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Posts Tagged ‘Green Party’

Letter to the Editor: The power of the vote

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FROM: "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:38:19 +1200
TO: "Sunday Star Times" <letters@star-times.co.nz> 

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The Editor
SUNDAY STAR TIMES

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This year, if every Labour, Green, Mana, and Internet Party
supporter finds just one person who didn’t vote in 2011,
and supports them to go to the ballot booth on 20 September
– we will have a new government as our Christmas present.

Then we can have a government that focuses on more jobs;
building homes for young New Zealanders; alleviating child
poverty; protecting the environment, and all the other
critical problems confronting our nation.

Those should be our priorities - not endless scandals;
corporate welfare; tax breaks for the rich; dodgy deals
behind closed doors; rising inequality; falling home
ownership whilst speculators profit; farms sold of to
foreign investors; threats to our coastline through
unconstrained deep sea drilling; polluted rivers and lakes;
and not enough jobs for the 168,000 unemployed in this
country whilst National allows cheap foreign labour for the
Christchurch re-build.

To every Labour, Green, Mana, Internet Party supporter; find
one person who did not vote in 2011 and encourage him/her to
vote for change. The power of the Vote is greater than many
realise - which is why so many dictators around the world
fear it.

We can have the country we want. But we're going to have to
work hard to achieve it.

-Frank Macskasy

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(Address & phone number supplied)

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – Russell Norman

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- Radio NZ, Nine To Noon -

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- Wednesday 4 March 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan -

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On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed Green Party co-leader,  Russell Norman, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Election year interviews  ( 30′ 55″ )

 

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Tiwai Point – An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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corporate welfare 1

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Timeline

3 October 2007: Meridian and NZAS/Rio Tinto sign agreement for the continuous supply of 572 megawatts of power to the Tiwai Point smelter for 2013 to 2030.

30 October 2011: National government announces partial asset sales, of Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and a further sell-down of Air New Zealand.

9 August 2012: Meridian Energy (electricity supplier to Rio Tinto) announces that Rio Tinto/Pacific Aluminium is demanding to renegotiate its electricity supply contract between the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and Meridian.

10 August 2012: Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, warns that the smelter will be closed “if they cannot be viable, we have difficult decisions to make”.

7 September 2012:  Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces it will  make 100 workers redundant by November 2012.

7 August 2013: Rio Tinto/New Zealand Aluminium Smelters  announces 30 maintenance workers to be made redundant at the Tiwai Point smelter.

8 August 2013: National government announces agreement to give cash subsidy of  $30 million  to Rio Tinto, and Meridian Energy to supply the smelter with cheaper (price undisclosed) electricity than agreed in 2007.

9 August 2013: Bill English confirms that he has not sought a guarantee from Rio Tinto that jobs will not be lost at the smelter.

20 August 2013: National government announces details to sell 49% of Meridian Energy.

14/15 February 2014: Rio Tinto announces a   $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit. Rio Tinto shareholders recieve a 15% increase in dividends.

An exercise in National’s “prudent fiscal management”?

We were conned.

There is no other way to describe events between October 2007 and February this year; we were conned by a multi-national mining/metals giant that exploited National’s core-policies, for their own gain.

How else to describe the above events?

Once National announced their intention to partially-privatise Meridian Energy and float it on the New Zealand  (and Australian) stock exchanges – Rio Tinto realised that the price of Meridian shares would be determined by the income they derived from selling electricity.

As Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman stated,

”Rio Tinto took advantage of Mr Key’s obsession with asset sales by threatening to derail the sale of Meridian by closing the Tiwai smelter, so Mr Key gave them $30 million of public money.”

Rio Tinto was Meridian’s biggest customer, supplying  Tiwai Point  with approximately 15% of New Zealand’s total  electricity output. As such, Rio Tinto had Meridian  (and by proxy, the National Government) by the balls. And on 7 September 2012 and 7 August 2013, Rio Tinto squeezed.

By making  130 workers redundant, it sent National, and it’s compliant  leader, a clear message; “Don’t f**k with us, Johnny-boy. These 130 plebes are an example of what we can do to screw you over“.

Had Rio Tinto followed through on it’s threats (and make no mistake – they were threats), it would have brought down the government. That would have ended Key’s career and his reputation would have been in tatters. No Knighthood or beersies for Johnny-boy!

Key had no choice but to capitulate. Key admitted as such when he said on 14 February,

“At the end of the day I think the Government took a modest step to ensure there was a smooth potential transition there – that we didn’t have a glut of electricity we couldn’t use or that thousands and thousands of Southland jobs are out at risk.”

The resulting loss of 700 jobs at the smelter,  and a further 2,500 downstream throughout Southland, would certainly have been embarrassing for Key and damaging to National .  But this is a government that has overseen the sacking of approximately 3,000 state sector workers (up to August 2012) and 29,472 few jobs in the manufacturing sector, since 2006 (2013 Census results), so unemployment per se is not a problem that overly concerns right-wing government ministers.

What really threatened this government was Key’s reference to a “glut of electricity” – note the words. A glut of electricity would have de-railed the entire asset sales programme. Result; end of National; end of asset sales programme (and the neo-liberal agenda on the whole), and the end of Key’s career.

This shabby, self-serving, politically-expedient exercise, has cost us – the tax-payer – $30 million, plus an even cheaper electricity deal than probably anyone else in this country gets. No wonder the contract price is even more uber secret than the goings-on at the GCSB – the public would erupt in fury if they came to know what our electricity was being sold for, whilst the rest of us have mounting power prices, year after year after year.

Meanwhile, the lowest paid workers in New Zealand’s rest homes are paid just barely above the minimum wage;

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Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

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To which our well-heeled Prime Minister responded thusly,

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PM  No money for aged care workers

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To quote Dear Leader,

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.”

Interesting. Key and his Cabinet cronies found $30 million to throw at a multi-national corporation – which only six months later posted a $4.43 billion ($US3.7 billion) annual after-tax profit.

But no money for the lowest paid, hardest-working people (predominantly women) in our community. Key responded to Russell Norman’s criticism of the $30 million welfare handout,

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

If only we could believe Key. But considering that thousands  lost their jobs since the Global Financial Crisis, and National has not bailed out any other company, the Prime Minister’s protestations ring hollow.

In fact, it’s fairly well obvious that the taxpayer-funded payout to Rio Tinto had nothing to do with jobs or the Southland economy – and everything to do with the state assets sales. As David Hargreaves wrote on Interest.co.nz,

“So, it will cost you, I and him and her a combined NZ$30 million of our hard-earned to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open just long enough so that the Government can flog off 49% of Meridian Energy.

That’s about the size of the deal struck between Meridian and the company controlled by global giant Rio Tinto, with additional sugar coating supplied by the Government, courtesy of us.

From the point the Government first stepped in earlier this year in an attempt to ‘help out’ it was always obvious tax payers were going to be forced to front up with some readies for the pleasure of keeping the always controversial smelter running for a while longer.

I have no doubt that the smelter will be closed in 2017, which is now when the owners get the first chance to pull the plug.”

The most asinine aspect to this deal (and there are many) is that Finance Minister,  Bill English, told Radio New Zealand on 9 August 2013 that “ensuring the safety of those jobs was not part of the deal and no undertakings were sought on the operation of the company”.

No guarantee for preserving jobs?!

Question: So what, precisely, did $30 million buy?

Answer: Rio Tinto not rocking the boat and upsetting National’s asset-sales programme.

This was a most odious, repugnant deal.

Every New Zealander contributed some of their hard-earned cash, which ended up in Rio Tinto’s shareholder’s pockets.

All done to achieve the sale of state assets which we own.

John Key gave away our money; which ended up in shareholder’s pockets; to sell assets we own; to other share investors.

This is the crazy side of National’s economic policy. This is  corporate welfare and crony capitalism rolled into one. Which begs the question to National’s supporters; is this what they see as “prudent fiscal management”?

How “prudent” is it to pay a subsidy to a multi-national corporation, that posted a multi-billion dollar after-tax profit,  that will most likely close the smelter regardless in some near future date (2017?)?

And why was that $30 million not invested in other job creation industries in Southland, so that a multi-national corporation could not hold this country to ransom? After Rio Tinto and Warner Bros – who is next to hold a gun to our collective head demanding a taxpayer subsidy/payout?

This was an odious, repugnant and wasteful deal.

This should not be allowed to be forgotten this election.

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John Key says I'd like to raise wages but I can't

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References

NZ Herald:  Meridian boss hails deal with smelter

Radio NZ: Details of Meridian share offer announced

Radio NZ: National announces plans for asset sale profits

TV3: Rio Tinto seeks new Bluff smelter terms

TV3: Rio Tinto eyeing smelter closures

Australia Mining: Rio Tinto’s New Zealand smelter to axe jobs

Fairfax Media: More jobs to go in smelter revamp

Interest.co.nz: Govt pays NZ$30 mln to smelter owners in a deal that will clear the way for the float of Meridian Energy

Radio NZ: No job guarantees sought in smelter deal

Otago Daily Times: Rio Tinto profit more than $4.4b

NZ Herald: PM defends $30m payout to Rio Tinto

NZ Statistics: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Dominion Post: 555 jobs gone from public sector

Fairfax media: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

Fairfax media: PM – No money for aged care workers

Interest.co.nz:  Opinion: There was a certain inevitability the long-suffering taxpayer would be ‘invited’ to cough up for the pleasure of keeping the Tiwai Point smelter open

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

2013 – Ongoing jobless talley

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The Cost of Living

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 February 2014.

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Radio NZ: Nine To Noon – Election year interviews – David Cunliffe

26 February 2014 Leave a comment

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- Radio NZ, Nine To Noon -

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- Wednesday 25 February 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan -

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On  Nine To Noon, Kathyrn Ryan interviewed Labour’s leader, David Cunliffe, and asked him about coalition negotiations, policies, polls, and other issues…

 

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Election year interviews (27′ 50″ )

A major policy statement by David Cunliffe;

@ 22.00:  “We will create incentives for private employers to be certified living wage employers, who pay the living wage  to all their employees, by giving them a preference in  Crown contracts.”

This will not only support firms that pay their staff properly – but will de facto give preference to local businesses to supply goods and services!

If this doesn’t motivate Small-Medium Enterprises to switch their allegiances from the Nats to Labour, I don’t know what will!

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Letter to the Editor: Simon Bridges is a very naughty little boy!

18 February 2014 Leave a comment

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FROM:    "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT:  Letters to the editor
DATE:     Tue, 18 Feb 2014 15:54:16 +1300
TO:      "Sunday News" <editor@sunday-news.co.nz>

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The Editor
The Sunday News
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National's Energy Minister, Simon Bridges, continues to rant
that the  Green Party is somehow planning to print  "magic
money" with their recently announced policy to install solar
panels on 30,000 New Zealand homes.

He said,

"I have news for the Greens - if it's a lower interest rate
than normal, it must involve a government subsidy."

Really?

Is this the same kind of subsidy that National gave away to
home owners to install $1 billion worth of insulation in
cold and damp houses?

Or is it the same kind of subsidy that National handed out
to Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, and other private companies? Was
the $30 million of our taxes that John Key kindly gifted to
the Tiwai Aluminium smelter not a subsidy? Or the cheaper
power which National re-negotiated last year?

Ironically, the Green Party is not suggesting subsidies at
all, but allowing access to cheap loans that the government
already has access to. All loans would be paid back by home
owners - not tax payers.

The same cannot be said for the $30 million gifted to Rio
Tinto or the $160 million-plus to Warner Bros for the "Lord
of the Rings" and another $60 million for "The Hobbit". 

We won't be seeing that money back again any time soon.

