The need for a Kermadec ocean sanctuary

I was disappointed to see in the Sunday Star Times today that New Zealand First have shown resistance to the idea of an ocean sanctuary. The comments in the Sunday Star Times, which allegedly caught the Green Party unawares, point to a potential hurdle in the future that the new Government will not be able to bypass.

New M.P. and former Labour M.P. Shane Jones, who is a potential cabinet member of the new Labour led minority Government, disclosed before the election that Sealord and Talleys were bankrolling his election campaign in Whangarei. Mr Jones who has extensive links to Iwi and backs customary fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi and fellow New Zealand First Members of Parliament have been described as close to the fishing industry.

Given the lack of regard shown for the marine environment around the world, there is a strong case for an ocean sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when the outgoing National Government in 2015 announced that New Zealand would commit to an ocean sanctuary covering the Kermadec Islands. It would not permit mining, oil extraction or fishing. The sanctuary would cover the oceans around islands such as Raoul and Curtiss Island.

This is also why I support the need for a blue water navy. Defence policy aside, New Zealand has a vast economic exclusion zone that is prone to being raided by illegals who have no legitimate business in New Zealand waters. The proposed ocean sanctuary covering the Kermadec Islands would not be exempt from the potential ravages of these raiders. A blue water navy with appropriate surveillance, backed by a strong judicial system would show raiders that if they conduct their illegal business in N.Z. waters, there will be a price to pay.

Despite the Green Party saying that they are confident that an appropriate outcome can be achieved, I have concerns about how any agreement will be passed into law, and whether it will be effective in protecting the marine ecosystem.


Is the Harvey Weinstein case the catalyst needed for abuse survivors?

Angelina Jolie. Anna Paquin. Allegedly sexually abused at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. The Hollywood producer best known for a range of films such as Kill Bill Vol. 3 and Teaching Mrs Tingle has been accused of abusing actors working with him on films.

Mr Weinstein is finished. Even if he is found to be totally innocent and that all of these ladies who have come forward and said he molested them are shown to be wrong, it will destroy him and his career. His company has fired him, which tells me they are taking the allegations seriously. Mr Weinstein is being investigated for 5 separate allegations of sexual misconduct and has now got a total of 40 accusers arrayed against him.

But here is the thing. Granted nothing has yet been proven the number of ladies from Hollywood and elsewhere coming forward and saying that Harvey Weinstein harassed them whilst working with him, are too many and too credible to be dismissed. None of these ladies as far as I can gather is out for money or revenge. They are simply coming forward because a social change is happening – the New York Times expose has done the job it was intended to do. It has shone a light into one of Hollywoods darkest spots and women are coming forward. A threshhold where women are simply standing up and saying “no more – he hurt me, like he hurt others and I am not standing for it”.

We need to give these ladies a fair chance to prove their allegations. We need a fair chance for any others who have been abused to come forward and say so, to tell the police – if they are prepared to go that far – and let the world know the real scale of Mr Weinstein’s offending.

But there are two huge flaws here. Mr Weinstein has completely denied all of the allegations. He has checked himself into his own luxury rehabilitation unit, which is not a good sign as it most probably has none of the parameters of a successful unit. And he is likely to be using his own money to fund it, meaning he has a degree of control over what he does and does not do in terms of recommended treatment. He could even simply pay off the employees.

Will Harvey Weinstein’s troubles be the catalyst for women across all professions to come forward and say they were abused? As horrible as the suggestion is, lets hope so. Lets get a true measure of the magnitude of the problem. Let us stop denying this goes on. We know it does

But let us go one step further. Men have been abused as well. Their numbers are unknown at this this point and this may have to do with the extreme stigma attached with coming forward and the lack of social assistance dealing with the mental consequences – it might have happened decades ago, but the memories might as clear as if the offending had just happened.

Let us stop beating about the bush. We have a sexual abuse crisis in New Zealand as well and we need to acknowledge it. We need to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. If there are perpetrators of the dastardly types of crimes that Mr Weinstein has been accused of in New Zealand industries, they need to be ferreted out and brought to justice. The abuse survivors who had the horror of working with these people deserve nothing less.

Cannabis referendum a chance for sanity

As part of their agreement with the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Labour Party under Prime Minister designate Jacinda Ardern, has agreed to hold a referendum on cannabis. Whilst it will not happen until the latter part of the new Parliamentary term – possibly 2020 – the referendum which will be on whether or not legalize cannabis, comes as New Zealanders acknowledge that the “war on drugs” is not working and that it might be time for a new approach.

There will be some unequivocally opposed to cannabis being legitimized in any form. It will not matter whether it is the decriminalization of cannabis so that small amounts are acceptable, or legalizing the drug. The differences between decriminalization and legalization are significant and it would be true that there are people who do not understand the difference, either as a matter of being deliberately ignorant or or not having had it explained to them properly.

I have been of more conservative persuasion in the past on cannabis. But rather than view it as a criminal issue, I am starting to lean towards the view that addiction to cannabis is a health issue. Rather than criminalizing people and cannabis, I am now of the opinion that the money being pumped into dealing with minor scale cannabis offences should be diverted into helping those who have developed an addiction and setting up associated programmes.

Laws are just that. So are the courts where the sentences are handed down and the jails where the worst of them are carried out. None of them address the causes of addiction to cannabis in the first place, or seek to help anyone other than the victims of criminal offending.

