Trump’s obsession with himself

Another leak, this time of transcripts of President Trumps conversations with Australian and Mexican leaders early this year, have shown again how obsessed with himself and his image that Trump is.

He said “I am the world’s greatest person” to Malcolm Turnbull in January.

And recent reports show how he seems to have trouble understanding the difference between leading a company, where the boss can dictate what he likes, compared to the complexities of the US system of government.

Reuters:  Trump, frustrated by Afghan war, suggests firing U.S. commander: officials

During a July 19 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Trump demanded that his top national security aides provide more information on what one official called “the end-state” in a country where the United States has spent 16 years fighting against the Taliban with no end in sight.

The meeting grew stormy when Trump said Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, a Marine general, should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for not winning the war.

“We aren’t winning,” he told them, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some officials left the meeting “stunned” by the president’s vehement complaints that the military was allowing the United States to lose the war.

Trump seems to have a habit of firing if he isn’t ‘winning’.

CNN: Trump’s Russia statement proves he doesn’t understand separation of powers

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Russia sanctions bill that the Republican-led Congress had approved overwhelmingly. But he made sure everyone knew he wasn’t happy about it — and in so doing revealed, again, that he has either little understanding of or little care for the separation of powers built into the US government.

What makes Trump’s derision of the division of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches different is both how brazen he is about it and how many times he has expressed sentiments in his first six-plus months in office that suggest he simply doesn’t understand the fact that everyone in the government doesn’t work for him.

And the latest leaks from Washington Post: The Post’s latest bombshell 

Produced by White House staff, the documents provide an unfiltered glimpse of Trump’s approach to the diplomatic aspect of his job, subjecting even a close neighbor and long-standing ally to streams of threats and invective as if aimed at U.S. adversaries.

With Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

The Jan. 28 call with Turnbull became particularly acrimonious. “I have had it,” Trump erupted after the two argued about an agreement on refugees. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”

Before ending the call, Trump noted that at least one of his conversations that day had gone far more smoothly. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said, referring to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “This is ridiculous.” … “This is going to kill me,” he said to Turnbull. “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people.”

With Mexican President Peña Nieto:

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.” …

Peña Nieto resisted, saying that Trump’s repeated threats had placed “a very big mark on our back, Mr. President.” He warned that “my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall.”

Trump objected: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

Jennifer Rubin at WaPo: Why the leaked presidential transcripts are so frightening

It is shocking to see presidential conversations released in this way. Some in the executive branch, as Anthony Scaramucci aptly put it, are intent on protecting the country from Trump. This is a good thing, by the way. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has obviously failed to plug the flood leaks.

These transcripts may have been leaked before Kelly took over.

Trump is frighteningly obsessed with himself and his image to such an extent that he cannot fulfill the role of commander in chief. He cannot frame logical arguments based on public policy, and therefore comes across as, well, a fool to foreign leaders.

His desire to maintain his own image suggests he’d be more than willing to make the country’s interests subordinate to his own need for personal affirmations.

Trump’s narcissism leaves him open to flattery and threats (to reveal embarrassing material, for example). That’s the worry in the Russia investigation — namely, that Vladimir Putin has “something” on Trump, which compels Trump to act in ways inimical to U.S. interests.

Trump’s interests are paramount, so a cagey adversary can easily manipulate him.

There is no easy solution.

One cannot be impeached and removed for being an embarrassment to the United States or an egomaniac temperamentally unfit for the job (that was the argument for not electing him). Unless he really goes off the deep end, invoking the 25th Amendment is not a realistic option.

That leaves members of Congress and his administration with a few options.

And Trump keeps blaming everyone else. He recently tweeted:

But he can’t fire Congress, nor the Senate. He is stuck with the political and judicial system that the US has got. And the US is probably stuck with him until he throws a major hissy fit for not getting his own way and chucks the job in.

In the meantime it is likely that Russia, China, North Korea, and much of the Middle East will be trying to work out how they can exploit Trump’s ego.

With the amount of fire power available to lash out with this has to be a major concern.

One slightly reassuring thing – Trump seems to be relying more on generals to run his administration. They may be the best chance of keeping his flaws in check.

Judge Peter Boshier on family violence

Judge Peter Boshier, law commissioner and formerly chief of the Family Court, talks to Duncan Garner about Government plans to find better ways of addressing family violence and on protection orders.

Duncan Garner: The Law Commission is about to release a discussion document on this domestic violence law review, what’s likely to be in it and what we need to do.

What do we need to do with these domestic laws. Do we need to beef them up and sort them out?

Judge Peter Boshier: I think that we need a stand alone domestic violence charge. I think it would focus on the issue and really make everyone much more aware of the true extent of family violence.

At the moment it tends to get a bit merged into other forms of crime, so I think what’s happened in terms of initiatives this week – very very encouraging.

Garner: I was looking at that family violence review report that showed 139 people including 37 children died from family violence and related homicides between 2009 and 2012, so that’s an average of 35 a year. It’s too many isn’t it.

Boshier: Yes, and I think what the Minister’s concentrating on this week is the fact that half of our homicides each year, 50%, the basis of those is family violence.

And when I look at the extent of it that passes through the courts, I’m still doing Family Court work, and I just look at what the extent of family violence is, I’m not surprised that a lot of it ends up in homicide.

So I think there’s a recognition that this is probably our number one social evil right now.

It has probably been our number one social evil for a long time.

Garner: So if it does end up in homicide what can we do earlier in that process so it doesn’t?

Boshier: Two things. One is, and I wanted this to say I’m speaking to you as Chair of White Ribbon, and the importance of me just saying that is that this is very much an attitude change organisation.

It’s aimed at saying that all the enforcement in the world won’t stop people who are determined to kill, but what you can do is begin attitude change.

And I think we’ve done that in New Zealand with things such as drunk driving, smoking, there are other examples where we’ve changed our attitude and we accept that something’s simply not acceptable.

So the first thing I think is attitude change.

Garner: How do you change attitude?

Boshier: I think you breed an ethos that instead of resorting to the fists and power imbalanced by intimidation you resolve conflict in a way in which there’s dignity and there’s a talking through of issues. That’s after all what old cultures of the world have done for years.

Garner: That could take a generational change for some people because they’ve never seen it in their own families.

Boshier: And I think you have hit the nail on the head. There is intergenerational  family violence which means that people grow up against that background, that’s what they’re used to.

I’m not at all daunted by the fact that it may take a long time. What I’m encouraged about when I heard the Minister talking on Q & A yesterday was that if there’s leadership at the top.

You know if there is a commitment by people like you, like me, like the Minister to achieve change, I think society can do it.

Garner: What about protection orders, I’ve heard from people on my show this afternoon, from a mother, a woman called Sue and her daughter who both have protection orders against the daughter’s ex, the son-in-law of Sue, who has breached the protection order three or four times and only been fined or different curfews put in. No prison time.

Boshier: Two things about that. One is that the Police, I believe, understand the importance of intervening meaningfully when there’s an alleged breach of the protection order, and i think that is a change that will occur.

With the courts quite often breaches of protection orders occur with other things and may get a bit lost or diluted when other crime is going on. I don’t want to apologise for that or sanction in any way.

What I would like to say is that if we can focus on a breach of a protection order being just as bad as any other breach of a court order like driving while disqualified, and we say that there is no excuse, and there will be no way out other than accountability, and I want to re-emphasise that word, accountability, by all of us, then I think we’re going to take things more seriously.