-Frank Macskasy
(address and phone number supplied)

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References

TV3: How The Hobbit came to stay in NZ

Beehive.govt.nz: $100m for investing in warmer, healthier homes

Fairfax media: $1b Budget warmup

TV3: Labour backs Greens’ solar panel policy

Youtube: Solar Homes policy launch

Dominion Post: Greens’ solar pledge would ‘push up prices’ – Key

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The sacking of the national govt

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Letter to the Editor: John Key dazzles them with bullsh*t

18 February 2014 2 comments

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times
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FROM: 	"f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the Editor	
DATE: 	 Tue, 18 Feb 2014 15:17:26 +1300
TO: 	 "Sunday Star Times" <letters@star-times.co.nz> 

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Almost in a knee-jerk reaction, John Key is derisory of the
recently announced Green Party policy to offer low-interest
loans to home owners to install solar panels on their
properties.

Key said,

 "If you look at the big emissions at the moment in New
Zealand, it's Genesis through Huntly where they have coal
fired power plants, and the plan that [the Greens] have got
is going to reduce all competition and in my view, put up
power costs to consumers, not reduce it, actually locks that
in."

How the use of solar energy is going to "reduce competition"
and "put up power costs to consumers" is not only unclear -
but bizarre in the extreme.

Key appears to be floundering to create the flimsiest
possible excuse to dismiss the Green's policy initiative.

That is despite;

(a) solar panels reducing our reliance on hydro-dams, which
in drought conditions can interrupt power supply and push up
prices, 

(b) National having invested - in concert with the Green
Party - $1 billion dollars to insulate thousands of homes
around New Zealand.

The later home insulation plan involved non-recoverable
grants of up to $1,500 per household.  By contrast, the
Green's plan involves loans, not grants.

National seems wedded to giving our money away. This was
evidenced by Key's keenness to giving away $30 million to
Rio Tinto, and over $90 million to Warner Bros for 'The
Hobbit'. Those were our taxes given to private companies and
both  subsequently made billions in profits.

Perhaps Mr Key can answer a simple question; why does he
think the Green Party solar panel initiative will "push up
power prices", but National's home insulation programme
would not?

-Frank Macskasy
(address and phone number supplied)

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References

TV3: How The Hobbit came to stay in NZ

Beehive.govt.nz: $100m for investing in warmer, healthier homes

Fairfax media: $1b Budget warmup

TV3: Labour backs Greens’ solar panel policy

Youtube: Solar Homes policy launch

Dominion Post: Greens’ solar pledge would ‘push up prices’ – Key

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National's trickle down policy is a frozen tap

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 17 February 2014

17 February 2014 Leave a comment

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 17 February 2014 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (24′ 09″ )

  • Kim Dotcom/Russel Norman
  • Green Party in government
  • GCSB/surveillance
  • David Cunliffe
  • Fairfax/Ipsos Poll
  • Shane Jones/Countdown supermarkets
  • Labour’s “Best Start” Policy/Taxation
  • Passports/Syria/Al Qaida
  • Green Party Home Solar Policy

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Letter to the Editor: National’s response to Green solar policy is sheer hypocrisy!

16 February 2014 2 comments

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FROM:   "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the Editor
DATE:    Sun, 16 Feb 2014 20:31:51 +1300
TO:     "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ HERALD

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The Green Party  policy, to fund the installation of solar
panels on 30,000 homes, is sheer common sense. As power
prices continue to rise and power supply is heavily reliant
on good rainfall in hydro-areas, anything that make homes
more self-sufficient is to be welcomed.

I was therefore stunned and flabbergasted to hear National's
energy minister, Simon Bridges, almost hysterical in his
condemnation of the Green Party,

    “Money doesn't grow on trees, even for the Greens.
This is just back to the old roll out the printing press and
start printing money from the Greens.”

Someone please take Mr Bridges aside and flash the National
Party's Energy Policy document in front of his baby-fresh
face and remind him that in 2009 National allocated $1
billion for home insulation, as part of an agreement with
the Green Party. In  a media release dated 16 May 2013,
Bridges waxed lyrical about the home insulation scheme,

    “Warmer, drier homes provide real benefits to New
Zealanders Mr Bridges says. As well as energy efficiency
gains, insulating homes reduces health risks such as
respiratory illnesses and serious diseases like rheumatic
fever. Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes will help boost
the health and well-being of New Zealanders living in poor
housing and is part of the Government’s response to child
poverty.”

So spending $1 billion  on home insulation is a good thing?

But lending for solar panels for our homes is bad?

Considering that the $1 billion spent by National was in the
form of non-recoverable grants (up to $1,500 per home),
whilst the Greens are talking about low-interest loans, it
occurs to me that the Greens are more fiscally conservative
than the money-splurging National Party, who waste
tax-dollars like it grows on blue trees.

This is the National Party that gifted $30 million to Rio
Tinto and over $90 million to Warner Bros to subsidise 'The
Hobbit'. Both Rio Tinto and 'The Hobbit' have  made billions
in profits.

I'd rather spend our taxes on New Zealanders rather than
subsidising billion-dollar  foreign corporations.

Mr Bridges - breathe through your nose!
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-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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For the actual policy launch, here is Russel Norman’s speech on a Youtube clip,

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References

TV3: How The Hobbit came to stay in NZ

Beehive.govt.nz: $100m for investing in warmer, healthier homes

Fairfax media: $1b Budget warmup

TV3: Labour backs Greens’ solar panel policy

Youtube: Solar Homes policy launch

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vote mana labnour green

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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New Clothing Standards set by National Party

10 February 2014 5 comments

The National Party has set a new standard how it expects the lower classes to dress. National ministers Anne  Tolley and Party-leader-in-waiting, Judith Collins, began with this sexist attack on Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei,

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PM says ministers not bullying Turei

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Obviously, Tories cannot abide poor folk and their elected representatives becoming ‘uppity’ and above their ‘station’ in life. This public excoriation of  Ms Turei is the Tory way of telling some stroppy “n—-r” to get back in line.

All dressed up as “political argy-bargy”, to make it seem like Parliamentary business-as-usual.

The Tories won’t be happy until Turei (and poor folk)  dress accordingly,

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Right way and wrong way to dress

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(Note; the above examples of Dress Standards for Poor People is a guide only. The National Party suggests sack-cloth, grass skirts, and rags are always fashionable amongst the down-and-out. Nudity is fine – especially for comely females in the presence of male National MPs. Any unemployed poor person wearing shoes – of any description – will be immediatly means-tested and their benefit halved. Obviously they are receiving far too much if they can afford shoes.)

Next chapter in National Party policy: How changing the flag will raise 250,000 children out of poverty (but not too far out of poverty)

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References

Radio NZ: PM says ministers not bullying Turei

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Vote in 2014 dude - do yourself a favour

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2014.

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Metiria Turei’s Waitangi Day speech on Te Tii Marae at the powhiri for party leaders

- Metiria Turei, Green Party Co-Leader

Metiria Turei.

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Tēnēi au e tū whakaiti nei i raro i a Ranginui, i runga i a Papatuānuku, e titiro kau ana ki ngā maunga whakahi me ngā tini uri o Tane.

Ki a koutou o Ngati Rahiri, o Ngā Puhi-nui-tonu, e rere haere ngā mihi o mātou Te Rōpū Kākāriki ki a koutou mō tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi wiki.

Kua tae mai mātou ki te mahara, ki te maumahara, ki te whakanui i tēnēi taonga o a tātou, Te Tiriti o Waitangi me He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga.

Ko te whakahonoretanga o Te Tiriti tētahi wāhanga whakahirahira rawa atu o te kawenata o ngā Kākāriki.

Mihi mai i runga i te kaupapa e whakakōtahi nei i a tātou, arā te oranga o a tātou whānau me te whenua o a tātou tūpuna.

Kua tatanga ahau me tōku pāti ki te noho ki te tepu o te kāwanatanga mō te huanga o tātou te iwi Māori.

Kāore e mutu ngā mihi ki a koutou i tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi rā.

He honore nui mōku ki te korero ki a koutou i tēnēi rā ki te whakanui i tēnēi rā.

It is an extraordinary honour to speak here today.

This is an historic opportunity for me, as a Māori woman and political leader and for the Green Party, the most consistent voice in parliament for the interests of Maori over the past 15 years.

Getting our kids out of poverty; protecting the moana from deep sea oil drilling; warm healthy homes for every whānau; honouring te tiriti o waitangi; this is the Green kaupapa, my kaupapa.

And it’s urgent. For every day that goes by more of our kids are being robbed of their future.

Deep sea oil drilling robs our kids. It robs them of a clean ocean, of safe food, of sustainable jobs when they grow up.

The Greens are the leading political voice in the fight to protect our oceans.

The Treaty guarantees our children the right to clean and oil free seas.

The education system still denies rangatahi an education and traps them in poverty, robbing them of a fair future.

The international results showed that only 4.5 per cent of Māori 15 year olds achieved in the top two levels in 2012.

We could gather up the first hundred kids we see running around this atea; we take just five and say “you will achieve and do well”.

The rest, well, some will struggle through. And many will not make it at all.

And it’s getting worse. Our kids are now much less likely to achieve at the top levels of school than they were before National came to power.

National refuses to do anything about the reasons for educational underachievement: inequality and poverty.

And when they are challenged on this failure, they make personal attacks.

But offer no solutions for our kids.

The Treaty guarantees our children the right to an education.

The Greens put kids at the heart of everything we do. And that’s the difference we bring.

We know that if the most vulnerable kids have what they need to do well, like healthcare, free lunch, after school care, then every single one of our kids will have the best chance to be the best they can be.
We will protect our workers, increasing the minimum wage and making industries like forestry safer, so men stop dying trying to make ends meet for their whānau.

We are committed to honouring the treaty, honouring our people and honouring our whenua.

The Green Party will sit at the heart of the next progressive government.

We will have a big role to play in that government.

For Maori, it’s worth remembering that a party vote for the Green Party is the best opportunity you have to have a say at that table and change the government on behalf of our kids.
A vote for the Green Party will not be a wasted vote, like it could be for some of those other parties.

Soon, I will be the only Māori woman leader in parliament.

I help lead a whole team of MPs who are all committed to addressing inequality, righting the wrongs of the past, fighting for clean water and fighting for all our whānau to lead good lives and have a fair future.

The message this election year is clear.
National’s time is up. The time of the radical right making laws for their rich mates is over.

This is the message the country is sending, that Maori are sending.
My presence here today is evidence of that.
The time for our children, for our whānau, for our whenua is here.

National may not like it. They will lash out with venom and bitterness.

They will reduce the most pressing issues our kids face to being about the colour of my suits, but to do so they let all New Zealanders down, particularly Maori, and particularly kids.

But whether the message is delivered by a Maori woman standing in jandals or a Maori woman in a suit, make no mistake, change is coming.

And that change is Green.

Kāore e mutu ngā mihi ki a koutou i tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi rā.

He honore nui mōku ki te korero ki a koutou I tēnēi rā. Tena koutou katoa.

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A fitting response to National MP’s recent personal attacks on Metiria Turei

1 February 2014 3 comments

The issue; from National Party Ministers who have taken to personal attacks on Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei;

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PM says ministers not bullying Turei

 

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When National ministers indulge in such petty, vindictive, and patently childish behaviour, what they are really telling the country is that they don’t give a rat’s arse about increasing child poverty in New Zealand; about high unemployment; and that young New Zealanders have been locked out of the housing market because of this government’s hopeless policies.

In effect, we’re paying National Party wannabee-leader, Judith Collins, and Anne Tolley, $268,500 per year, plus generous allowances and perks plus a gold-plated superannuation scheme (that few other New Zealanders are entitled to) – to make snarky school-girl/boy comments about a person’s clothing.

Facebook user, Maria Sherwood, made this absolutely brilliant suggestion,

“If I was Metiria, to make a point, I would wear sackcloth and ashes when Parliament resumes the week after next. She will be asked to leave, as it is not dress becoming an MP, but her point will be made. Come on Metiria, stand up and show those hard-faced cows what’s what.”

