance report to the Secretary-general of the United Nations:


NO TIME TO WAIT:
SECURING THE FUTURE FROM DRUG-RESISTANT INFECTIONS
April 2019

KEY MESSAGES IN THIS REPORT

Antimicrobial resistance is a global crisis that threatens a century of progress in health and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Antimicrobial (including antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal and antiprotozoal) agents are critical tools for fighting diseases in humans, terrestrial and aquatic animals and plants, but they are becoming ineffective.
  • Alarming levels of resistance have been reported in countries of all income levels, with the result that common diseases are becoming untreatable, and lifesaving medical procedures riskier to perform.
  • Antimicrobial resistance poses a formidable challenge to achieving Universal Health Coverage and threatens progress against many of the Sustainable Development Goals, including in health, food security, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, and poverty and inequality.
  • Misuse and overuse of existing antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants are accelerating the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Inadequate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities, farms, schools, households and community settings; poor infection and disease prevention; lack of equitable access to affordable and quality-assured antimicrobials, vaccines and diagnostics; and weak health, food and feed production, food safety and waste management systems are increasing the burden of infectious disease in animals and humans and contributing to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens.

There is no time to wait. Unless the world acts urgently, antimicrobial resistance will have disastrous impact within a generation.

  • Drug-resistant diseases already cause at least 700,000 deaths globally a year, including 230,000 deaths from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a figure that could increase to 10 million deaths globally per year by 2050 under the most alarming scenario if no action is taken. Around 2.4 million people could die in highincome countries between 2015 and 2050 without a sustained effort to contain antimicrobial resistance.
  • The economic damage of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance could be comparable to the shocks experienced during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis as a result of dramatically increased health care expenditures; impact on food and feed production, trade and livelihoods; and increased poverty and inequality.
  • In higher-income countries, a package of simple interventions to address antimicrobial resistance could pay for itself due to costs averted. In lower income countries, additional but still relatively modest investments are urgently needed.
  • If investments and action are further delayed, the world will have to pay far more in the future to cope with the disastrous impact of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance.

Click to access IACG_final_report_EN.pdf


Perhaps arms and war budgets should be redirected to dealing with this. Ten million deaths a year is a far bigger death rate than either of the World Wars.

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.

Arms Amendment Act report presented to Parliament

The final report in the fast tracked Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill has been reported back to Parliament, seven days after first being introduced, and after two days of public submissions and one day of oral submissions.

The Finance and Expenditure Committee recommends that the bill be passed, but with minor amendments.

The amendments show that the committee has at least listened to some concerns expressed in submisssions.

Key parts of the report (some edits and omissions):


The bill’s proposed changes include:

  • defining the following items as prohibited:
    o all military-style semi-automatic firearms (MSSAs)
    o semi-automatic firearms, other than those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges or semi-automatic shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold no more than 5 cartridges
    o pump-action shotguns that can be used with a detachable magazine
    o pump-action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold more than 5 cartridges
    o any magazines and parts that would enable a firearm to be converted into a prohibited firearm
  • exempting limited categories of licence holders who could apply to import, sell, supply, and possess these prohibited items
  • providing a strict regulatory regime for these prohibited items
  • introducing new offences and penalties relating to these prohibited items
  • providing for an amnesty period, until 30 September 2019, for people to surrender prohibited items
  • providing for the definition of prohibited firearm, prohibited magazine, and prohibited ammunition to be amended, replaced, or declared by Order in Council.

The amendments set out in the bill would be the first in a set of reforms to the Arms Act which have been signalled by the Government.

Prohibited items

The bill would prohibit most semi-automatic firearms (other than pistols), and some shotguns, from circulation and use in New Zealand’s general population. These firearms, whether they are currently classified as an A Category or E Category firearm, would no longer be generally available.