Garner: Could I just ask that question again though, with protection orders do you think we will see change then, I think you hinted there that there might be change in that area.

Boshier: My understanding of what I heard the Minister say yesterday was that in the overall review of family violence legislation, which I think is going to be unfolded by the Minister this Wednesday, it’s expected that there will be a number of suggested changes to the extent of protection orders and their enforcement.

I have not been privy to the discussion paper that the Minister is going to release, but I pick up the signs that what’s this far been just a breach of a protection order might now become elevated to a default position where someone’s in real trouble.

Last year I taught in Palau which is in Micronesia, and their family protection legislation has a default position, whereas for the first breach you get seven days imprisonment. For the second breach you get fourteen, and for the third and subsequent you get twenty eight days imprisonment. It’s snap.

Unfortunately our prisons have serious problems with perpetuating violent behaviour.

There’s no real way out of it. And I think the messaging is absolutely unequivocal, so it may be that our messaging needs to be clearer and women.

Look they should expect that if they go to the trouble of getting a protection order it will give them meaningful protection.

AUDIO: Law Commission to propose changes to domestic violence laws and protection orders

From the Q & A interview here are Amy Adam’s comments on protection orders:

CORIN One of the areas where you’re not getting the cut through is clearly around protection orders. Researching for this interview – a staggering number of breaches of people who have gone on to kill and do terrible things. They clearly aren’t working. Will you make it tougher to— easier to get protection orders and tougher if they are breached?

AMY Well, first of all, I wouldn’t say that they’re not working. I think they have a very valuable role in our system. But clearly if they’re being breached, serious consequences can flow. So absolutely we’ll be looking at protection orders, how they work, how you get them, what the consequences are of breach, who takes what action, who has to lead that, does it have to be victim-led, can the police act on their own initiative? So all of these things are being looked at. What we’re seeing is actually an increasing number of prosecutions for breaches of protection orders, which is a good thing, an increasing number of convictions every year for breaches, and we’ve already put the penalties up.

CORIN Do you need, though, to take more—? And this is one of the things that came through from the likes of Women’s Refuge when we talked to them. Do you need more of a zero-tolerance approach to protection orders? Because it seems as though, you know, a bit of a warning, first breach and nothing’s done. You know, and the police miss it or something. Does there a need to be a much tougher approach to the first breach of that order?

AMY I think we need to have very clear expectations that breaches of protection orders are taken extremely seriously. Now, the police do have to look at their arresting practices and how that works and getting it in front of the courts, and then the courts and the judges have to think about how they handle them. As I say, we’ve put that penalty up, so from the first breach, an offender can be liable to three years in prison, and I think that’s right. But I still think there are questions around how can they be more effective, how can we secure the victim’s protection under them more effectively, how can we make them easier to get, how can think about all of the myriad of things that flow from that, like where are the people going to live, how do we physically keep them safe? So there’s a lot of questions to ask, and as I said, the goal of this is to start that discussion, ‘How do we do this better?’

Amy Adams on overhauling family violence laws

Mojo’s Masterton interview

There was some controversy last week over Grren MP Mojo Mathers and her trip to Masterton. Someone initiated a story about it for the Herald on Sunday and Jordan Williams of Taxpayers’ Union was quoted with some unwise comments that he later regretted making.

The trip included a radio interview. Mojo just posted a link to a podcast and a transcript at Frogblog. To give it wider coverage I’ll repeat it here.

It provides a good insight into Mojo becoming an MP and the work she does,

Podcast here.

Transcript of interview between Arrow FM ‘Wheels on Fire’ hosts Matt & Vanessa and Mojo Mathers (MM)

Matt: And Vanessa’s here, unfortunately Corrine isn’t with us today, which is a bit of a bummer because we have a really special guest here in the studio with us. I’d like to introduce Christchurch East MP Mojo Mathers who’s here to talk to us about becoming an MP and the experience of that, and I’m sure it will be a really awesome show. So welcome in, Mojo, and thank you so much for joining us because you’ve come all the way over from Wellington this morning, so thank you for making the huge effort.

MM: Hi Mark, thanks for inviting me, I’m pleased to be here. I’ve actually flown up from Christchurch this morning and then driven up from Wellington.

Matt: Oh you’re kidding, oh wow! I didn’t realize that, that’s even more of an effort, far out. Anyway, Mojo can you just give us a little bit of background about yourself maybe to start off, for the listeners?

MM: Sure, I’d be very happy to. I was born profoundly deaf as the result of a difficult labour, my mother had a very difficult labour with me. But she was not aware that my hearing had been impacted upon, so it wasn’t picked up until I was two and a half when the kindergarten teachers said to my mother: do you realize that your daughter cannot hear, and that is why she’s not speaking yet? And so at that point I was fitted out with hearing aides, and these days they were big boxes that you wore strapped onto a harness.

Matt: Yeah absolutely, I remember those.

MM: Yeah, really cumbersome.

Matt: Hideous things.

MM: Yeah. So I absolutely hated them to tell the truth, and it took a bit of convincing to get me to wear them.

Matt: Absolutely. So you’ve always been deaf?

MM: So yeah, always been deaf. And growing up I was told that I would never be able to wear ear levels behind the hearing aide, and I was very upset by that. But fortunately technology progressed and eventually as a teenager I was able to have ear levels. I can’t tell you how happy I was for that.

Matt: Yeah, what a difference that must have made. I mean technology must have been a huge part for you right throughout your life, to help you function as an individual.

MM: Oh absolutely. And there was another major breakthrough when email became standardized so that you didn’t have to rely on the telephone, which I’ve never really been able to use until very recently.

Matt: I know we’ve had a fair few emails flying backwards and forwards between us. So thank you for tolerating those as well while we’ve been trying to organise the interview today, it’s been an awesome process for me and I was just absolutely blown away that you even said yes, so there you go. So can you tell us a little bit about where you came from originally, and how you came to be settled in Christchurch?

MM: Yes. I was born in England, but my family came to New Zealand when I was 14. We first settled in Hawkes Bay and I went to Karamu High School, and there was a deaf unit there. I was actually mainstreamed but I went to the deaf unit for speech therapy lessons because at that point in time it was still quite hard for people to understand me. So we did a lot, many, many hours of speech therapy to get me to articulate the sounds that I can’t hear in speech, which includes a lot of the consonants like t and f and so on, and these sounds I can’t hear so I had to be shown how to make them, and then practice and practice. And when I was 18 I shifted to Christchurch to go to Canterbury University, and I started off doing mathematics, then I did a mathematics Honours degree, but then I shifted over to do conservation ecology at the School of Forestry and I did a Master’s degree there. So that’s eventually how I got involved with politics, because of my passion for environmental issues.

Matt: That was my next question, so what led you into politics?

MM: Well, I was probably very unaware of politics for most of my life until my family and I with small children moved out to the country, to a rural area. That was in Canterbury, and there was a proposal for a massive dam right beside the village that was going to flood a valley with a very special QE II reserve on it, of very special ecological value. And so I joined a group called the Dam Action Group, and we decided to try and fight this dam, and eventually actually we were successful in that the dam did not go ahead, although the irrigation proposal is still going ahead. But they’re protecting the valley and the five generations of farmers who have farmed in that valley, and it was a real win for us.

Matt: Absolutely. What sort of obstacles have you found since become an MP? Were there any sort of obstacles that could have stopped you becoming an MP, because of your disability or-?