That would send a powerful message to National MPs who have seemingly lost touch with New Zealanders and the many different problems they face in the daily course of their lives.

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References

Radio NZ: PM says ministers not bullying Turei

Parliament: Ministerial Salaries payable under section 16 of Civil List Act 1979

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Metiria and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Maui Street: Anne Tolley: an agent of colourblind racism?

Local Bodies: National Attacks the Jacket Not the Message

Polity:  National hypocrisy about hypocrisy

Porcupine Farm: The Farther Reaches of Victimhood

 

 

 

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election 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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= fs =

 

Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part rua)

1 February 2014 1 comment

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Continued from: Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

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One day son al this will be yours

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NZ, Wellington, 24 January 2014 – As Wellington basked in a fine, warm summer day, over two hundred people gathered at Midland Park, in Lambton Quay, in the city’s CBD.

The message from Wellingtonians was simple; don’t mess with our environment;

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The media filmed and recorded, as speakers addressed the crowd, and Wellingtonians lined up to sign the Trespass Notice;

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Oil Free Wellington organiser, James Barber, on the bullhorn;

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TV1 and TV3 camera crews, with Radio NZ’s reporter off-picture;

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The protest march took off along Lambton Quay, toward the offices of Anadarko, several city-blocks away;

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Strangely, the police insisted that protesters keep to the footpath instead of the road.  Which proved more of an inconvenience to other pedestrians than potential  inconvenience to vehicle traffic, of which there was little on the road;

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When some of the protesters spilled onto the edge of the road, this police officer took a strong response to force them back on the footpath – despite the road being closed to  vehicular traffic. There was a momentary face-to-face confrontation between James and this policeman;

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It seemed rather unnecessary, as most  protesters were good natured, middle class Kiwis, rather than “hard-core-fanatical-extremists-hellbent-on-the-destruction-of-Western-Capitalism”.

The marchers moved along Hunter Street, crossing a road. Next stop, Anadarko!

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There was support from by-standers and passers-by, such as this worker who stood across the road from the marchers, expressing her obvious approval by clapping;

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The protestors arrived at the Todd Building, where Anadarko  is headquartered. At this point, the crowd numbers had swelled to nearly 300 (approx);

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The open courtyard quickly filled;

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The Mana Party was well represented at the protest;

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anti-anadarko protest - midland park - wellington - NZ - 24 January 2014

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Meanwhile, as pointed out in the previous part of this blog report – the Labour Party was conspicuous by it’s absence.

Oil Free Wellington organiser and spokesperson, Fi Gibson (in background, with loudspeaker), addressed the crowd and explained that the Trespass Notice would be delivered to Anadarko, who would be urged to pack up and leave New Zealand;

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Ursula and Ruby had their own message for Anadarko;

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An unusually heavy police presence (at least three other policemen off-camera) at a peaceful, low-key protest;

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Had someone from the Beehive given instructions that Anadarko’s offices and representatives were to be protected at all costs? With oil licences worth billions at stake, it’s not unlikely that such instructions were issued from “on high”.

These three young women are members of a coalition of environmentalist student activists from Wellington High School and Wellington East Girls College. From left-to-right, Rheilli, Courtney, and Anna;

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Spokesperson Anna had this to say on the problem posed by deep-sea drilling;

“We’re a coalition between Wellington East Girls College and Wellington High School. We are Oil Free Wellington for Schools…

… We support support Greenpeace,  Green Party,  Oil Free Wellington and any other grass roots or NGO groups in the area, to stop deep sea drilling of our coast. Particularly in the Pegasus Bay area because it’s right where we live and we love the ocean. We want to protect the ocean not only for  us, as children, but for our children and their children, the future generations of New Zealand.”

I asked what they saw as the top concerns around deep sea drilling. Anna replied,

“Well, I’m definitely concerned about the spill risk which is huge. There is no way that this is an environmentally viable solution.

But my main  concern is that we’ll all  be contributing to global warming.

Already out of the 3,000 available giga-tonnes of carbon fuel-reserves we can only afford to burn another 500 of those [giga-tonnes]. Those are the ones we already have. We have no business digging up more.

We can’t raise the temperature above 2 degrees, otherwise it could mean mean catastrophic climate change [and] out  of control situations.”

I was mightily impressed by Anna, and her friend’s knowledge and dedication to environmental issues. If the young people of New Zealand are of the intelligence and passion of these three young people, then the future of this country is a bright one indeed! (No, not John Key’s “vision” of “bright”.) They’ll have to be – our generation will be leaving our children and grand-children a hell of a mess to clean up.

Before dispersing, people were invited to leave messages for Anadarko on the courtyard floor and footpath (in removable chalk);

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The messages varied,

“Solar energy is the way”

“Go home Anadarko”

“Frack off”

“[peace sign] world peace”

“Stop killing our oceans”

“Keep out greed”

“No deep sea oil”

“We’re better than oil”

“Leave our sacred land”

“Enough is enough”

“You’re on the wrong side”

“Leave the sea alone”

“No future in oil mate”

“Don’t drill just chill”

“How do you sleep at night?”

“Blood is on your hands”

“Fuck John Key”

“Deep sea drilling is a criminal act”

“We [heart] this planet”

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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On the issue of Labour’s visible absence; if the Labour Party wants to set itself apart from the Left – as well as general mainstream, middle-class Kiwi society – by supporting the phenomenally risky practice of deep sea drilling, as well as adding to greenhouse gases – then the Labour leadership should not be surprised if they find their fortunes falling in the polls. Whilst at the same time, unsurprisingly, the Greens will be the rising star.

I was intrigued by the make-up of the crowd who protested. Most seemed to be ‘ordinary’ New Zealanders – the sort who would be working in offices; shopping in malls; taking their kids to school; etc. And a large majority were women.

I believe that the leadership of the two main Parties have mis-read the concerns of the public on this matter.

I believe it will become an election issue.

And I believe the Green Party (with perhaps Mana) will stand to gain from their more cautious, common sense approach to this unpopular practice.

I would also offer a word of caution to the Labour leadership; if between now and the election we suffer another major oil spill of our shores, do they really want to be ‘tarred’ by the same oil-brush that National will inevitably be?

Another oil spill will spell the doom of this National government for the next decade at least. Labour would find itself dragged down with the Nats – because they have placed themselves on the wrong side of history.

The protest on 24 January through the streets of Wellington may have been small. But the constituency of the marchers reflected the greater constituency of the country as a whole.

Just in case any Labour and National MPs reading this are in doubt, they should look a little closer at the faces of the people in the pictures in this blog-report.

They are the faces of New Zealanders.

New Zealanders who vote.

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 January 2014.

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References

Oil Free Wellington | website

Oil Free Wellington | Facebook

NZ Herald: NZ not 100% pure but aspires to be, says Govt

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Oil Free Wellington is requested.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part tahi)

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One day son al this will be yours

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NZ, Wellington, 24 January 2014 – Summer arrived just in time for a gathering of Wellingtonians protesting at deep-sea oil drilling and Anadarko’s presence in New Zealand.

It was a mild, warm day with a light breeze, as protesters gathered at Midland Park in Lambton Quay, down-town Wellington, and mingled with office workers having their lunch on the grass; concrete steps; and nearby Astoria Cafe;

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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People came with printed banners;

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Others made their own;

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Regardless of style and provenance, the message was crystal clear;

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“Expect resistance” – Kiwi style – which will be demonstrated at the ballot box, later this year;

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Political parties, that ignore public concerns at the dangerous practice of deep sea drilling, do so at their peril.

Some came dressed for the part, like this “sea gull”;

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Aya (center) and two fellow Young socialists – the next generation of leaders on the Left. They will be leading the charge against irresponsible corporate, government, and capitalist activity which threatens our planet’s environment;

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The message for all politicians, whether from the Left or Right;

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Wellingtonians were invited to sign a Trespass Notice, to be delivered  in person to Anadarko;

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Many in the crowd who did not take part in the protest were still eager to add their name to the Trespass Notice;

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A simple message, delivered in a clever way;

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So when did the notion of clean water; un-polluted seas; and respect for the environment become a “radical” thing? Isn’t New Zealand supposed to be proud of it’s “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green” reputation? Or, as National suggested,  are those “aspirational goals” only?

Young Arlo, standing behind his dad, Green MP Gareth Hughes, as he addressed the protest rally,

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Gareth spoke without a prepared speech, and said that this was about protecting the environment for children “like my son, Arlo”. His sentiments were well recieved by the crowd.

Arlo,  holding his simple message for what it’s all about;

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Gareth was followed by Wellington Regional Councillor and environmentalist, Paul Bruce;

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Paul gave the science behind global warming and said that with  humans continuing to load up the atmosphere with CO2 and seas continuing to warm, it was time to call a halt.

After Paul, Mana Party member and campaigner, Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati took the loudspeaker;

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Ariana began by repeating the simple truth; “Aotearoa is not for sale!” She said that deep sea drilling was part of the neo-liberal agenda to “mine it, drill, frack it”.

Ariana said that neo-liberalism was a failed economic system that exploited our resourtces for the benefit of the One Percent. She said bluntly,

No one has the right to prostitute our land!”

Arians expressed her disappointment that Labour had not ruled out deep sea drilling and urged Labour supporters “to work on their Labour MPs“.

Many New Zealanders  will not accept dangerous decisions from politicians who, after all, are only seeking short-term gain and solutions to complex problems. When ‘ordinary’, middle class New Zealanders are expressing opposition to deep sea drilling and all the risks entailed, politicians who ignore their concerns run the risk of being tossed out of office.

Voting is resistance;

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Green MP, Gareth Hughes, interviewed by a TV1 news team;

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Kevin Hackwell, representing one of New Zealand’s most formidible and credible environmental protection organisations, Forest & Bird,  speaking to  members of the public;

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In fact, only one group was conspicuous with it’s total absence: the Labour Party.

And I think we know why.

Continued at: Anti-Deep Sea Drilling Wellingtonians Take To The Streets (part rua)

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 January 2014.

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References

Oil Free Wellington | website

Oil Free Wellington | Facebook

NZ Herald: NZ not 100% pure but aspires to be, says Govt

TV3 News: Oil companies welcome Labour backing

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Oil Free Wellington is requested.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

Latest Roy Morgan Poll: next govt too close to call?

15 December 2013 12 comments

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The latest Roy Morgan Poll has a dead tie between National and a Labour-Green coalition. Both are currently polling at 45%.

The actual Party figures are as follows;

National-led bloc,

National – 45%

Maori Party* – 1.5%

ACT* – 0%

United Future*** – 0%

Translated into National-led Seats:  54 (N) + 1 UF = 55

Labour-led bloc,

Labour – 30.5%

Greens – 14.5%

Mana*** – 1%

Translated into Labour-led Seats: 37 (L) + 18 (G) + 1 = 56

Wild cards,

Conservative Party** – 2% (nil seats)

NZ First – 5% (6 seats)

Number of respondents who refused to name a Party: 4%.

Assuming that,

  1. The Conservatives win no seats nor cross the 5% threshold;
  2. Peter Dunne and Hone Harawira retain their electorate seats but do not win any more, nor increase their Party vote;
  3. ACT loses Epsom and does not cross the 5% threshold;
  4. and the Maori Party lose all three seats;

That leaves NZ First as the “King Maker”. And if, as this blogger suspects, Peters may decide to coalesce with National,  that would create  a repeat of the 1996 Election.

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That coalition deal ended in disaster for Peters And nearly destroyed his Party.

However, things are not quite so simple. Check out the Roy Morgan graph below. Specifically, focus on polling leading up to the 2011 election. Notice how as both Parties campaign, National’s support drops whilst Labour’s rises (1)?

