N.Z.F. wants abortion referendum, but legislation has the numbers


New Zealand First wants the recently announced abortion legislation to go to a referendum. The move came as the pro and anti-abortion lobby groups marshal their forces for the coming scrap. This may sound like a description of foes getting ready for war, but when one looks at how quickly abortion can turn into an intensely personal argument, in many ways it might just as well be.

Per New Zealand First’s 15 Fundamental Principles, all substantive issues not recorded in in the party manifesto shall go to a referendum. When I asked about this whilst a New Zealand First member it was explained that this was intended to be the party’s way of saying don’t rely on us to make your minds up on this: Have your Say!

Some have told me that this is a cop out by Members of Parliament too scared to take a side. I guess though in response New Zealand First could argue that the conscience vote is a cop out – is a Member of Parliament in your electorate with totally different views to yours deciding “NO” on something you want them to say “YES” to, really working for you?

I get that there are concerns that there might be abuse of abortion if it the law changes. I wonder how many women were given all the information they needed and had the process fully explained to them before they made their minds up. At the same time though, I noticed that there were people who said that they were basically made to be dishonest so that the doctors who had to make the decision would proceed with a procedure that in many cases the woman actually did need.

But what has always annoyed me is the inevitable accusations of murder that come out of the mouths of the conservative anti-abortion lobby. Well, wouldn’t knowingly letting a woman die from complications caused by a pregnancy gone wrong also be murder? I am certainly aware of cases where a woman would have died had she not terminated her unborn. And we also have to ask, what message is that sending a loving partner/fiance/husband/wife of the pregnant lady should have to lose their forever person just to appease someone with no reasonable stake in the matter?

But it is not the one that annoys me the most. That will be forever and always, those cases that arise out of sexual violence. In that case the decision is solely that of the victim. No one else has a stake in the matter.

So, I look forward to seeing this legislation pass. New Zealand First might have meant well sending it to a referendum, and maybe it will go there, but if it does I hope New Zealanders come together to decisively support a long overdue change in very outdated legislation.

Abort the abortion law change? No thanks!


Abortion. The very word in a medical context or a religious context is enough to provoke a very emotive, not necessarily properly informed, and sometimes deliberately misleading debate. And yet, at the same time, there is no doubt regardless of which side of the debate one is on, it cuts right to that most fundamental, most inalienable right – to that of life. I deliberately sit on the fence here. Not because I have no empathy or heart, but because to make an accurate assessment of the issue without being partial to one aspect or another, one needs to be remote.

It has been commented many times over that very often the people making the moral calls about abortion in places of authority such as Government ministries or in churches are men with no understanding of the biological changes a woman must experience in the course of pregnancy. It is probably the most profound thing a woman will have happen to their body. They have no understanding of the medical hazards a woman who is pregnant must navigate through successfully to give birth. Or they DO have the understanding, but either their individual principles or – if they are working for a Government ministry – political ideology or other indoctrination gets in the way.

Which is why I was delighted that today it was announced New Zealand will permit abortions up to 20 weeks. It is part of a sweeping law change that will liberalise the 1977 Sterilisation, Contraception and Abortion Act, . The compromise reached derives from the liberal position that the medical establishment wanted which said that there should be no statutory test at all and the more conservative position that wanted a statutory test to determine whether there is a heart beat at an early stage.

I have no problems with a medical test being done. For me the test should be more construed as a medical check up, rather than some sort of red line or other limitation on abortion.

Now we watch the opposition mobilize. I expect to see massive opposition from religious groups. Conservative pro-life organizations such as Right to Life however will strongly resist this happening, saying that the sanctity of life from conception to ones natural death is endangered by abortion. On their website R.t.L. have the following stated aim:

To work purposefully towards, the achievement of the realisable ideal of no abortions within our society

There are however two massive and – in my view fundamental – flaws to Right to Life’s argument. First, Right to Life in no way acknowledge that a victim of rape or incest was subject to a grave criminal offence against her will. Second, if the female develops medical complications in any pregnancy brought on by the act of rape, again the choice as to whether she aborts or not should be hers alone. It should also be exempt in all respects from Section 187A of the Crimes Act (see below).

Another group, Family First, headed by Bob McCroskie are calling it “deeply anti-human rights”. Which is interestingly hypocritical because guess what Mr McCroskie? Women make up half the worlds population and have human rights just like us and one of those rights is an absolute right to life. Are you trying to say that that most holy of human rights is not inalienable when it comes to women? That is the intonation.