MM: Well, I mean, when I became an MP of course there was a big public debate around the funding of the electronic note takers that I need in order to be able to follow the debate in the debating chamber and to participate in the Select Committees. And so I’m not sure if you’re aware how that works, but basically what it means is that I have a laptop in front of me in the debating chamber, and in another room outside, away, people are listening to the debate in Parliament, and they’re typing into their computer, with software, and they’re transcribing what is being said and that comes up on a screen in front of me in the debating chamber. So without that I couldn’t participate because it’s just not possible to lip-read people across a large distance, and so that’s been absolutely vital in order to participate. But initially there was quite some debate around how they would be funded, and I argued very strongly that this should come out of the general Parliamentary Services budget, because this was a service to Members of Parliament to do their work, just in the same way as there is a multi-million dollar sound system for the hearing Members of Parliament to follow the debate there that I can’t access. And just in the same way that there is Maori translation of what is being said, you know, Maori into English, so there’s special headphones for people that want to listen to the translations in the chamber as well. So there’s lots of services that are provided, and I said I’m not going to be the only Member of Parliament who’s deaf or who has a hearing loss who’s going to need this service.

Matt: Absolutely, because I mean the fact that you were New Zealand’s first deaf MP, I mean that must have been huge in itself and probably, like I mean I’ve done a little bit of research, but you’d be one of the few MPs in the entire world.

MM: There’s five of us worldwide. And in fact last year there was a conference in Sydney of the World Federation for Deaf, and there was a number of the deaf Members of Parliament from other parts of the world – including Europe and South Africa – who were there, and it was really fantastic to meet them and we all did a presentation about our work as Members of Parliament.

Matt: Oh wow.

MM: So yeah, it’s been really big, but at the same time it highlighted that Parliament wasn’t really geared to cope with someone who needed accommodating as a Member of Parliament. And the reality is the House of Parliament is meant to be representative of New Zealand, and one in five New Zealanders have a disability and yet they’re not being reflected in the make up of Parliament, so their voice is not being heard in the debate. So it’s really, really important that we have Members of Parliament who have a disability and have that voice in Parliament. I mean just imagine, think back to when there were no women in Parliament and that voice of women was missing in Parliament. That’s unthinkable nowadays, and then I think in the future it will become unthinkable that there would be no voice for disability in Parliament.

Matt: So how did that make you feel initially, that you couldn’t actually get heard within Parliament without the technology? Because I mean there was a huge debate around providing it, but like you say it’s essential for you to be part of democracy, really.

MM: I just knew it was incredibly important that we won that debate, because it was about what Parliament looks like in the future, it was about disability in general. It wasn’t just about me, it was about opening the way for other Members of Parliament with disabilities to be able to do their work. And in fact there’s now been a law change to ensure that there’s funding for future MPs who have a physical or sensory disability, that their needs will be provided for. That’s now, the law has been changed as a result. And the other big win that happened directly as a result is that Parliament has committed to captioning of Parliament television, so currently if you watch Parliament television it’s not captioned, and they’ve been working on getting a captioning system set up, a live captioning system set up for Parliament television, and that’s to start in about a year’s time.

Matt: Oh wow, that’s quite a big breakthrough in itself, but particularly for someone who’s deaf to be able to watch-

MM: Or hearing impaired. I mean there’s more than 200,000 New Zealanders with some hearing impairments who will be able to now access the political debate live, and I think that’s really, really important.

Matt: And I mean really I think most programmes should be captioned, not only for people with disabilities that are deaf but I mean anyone right across the board, it may make it easier if things are captioned just as a matter of course.

MM: Absolutely. New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of captioned broadcast television in the world. It compares very poorly with other countries. One of the things I would really love to see is [inaudible 11:23] of captioning brought in, so that all of the larger TV programmes are captioned. It’s very frustrating for me as a politician not to be able to watch popular programmes like Campbell Live or TV3 News because they’re not captioned.

Matt: Yeah. So can you talk us through some of the changes that have been made within Parliament that have been made as a result of you becoming New Zealand’s first deaf MP?

MM: Well obviously there have been two types of changes. The first has been the provision of the electronic note-taking service. But the other one is actually around attitudes and being prepared to be flexible, because the note-taking service has a time delay. So what it means is if you move Parliament at its usual pace, or the Select Committee, I can’t always, I can miss the opportunity to vote or to have my say and so on. But all of the parties have been incredibly constructive in that. It’s brilliant, it’s awesome. So if I ask a question in the House of one of the Ministers, because they know beforehand that I’m going to ask that question they will shift where they’re sitting to be as close as they can get to where I am, so that I can actually lip read them and I’m not completely reliant on the note-takers, which is really helpful.

Matt: Oh that’s awesome.

MM: Yes. And in a Select Committee I once missed the vote and they retook the vote in order that I could cast my vote, and stuff like that. So there have been some very positive and constructive flexibilities shown by most people.

Matt: That was one of the things I was going to ask, has the environment within Parliament itself changed to accommodate you?

MM: Absolutely.

Matt: It must’ve been a fiery environment beforehand.

MM: Oh it still is, I mean you’ll be sitting there in the debating chamber with people shouting across at each other, and so yes. But I still feel that there’s more awareness of disability and disability issues amongst Members of Parliament directly as a result.

Matt: So what are some of the highlights since you’ve been- ?

MM: I think for me personally it has been the incredibly warm reception from the disability community right across the country, and not just people with disabilities but parents of children with disabilities, young people with disabilities, or caregivers and so on. They all know how big it is in their lives, if they themselves or their loved ones or a member of their family can’t access or participate in society because of people’s attitudes or because of structural barriers such as buildings being inaccessible. The flood of emails and contacts that I’ve had as a result, I mean sometimes it’s been difficult to keep on top of all of that. But I’ve travelled all around the country from Whangarei in the Far North to Invercargill to meet with different disability groups and so on, and that has been very humbling but rewarding as well.

Matt: I mean it must have been quite an empowering process for you to actually be able to make change within the whole disability sector, particularly with the amount of people that you would come across.

MM: Well it’s been fantastic to make some change, but I want to be able to leave a legacy that goes beyond me. I want to see more people with disabilities elected into Parliament, I have offered support to any member of any of the political parties who has a disability and wishes to, has aspirations to be a Member of Parliament. Because I think we need that, right across all the political parties we need that disability voice heard.

Matt: So I think the awareness is probably more out there as a result of you being in Parliament.

MM: I hope so, and that’s certainly my sense.

Matt: The changes that you’ve made as an individual, I think most people with disabilities would think it’s not possible for them to be an MP but it is. What advice would you give anybody with a disability who’s seeking to get a career in Parliament?

MM: Well I think it’s, the problem is that a lot of people with disabilities are very used to able-bodied people speaking on their behalf, and in a way even though it’s often done with the best of intentions able-bodied people don’t realize it can be very disempowering for people with disabilities if they only can rely on able-bodied people to speak on their behalf. And so it’s really important that we have disabled leaders speaking on behalf of disabled people so that voice can really come through, and recognize the leadership that already exists in the disability sector and give it the recognition and the value that it deserves.

Matt: And also there’s probably still a lot of doing for rather than doing with, for people with disabilities. I mean I think that’s the key, is really just to get out there and have a go and just try and be as independent as possible.

MM: I think it’s particularly important for our young people nowadays, because often older people who’ve lived with disability all their lives have been conditioned that you can’t aspire to leadership roles, whereas young people are much more open to the idea that they could be empowered to go for what they want to do and reach their full potential. And so for parents of young people with disabilities they feel like there’s nothing to stop my child doing what they want to do, and I think that’s really, really important. I mean obviously it’s hard work, obviously you still have to have the skills, but it means that we need to make sure that there’s no systematic barrier in the way, that people don’t automatically rule themselves out of taking on jobs because of society’s attitudes and perceptions about what disabled people can or can’t do.