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Roy Morgan 11 december 2013

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In between elections, Opposition parties support falls away. In comparison to nightly media coverage for government ministers and policies, Opposition Parties do not gain similar coverage of their policies. Parties like Labour and the Greens are severely restricted to five-second soundbites.

It was only when Labour and the Greens announced the NZ Power policy on 18 April this year that the Labour and Green Parties rose in the polls (2).

Next year’s election should be no different; Opposition Parties support will rise as their  policies are put before the public, whilst Government support will fall as voters consider alternatives.

This blogger still predicts that we are on course for a change in government next year and we will be looking at a Labour-Green-Mana Coalition government.

Additional to that, I predict;

  1. ACT will not win any seats in Parliament and will eventually suffer the same fate as the Alliance Party,
  2. Peter Dunne will retain his seat by the barest margin. It will be his last term in Parliament,
  3. Paula Bennett will lose her seat but return on the Party List,
  4. National will fare badly in Christchurch’s electorates,
  5. The Conservative Party will not win any seats, electorate or List,
  6. The Maori Party will lose all three current electorate seats, back to Labour,
  7. John Key will resign as National’s leader and the following leadership power-struggle between Judith Collins, Steven Joyce, and Bill English will be brutal. Collins will win, with Cameron Slater throwing nasty dirt at Joyce and English,
  8. If NZ First coalesces with National, expect one or two of it’s MPs to defect or resign from Parliament,
  9. A new Labour-led coalition will govern for three terms, minimum,
  10. Collins will be ousted after a dismal showing by National in 2017, and the Party will pull back to a more moderate, centrist position.It will reassert it’s pledge not to sell any further state assets.

Really, politics is more entertaining than any “reality” show on TV.

And as always, Roy Morgan is the only poll that calls cellphones as well as landlines.

* Not expected to survive the 2014 election.

** Not currently represented in Parliament

*** Electorate-based Party only

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 December 2013.

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References

Roy Morgan Poll – 11 December 2013

Previous related blogposts

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

Mr Morgan phoned

Another good poll for a LabourGreen government

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones…

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 9 December 2013

10 December 2013 Leave a comment

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- Politics on Nine To Noon -

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- Monday 9 December 2013 -

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 25′ 53″  )

This week:

  • The political ramifications of Nelson Mandela’s death and the NZ delegation travelling to South Africa,
  • the Green Party’s new policy for the Meridian share float,
  • and leadership changes within New Zealand’s smaller political parties.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 2 December 2013

3 December 2013 1 comment

 

 

 

- Politics on Nine To Noon -

 

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- Monday 2 December 2013 -

 

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- Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams -

 

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

 

 

 

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

 

 

 

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 18′ 26″  )

 

 

 

This week:

  • the Christchurch East by-election and its ramifications;
  • Chorus, broadband pricing over the copper network, the Commerce Commission, and the political ramifications;
  • leadership of the Green Party,
  • and Hawkes Bay and the potential for a super council.

Some interesting and sound analysis from right wing commentator, Matthew Hooton. Is Matthew seeing the “light” and moving to the left as he grows older and wiser?

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Another good poll for a LabourGreen government

3 October 2013 3 comments

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red-green-up

 

 

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The election of David Cunliffe has had the desired effect; in yet another poll, Labour is up, whilst National is either down or trailing. If these polls are any indication, and barring any major f**k up from the left, we are on course for a change in government next year (if not earlier).

A recent Herald Digipoll had Labour  on 37.7%, giving  it 48 seats. With the Greens on 11.3%, giving it 14 seats, and with Mana’s one seat, the centre-left would have 63 seats in the House. (See:  Labour rockets in poll)  More than sufficient and not needing to rely on the unpredictable Winston Peters (who has still not ruled out coalescing with the Nats, post election).

The Herald Digipoll is backed up by the latest Roy Morgan poll (for which this blogger was recently polled as well, via cellphone – see: Mr Morgan phoned).

The results are a spectacular boost for a new LabourGreen government – and a death notice for the Tories;

 

 

Centre-Left Bloc

Labour:  37% (+ 4.5%)

Greens: 11.5% (- 3.5%)

Mana:  0.5% (n/c) 1 seat (?)

Centre-Right Bloc

National Party: 42% (+ 1%)

Maori Party: 1% (n/c) 3 seats?

ACT NZ: 0.5% (- 0.5%) 1 seat?

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged) 1 seat?

Conservative Party of NZ:  2% (+ 0.5%)

Unknown orientation

New Zealand First: 4.5% (- 2%)

 

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New Zealand Voting Intention - October 2, 2013

 

Source: Roy Morgan

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Gary Morgan, of Morgan polling, says,

“Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a large boost to Labour’s support (37%, up 4.5%) after the election of David Cunliffe as the new Labour Leader – now at its highest since Helen Clark was Prime Minister in October 2008. The boost to Labour’s support has come at the expense of fellow Opposition Parties the Greens (11.5%, down 3.5%) and New Zealand First (4.5%, down 2%).

“A potential Labour/Greens alliance (48.5%, up 1%) remains well ahead of National (42%, up 1%) and would form Government if an election were held now. The immediate boost to Labour support provides Cunliffe with a great ‘platform’ to explain why New Zealand electors should vote for Labour again.

“If Cunliffe can enunciate a consistent and concise message of the Labour Party policies and how they will improve the lives of New Zealanders and the country in general over the next 12 months, Cunliffe stands a real chance of being elected as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister at next year’s election.”

Indeed.

Roy Morgan explains it’s polling techniques, “This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone  , with a NZ wide cross-section of 934 electors from September 16-29, 2013. Of all electors surveyed a high 5% (down 1%) didn’t name a party.”

It is interesting to note that the number of undecideds/wouldn’t say, are down by a percentage point. That means that just over a year out from the election, voters are making up their minds. And it isn’t looking too good for the Nats. The Nats promote a pseudo-”hands off” approach to economic/social problems (except for Skycity, Rio Tinto, Warner Bros, Southern China Airlines, Mediaworks, etc) – such as Brownlee’s infamous quip that the housing crisis in Christchurch is best left to the free market to solve (see:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market‘). Yeah, right.

People want active solutions to pressing problems. Throwing corporate welfare at companies like Warner Bros and Rio Tinto will not help struggling young New Zealanders into their own homes; feeding hungry children from poverty-stricken families; or create jobs for the 164,000 unemployed in this country. The latest Reserve Bank restrictions on first home buyers with low deposits – sanctioned by Bill English – will be the final straw.

When New Zealanders eventually  tire of flirting with  a do-nothing National government, they look to interventionist parties (Labour, Greens, and Mana) to do the job.

After two terms, the smile and wave frontman for National will be thrown out and their diabolical legislation can be reversed and consigned to the garbage heap of history.

 

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References

Roy Morgan Poll

Herald Digipoll

Fairfax:  Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market

Previous related posts

Mr Morgan phoned

Latest Roy Morgan Poll – on course to dump this rotten government

 

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Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha)

10 August 2013 2 comments
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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

After a break for lunch, Wallace introduced the four members of Parliaments;

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L-R: Barbara Stewart (NZ First), Kevin Hague (Green Party), Annette King (Labour) and Paul Hutchison (National) – Wallace Chapman (standing)

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Associate Minister for Health, Paul Hutchson, took the podium first;

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Minister Hutchison began by acknowledging his Parliamentary colleagues, Wallace Chapman, and John Forman.

Of John, Hutchison said this,

“May I acknowledge John Forman and the Organisation for Rare Diseases for all the the work that you do, John. Absolutely committed,  enthusuiastic, and assiduous. So please may I express that appreciation…”

The Minister continued by saying that he was sorry he was not present earlier in the day to hear the previous speakers. He then launched into his speech,

“… The principle of Universality does not mean that the public should pay for every test, treatment, or medicine, that improves health no matter the price of how effective it is. You may be aware that a new concept has crept in called proportionate universality, universalism, which in other words, is targetting. And it’s something that appears to be, ah, almost superceding the principle of universalism.

In his press release relating to the ombudsman, John Forman says the Ombudsman noted the contestable legal argument about whether PHARMAC appropriately excludes social and ethical factors from their consideration, though he said it was not his role to make a definitive decision on that legal dispute’.”

Minister Hutchison “forgot” to mention also that the same Ombudsman,  David McGee, had been highly critical of   PHARMAC’s  policy that “supported the position that high and low cost medicines should  be examined by the same decision-making criteria, and found that whilst it was lawful, was not reasonable“.

If Minister Hutchison had attended the earlier speaker’s addresses, he might have remembered to add that salient point. He continued,

“And John Forman also said that it is time for PHARMAC to acknowledge that a strict economic focus without a moral compass is abandoning patients at the margins. We hope that this opinion will cause PHARMAC, government ministers,  the health select committee, and other officials to respond with serious scrutiny and review of PHARMAC’s policies regarding socialised medicine for rare diseases. I don’t consider for one moment that PHARMAC acts without a moral compass… but  nothing should be for granted.

And I do note that PHARMAC’s key objective is  to  secure for eligible people in need of pharmaceuticals the best health  outcome that are reasonably achieved from pharmaceutical treatment and from within the amount of  funding  provided. I also highly respect the members of the Pharmaceutical Advisory Therapeutic Committee who are all dedicated clinicians who have committed their expertise to  attempt fairness and equity guided by a scientific evidence basis.”

I doubt if this next bit went down well with the audience,

“I must say I well remember Sir William [Bill] Birch telling me some years ago that from every nook and cranny, town and hamlet in New Zealand, comes a perfectly legitimate reason to spend money. The whole skill is how to prioritise it.”

If Minister Hutchison was invoking the ghost of Bill Birch, known for his extremist monetarist views, then he had come to the wrong place. This was not a Chamber of Commerce or NZ Initiative (formerly the NZ Business Roundtable ) business lunch. He was addressing desperate people who were seeking answers and solutions to life-threatening diseases – not hearing that the purse-strings were being closed by an acolyte of a past Finance Minister.

The Minister continued,

“And I guess that’s the blance and the tension that we have. Where do you achieve equity and fairness in comparison to the resources that we have available. New Zealand does indeed now-a-days spend amongst the top of  OECD countries in terms of it’s overall health budget. Some of you may say  that the pharmaceutical budget in comparison to the whole $14.7 billion is less than it should be although of course that is arguable.

So what’s PHARMACs position? As you know, PHARMAC pointed out there have been several reviews of the question of New Zealand providing subsidised access to high cost medicines.  Firstly in 2006, and then of course the McCormick report in 2009. They explicitly recommended against a separate high cost medicines funding [board?] approach for New Zealand. The reason they gave for this were that the main rationale for such a fund is to improve health outcomes rather than because of the particular charachteristics of the medicines themselves are a fundamental importance. The Panel noted that the PHARMAC model is already based on the objective of improving health outcomes. The panel was not convinced that the approach used by other countries such as Australia was superior to the status quo.

Government responded to a number of that reports recommendations and that led of course to the establishment of the  Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment scheme, which  we’re now  currently running with.

I also note  that most of PHARMAC’s funding is already committed to high cost medicines.  The PHARMAC annual review shows that the top 20% of patients account for … 86% of expenditure. That’s 20% of patients accounting for 86% of expenditure. Which means a smaller patient group is obtaining a greater share of pharmaceutical expenditure than the majority.”

“That’s 20% of patients accounting for 86% of expenditure.’ - is an interesting statistic. Is it code for implying that that a small group receive a disparate amount of tax-payer funded support?

How does that statistic compare  to the 10% of top income-earning families earning 30% of the income?  (see: Household Economic Survey 2010) Or the wealthiest 10% of New Zealand families controlling/owning  approximately  50-60% of  New Zealand’s wealth?  (see:  New Zealand Institute’s The Wealth of a Nation 2004)

Minister Hutchison concluded his speech,

“…I think it’s also important to point out that since the NPPA has come into being, that we’ve gone from where there was the previous regime which was $2.1 million and now  to $8 million. Clearly it’s not enough.There will always be pressure on it.