The worst will offend no matter what happens. No matter how one helps them, punishes them or shows sympathy, determined offenders will offend. But what about those who were brought up in a culture of drugs, who have only ever known the debilitating effects that drugs have on families – you cannot blame them for not knowing better if they have not been shown better.

With synthetic cannabis reducing its victims to zombies, and an influx of liquid methamphetamine starting to make its presence felt, a change in how New Zealand is dealing with the lesser end of the narcotics scourge might just be what the doctor ordered. Now we just need to see if New Zealand agrees.

Jacinda Ardern becomes the youngest ever New Zealand Prime Minister

It’s official. Shortly before 1900 hours last night, New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters – after 26 days of waiting, and nearly two weeks of negotiations – has announced that his party will support a Labour-led Government.

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand – the 40th – will be Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern. Youngest Prime Minister of New Zealand in 160 years.

This is a truly historic moment. Not only has Ms Ardern become Prime Minister, but it is important to remember that not even three months ago, Labour were staring down the gun barrel of a four term National-led Government. It was dead in the water. Nothing was going right – no policy releases, personnel changes or attempts at positivity were working. National had every right to think it was going to win. Both it and its leader Bill English were kilometres ahead of Labour and its leader Andrew Little on 31 July. Despite having suffered a bit of a hit over the Todd Barclay saga, ongoing issues with housing and immigration, National did not seem to have suffered any lasting damage.

But few could have possibly predicted the effect of Ms Ardern being made Leader of Labour on 01 August. From dead in the proverbial water, Ms Ardern was off to a flying start. Over night nearly $250,000 was donated to Labour in 24 hours.

The first poll taken showed a huge spike in Labour support. Young and charismatic, seen as a breath of fresh air Ms Ardern might have lacked the skills and experience in the eyes of many. But she had enthusiasm, was quick to stamp her mark and able to land hits that her predecessors in the post Helen Clark era have only been able to dream about. After the first poll National were probably not unduly worried. It could all be a flash in the pan and her support might go back down.

But it did not. Still not yet time to panic. Mr English, whilst being less popular than his predecessor former Prime Minister John Key, had spades of experience to draw upon. He presented himself as a steady pair of hands and adept at managing crises.

Still – and Ms Ardern knows this – she has those predecessors to thank for buying her and Labour time. It would have been difficult to imagine any of them landing the hits or making the policy announcements that she has. They lacked the charisma and were too scared to make announcements of significant new policy.

Ms Ardern will learn from the longest serving Member of Parliament, the Rt. Honourable Winston Peters. Mr Peters, with the exception of the 2008-2011 term, has served in the New Zealand Parliament continuously since 1981. I was a tot who still had yet to learn to walk when he made his maiden statement that year. Mr Peters, is in a unique position because he will know the pit falls of coalition agreements, Ms Arderns rapid rise to the top from being an M.P. with the Social Development spokesperson role means in some respects she is inexperienced at crisis management.

Over the next few days Labour will announce how it has split the Ministerial Portfolios’. New Zealand First and the Greens are both going to receive a couple. For Mr Peters and his caucus it will be a reminder of the last time it was able to have such an influencing role in a New Zealand General Election.

Contrary to the beliefs of many, M.M.P. IS working

It looks ugly on paper, but Mixed Member Proportional voting, which is what New Zealand has for a voting system actually is working.

For those who are not old enough to remember the First Pass the Post (F.P.P.)system of old, which ended in 1993 I shall lay down here why New Zealand abandoned it. There are several reasons:

  • A vote for anyone other than the winner or the runner up would have been a wasted vote – so for example a vote for the Green Party would be a wasted vote because it was not for National or Labour; in the case of the Alliance Party whilst in Parliament prior to 2002, a vote for it would detract from the ideologically similar Labour Party
  • F.P.P. promoted tactical voting where the party most likely to win got the vote, even if the voter preferred that neither the winner or runner up, won
  • F.P.P. meant a small party that some how made it into an elected chamber would draw away votes from the largest party of similar nature, thereby aiding the largest dissimilar party

The fourth Labour Government, where radical changes were ushered in by Labour, which included significant deregulation – against Labours founding principles – caused significant angst on the left. Unemployment skyrocketed to 247,000 at one point in 1989, or nearly 10% of working age New Zealanders at the time. State owned assets such as New Zealand Rail had assets sold off. The New Zealand Dollar was floated.

One might have expected National, upon election in 1990, to ease off on the market reforms. To no avail. National ushered in what was known by social justice campaigners as Ruthenasia – an unprecedented and savage attack on social welfare, health and social housing, effectively dismantling the . So unpopular were the policies that former National Party leader Sir Robert Muldoon resigned and National nearly lost the 1993 election.

The net result of these nine years – or three consecutive terms of parties breaking promises – was public revolt at the ballot box. National’s majority was cut to just 1 seat. However Labour did not necessarily pick up all the slack. Small parties such as New Zealand First and the Alliance formed, which served to tell the two big parties that their performance was not satisfactory to many. National promised to offer a referendum on a new political system, which would be called Mixed Member Proportional.

The purpose was then, as it is now, to stop large scale radical changes in Government policy. This was achieved by giving smaller parties more sway at the ballot box. Mixed Member Proportional is not perfect, but 21 years after it was first used in 1996, it has managed to keep in check the political parties. There has yet to be an absolute majority Government where a single party can pass legislation on its own since 1996. That is the effect of a functional M.M.P. system.

In two words: IT WORKS.