Matt: So are there any particular barriers that you’ve faced as an MP?

MM: Oh yes, I mean all the time. For example, every morning the Green Party media team and MPs have a conference call to discuss what news releases they’re going to put out for the day, what questions we’re going to ask in Parliament, and I have not found a way of being able to participate in these calls when I’m not in Parliament. If I’m in Parliament I’m in the room with most of them so I can follow, with the help of the New Zealand Relay Service. But because it’s so fast, it’s not possible if I’m trying to phone in from home. So we have to work around some of these things. And obviously sometimes the media want to ring me and grab a quick comment from me on an issue. Now last year there was a new telephone service came out called the CapTel telephone, which is a brilliant service that allows you to see what is being said on a screen in front of you. And I can do radio interviews with that but I have to be at one of these phones, so I have to either be at my office or at home. If I’m somewhere else I can’t do a radio interview because I can’t do one on my cell phone. And so there are restrictions still, and I just have to work around them as best as I can.

Matt: Yes. I reckon we better bring Vanessa in, she’s been very quiet over there beavering away on the desk, but I think we need to bring Vanessa in to ask some questions.

Vanessa: Hey I don’t mind.

Matt: You don’t mind?

Vanessa: No I don’t mind! Welcome to Mojo to the radio station. It’s really great hearing some of the things that you do to make a difference, really, for all of us people and things like that. So I just wanted to ask you, what are some of the highlights you have had as an MP, particularly when advocating for people with disabilities?

MM: Well I’m always really thrilled when I raise an issue and there’s a policy change as a result of that. I’ve already touched on a couple of these earlier, but there’s another one I was very pleased with. I was at a conference and someone approached me who had Cerebral Palsy. And at the speech at the conference I had talked about how there’s a fantastic service called the Text 111 service for deaf people, so if you register for it we can text the police if we need them, or the fire or the ambulance. This person with Cerebral Palsy said I need access to that service, because I have a speech impediment and I can’t use the phone to speak clearly, but they won’t allow me to register for it. And I said oh, that’s not ok, you should be able to access this service as well. So we contacted a TV journalist, the story ran on television and a couple of weeks later, the criteria were changed so that people with speech impediments and other needs could also register for the 111 service. So these small little things are really very-

Vanessa: Make a difference,

MM: Yeah, really make a difference in people’s lives and are very satisfying when I feel like I can do something for them.

Vanessa: So how do you go about getting that system? Do you have to go through WINZ or- ?

MM: Well it depends on the nature of the thing, some of these changes require legislation, so it means that when a bill comes up we have to make sure we read it with a kind of eye for how is this going to affect disabled people? What changes do we need to make to make it work for disabled people? So that’s one way, participating in the process. But some of these changes, like the Text 111 service was just a policy change, so it’s about working with the media to highlight the issue and very often there’ll be a policy change as a result of the issue being highlighted in the media.

Vanessa: I think that’s quite important though isn’t it, with getting it out there with the media so that other people are aware of it.

MM: Yeah, there are some fantastic people in the media who are very aware of disability issues and want to work and are prepared to work constructively to not be patronizing. Because that’s really, really important, that we don’t want to feed that [feeling 23:02] that disabled people are helpless and so on. We want to do it in a positive, empowering way.

Vanessa: Absolutely, that’s the one thing that we come across, don’t we.

Matt: I mean I think you really want to make a difference. And like you just said, for disabled people themselves as individuals to be empowered, because that in itself has been a slow process for some people to actually find their voice and become empowered. And as a result of you being an MP I think attitudes are really changing, which is huge.

MM: Well one of the key messages which I always really try and get across when I’m talking to people about creating a more accessible society is the fact an accessible society benefits everyone. Everyone is better off and disabled people are included. Because we have an ageing population, and we have temporary impairment for people, so if we have a very inclusive and accessible society everyone’s better off. And inaccessibility doesn’t just affect disabled people, it affects their families, it affects their friends, it has significant ramifications. And they have a valuable part to play in society, so when they’re not contributing we are missing out on the skills and abilities of disabled people. So I really push that message, that there’s so much that we have to offer and that society really is better off. I mean take the Text 111 service, for example. People just think oh, deaf people need access to that to keep themselves safe, but actually there have been now a significant number of examples where deaf people have witnessed hearing people being mugged or assaulted and have texted the police to call for help for these people. And so it’s helped make society safer for hearing people as well as deaf people, because deaf people are now being able to call for help on their behalf.

Vanessa: Absolutely. Can you explain a little bit about the deaf community and culture in New Zealand?

MM: Well I mean, I was not brought up using sign language. In fact the school for deaf that I attended for a number of years in England banned the use of sign language, you were absolutely prohibited. And for some of the children attending that school it was really tough because sign language was their first language at home, they were children of deaf parents and that was how they communicated, and then when they got to this school they weren’t allowed to. But that was a common thing worldwide, that many deaf people were denied access to their own language. And because sign language is a visual language, it’s very expressive, it’s very visual, it’s a beautiful language, and it’s an incredibly important part of deaf culture. The core of that is their language, is sign language, and it’s fabulous in New Zealand that New Zealand Sign Language is one of the three official languages in New Zealand, that’s fantastic. But deaf people are still really struggling to access the right to have an education in sign language and access to interpreters for things like health services and so on, it’s a real struggle. So although we have got that official language status it’s not being resourced the way it needs to be to ensure equal access for deaf people.

Vanessa: Well I think it should be out there and brought in so that everyone gets equal rights.

MM: Absolutely, and it’s a beautiful language. Young people love it because they can use it for communicating in a noisy pub or something like that.

Vanessa: Yeah. Or if you want to have a secret conversation with somebody and everyone else doesn’t know how to sign.

Matt: Well probably generally if you’re communicating with it in a pub it’s probably not appropriate sign language. But that’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to do, Mojo, is actually learn sign language so that I can more effectively communicate with people with disabilities. Not only just the deaf, because everybody uses it. But I’ve never actually found-

MM: Well Deaf Aotearoa, during Sign Language Week, runs taster classes throughout New Zealand. So if you’re interested in having a taster class, a free taster class, just to give you a taste of how to introduce yourself, and say your name in sign language.

Vanessa: I only know how to do hi and bye and things like that, all the basic stuff. I reckon it’s an important language to learn, it’s really great. So what are some of the Green Party’s policies that could benefit the disability sector in New Zealand?

MM: Well New Zealand has signed the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and this basically affirms that disabled people have the right to participate in society on an equal basis with able bodied people, as everyone else. So that means the right to access services, the right to an education, the right to access buildings, and so on and so on. We’ve got the same rights as everyone else and it’s basically affirming that, and the Green Party is absolutely committed to making that real. We’ve acknowledged these rights but we haven’t yet made them real in New Zealand. We still have up to 24,000 buildings that don’t have disability access, and we’re talking about public buildings, we’re talking about sports venues, all sorts of things that are locking out disabled people from participating in society, from accessing social and-

Matt: I didn’t realize it was quite that bad Mojo, that’s quite scary still.