The last thing I just wanted to mention was that there is going to be  future reviews and right now PHARMAC is keen to look at new ways of serving  New Zealanders. That’s why  they are currently conducting their  significant review on operating policies and procedures. First thing under review includes the criteria by which PHARMAC makes it’s decisions. This  is an important opportunity to define what best… health outcomes means in terms of it’s  legislative objective,  and in doing so to change the mix of treatments that are ultimately funded  within the budget that is made available.

As you’re aware PHARMAC is  meeting communities around New Zealand in a series of  eleven forums and here is a superb opportunity for everyone here. I would put in a submission, attend the forums, and express your views.”

Wallace asked the Minister for his views on  creating a separate Rare Diseases Funding Agency, with a budget of around $25 million. Wallace explained that many people in the room were “falling through the gap” and a RDFA could plug that gap.

The Minister’s response was less than helpful, and defaulted to a predictable excuse not to consider the option. He said,

“…The issue is always once you get separate funding streams, you get extra bureacracy, you get an extra pressure on that funding stream as well as the main Schedule. So that it may be that you find you  have to take away from the main Schedule and vice versa. It’s a very difficult dilmemma. I think that this latest round of opportunities to relook at  how  PHARMAC  is setting it’s basic criteria of improving health outcomes is an opportunity to explore it.”

It is unclear as to why the Minister actually turned up to the seminar. His speech offered nothing new except, perhaps, to announce the  upcoming PHARMAC reviews.

If National is going to spring a herceptin-style change in policy toward sufferers of rare disease, the Minister was less than clear in his speech.  To use the Minister’s own words, he had expressed the status quo as policy and nothing more.

The real surprise was to come from the next speaker, Labour MP for Rongotai, Annette King;

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Ms King has served as Minister of Health in the previous Clark-led government and had over-seen the re-building of the health sector after the disastrous cuts to services and budgets in the late 1990s. Ms King put an end to user-pays within the public health system, implemented by the previous National government.

Ms King firstly acknowledged those with rare disorders who displayed “advocacy, tenacity, longevity, and your committment to fairness and equity in health.” Ms King added that, “I particularly want to thank John Forman, who has dedicated years to NZORD and if knighthoods actually went to the people who really deserved them, then John certainly would get one.

That suggestion  was received with  a loud round of applause.

Ms King continued,

“…I think the problem has really  reached a critical point because we have, as you heard from Dr Hutchison, there have been many reviews into this issue, going back to the 2007 New Zealand Medicines Strategy; the 2010 report on high cost, highly specialised medicines;  and as you know from that we still haven’t had this issue resolved for those who have very rare conditions. PHARMAC now, as we’ve already heard, have established what they call a new special pathway, their Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment, the NPPA, which follows the review of the exceptional circumstances. But by my reading of it, is that this policy runs counter to their current policy settings, because when you read it, they must take account of things like if a dollar is spent in one area, it is not available in another.

That they must work to obtain the greatest  benefit. That the best place  to invest  the next dollar, to achieve the best access to health. So these are the things that they have to take  account of, even in the NPPA policy. But at this point I do want to stress as John Forman has on a number of occassions, that I do support PHARMAC in their   role of getting the best possible deal for medicines of the bulk of  New Zealanders. I think they have done a fantastic  job over many years. In fact I think they’ve been a stand out organisation.

And the bottom line for Labour in  terms of  the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, the latest round of free trade aggreements,  is that PHARMAC continues to have the right to purchase our  pharmaceuticals  to get the best health outcomes from effective budget management.”

Then came the ‘crunch’ moment,

“…But I think there has to be, and we have to acknowledge, that what we have done in the past,  as you saw from the question that John just asked, there has to be a change in the way in the way we deal with orphan drugs.”

Ms King said that it was clear that the NPPA scheme was not working for people with rare disorders. PHARMAC was able to over-rule any recommendations to purchase drugs for patients with rare  disorders. Ms King then stated,

“It is time for us to separate the two issues…”

“In 2014 our election policy will have two main parts to it. First of all the establishment of an orphan drugs policy.That policy will include international information sharing and monitoring  of orphan drugs and sharing that information as others countries do, about the clinical viability and acceptability of those drugs.
The second, I believe, is very important, and that is the establishment  of a fund with it’s own Board. Now I don’t believe this has to be [as] highly bureacratric as Paul mentioned. I believe that you can set up a separate Agency within, for example the Ministry of Health,  to give it’s freedom, but it has it’s own Board. And it has it’s own fund to administer.”

“So one of the things that would need to happen soon after an election would be the establishment of on implementation working group, which could be made up of clinicians; of patients; of community representations, and others,  to put in place the details and work on the criteria for access. I do believe that in separating the funding and operation of the orphan drugs policy from PHARMAC. It will let them get on with doing what they do really well, and I think in some ways it will free them to get the best they can for the most of us who don’t need special medicines. But it will mean that for those who have rare disorders, that there will be a fund around that.’

Ms King said,

“We’d be looking at a fund between $20 to $25 million.”

Which is approximately what National spent on the Rugby World Cup in 2010 – $26 million of taxpayer’s money, on funding the tournament’s deficit. [Update: And on 8 August it was announced hat National would be giving a $30 million taxpayer's subsidy to Tiwai Aluminium Smelter.)

"...That would be the way that we'd go in New Zealand, in line with other countries, including our closest neighbour Australia, who have managed a separate orphan drugs policy, for many, many years. And the advantage I suppose  from here is that we can learn from the mistakes from others, look at ways we can get the best value from such an agency."

Ms King concluded that she believed this was a policy that other parties from the Opposition would support this new policy.

The audience responded enthusiastically to Annette's announcement.

Wallace welcomed the Labour Party policy, and referring to  a Labour-Green-NZ first coalition, asked Barbara Stewart, "actually, which way will Winston go, Barbara?"

She smiled coyley, responding "we'll just have to wait and see".

That elicited  a mix of laughter and "awwwww" from the audience.

Next up, Wallace introduced Kevin Hague, from the Green Party,

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Kevin began with,

"Congratulations to Jenny [Jenny Noble - one of the seminar organisers] and to  “Sir John”… [laughter]

… And acknowledging my Parliamentary colleagues. Could I give a special acknowledgement to Paul Hutchison who’s gone now of course. National wasn’t going to have someone here. But Paul decided that that wasn’t ok, so he came along at short notice. So I didn’t agree with anything he said, but it was really great to have Paul here.”

Kevin expressed his regret at not attending the morning part of the seminar,

“Can I give you an apology for having missed this morning’s programme, as I thought it was a really exciting-looking programme. I intended to be here  for the entire time but I had to sit on the Select  Committee for the Pike River  Implementation Bill…”

Kevin continued,

“…My starting point actually is the right to life. Because that basic human right, it’s pretty universally acknowledged, seems to have embedded in it, the right to health.”

Kevin referred to the UN human rights treaties discussed earlier in the day. He said that for the right to life to be meaningful, it had to include the right to health. He acknowledged the high cost of medical treatments and the need to ration  those dollars. He said he “unashamedly” used the word “ration”.

“Governments decide whose needs will be met and whose will not be met.”

Kevin referred to “utilitarianism; the need to stretch health dollars for the greatest gain for the greatest number. It is only PHARMAC that tries to do that – the rest of the [public] health sector does not use this system.

While Kevin did not disagree with the concept of utilitarianism, he said that those whose health needs are furthest away, from the right to health,  will tend to be  those whose health needs are not met.

“And I don’t believe that that can be an acceptable consequence,” he added.

“So for that reason , we believe that the New Zealand health system needs to be able to have a second approach… Our approach is very congruent indeed with that you just heard outlined by Labour. I think  it’s very exciting indeed that Labour and ourselves have that same approach…”

Kevin said that whilst he believed that some of PHARMAC’s criteria for cost-benefits could be amended to take other criteria into consideration – such as participating in the workforce -  that he did not believe that the Agency should be bound by the “right to life” argument. Kevin preferred keeping PHARMAC’s “structures” as simple as possible, and keeping it’s cost-utility as straight forward as possible.

He would not “load” PHARMAC with the responsibility of resolving the orphan drugs and rare disorders  issues.

Kevin spoke to the PHARMAC representative in the audience and said,

“I would say just keep doing what you’re doing now, Stefan.”

Kevin then added,

“But. We are going to create another fund, which is specifically to be used on this right-to-health basis. I have no problem with  the cost effectiveness being one of the  criteria that is  used on the fund, but it’s  only one of a range of criteria. And I have no problem with PHARMAC’s people doing the analysis, but it can’t be PHARMAC that makes the decisions and I favour an independent Board very much as Annette outlined under Labour’s policy.”

Kevin said that even under two  systems there would still be inequities as there would always be a mis-match between dollars available and the need it has to try to cover. He said no system could be perfect in this regard.

“But using the two approaches actually reduces the size of that inequity, and that has to be a good thing.”

Kevin said “a great injustice has been committed” and the Greens would work to end that injustice.

Again, the audience responded with enthusiasm, obviously welcoming the Green position on the issue.

Wallace then introduced the last political speaker, New Zealand First’s spokesperson on Health, Barbara Stewart;

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Barbara began with a greeting and an apology for not being present for the first part of the seminar. She explained that the House was sitting under Urgency and extended hours. She congratulated John Forman for the “wonderful job he has been doing over the many years”, and thanked him for continuing to keep NZ First appraised of the issues surrounding rare disorders and orphan drugs. Without further preamble, Barbara launched into her policy speech. She got straight to the point;

“In NZ First, we believe that as a First World country, we should be able to afford access for orphan drugs. There is an underlying right to health  care. We are very aware that sufferers of rare diseases deserve fair treatment when it comes to access to orphan drugs. So we’ve been very pleased to hear what  Annette has announced. And I know that  Kevin thankfully  supports it, and I know that  we would in New Zealand First as well.

The last thing that want  to see is  people keeping on falling throught the gaps. The status quo needs changing. There is nothing surer than that. Particularly for orphan drugs. New Zealand was once thought of as one of  the highest  for the quality of  healthcare in the OECD. And it’s interesting to note that this ranking is slowly dropping away.”

Barbara said that many other countries ahead us on the OECD scale did indeed supply medicines for rare diseases. She said that NZ First has looked at the Australian model and “it appears to be successful“.

Barbara said,

“Here we would support Annette King with her model that she is proposing.” She added, “we don’t want to see New Zealand behind the rest of the world”.

Barbara acknowledged that PHARMAC has done a good job over the years, but that it was time “for a review”.

“We’re disappointed to see that the government, through PHARMAC , seems to be taking a relatively hard-line approach on medical funding and we know that this is putting people’s lives at risk… This is an issue that does need to be resolved.”

“So, we believe that equity and fairness is essential and whatever we can do to ensure that sufferers of rare diseases… can have access to the best treatment, we will do.”

Barbara concluded her speech with those words and Wallace thanked her.

NZORD director, John Forman then read out a statrement from the Maori Party. In it, they apologised for not being able to attend. Reading from the paper, he said,

“The Maori Party promotes the idea of a separate policy process for managing New Zealand’s supply of orphan drugs for rare disorders. We have a particular interest in  orphan drugs access policy through our support of people living with Pompe Disease, a  serious muscle wasting disease, that without treatment will result in respiratory and cardiac  failure. We understand the exceptional circumstances approach towards supporting applications for access to specialised and expensive medicines, such as enzyme replacement therapy, has yielded adverse impacts on too many individuals. And we cannot support any policy effect which results in government picking winners and losers.”

The Maori Party statement went on to state that there was an impact on  those suffering rare diseases by the inequitable decisions of this government. “There is a profound injustice at play”  that some families were impacted simply because of the rarity  of certain diseases and the consideration of appropriate treatment. The statement concluded by acknowledging the work done by organisations such as Muscular Dystrophy, the Lysosomal Diseases New Zealand, and New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders.