Some small-calibre rimfire semi-automatic firearms, such as those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges, and lesser-capacity shotguns that can hold no more than 5 cartridges, would be excluded from the prohibition. These firearms are commonly used for hunting and farming, and have a
limited magazine capacity.

The bill would also prohibit:

  • magazines used with shotguns that can hold more than 5 cartridges
  • magazines used with any other firearm (except a pistol) that can hold more than 10 cartridges
  • parts that can convert firearms into prohibited firearms.

Exemptions

The bill would provide some narrow exemptions so that certain categories of licensed gun owners could apply to import, supply, sell, or possess prohibited items. Exempt categories of people would include:

  • licensed dealers
  • bona fide collectors of firearms
  • bona fide museum curators or directors
  • approved broadcasters, bona fide theatre companies or societies, and film or television production companies
  • people engaged by the Department of Conservation, or by a management agency under the Biosecurity Act 1993, to kill or hunt wild animals or animal pests
  • a person authorised by the Minister of Conservation to undertake wild animal recovery
    operations.

Suggested amendments to the bill

Exemption for commercial wild animal or animal pest control businesses

We recommend adding a narrow exemption to allow commercial businesses specialising in the control of wild animals or animal pests to use a prohibited item for pest-control purposes on private land or non-conservation Crown land in accordance with a specified Act.

The bill as introduced would provide an exemption for persons carrying out pest control who are employed or engaged by the Department of Conservation or a management agency in accordance with the Biosecurity Act. However, these exemptions would not cover pest control on private land, such as farms, or non-conservation Crown land.

We consider that there would be some narrow circumstances where use of a prohibited firearm was absolutely necessary to carry out pest control on private land or non-conservation Crown land for conservation, environmental, or economic reasons. Our recommendation would allow a private landowner to engage a wild animal or animal pest control business to use such firearms while still removing most semi-automatic firearms from circulation.

We recommend that wild animals or animal pests, under the specified Acts referred to in clause 8 of the bill as introduced, include Canada Geese.

Airsoft and paintball guns

Airguns used in airsoft and paintball sports come under the definition of airgun, not firearm, in the Arms Act. This means that such airguns would not be affected by the prohibitions in the bill.

Under the Arms Act at present, a person must have a permit to import a restricted airgun. This is any airgun that looks like a restricted weapon, military-style semi-automatic firearm, or pistol. The bill would keep and extend this requirement to include any airgun that looks like a prohibited firearm as defined in clause 5, section 2A.

Exemption for firearms collectors

We wish to clarify that bona fide collectors of firearms would be permitted to possess prohibited semi-automatic firearms under clause 8 of the bill, which would insert new section 4A(1)(b) into the Act.

For a person to obtain an endorsement on their licence to possess a prohibited item as a bona fide collector, they would need to fulfil the requirements in clause 31, section 33A.

Conditions of endorsement for collectors of firearms

Clause 65(2), section 74(1)(ha) of the bill as introduced would allow regulations to be made to provide for the secure storage of a vital part of a prohibited firearm possessed by a bona fide collector, to render it inoperable. The regulations would also prescribe precautions to be taken to prevent the theft or misuse of a vital part.

We consider that provisions for the secure storage of a vital part should be included in the principal Act. Therefore, we recommend inserting an additional condition of endorsement for bona fide collectors of firearms into clause 31, to require the removed vital part of a prohibited firearm to be stored at a separate address, which would be regulated by the Police.

The Green Party and the NZ Police Association opposed this.

Exemption for people with heirloom or memento firearms

We recommend adding a narrow exemption that would allow people to possess a prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine that clearly has special significance as an heirloom or memento.

We recommend that our suggested exemption be subject to the same conditions ofendorsement that clause 31 of the bill as introduced would apply to bona fide collectors.

Proof of unlawful possession

Clause 49 of the bill would insert new sections 50A to 50C into the Act to introduce new offences for unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, magazines, or parts. These provisions would be covered by the “reverse onus of proof” provision in section 66 of the Arms Act. This means that the owner of any land, building, or vehicle where a prohibited item was found would be presumed to be in possession of it unless they could prove otherwise.