MM: Yeah, and we’re probably going to move backwards with access to physical buildings because the government is just passing a bill at the moment which includes the clause that will no longer require building owners to upgrade for disability access when they do earthquake strengthening. And in the past they’ve always been required to upgrade for disability access, and they’re looking at removing that, and we say that’s not ok. Because they’ve got lots of time to upgrade, they’ve got lots of time to plan for that, and it’s only a small part of that process.

Matt: And I mean particularly if those individuals are needing to rebuild, doesn’t it make sense to make your buildings more accessible while you’ve got the opportunity to start from the ground up, to include people with disabilities? Because like you say I mean a lot of them are public places and people with disabilities still want to use public places.

MM: Absolutely, and they have the right to do that.

Matt: They should have the right to, I mean it’s really just a basic human right.

MM: Absolutely, we see it as a basic human rights issue, and that as signatories to the Convention we need to make that right real, we need to hold onto that.

Vanessa: We do. Because it’s pretty archaic with the buildings, you know how you can’t access places.

MM: Well we have heaps of old buildings, and the requirement to upgrade for disability access, initially they were going to have to upgrade disability access regardless of whether they were doing earthquake strengthening. And then they said no, no, that’s too hard, let’s do it when we do earthquake strengthening because it’ll be cheaper that way. And now they’re going oh well you don’t have to do it at all, and I think hang on, no, you’ve had many, many years to upgrade, it’s not ok. So we’re strongly opposing that part because we believe that we can have buildings that are both safe and accessible, and that’s what we need to be aspiring to as a country.

Matt: Absolutely. So how can people with disabilities make a difference to maybe changing the attitude of government around that then, Mojo?

MM: Well, one of the things, there are a number of disabled persons’ organisations in New Zealand. For example there’s the Disabled Persons’ Assembly, there’s Deaf Aotearoa, the Hearing Association. All these different organisations have a special status under the Convention as being organisations that are run by disabled people for disabled people, and they do incredibly hard work making submissions on these bills and so on, on behalf of disabled people. So I would encourage people to support their disabled organisation in that work, because the stronger they are the stronger their voice is in Parliament and the more lobbying power they have. So that would be one way of taking action.

Vanessa: So one thing I wanted to know, it might be a tricky one, do you need qualifications to become an MP or what sort of things do you need, if you were thinking of going into-?

MM: If you were thinking of going into politics presumably you would have a party that you support. So the first thing to do is be involved with your party, find out what the attitude toward disabled people standing for selection is and get known within that party and become active.

Vanessa: Fight for your rights, pretty much.

MM: Yeah, I mean that’s how people usually get in, and your best chance usually is to get in on the list although some people will still stand for selection in a seat. But the thing is about lobbying your party to take disability seriously and to demonstrate that they’re taking disability seriously by how they run their disabled candidate. So I’m aware of, in other parties, that there are people coming forward, who are putting themselves forward. It’s now up to these parties to give these people a ranking that they deserve.

Vanessa: Oh right, because I often wondered about that. Because I thought as I was growing up there’s not enough being done for people with disabilities, so I thought what if I make a change and then, well I got busy anyway so I never really thought about it.

MM: I mean when I first joined the Green Party, I joined the Green Party because I was passionate about the environment. But then I found that actually if I wanted to speak about the environment as a deaf person, I had to change attitudes towards deaf MPs, the idea of having someone deaf who is a candidate. So it took the Green Party quite a while, some of the membership quite a while to get their head around that.

Matt: So was that like even within the party itself, even before you kind of-?

MM: Oh definitely at first, I mean we’re talking ten years ago now. But yeah there were people saying how can a deaf person be an MP? How can they do that? You won’t be able to hear the division bells, you won’t be able to participate in the debating chamber. So there was quite a bit of concern about that, and it takes time to change attitudes.

Matt: So what was your response to that then Mojo? Because I think it really is all about attitude eh.

MM: It was hard, but the really good thing that it did was make me embrace disability issues, because prior to that I’d only seen myself as an environmentalist with a conservation degree. And it kind of opened my eyes and I had to claim my identity as a deaf person and actually say ok, these people have concerns, how am I going to address these concerns directly? So in a way it made me look at the bigger picture.

Vanessa: So what do you see as the biggest stigma and discrimination issue facing disabled people today?

MM: Employment. Wherever I go it’s employment, it really, really is. And especially for young people who have grown up with a disability, it’s like what are their options for the future? Society tends to lock these people into a box and say you cannot ever aspire to a career.

Vanessa: Become a Prime Minister or something like that [laughs].

MM: [laughs] Well no I mean even just simply careers and good incomes and secure jobs. And the stories that I’ve been told as I’ve travelled around the country are heartbreaking, some of them, and so many of them are just about attitudes. It’s not like there’s any major change required it’s just about employers being understanding and prepared to make a small change and be of reasonable accommodation, and recognize the potential of people with disabilities, that they can bring to the workforce. So I think that’s the biggest barrier because without any prospect of employment people’s self esteem goes down, they get locked at low poverty levels and their health suffers and so on, and it’s just so wrong.

Vanessa: Shocking, yeah.

Matt: I mean I quite often think that really it’s not disabled people that disable themselves, it’s society’s attitudes towards disabled people.

Vanessa: That’s so right.

MM: Totally, absolutely. I would totally go along with that. Like one story that I could tell you involves a deaf man who was fit, strong and capable, but for nearly 20 years he could not get a job and was on the benefit. And one day he had had enough. He sat down in the middle of the WINZ office and he folded his arms and he said I’m not leaving, I want a job, I’m not leaving until you find me a job. And the WINZ staff ran around and said oh no! What do we do? And then they got him a job as a kitchen hand and it was like, finally, now he’s been working there for several years and he’s happy and he’s got employment. But it should not have taken him 20 years to get that job. And the reason why he wasn’t getting a job, for people who are deaf, employers say health and safety. We can’t employ you because you can’t hear and that’s a health and safety issue. And that’s just so wrong and we’ve got to change that understanding.

Vanessa: We do. I mean I’ve noticed that as a person personally myself. I had work when I was in Tauranga, I was working as a promotions person just promoting a photography place and that was great. And then after that I just went through so many job interviews and they just like look and went no, and I thought well what is it? Is it me as a person? And I would ask them, and they don’t have to say anything, and I just got discouraged by that and I thought no, you know I’m going to try and do some voluntary work, which is just as good as you know being employed. And I did some of that and I did a few hours working at the local community centre, which is great, and I’m still there doing voluntary work. So it’s great that they’ve acknowledged that a person with a disability can get out there and work.

MM: Absolutely, but it shouldn’t be so hard to get a foot in the door in the first place for people with disabilities

Vanessa: I think a lot of people do actually look at the person and they don’t even-

Matt: They see the disability first, rather than the person. Because for me, a prime example was a few years ago I went for a position here in the Wairarapa and got into the interview process, which was actually one of my first interviews that I’d actually got into, so I thought that was a big step for me myself. And I was actually supported by – I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning this – Shane from Wairarapa Stars Trust. Now for those who know Shane he’s actually blind, and Shane went into the room before I did and they thought they were interviewing Shane for the position and then I sort of rolled in casually behind and said well you’re actually interviewing me for the position and the person looked at me and said “well you won’t be able to do the job because of this, this and this”, because all they’d seen initially was the wheelchair. And I said hang on how about actually sitting back and acknowledging some of the skills that I’ve got without telling me the skills I haven’t got and reasons why I can’t do the job before the interview has even started.