Wallace then opened the floor for questions.

In answer to a question as to when the Parties present would implement a separate Funding Agency, Kevin Hague replied, “in the first hundred days“.

Annette agreed with Kevin that it would be done “as soon as possible“. She gave a “solid committment that this would happen“.

This blogger then asked Barbara Stewart a question relating to her Party’s committment to a separate Funding Agency for orphan drugs. I confirmed that her Party would support a separate Funding model for orphan drugs, and she replied,

“We would support that, yes.”

I asked my follow-up question,

“…Here’s the problem. Is that, it’s  fine for you to sit there, saying you support it… but if your leader decides to go with National, it’s not going to happen, is it?”

To which Barbara replied,

“Oh, we have to wait until after the election before we can actually say anything at this point in time.”

Wallace suggested that Barbara txt-message Winston now to find out. She declined, and added,

“No, we do always say that will wait until the voters say what they’re going to say and then we work it through from there.”

The seminar continued with more questions and answers from the audience, including representatives from pharmaceutical companies and PHARMAC.

A talk was presented by Daniel Webby on his very personal experiences with living with a rare disorder.

John Forman presented his speech on issues and problems surrounding rare disorders and orphan drugs. His slide presentation finished with this image;

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A sobering conclusion to John’s speech, I thought.

My own conclusion from listening to the representatives from Labour, The Greens, NZ First, and the Maori Party, is that all profess to support a separate funding agency for orphan drugs.

But only Labour and the Greens can be counted on  to carry out their pledge.

New Zealand First states that it supports a separate Funding Model – but without knowing which way Winston Peters will move post-2014, then his Party’s policies must be viewed with uncertainty.

The Maori Party is in an even more untenable position on this issue.  Traditionally, they have viewed Labour with disdain, and instead chosen to coalesce with National. Unless the Maori Party makes a separate funding model for orphan drugs a bottom-line negotiating point – then their policy-pledge will go nowhere.

New Zealanders living with rare disorders, desperately seeking life-giving treatment, are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, and an unnecessary interuption to their lives – on top of the effects of their disorders.

Yet, they have come far from their early days when they first approached PHARMAC for assistance, and were constantly knocked back. Those were dark days for people like John, Freda, Allyson, Daniel, Jenny, and many others.

But after this seminar, they found recognition for their efforts; understanding for their plight; and something else to bolster their spirits…

They found hope.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 August 2013.

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

8 August 2013 3 comments
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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

The seminar’s next guest was introduced; Dr Greg Coyle. Dr Coyle is a social policy analyst and manages the NZ Salvaton Army’s relationships with the Ministry of Social Development,  Housing NZ, Dept of Corrections, Ngai Tahu, Tainui, and Otago University. He is a member of the NZ Institute of Directors, Deputy Chair of Laura Fergusson Trust (Wgtn), and has a Ph.d. and Masters in Public Policy, in the area of fairness;

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[Taken from Greg's speech notes] “This paper is about fairness and I am grateful to the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders for the opportunity to present these ideas. I wish to talk about about three things. Firstly I will discuss one view of the anatomy of fairness. Secondly, using these ideas, I will examine how fairly PHARMAC has treated sufferers of rare and orphan diseases in relation to it’s wider statutory purpose. Finally I will propose a new funding mechanism for pharmaceuticals for sufferers of rare and orphan diseases which will, I believe, provide cost control and fairness to individuals and the wider community.”

“Fairness is something we each quite easily recognise when we see it, but have great difficulty describing it and agreeing on what it actually is.”

“Gauld described the Social Security Act 1938 as the political and legislative foundation for social welfare in New Zealand. This  social reform was based on a “fair go for all”. The legislation placed New Zealand’s concern for the least well off on a fairness platform.

In 2013, the fall-back position  is now commonly expressed as “well I accept something may be unfair, but who says the world is fair anyway?” as if fairness is now an unreachable and unnecessary attainment. Perfect fairness may well be unattainable, but acceptable levels of fairness in today’s political and social  landscape seems not to be universally accepted.” 

So the moral question here is how much fairness or how much equality is too much to aim for? How much is not enough? How much unfairness and inequality, in terms of state distributions, is our society prepared to tolerate?”

“Fair distributions to citizens are particularly difficult for OECD governments considering the increasing costs of public healthcare, especially pharmaceuticals. Again the question is not why we should ration  medicines, but rather how much rationing are we prepared to tolerate?”

“Hamilton describes this balancing act in terms of ensuring that there is minimal granting of special privileges to favoured individuals, and also ensuring the absence of social abandonment of those who require assistance. More particularly, what we are concerned about here is the process of micro-rationing  of pharmaceuticals to individuals.”

“[John] Rawls’ definition of fairness contends that, in liberal democratic societies, distributions should ensure each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible  with a similar liberty of others. Where social and economic distributions are to be unequal, they should be arranged so that distributions  are of the greatest benefit for the least advantaged… “

“This fairness principle leads decision-makers to ponder if their decisions would be considered fair by the most advantaged  people in society if, at an instant, they became  the most disadvantaged and required the distribution  for themselves [...] This approach is not dissimilar to the maxim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which Blackburn contends can be found at the base of almost  every ethical tradition.”

Greg described the functions of PHARMAC, both on the national (meso) level and the individual (micro) level. He said that “sufferers of rare and iorphan diseases commonly fall into this [latter] category presenting in circumstances described as exceptional“.

He said that with regard to the Agency’s  national purchasing strayegies, “PHARMAC does an excellent job of consistently providing subsidy for an adequate range of quality pharmaceuticals” and “estimated that PHARMAC has saved approximately $1.17 billion over 14 years“.

Greg pointed out,

“PHARMAC takes excellent advantage of its market dominance, provided through an exemption from Part 2 of the NZ Commerce Act. The Agency employs aggressive monopsonistic  purchasing practices in negotiating contracts with international pharmaceutical companies.”

“In short PHARMAC is appreciated in New Zealand  as a world leader in meso-level rationing of subsidies on pharmaceuticals.  It provides for a good range of effective medicines to the community. It has done this consistently over 15 years and saved considerable amounts of taxpayer’s money  in doing so.

However, in PHARMAC’s second purpose of providing access to medicines for people whose needs are described as exceptional, the picture could not be more different. My research into the operation of PHARMAC’s ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ policy demonstrated  that PHARMAC does not closely align with high levels  of fairness to individual claimants, particularly sufferers of rare and orphan diseases [...] it appears that PHARMAC does not provide subsidy equitably  for people with diseases requiring high cost medicines.”

Greg outlined how Ombudsman David McGee had assessed PHARMAC’s  policy that “supported the position that high and low cost medicines should be examined by the same decision-making criteria, and found that whilst it was lawful, was not reasonable“.

The Ombudsman stated that “… to attempt a specific recognition for rare diseases in the NPPA policy would significantly undermine the Pharmaceutical Schedule“.

Greg summed it up by stating  that “it would seem the two objectives cannot reside amicably in the same house“. He further stated,

“PHARMAC protects the inviolability of the CUA [cost utility analysis] process by not considering the personal circumstances of claimants despite the intention of the legislation to manage the claims of individuals in exceptional circumstances. Similarly, PHARMAC’s assessment of individual  claims takes no interest in the relative condition of claimants…”

He added,

“PHARMAC takes no regard of the needs of the least advantaged before the needs of the most advantaged and does not consider information from claimants about that which they have good reason to value in their lives.”

“PHARMAC also relies heavily  on opinions from it’s committees of  expert health economists. My research shows there was criticism of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY’s)  as the only economic assessment tool used in the efficiency study [...] I am also aware that NZORD has complained that PHARMAC is choosey about which experts  it consults and has used experts that NZORD considers do not have international credentials to adjudicate on some claims by sufferers of rare and orphan diseases.

My research also demonstrated  the somewhat speculative nature of decision-making in that PHARMAC decision-making committees in the past have not recorded the reasons for decisions nor advised claimants under which criteria their applications have failed.”

Greg’s assessment of PHARMAC’s failings on this point  was explained that “underlying  this PHARMAC practice is a deep anxiety that, if claimants were provided with the reasons why their claims were denied, some would most certainly be challenged.

Greg then asked two questions,

“As a society do we believe that medical practitioners and economists are are qualified to make moral judgements about claimants and what they deserve?

Are medical practitioners and economists the right people to be putting  a price on what claimants have good reason to value in their lives?”

Greg pointed out the reasons why PHARMAC judged claims by individuals suffering rare and orphan diseases, calling threm all “excellent reasons“;

  • If PHARMAC accepted all claims, it would exceed it’s budget and fail it’s statutory duties,
  • PHARMAC had to resist unproven/untested therapies, especially so-called “alternative style health providers who cruelly offer desperate people ‘cures’ which are most often hopeless”,
  • PHARMAC faced pressure from pharmaceutical companies to list their own drugs on the Agency’s Pharmaceutical Schedule. These pressures had to be “contained”.
  • And PHARMAC had to demonstrate that it had a robust national-level “rationing”policy to maintain the confidence of Parliament, DHBs, and the public.

“In summary, PHARMAC celebrates the fact that it applies the same meso-level rationing  tools for micro-level decisions. In assessing the pharmaceutical  needs of sufferers of rare and orphan diseases, the tools are simply not fit for the purpose.”

We Need a Fairer System

Greg acknowledged the unfairness of expecting PHARMAC to manage the Pharmaceutical Schedule with a capped budget as well as having to consider expensive and essentially unaffordable claims for medicines. He said that “this situation had created the animosity and on-going frustration between sufferers of rare and orphan diseases and PHARMAC staff and Board“.

He also said it was “equally unfair of rare and orphan diseases to be denied medicines which will improve their life expectancy [simply] because they are being assessed against an economic metric which applies to a model based on 4 million people“.

Greg said that a fairer system had to be devised. One that ensured that PHARMAC was unencumbered in it’s primary role of nationwide rationing, involving the subsidisation of a wide range of pharmaceuticals for New Zealand. This was a role that PHARMAC did very well.

Greg then offered a solution;

“But we also need a micro-level rationaing system with a different set of rationing criteria more suited to the task of analysing claims of individuals and small groups of sufferers of rare and orphan diseases. The fund would be, let’s call it, the ‘Rare Diseases Funding Agency’ (RDFA). It would have  a Board appointed by the Minister of Health and administered by the Ministry of Health. The Fund should be regularly reviewed and reported to the Minister.

The RDFA will need to carefull consider both relative economic efficiency and locate the best relevant expert advice it can muster. It would make sense for PHARMAC to undertake the CUAs when required on behalf of the new Agency.  The decision making criteria will also need to develop a level of understanding the quotient of fairness and be aligned with community values  in support of micro-rationing…

[...]

… I am in no doubt that the RDFA will from time to time be required to make unpopular decisions. On such occasions the Agency will suffer the same level of criticism and unpopularity as has been visited on PHARMAC. However under such circumstances claimants seeking a review should be able to expect a fair hearing of their circumstances and be advised of the reasons for the decision made.

[...]

The Rare Diseases Fundaing Agency that I have described follows the international  precedents set by Australia, England and soon in Scotland.”

Greg concluded with this salient point,

“I doubt that there will be a day when the Rare Diseases Funding Agency would be able to fund individuals and small groups of people for every treatment available. Under our current funding system, this day will never come. However, the new agency will have fairness and community values among its founding principles. It may not [be] able to provide perfect fairness, but New Zealand would have a system which travels purposefully in that direction and sufferers of rare and orphan diseases would be better off than they are now.”