Ihumatao not a Springbok Tour moment


This is largely a rebuttal of a column penned by Glenn McConnell for Stuff.

There are several key facets of the Springboks Tour 1981 that simply do not reflect in the Ihumatao protests:

  1. The Springbok Tour was about sending a message to the apartheid regime of South Africa that there is no place for apartheid in the world; that if they insist on choosing sports teams based on skin colour and not their ability to play the game, South Africa’s isolation will be long and miserable
  2. It was about telling the world that New Zealanders are better than supporting apartheid regimes
  3. The police response has been nothing like the Springbok tour – in case Mr McConnell failed to notice the documentaries that have screened on television about the tour
  4. No one is actively denying that Ihumatao has significant indigneous and early settler history – the dispute is about the fact that the land is meant to be getting handed over and even the local kamuatua and kua are satisfied with the arrangements in place

Institutionalized racism still exists in New Zealand. We still see flashes of it sometimes in disturbingly high places in the New Zealand political structure as well as pages on Facebook promoting division. But those flashes are more the acts of people who refuse to recognize the line where freedom of speech of speech reverts to a racist discourse. New Zealand is no different from any other nation: all of them have racists, people with a problem about the ethnic diversification of society. Sad people with a problem about someone’s skin colour.

But this is not about that. This is about addressing what to do with land that has a bit more history than probably most of New Zealand actually knows about. Land that has had both Maori and European settlement on it. And of the grievance factor, I conducted searches of several documents from the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and Ngati Whatua. They included a search of the Summary of the Dead of Settlement, the Deed of Settlement between Ngati Whatua and the Deed of Settlement: Properties. I found only one very brief mention of Ihumatao in The Deed of Settlement. The oral record of the area’s history is well documented. It is not like Ihumatao was unknown to Maori or to Europeans when the settlement was signed in 2011. The documents are available on the New Zealand Government website.

New Zealand was a nation utterly divided by the Springbok tour. Many of the generation of politicians who have left Parliament in the last decade or so were leaders of the protests – Helen Clark, Keith Locke, Rod Donald, among others. The rugby fans were there to see a match being played in a sporting code that was still stuck in the 19th Century. Several years earlier there were African nations threatening the International Olympic Committee with a boycott of the Olympics if New Zealand was not sanctioned for hosting racist rugby tours.

Mr McConnell seems to have misjudged the audience or is only committing to looking at a warped cross section through the community. Whilst Green and some Labour M.P.’s have gone to attend the protests, just as many as well as New Zealand First M.P.’s have stayed away. Nor have National or David Seymour of the A.C.T. Party attended any of the protests. And I do not see or hear a ground swell of anger rising in the background as there most certainly would have been around the Springbok Tour.

I have received commentary about the Amnesty International involvement at Ihumatao. I wish to reiterate that contrary and to the probable disappointment of some people involved in the occupation, Amnesty has to remain strictly neutral, which it is doing. It is there to observe actions and ensure that both the Police and occupants recognize human rights law.

 

Social Workers: Unappreciated workers in an unappreciated discipline


It must be tough being a social worker. Certainly New Zealand First Member of Parliament Darroch Ball certainly thinks so. In the general debate in support of a Bill of Parliament to allow foster parents or kin carers to approach Kiwi Saver to open an account on behalf of a foster child in their carer, Mr Ball alluded to the work done by social workers.

I agree with Mr Ball. Being a social worker is like being on a high rope above a pool infested with sharks. All of them would have you for dinner in a flash if you fell off. Somehow a social worker has to navigate a mine field that has any number and range of devices – distrustful parents/guardians/caregivers, a community quick to judge, terrified and/or stressed out children, among others.

They always have to be right in the eyes of everyone, who quite forgetting – possibly deliberately – that they are as human as we are, will most probably make a mistake they end up regretting at some point in their career. And even when they are right, are making all the right decisions and their clients are making progress, how many have actually heard someone say “hey, look mate, I know your job is a hard one but you are doing your best – keep it up”. It would make their day in ways I don’t think anyone but the worker in question would be able to appreciate.

They are meant to be the eyes, ears and trained practitioners doing work that increasingly teachers and other professionals such as General Practitioners who come into contact with children seem to be doing. And whilst these professionals can certainly be useful – a teacher who is dealing with a child that used to be well behaved and is now disruptive would be right to want to find out what is going on in their background.