MM: Absolutely, so the concept of a positive interview that focuses on what skills people have who are being interviewed is incredibly important for people with disabilities, and it’s an incredibly important part of the process. So one of the areas where more disabled people could be employed is in the public service sector. And so one of the things that I would really like to see is a guaranteed interview process for people with disabilities applying, so that they’re not automatically screened out before they get to the interview stage, and that their interview has to be a positive interview that focuses on what skills and strengths they’ve got, and I think these simple things could actually change the outcome of a lot of interviews.

Vanessa: I think instead of saying I don’t think you can do it, they should ask the question: so what can we do for you to make it a doable situation for you? Instead of assuming, coming to the assumption of well you can’t do it. It’s like, well, my brain can work, I’m quite intelligent, I’ve got the skills so why not?

MM: Absolutely, that’s exactly the kind of change that we need to see, and I think the public sector needs to model that for the private sector and that’s not happening at the moment. So that’s one of the things I’m sort of working on is a package around employment for disabled people.

Vanessa: We look forward to seeing that one don’t we, that’ll be exciting.

Matt: Absolutely. Now have you got any music lined up over there Vanessa, yet, or not quite?

Vanessa: I have indeed, I’m really prepared today.

Matt: I’m just thinking, we’ve just been chatting and it’s just been so easy but we’ve forgotten to play some music, we better play some music and have a-

Vanessa: That’s cool, but before we do that I’d like to say thank you to the Masterton District Council for funding our programme, I mean without you guys we wouldn’t be here chatting to Mojo Mathers and having all these awesome guests coming onto our show. So thank you Masterton District Council.

MM: And thank you for providing such a welcoming interview, thank you very much.

Vanessa: Oh you’re welcome, we try to do that for all our guests.

[music track 42:55 – 45:42]

Matt: Bohemian Rhapsody on Arrow FM 92.7 your community access radio station.

If you’ve just joined us this is Wheels on Fire, today with Vanessa and Matt, unfortunately [Beauche’s] not with us, which is a blimmin bummer for her really because we’ve got an awesome guest here in the studio – Mojo Mathers, Green MP from Christchurch Central, so once again Mojo thanks for coming to join us. I understand you’ve come all the way from Christchurch this morning, and I thought you were just coming from Wellington, so that’s even more of an epic effort to be here today, so yeah thanks.

MM:  That’s my pleasure.

Matt: We were talking a little bit off-air particularly around your education, because when you were going through university you had no support.

MM: That’s right. The only bit of technology I did have that my parents had bought for me was a radio link, so that the lecturers wear a microphone around their neck and that would have a direct link to my hearing aide through a radio wave, which helps a little bit but only a bit. And so some of the courses were difficult if they didn’t have a textbook, for example, that I could work on in my own time. But I’m very pleased that nowadays most students have better support than that. For example, Victoria University runs a very good disability support service whereby they meet with students with disabilities and access needs and find out what they can do to support them to ensure they can take the courses and so on. And that is incredibly important, because accessing a good education is the first step, often, to accessing employment further down the track. But there are still some challenges and often these centre around lack of understanding about the needs of students with disabilities. For example, deaf students might be asked to sit an exam where they’ve got to watch a video that’s not captioned, and that makes it really hard because of course they can’t follow what’s being said on the video so how can they answer questions that relate to the video?

Matt: Absolutely. I mean it’s just basic, everyday things that other people take for granted, that we don’t even necessarily think about as individuals, because if it doesn’t affect us some of the time it doesn’t matter. But it does.

MM: Absolutely, so some of it is about educating people – in the health sector, in the education sector and so on – around the kind of things they need to think about and be more aware of.

Matt: Like particularly with technology, what sort of technology do you use as an individual to help you on an everyday basis?

MM: Well there are some amazing things that can be done with technology. There are students studying for degrees who can’t write, for example, and they use voice recognition software or a special software that tracks their head movements in order to be able to select words and compose essays and so on. So there are some incredible things that can be done for all sorts of disabilities that in the past would never have been possible. And then these people go on to do some amazing bits of research or stuff like that, so it’s an absolute win-win because these people get an education and they are able to contribute their skills and their intelligence to solving problems for other people.

Matt: So what sort of policies do the Green Party have to help assist people with disabilities to lead everyday lives?

MM: Well, I think it’s incredibly important that we recognize the barriers that exist in society to participation for disabled people, and these barriers need to be removed. So whether we’re talking about being able to access a building or being able to access information, we need to identify these barriers and be really committed to removing them so that disabled people can access education, can access information, can access buildings. Because they’re all connected, because if you can’t access a building then you can’t get a job in that building, and so on. So it just starts from a basic premise that disabled people have the same right to access services, to access the public infrastructure as everyone else. And if we start from that basic premise, everything else follows as a consequence. What happens is that people keep making excuses and saying oh no, we can’t do it because it’s too hard, and I always just think they’re not being creative enough and they’re not being committed enough to recognizing the human rights of people with disabilities.

Matt: Yes. I mean I was just thinking really for me growing up, right through my family have been a huge level of support and a huge advocate for me, particularly for fighting for any sort of equipment that I’ve needed as a person with a disability to lead an everyday life. So just how important has your family been to you in that process?

MM: Incredibly important. I mean without my mother I would have never been able to access an education the way that I have, because it was my mother who taught me to speak, and it was my mother who in particular taught me to read, so she played an incredibly important role in my early life and because I had a love of reading I therefore got a good grasp of English and the English language, and it set me on a positive track for education.

Matt: Yeah. I mean I think really for anybody communication is the key, so I mean you’ve had extra barriers around communication as well which is just hugely inspiring that you’ve got as far as what you have as an MP and as an individual.

MM: But it wouldn’t have been possible without support. I had support from my mother, I had support from my family, and I had support of a good, high quality, free public education, both in England and in New Zealand. And committed teachers who understood deafness and what needed to be done to progress education for deaf students. These are the kind of committed people we need in education and need to be properly resourced by the government. Because the reality is if we don’t do that then we end up with people with hearing loss not achieving and some of them even go on to end up in prisons and so on, because they have not, they’ve always been sort of left behind in the classroom and they end up as angry, frustrated adults who’ve got nothing to do with themselves, and unable to fit into society. So the more we invest in our children, all of our children to reach their potential, and particularly children with disabilities, the better the future they will have.

Matt: Yeah true. So we’re just about coming to the end of Wheels on Fire, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone, with one song!

Vanessa: Hey that’s ok, that’s what makes a good interview, it’s been awesome.

Matt: Absolutely. So is there anything else that you want to cover today Mojo?

MM: Just that I really love being a Member of Parliament. I feel very proud and humbled to be representing disabled people in Parliament and I do the best that I can, but just remember I’m only one of a hundred and twenty Members of Parliament, so I really look forward to having a strong team come and join me in Parliament one day.

Matt: Absolutely. And outside of politics, what do you do to keep yourself well?

MM: I like pottering around the garden, walking my dog, I’m an animal lover, animal welfare is one of my other portfolios that I’m really passionate about. I love walking in the bush or on the beach, that sort of thing, enjoying the outdoors.

Matt: Because we were going to ask you about the portfolios that you do cover in Parliament.

MM: Well my priority portfolios are disability and animal welfare. I have a range of other portfolios as well, such as Civil Defence and so on, but these are the two top priorities.

Matt: Oh cool. So if anybody wants to make contact with you, if there’s been any issues that have been brought up today, how do they go about it?

MM: The simplest way is either to email me, mojo.mathers@parliament.government.nz, or to contact me through Facebook, friend me on Facebook and private message me.