[Note: a full text of Greg's presention can be found here: "Funding Pharmaceutical treatment for Rare Diseases in New Zealand; we need a fairer way of doing things" - Greg's speech is highly relevant for our wider society as he touches upon issues relating to social equality; individual rights;  and a fairer distribution of resources. My report only briefly touches  on Greg's main points; his full speech is rich in ideas and information. - Frank Macskasy]

At the conclusion of Greg’s address, which was warmly received by the audience, Wallace invited all speakers to take seats up-front and engage in a question and answer session;

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This was followed by guests from the four main political parties represented in Parliament; National, Labour, The Greens, and New Zealand First. (The Maori Party sent an apology along with a policy statement.)

There was to be a surprise policy announcement from one of the parties.

To be concluded at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part wha)

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All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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= fs =

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

8 August 2013 2 comments

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Continued from: Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part tahi)

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 – A seminar in Wellington was held NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders , to discuss the problem of lack of funding for “orphan drugs”. People with rare diseases are missing out of medication – a life-threatening situation.

Following on from Kris Gledhill, host Wallace Chapman – of Prime TV’s ‘Backbenchers‘ fame, introduced the next speaker; Matthew Smith;

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Matthew is a barrister at Wellington’s Thorndon Chambers, and practices in the area of civil and commercial litigation. His focus is on public laws and judicial reviews – something of particular relevance to NZORD’s members and supporters.

Matthew presented an overview of the Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC) with explanations as to it’s guiding legislation; policies; and obligations.  His primary speech notes can be read here, and are worthwhile  accessing, if only to gain a deeper understanding how the Agency works (the speech notes are brief, only 5 pages, double-spaced typing).

He began with a “starting point” of  public law and the consideration for the judicial oath of office where anyone who becomes a judge of a Court “must do right for all manner of people“. He said this was relevant because that it was part of the decision-making process, and would be relevant in terms of international human rights obligations , domestic human rights obligations, and at an individual level for any funding decisions that PHARMAC makes.

General principles of law were also relevant to all  public-sector decision-making, “and that applies as much to PHARMAC as it does to any other  body“.

Matthew wanted to draw attention to  three main principles;

Firstly, that decisions have to be individual-specific and case-specific; that PHARMAC has to be consistent in decision-making, treating similar patients similarly, as well as recognising that there are points of difference that meant the dis-similar should be treated dis-similarly. Which was relevant, he said, to cost assessments in the context of PHARMAC’s funding decisions.

The third point was the human rights consideration and Matthew referred to Kris’s in-depth analysis of this point. He  confirmed Kris’s comments by stating,

“The relevance of human rights considerations is in least two dimensions in PHARMAC’s decision making. One is in the development of  any general policy  which applies and governs or informs the decision making process. And two, is in the individual level, the application of individual applications by individual applicants for funding, and their relevant human rights and how those rights impact upon the  decision that PHARMAC has to make.”

Matthew said that PHARMAC’s functions are set out in section 48 of the NZ Public Health and Disability Act, which firstly tasks the Agency with maintaining a Pharmaceutical Schedule, and the second to focus on the circumstances in which PHARMAC will make individual exceptions to the Schedule  with additional funding and grants.

PHARMAC’s policy to determine individual applications is governed by  their  Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA) Policy. There are nine criteria by which they make their decisions. Whilst none of the nine criteria specifically referred to human rights considerations, Matthew pointed out that the ninth criteria referred to “other considerations“.

Matthew wasn’t certain if Pharmac considered human rights factors as part of  “other considerations“, but he said that they should under “human rights obligations“. He said that the general statute under which PHARMAC operated does mandate consideration for human rights factors.

Interestingly, Matthew pointed out that PHARMAC’s,

“…budget is notional, because PHARMAC itself does not pay the subsidies for pharmaceuticals. They are paid by the Ministry of Health, on behalf on the DHBs.”

Matthew repeated that general and broader law required PHARMAC’s decision-making for individual’s making applications,  to consider an  individual’s circumstances, and of the patients who would be beneficiaries of the drugs to be funded. He added that a practical consequence of that criteria was that PHARMAC could not use the price of a medicine as a reason to decline an application.

Matthew also pointed out that in analysing the cost of a particular drug, that cost had to be offset against any other costs otherwise spent by the health system for providing a service that otherwise would not be provided by PHARMAC. Costs, he said, had to be considered in a fairer, broader, more holistic way, taking into account offsetting costs, indirect as well as direct.

In terms of consistency, Matthew said that general consistency of treatment was identified as a principle of law and treating “like with like” flowed from principles of equity and equitable considerations. He added that often it was over-looked that consistency also meant identifying those who were in a different situation  and treating them differently. He used an example of  a population group with disimilarities to the rest of  the population, and that those disimilarities should be taken into account.

Taking differences into consideration maintained consistency. That had to be reflected in processes, as well as in end-decisions.

In answer to a question from the audience, which asked why applications from rare disease patients were still being turned down, Matthew replied, that the Act allowed for cost as one of three considerations.  He accepted that cost was relevant to PHARMAC.  Two other considerations were clinical needs and determinations, and health needs – the latter not defined in the Health Act.

He suggested that too much focus was currently being placed on cost, cost-basis,  and economic analysis, and that we had lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with people and individuals first and foremost. Mathew said,

“…As people born into the Human Family, so to speak, which is the starting point of all human rights obligations… those are being lost sight of, and those aren’t being given sufficient weight in the context of individual decisions,  and circumstances where, as I understand it, PHARMAC has decided that there is no specific earmarking in terms of the last year the $770 odd-million that was allocated for funding. There’s no specific earmarking for exceptional circumstances or rare diseases…”

Without specific “earmarking” of funds, it seems that those with rare disorders were destined to be sidelined by PHARMAC.

But, there was to be a glimmer of hope later.

Wallace then introduced Andrew Moore, associate professor of Philosophy at Otago University. His field and interest was in  ethics as they related to public policy. He has advised four Health ministers, from Labour’s Annette King to National’s Tony Ryall. He was a founding member and chairperson of the National Ethics Advisory Committee.

His advice has contributed to the national health policy, resource allocation, prioritisations, as well as contracting to PHARMAC;

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Andrew started with paying tribute to NZORD and it’s director, for an “ongoing resilient committment”  and respect for  the democratic process, to work toward their goals.

Andrew then defined his concept of ethics – which he tied to the seminar issues,

“I have a fairly basic idea about ethics. Ethics, according to me, is just to do with what matters, and how to live in the light of that.”

Andrew added, “that  the topic here is what matters in the allocation of public funds for medicines, devices, and the like“.

He said that what matters in this context is the people who need these treatments and who can benefit from them. Andrew acknowledged PHARMAC’s statutory role was  to deliver best health outcomes for available  funding. The process was driven by the idea of maximising the public health benefit, and because of  budgetary constraints, there was priority for the greatest  health benefit per dollar.

That meant others missing out and not gaining any public funds, or opting for private support such as friends; reliant on corporate largesse;  missing out altogether,

“Or whatever survival means are available.”

Andrew suggested “pushing at the margins” to achieve ends. He suggested pushing for the ideas of “severity of condition” or “severity of circumstances“; or lifetime disadvantage.

He said the the current “maximised benefits” idea was simply not enough to deliver outcomes for those who needed it. He preferred promotiong the idea of “need” and “severity of condition” as a means to focus on.  Andrew suggested keeping things as simple as possible. For some in PHARMAC, ethics was “too complicated”.

He referred to the UK’s citizen  jury process to arrive at good outcomes and ideas.

Any solution had to be “need weighted” benefit, especially for those in dire danger from disorders.

Despite some fearing the possibility of getting into an “ethical view” on this issue, Andrew reminded the audience that even the current system was built on an ethical view, even though it was a somewhat narrow view. It was impossible to avoid ethics in favour of the status quo, said Andrew,

“You can only choose some views over others. There was no hiding place in the status quo”.

Following on from Andrew Moore, Wallace introduced Dr Andrew Veale, a Respiratory and Sleep specialist and Clinical Director for a private Lung Function and Sleep laboratory at the NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute in Auckland. Dr Veale is also a sleep specialist at Middlemore Hospital, and has diagnosed and treated Acid Maltase deficient (Pompe Disease) patients. He is deeply interested in clinical trials and physiological measurement;

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Dr Veale began,

“I’m involved because I fortuitously diagnosed a few patients with Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease, and  they’ve allowed me to walk through their lives. In Freda’s case, for twenty years, as they cope with this disorder, which has had no cure. So it’s been an education for me and I hope of some benefit to them. But most of the time we just talk shop. Social things.”

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Freda (L) and Jenny (R)

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So began Dr Veale’s talk.

With the aid of coloured slides, Dr Veale launched into a full scale medical explanation of the causes of Acid Maltase deficiency, or Pompe Disease. He showed cross-sections of the human cell, and explained the simple deficiency that has wreaked so much harm and tragedy in people’s lives.

He began by stating that Enzyme Replacement Therapy (to treat Acid Maltase deficiency) was different from normal administration of drugs, as the Therapy used a much larger molecule. (Thank god for Fifth and Sixth Form General Science and Biology classes.)  Whilst normal drugs permeated through the whole body, he said, enzyme replacement had to be targetted to enter cells.

Dr Veale’s explanation of the complex processes was simplified for ease of comprehension. In fact, it was probably easier to take in than some of the legal matters that had been presented earlier.

After the science lesson preamble, Dr Veale added another complication into the mix; how to test treatments for rare diseases when the numbers of  patients are so small. As he put it,

“Patients with rare diseases will never have a randomised, double blind,  cross-over, trial while facing East…” (laughter) “These  patients are treated with observational treatments… which are not as good.”

He said there was a problem with randomised double-blind trials in that they disguised a sub-group who might benefit from the wider group.  Dr Veale added that Acid Maltase deficiency  involved trials that  lasted over years and reports could not expected any time soon. So there were inherent difficulties with the model of clinical trials.

Another problem, he said was the variability of tests. Dr Veale said test results depended on the precision of  test instruments. Test results, he said, also depended on how  a test subject was feeling on a given day and what kind of activities they had engaged in. He used Freda as an example saying that she might well fine on a Monday – but knackered on a Friday because she had been doing gardening that  morning. These were all factors that affected outcomes.

Dr Veale presented a slide with four curves to illustrate his point. He said the graphic was a “fantastic” example of the point he was getting across;

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The  sharp, pointy [red coloured] curve, he said offered a test outcome with a very good precision.  It’s got “tight confidence“; “we can trust it“; “it’s the truth“.

The green curve gaves the same result, but was less precise; “the scatter was wider“. “And it might be the truth“.

Dr Veale then used another chart to show how individual data points, from the same patient, would give differing results. One set of data points showed the patient improving – another set of data points other showed the patient deteriorating. But  it was the same patient and from the same set of data. But overall, it showed a more accurate picture of the state of the patient, “this is some real data”, Dr Veale said.

I was reminded of political polling. Individual polls could give a misleading result for political parties – but an overall picture presented a much more accurate result. (See: Polling Chart on The Dim Post blog)

Dr Veale said that with slow-changing diseases, the temptation was to  test infrequently because not much had changed. As a result, there would be misleading test results from data gained from infrequent  testing. Fewer data points would present an incomplete or misleading picture of the disease’s progression. The infrequency of measurement coupled to an imprecise test would yield poor results. The slower a  disease progresses, he said, the more data points were needed to create a more truthful picture. The same applied to an imprecise test – more measuring was required.

For example, Dr Veale sugggested a year’s worth of testing at one-weekly intervals. And then he would want a further year’s worth of follow-up testing of one-weekly measurements to detect any changes in previous data. That, he said, was using the patient as their own ‘control’, as  the best method of showing a subset of beneficiaries.

Dr Veale presented the final slide in his summation,
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Dr Veale made the strong point of having a separate  trial fund for experimental treatments for individuals  patients, with over-sight  by an independent Advisory Board. The purpose was to ensure outcome measures were  important to the individual patient concerned.