As introduced, it would create the possibility of an innocent person being wrongly convicted if they were in possession of a part that could be fitted to both a non-prohibited and prohibited firearm.

Therefore, we recommend amending clause 49, section 50C(a) to ensure that a person who had reasonable excuse to possess a prohibited part would not be criminalised for possessing it. For the same reason, we also recommend deleting “prohibited part” in clause 61, which would amend section 66 of the Act.

Order in Council powers

Power to amend definitions

The Order in Council powers in the bill as introduced (clause 66, sections 74A and 74B) would allow the Governor-General to “amend and replace the description” of prohibited items in new sections 2A and 2B. We consider this power to be broader than the existing Order in Council powers in section 74A of the Arms Act. The existing section provides for militarystyle semi-automatic firearms, and features of these firearms, to be defined, described, and declared by Order in Council.

We recommend amending clause 66, section 74A(a) and (b) to state “amend the description”, rather than “amend and replace the description”. Our amendment would constrain the Order in Council powers in the bill as introduced.

Transition period for future Orders in Council

We recommend inserting a provision into clause 65, section 74 to allow the GovernorGeneral to make regulations to declare a limited amnesty period for possession offences created by future Orders in Council.

Comments for clarification

Suppressors, silencers, and sights

Suppressors, silencers, and sights that are fitted to, designed for, or intended to be used on an A Category firearm by a person who lawfully holds an A Category licence would not be prohibited by the bill.

As an example, a suppressor, silencer, or sight fitted to, designed for, or intended to be used on a firearm prohibited under the bill would be considered a prohibited part. However, if the prohibited firearm was surrendered and the suppressor, silencer, or sight was then intended for use on a non-prohibited firearm, it would no longer be a prohibited part.

Competitive shooting sports

We do not recommend an exemption for sporting competitors or competitions.

We consider an exemption unnecessary because the bill would not prevent people from competing in shooting disciplines at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games. In addition, we believe that people who compete in the 3-gun discipline would be able to use a 0.22 or lower calibre semi-automatic firearm, rather than a 0.223 calibre semi-automatic firearm, to continue to participate in the discipline.

The purpose of the bill is to prohibit the use of most semi-automatic firearms in New Zealand in order to reduce the risk of death or injury resulting from their misuse. We believe that providing an exemption for sporting competitors would allow more semi-automatic firearms to remain in circulation than we consider desirable for public safety.

Buy-back scheme

The Government has announced that it will set up a buy-back scheme to encourage people to give up their firearms. The buy-back scheme is not part of this bill.

The New Zealand Police and the Treasury are working on the details of the buy-back. The Government has said that the underlying principle of the buy-back will be that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid to firearms owners. It has also signalled that the buyback will take into account the age and type of the firearm, and its market value.

The New Zealand National Party and ACT New Zealand registered some concerns.

Full report here.

Release of Mueller report

It sounds like the report detailing the findings of the Robert Mueller inquiry in the US is imminent.

UPDATE:  Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia probe

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days.

In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, Barr wrote that Mueller “has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.”

Barr wrote that Mueller submitted a report to him explaining his prosecution decisions. The attorney general told lawmakers he was “reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

Attorney General Barr has sent this letter to the heads of the Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary committees:

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:

I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.

The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or delineation decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.

Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.

Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.

Sincerely,

William P. Barr

Attorney General

CNN:  This was the last week of the Trump presidency as we know it

This all began on May 17, 2017, when Mueller was appointed as special counsel by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In the intervening 22 months (statistics courtesy of CNN Mueller probe expert Marshall Cohen):
  • Mueller brought criminal charges against 37 people and entities.
  • 6 of them were associates of President Trump: Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump ex-attorney Michael Cohen and political svengali Roger Stone
  • 5 people have been sentenced to prison
  • Trump has referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” more than 170 times.