Matt: Awesome and I know that she’s already liked Arrow FM’s Facebook page, so thanks heaps Mojo for doing that.

Vanessa: Thank you so much Mojo, it’s been an awesome privilege to have you here and we wish you all the best on your travels back, and let’s go Green Party!

MM: Thank you!

Matt: I almost feel like we could do another interview, but maybe that’s for another week.

Vanessa: Yeah, another week, maybe later. Alright time to wrap it up guys, bye!

MM: Bye!

Matt: Bye! Thanks Mojo!

 

Dunne’s speech on the GCSB Bill

Video:

Draft transcript:

GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS SECURITY BUREAU AND RELATED LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL

In Committee

Hon PETER DUNNE (Independent—Ōhariu):

The one thing that most people agree on about this bill, the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, is that there needs to be an effective regime to govern our external intelligence agency. That is the starting point for this debate.

The second thing I wanted to say is that this bill has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent, unfortunate experiences of the Henry inquiry. That set of circumstances could happen under any situation. It is nothing to do with the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) legislation.

The third thing I want to say by way of a preliminary comment is that this bill as it stands, as reported back from the Intelligence and Security Committee, is not satisfactory, and that is why I am moving a series of amendments that will need to be passed by this Committee and by this House if I am to support the bill further.

The reason why I am moving those amendments is that they strengthen the accountability provisions of the bill, they actually make it much easier in terms of transparency, and they address all of the major points that were raised by the witnesses who attended the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Mr Grant Robertson spoke earlier and expressed a lot of concern about section 8C , in clause 6 of the bill, and I agree with him.

What section 8C says, effectively, is that by regulation or Order in Council, any variety of existing Government agencies could be added to the provisions whereby the powers of the GCSB could be applied to them in the pursuit of their objectives. I think that is wrong; I agree with him entirely. That is why I am moving an amendment to delete section 8C in the bill, which means that if there needs to be additional entities added to the purview of this legislation, they will have to be added by way of separate legislation.

So, Mr Robertson, you should be supporting the amendment that I will be moving in this Supplementary Order Paper that is before the Committee at the moment.

We will also be changing in that Supplementary Order Paper the warrant provisions to ensure that when a warrant is issued, it is put on a register, so that people actually know what warrants have been issued, particularly when they relate to New Zealanders, and so that the GCSB will never be in the position again of having 88 cases of dubious legality, because every year the number of warrants will need to be recorded, as will the number of occasions when the GCSB has cooperated with other agencies—information that is not known at the present time.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, which currently has a very perfunctory oversight role, has its powers changed by my amendment to ensure that when it conducts the annual financial review of both the GCSB and the SIS , that hearing has to be held in public. At the moment it is held behind closed doors.

Members opposite, who want accountability, are presumably now going to vote against an amendment that says that when it comes to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s operations in reviewing the performance of the security agencies, it has to do that in public. Those members are against that, and yet they want more transparency and more accountability.

And they talk about a review. They want to have a review of our intelligence services. Under the amendment contained in my Supplementary Order Paper there will be a review early in 2015, and not only then but every 5 to 7 years thereafter, of both the SIS and the GCSB. So the cry for a review again falls flat when these members have the opportunity to vote for one and they decide to vote against it.

Now let us talk about one of the other issues that have been raised throughout this whole debate and that is of critical importance. It is the definition of “private communication” and the issue of meta-data, and Dr Norman made some good points in respect of that.

The reality is that every witness who appeared before the Intelligence and Security Committee raised it as an issue. Every witness said that it was important to get a solution. No witness offered a solution. I made a point of ringing a number of them to say: “Have you got a definition? Have you got a way through this?”, and the answer I got universally was that, no, it needs to have a lot of work done on it.

It needs to be worked through very carefully, and that is why, as part of the agreement I struck with the Prime Minister, there will be work done on the Law Commission’s 2010 report, which deals with this whole issue of the definition of “private communications”, not just in the GCSB legislation but also in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act , the Crimes Act , and the criminal surveillance legislation.

So I simply wanted to make this point. I listened to the major points made by all of the witnesses who attended the statutory committee. I read their submissions and I noted that no one said: “We do not need a GCSB.”—no one, not even Mr Dotcom.

Everyone said we wanted to have tighter accountability, more transparency, more openness, and a better process. I have crafted amendments that deliver those things.

So it will be very interesting during the course of this debate to hear those who cry for all of those things vote against them, when they have the chance to do so.

I started on the point that everyone agrees that we need to change the current situation. The consequence of these members’ actions would be to preserve a most unsatisfactory status quo, where you have a GCSB that effectively has no accountability, where you have potentially 88 New Zealanders spied upon illegally over the last decade, with no record of that. That is appalling.

The consequence of opposing this legislation is simply so that that intolerable situation would continue, and no New Zealander deserves to be treated that way.

This bill, with the amendments that I am proposing, will ensure that those days are well and truly days of the past, and that New Zealanders can have a fresh sense of confidence in the way their security services operate.

While the Green Party strongly oppose the bill Russel Norman said they will support Dunne’s amendments:

I would also like to make a comment on Mr Dunne’s amendments, which we will be supporting because they do provide minor improvements to the bill and we will vote for minor improvements.

That’s a practical decision typical of the Green approach, taking everything on it’s merits. The Greens have also proposed amendments.

In contrast Labour speakers strongly attacked Dunne. And they didn’t propose any amendments except one SOP that would scrap the bill after a review.

Refer to: Dunne’s SOP on GCSB Bill amendments

Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill speeches

It’s possible that if an alternative marriage equality bill had been drawn from the Member’s ballot it would have been as successful (at this first reading stage) as Louisa’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

Regardless, Wall has risen to the occasion as a new MP and shown many far more experienced MPs how to do a great job. She has presented and promoted her bill with knowledge, dignity and passion.She has listened to criticisms and arguments against her bill and she has answered them.

This shows in her two speeches in the debate in parliament last night. Video of her opening and closing speeches:

Transcript (draft):

MARRIAGE (DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE) AMENDMENT BILL

First Reading

LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa):

Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. I move, That the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I nominate the Government Administration Committee to consider the bill.

I am proud to be the sponsor of this bill before the House, which seeks to define marriage as between two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is generally known as the bill that will enable marriage equality between consenting adults, underpinned by principles of love, fairness, and equality of opportunity for all New Zealand citizens.

The bill has attracted passionate reactions from a number of quarters, and the result of that passion has seen statements that reflect a diversity of opinions across our society. This ability to engage and to make a statement and to have a say about this issue is fundamental.

I want to highlight that this is an important aspect of a modern democratic society. The starting point for this bill rests with our role on the international stage.

In 1944, when the founding document of the United Nations’ charter was being developed, New Zealand pushed for a stronger focus on human rights. In 1948 we again played an important and effective role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .

We saw the need for such a declaration and participated in its instigation and development. This is not surprising, given that we led the world in enabling women to have the right to vote. We did that in 1893 and it took the United States another 27 years to reach that same point.

That sexual orientation is a ground of unlawful discrimination is not a matter of dispute. In 1993 we as a country amended the Human Rights Commission Act 1977 to outlaw discrimination on a wider variety of grounds, including sexual orientation. This is what we must always remember when we discuss this issue.

This issue will make all citizens and people of New Zealand equal under the law, given that currently same-gender couples cannot obtain a marriage licence from the State.

What my bill does not do is require any person or church to carry out a marriage if it does not fit with the beliefs of the celebrant or the religious interpretation a church has. Section 29 remains in place and makes it clear that once a marriage licence is obtained by a couple, it does not oblige a minister or celebrant to marry that couple. That is the situation now and nothing will change.