Without doubt they have strict responsibilities to uphold. And just as in any employment there are one or two rotten apples who are just there to play the system or cause as much trouble as they can. Each case is going to be different from the preceding one.

The attrition rate must be high. Under paid, under valued, under staffed, under resourced would all be things that are true about the profession of social workers.

Parliament claims to care about social workers. And maybe it does, but how many of the 120 M.P.’s that sit in the chamber have actually sat down with a social worker in a neutral setting over coffee and just talked to them about their daily routine, the rewards and challenges that they face? And how many of them have talked to Child Youth and Family managers and tried to find out from the middle man what challenges their staff are reporting?

So, say what you will about social workers but they are probably in terms of the humanities, the least appreciated, most overworked and under paid people. But they do not need to be like this. We can do better. And if we want to improve the social statistics for New Zealand children, our mokopuna, our whanau, we must help our social workers.

The challenge of funding sport for females


I was still getting over the Cricket World Cup final loss to England when I noted that the Silver Ferns netball team had lost their last group match at the Netball World Cup to old rivals and reigning world champions Australia by 1 point. Under any other circumstances that might have been an ominous warning. But this was cause for a grin. A rapidly rising New Zealand team that just 13 months ago had been written off as not having a dogs show of reaching the finals

Few had expected them to reach the final. 14 months ago, the team was in disarray having lost to all of its major rivals Australia, England, Jamaica. It had failed to make it onto the dais at the Commonwealth Games, where in the past they had always taken silver or gold. Even relative minnows Malawi had managed a 4 point victory over them. General expectations were that New Zealand would exit at the semi-finals and maybe pick up the bronze medal (which went to England). So, to not only make the final no one was expecting them to, but then defeat Australia, was nothing short of stunning.

But just as stunning despite not being anything new and criminally overlooked following the match by a lot of people was the complete absence of prize money. Until A.N.Z. Bank, a primary sponsor agreed that they should get $25,000 a piece, the Silver Ferns were destined to return home with no monetary compensation for the time taken to become the best in the world. Contrast that to the $3 million distributed among the Black Caps following their Cricket World Cup Final against England where neither regulation play or extra play could find a winner.

In the case of the Silver Ferns, I have to agree with a column that was written a few days ago, which said that they should have said “some financial recognition by way of prize money would be nice”. Maybe for some they were thinking that the dollars are nice, but nothing could beat lifting the crown, which on a personal level might be true. But what is it telling future generations of of females about demanding their worth be recognized? Not much. Oh, and sure netball is not the biggest sport on the planet. Sure it is not like football where the transfer of a star like Ronaldo would likely cost over US$100 million. Sure it is not cricket, where Virat Kohli is worth US$140 million from endorsements. But in the 21st Century, it is time that those who play the elite variation of the game start demanding that their contribution to the sport gets recognized.

Perhaps it is an indictment on the state of the game in New Zealand that financial compensation had not even been contemplated by any one. Perhaps it is telling us that the unfortunate mental messages that netball players are not worthy of just reward have succeeded in doing their unfortunate business. However, it was also telling to hear from the International Federation of Netball Associations that financial compensation for the most elite players has not really been on the agenda.

A few years ago, after much heat from commentators, the players and the public, Rugby New Zealand finally addressed the lack of compensation for the Black Ferns. Apparently until then three consecutive world cup titles was not enough to justify financial reward. Yes, we might be a small player in terms of our financial resources, but the All Blacks are a global brand worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Sure there might not be so much television coverage but if the dollars are not put into making sure people know in the first place, of course they are not going to get much coverage.

Rugby however is going places, despite what I got told by some Americans on the Fox News channel Facebook page when I pointed out that America was at the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup’s. I know this because rugby is one of the fastest growing sports there. When America defeats the New Zealand 7’s team, you know they know how to play the game. But does America know that America knows how to play the game?

I do not see this happening in netball. The sport needs to start arranging exhibition matches in places like the U.S. where multiple netball associations exist under a fractured organization. Let them see the thrill of an Australia New Zealand exhibition match in progress.

It is a slow work in progress, but I hope when the A.N.Z. prize money comes through the Silver Ferns are made to understand that they really are worth it. And that before too long, I.F.N.A. realizes that the sport will not grow unless they start seriously marketing it in new countries. Like America…