Because we have freedom of religion in New Zealand, no religious body is bound to marry a couple if that marriage is at odds with its religious belief. For churches and religious institutions, such discrimination would be justified under section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 , based on the right to freedom of religions, specifically the manifestation of religion and belief, under section 15 of this Act.

It is the State’s role to uphold our laws and our international obligations, and to ensure that everyone has equality under the law. The church can discriminate, but the State should not and cannot.

We as parliamentarians belong to the only institution in New Zealand—our Parliament—that makes our laws and upholds not only these laws but our international obligations as well.

It is not the State’s role to sanction heterosexuality or homosexuality. We recognised that as a country in 1986 when we decriminalised homosexual acts. Nor is it the State’s role to judge the marriages of its citizens.

Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution, irrespective of religious affiliation in accordance with the marriage laws of the State. Marriage as an institution pre-dates Government and Christianity . It has been part of civilisations and cultures, and has over that time changed dramatically. Same-sex marriage between men was not uncommon in the days of the Roman emperor Nero .

The Catholic Church initially saw the institution of marriage as tainted and undesirable, and advocated chastity and celibacy. Once the church adopted and adapted marriage, it was for life. It could not be dissolved. Married women assumed the identity of their husband and he received all her property. By marriage, the legal doctrine of coverture meant a woman had no legal status. She could not own property, enter into contracts, earn money, or obtain an education without her husband’s consent.

The church and State has at different times refused to marry people who had been divorced, refused to marry people of different faiths, and refused to marry people of different races. Those restrictions have changed because they were not fair and just. Women were not able to be guardians of their children upon a divorce or separation. A law was needed to change that.

For women to own property required law changes as recently as 1884. A woman was only able to obtain a divorce from her husband if there was another cause alongside adultery, such as extreme cruelty, desertion, or incest. A man, however, could obtain a divorce immediately on the basis of his wife’s adultery.

These are all part of the historical matrix that is marriage. Thankfully the need to change some of the laws has been recognised and implemented. With women obtaining the right to vote and finally having legal status, the greatest transformation of marriage began. There are a number of shocking historical facts that surround this subject, and we baulk at how in a civilised society this could happen.

Today is the time to open the institution of marriage to all people who are eligible. There is no reasonable ground on which the State should deny any citizen the right to enter the institution of marriage if he or she chooses. That is not the process of inclusion.

To any person concerned about their own beliefs and how they wish to celebrate marriage, it is important to always remember that this bill allows a couple to only obtain a marriage licence. It does not mean that a minister or celebrant must marry the couple. Section 29 of the Marriage Act 1955 says that, and this will not change.

Some people have suggested that the Church cannot share its view about marriage because of section 56 of the Marriage Act. Section 56 says that a person cannot state that another person’s marriage is not legal. That does not concern the general view of marriage but is directed to an individual, and the reality is that once sanctioned by law, the marriage is legal, and no Church person should be stating otherwise.

I want to highlight two specific consequences if my bill becomes law. Under section 3 of our current Adoption Act a joint application to adopt can be made by only spouses or the birth parent and his or her spouse. A spouse is a marital partner, so if you are married, you are spouses.

Therefore, under the current wording of the Adoption Act same-sex marital partners as spouses would be able to make a joint application to adopt. There are shortcomings in our current Adoption Act, and the Care of Children Law Reform Bill, which is also in the ballot, would be unaffected by this bill.

Also an obvious consequential amendment is to section 30(2) of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995 . This provision limits a trans person who is married and who gets a Family Court declaration under section 28 of this Act to change their sex details from having those details amended on a birth certificate. This section should be deleted.

A marriage stood strong through the significant change of one partner transitioning from one sex to another should remain recognised under New Zealand law. How any person’s marriage is performed has never been the State’s business, whether it be cultural, religious, or civil, it is the decision for the couple and their whānau .

What this bill will do is enable that decision to be made and for all people to have the same choices about how they make a commitment to one another. Where it requires a licence, the State should not exclude any citizen who is otherwise eligible. To exclude two people from obtaining a marriage licence based on their sexual orientation and gender identity is not tolerable.

We have an opportunity as a Parliament to rectify this discriminatory, unequal, and unfair application of the law. Kia ora.

Closing speech:

LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa):

Kia ora anō.

In this closing reply I would like to acknowledge that the fight for all New Zealanders to be recognised as equal citizens under the law is one that has been fought in Aotearoa for around 50 years.

To that end I wish to acknowledge two women who are here tonight, who are the litigants in the Quilter case that brought this issue to the fore and recognised that changes necessary to bring about equality were matters for Parliament. Jools Joslin and Jenny Rowan applied for a marriage licence in 1995 almost 10 years after homosexual law reform, and were denied.

They and two other couples challenged that action through the High Court and the Court of Appeal. They then took the matter to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to test that denial against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Incrementally their courage in challenging the discriminatory implementation of the provisions in the Marriage Act set the platform for the consideration of this bill tonight.

I want to acknowledge all people involved in the campaign for marriage equality.They are people from across the political spectrum representing rainbow groups, queer-straight alliance groups, human rights advocates and groups, our religious leadership, and communities and many others who are fighting for legalised love, and those who have blogged, those who have shared their stories in the media, and those who have led meetings and discussions in our families and communities—thank you for your solidarity in advancing the rights of other New Zealanders and proud citizens of our country.

I specifically want to acknowledge our Pacific and ethnic communities. I mean no disrespect to you. Your beliefs and values and those of your heritage countries of origin are valid.

The purpose and intent of this bill is very clear. It means that the law and the social and civil institutions that that law governs apply equally to everyone. It means that a couple who so choose can apply for, and receive, a marriage licence from the State.

What it does not do is affect a person’s own beliefs about marriage. The fact that a couple wants to make a commitment to each other by marriage is a cause of celebration, and it can only benefit our society and families as a whole. Marginalising and discriminating against particular sectors does not benefit society and families.

It is a simple choice. Do we support discriminatory laws or not? I know I do not, and, hopefully, that is true of most of the members of this House. History tells us that the struggles for the gay community, as with any minority, have often been cruel.

What has been heartening in this discussion has been the positive response from younger people across the board. It is a generational issue, but it is also an issue about personal experience, and the fact that when you have a friend or a whānau member who is gay, you do not want them to suffer or have fewer rights than you. That is not fair or just.

Equality for all New Zealand citizens under the law is not a moral issue. It is an issue of the inherent equal value and worth of every New Zealand citizen in a modern democratic society. The State currently discriminates. That is not fair or just. We should be valuing and including all members of our society.

The State does not limit a New Zealand citizen in their ability to get a passport. If you are a New Zealand citizen, fill in the forms correctly, meet criteria that apply to all people, and pay the fee, you will get one.

The State does not limit a New Zealand citizen in their ability to get a driver’s licence. If you are a New Zealand citizen, fill in the forms correctly, meet criteria that all people must meet, and pay the fee, you will get one.

So why do we tolerate the State not giving New Zealand citizens a marriage licence, based purely on their sexual orientation and gender identity?

We know why many of the churches do not support this bill. It is fundamentally because their first principle is that homosexuals are sinners, and homosexuality is a sin. But in New Zealand there is clear and transparent separation of church and State.

It is about time that that separation was recognised, within the context of marriage in New Zealand and in the State’s role in the Marriage Act, through the issuing of a marriage licence.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.