He said,

“I think we’ve got to get it right. These are very expensive drugs and it’s all very well to say  ‘well we shouldn’t worry about that’, but there is a [muffled] cost if we don’t do it correctly. I think there is a way forward here. When you make a decision to treat somebody with these sorts of disorders,  you’re not making a decision to spend $100,000 a year, you’re making a decision to spend five million over a life.

And I think there is an obligation on us to show that it’s of use.”

To be continued at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part toru)

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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.

= fs =

Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part tahi)

8 August 2013 2 comments

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NZORD - seminar - 1 August 2013 - Wellington - pompe disease - manual cover

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NZ, Wellington, 1 August 2013 -  At a seminar in Wellington, Labour’s Health spokesperson, Annette King, announced her Party’s new policy to create a new fund for purchasing so-called “orphan drugs” – medicines – for rare diseases.

Labour’s new policy marks a turning point in the critical problem of “orphan drugs” which are not funded by PHARMAC, but which are a matter of life and death for people suffering rare diseases.

The seminar – held by NZORD, the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders – took place at Wellington’s down-town Amora Hotel, and was opened by it’s executive director,  John Forman;

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TV personality, Wallace Chapman, hosted the seminar, introducing each guest speaker and keeping a tight reign during question time (he’d make a great Speaker of the House);

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Representatives from the Green Party, Labour, NZ First, and National attended.

Main speakers included,

  • Dr Christine Forster, GP
  • Dr Alison Davies, Pharmaeconomics
  • Kris Gledhill, lawyer, Director of NZ Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice
  • Matthew Smith, lawyer
  • Andrew Moore, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Otago
  • Andrew Veale, Respiratory & Sleep Specialist
  • Dr Greg Coyle, social policy practitioner
  • Daniel Webby, patient & patient advocate
  • Dr Andrew Marshall, Paediatrician, Clinuical Leader Child Health in Wellington Hospital
  • John Forman, executive director of NZORD

First speaker, was GP, Dr Christine Forster. Dr Forster has been a GP for thirty years; held appointments as Chairperson of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, plus involved in committees overseeing assisted reproductive procedures. She briefly participated in the Auckland Health and Disability Regional Ethics Committee;

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Dr Forster began by saying that her role was also about general wellbeing; mental health; and advocating for access to services and resources.

She read out the patient’s Code of Practice,

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner consistent with his or her needs.

Every consumer has the right to have services provided in a manner that minimises the potential harm to, and optimises the quality of life…

That is our guiding light“, said Dr Forster,”it is a patient-centered focus.”

Dr Forster spoke of PHARMAC’s successes – but added it could do better,

“In general practice we have contact with the decisions that PHARMAC make every day. We are managing the pharmaceutical changes for our patients who have chronic diseases… Managing the change for them is not always as straightforward as I think PHARMAC think. Many are suspicious and wary of change.”

“It’s a worthwhile process because it’s successful in providing routine medications for New Zealanders at a much lower cost than other Western countries. And for most part this process has no harm [or]  minimal harm…”

She pointed out,

“So the success is the savings for the pharmaceutical budget so more drugs can be funded and improved access to newer treatments.The unexpected bonus for us is that it has removed the drug reps from our rooms and offices.. So huge benefits and minimal harm.”

Dr Forster addressed the perceived high cost factor of orphan drugs,

“The approach to funding drugs, high cost pharmaceuticals, and drugs for rare disorders is different. There is harm, because essentially what we’re doing is witholding proven treatments. We’re making drugs unavailable. My question is, really, are we making decisions about pharmaceuticals in isolation to the rest of healthcare?”

Dr Forster pointed out that there are other examples of expensive healthcare where there cost-benefit analysis is not considered prior to treatment – so why are pharmaceuticals held in a different light?

“The argument’s often  about not funding these drugs… often the view is if they do that, the money will come from someone else; that someone else will have to suffer. But this happens all the time, all the time we are treating a small number of people at huge cost… that’s just the normal treatment.”

Dr Forster said she looks at the outcomes of treatment, not just in a clinical approach with drugs. She said that was a very narrow outcome and in general practice she looked for a much broader sense, of a good life,

“A sense of not being abandoned by society”

Dr Forster concluded by saying,

At the end of the end of the day, I think, it comes down to what kind of society do we want to live in.And it’s one about making decisions about people’s health and wellbeing is not on cost alone.”

After questions and answers,  Wallace Chapman also related his own personal circumstances of carrying a rare disorder – Gauche’s Disease -  and the extraordinary steps that his mother took to ensure he received adequate, life-enhancing treatment. He was told by the Dundedin specialist who diagnosed his condition that “there’s nobody else in Otago” who had  the condition.

His mother  “became a star“, said Wallace. His  mother began phoning MPs and ministers, and went to Jenny Shipley, who was then  MP for Ashburton/Rakaia, and demanded that he receive the necessary treatment to save his life.

He expressed his appreciation to then-Wigram MP, and Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, who “championed the cause” to  get Wallace and other Gaucher’s sufferers the necessary drugs to save their lives. Wallace said his dream was that other people like  Freda could also acquire the drugs they needed.

Wallace wondered what might happen if the government took the money away from funding the Waihopai Spybase and spent it on healthcare. He suggested it might be a better world to live in – a comment well received by the audience.

Wallace added that GPs like Dr Forster were the real heroes in our community – especially those that take an interest in such complex, social  issues.

Wallace then introduced Dr Alison Davies to the audience;

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Dr Davies has a diploma in Pharmacy, diploma in Hospital Pharmacy, and Masters in Medical Science (epidemiology). She has practiced as a pharmacist; clinical researcher for 17 years; and worked in pharmaeconomics for a pharmaceutical company. She has taught post-graduate students at Otago University and is a member of Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition. She has represented this patient group voluntarily,  gain better access to medicines.

Dr Davies began  with the  criteria used to make decisions in healthcare – particular ‘tools’ such as  “cost effectiveness analysis and cost utility analysis.

Dr Davies compared different systems used in Australia (PBS); the UK (NICE), and PHARMAC in New Zealand; all three take “cost effectiveness” into consideration as a criteria;

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Criteria for decision making

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Dr Davies pointed to  “...a real tension between making decisions about a population’s health and making decisions about an individual’s health.”

We have a choice about which costs to include...”  Dr Davies referred to a Definition of Societal Perspective,

‘Includes everyone affected by the intervention and counts all significant health outcomes and costs that flow from it, regardless of who experiences the outcomes or costs’
 - which means that everyone in society, everybody’s costs and outcomes which are affected by this intervention  are included. Now that’s not how… PHARMAC does it’s analyses. It chooses a perspective of the healthcare system, so only includes the costs that accrue to the healthcare system plus patient contribution to the healthcare, co-payments, that sort of thing. So there’s no inclusion of loss of productivity, personal costs that are outside of health, etc. So there’s no consideration for you getting back to work; the time-costs associated of your caring for a sick or disabled person, your leisure time…”

Dr Davies referred to a person’s  “quality of life”, using the  World Health Organisation definition as  “physical, social and emotional aspects of a patient’s wellbeing that are relevant and important to the individual“.

Dr Davies discussed cost-effective thresholds in the UK and Australia  and asked,

“Does PHARMAC have a cost-effectness threshold?

Pharmac maintain they have no cost-effectiveness threshold for funding of medicines.”

However, she questioned that assertion  and noted a reference to a de facto  threshold in a 2012 NZ Medical Journal.

This impacted on what treatments could or would not be ultimately funded and did not take into account needs such as rare diseases and orphan drugs, she said.

Dr Davies said that breast cancer had 50 types, and the “commoness” of this disease could actually be made up of several rare variants. So we could all have a “rare disease”.

Dr Davies said that “orphan drugs” have a high cost but there are often no alternatives and are often  lifesaving,

“That’s where the rule of rescue” comes in.”

Dr Davies compared sea rescues that often cost over a million dollars and we “don’t blink a eye and we all think that’s a great thing to do“. She called it a human impulse or imperative to save one individual.

The rule of rescue, Dr Davies maintained, could equally be applied to saving lives by funding rare medicines.

We need to have a fair decision-making process“, she said,

“Health economists don’t yet  rule the world, thank god”.

The next speaker was Kris Gledhill, a barrister who worked in London for two decades, working on various human rights cases, mostly for people detained.  He lectures at the Auckland University Law School, which includes teaching human rights law. Since January 2012,  Kris was the inaugual director of the NZ Centre, for Human Rights Law, Policy, and Practice;

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Kris opened by saying that his approach was through a human rights framework, and launched with this empowering statement,

“The reason why  it’s important to talk about rights in this context, I think,  is that,  if it’s a right, the grey men at  the Treasury, in their grey suits, and grey socks and grey underpants,can’t say ‘no’. Because if it’s a right, then it’s something to which you’re entitled  and which is enforceable.”

Kris said that were were a number of Treaties and a UN Human Rights Council, whose role it was promulgate our rights, including the right to health.  He referred to the rights which all New Zealanders have under treaties such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (1966).

Kris said that both Covenants were signed in 1978 – when conservative Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister of New Zealand. He said Muldoon was no “leftie”.

Kris specifically pointed to the Convention on the Rights of  Persons  with Disabilities (2006),  and said it had “an awful lot  power” because of it’s potential as it had no definition of disabilities. He gave the preamble to the Convention,

“Recognizing that disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others…”

Kris said that the definition of a disability was wide enough that it could cover those with rare disorder, if it interfered with their ability to participate fully and effectively in society.

He said it was a Convention to be made use of.

Kris also said that once a country like New Zealand signed up to an international Treaty (such as those mentioned above) then there was an expectation that domestic law, policy, and practice,  would be amended to reflect international human rights standards.

He said that where issues such as healthcare were involved, and resourcing was a question, that signatory States were obliged to use “maximum of available  resources” that were available to a particular nation, to give effect to the conventions. “It was not a free choice” – we had an obligation, Kris said.

Kris said that New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act  and the 1993 Human Rights Act,  gave effect to New Zealand’s international human rights obligations.

Therefore, Kris said, international law was not separate from New Zealand law, but a part of it. He said this was recognised both by Parliament that made laws and the judiciary that interpreted those laws.

He said that of particular relevance was the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated everyone had a right to a standard of living, adequate to the health and wellbeing for himself and his family,  including medical care and disability. That, he said, was what people believed we were entitled to as far back as 1948. The same Declaration reaffirmed our Right to Life, including extensions to life.

This included medical care in times of emergencies such as pandemics; infant mortality; and disorders that reduce life expectancy. He said this meant a right to live, not just a right to life.

The same Declaration, Kris said,  reaffirmed the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. He said that if the consequences of a  disorder are inhuman or degrading, then you have a right to have something done about it.

Most importantly, we have a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of status. “Status” he said, included “anything of a disabling feature“. The right not be be discriminated against meant not to be treated differently in the light of your status.

Kris said that New Zealand had an obligation to ensure the highest possible standard of health. He pointed to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights which strated that citizens of  signatory states (ie; New Zealand),

” recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”

and,

“the steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant  to achieve the the full realisation of this right shall include those necessary  for: … (d) the creation of conditions  which would assure to all medical service  and medical attention in the event of sickness”

He repeated that this was a right, and not a choice by the government. He stressed the point that, that under Article 15, “everyone” had the right “to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and it’s  applications.”

Therefore the grey men in the Treasury can’t say ‘no’.” The resources-based argument, Kris explained, was designed for developing nations and not rich nations like New Zealand.

Kris said that it’s “grass roots” organisations – and their mothers (which elicited quiet laughter) – that have to make use of these rights. He said we need to raise these international obligations in any legal challenges undertaken.

One such means for a legal challenge was to lay a complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur on Health. The Special Rapporteur, he explained, receives complaints from individuals, or groups in society, who have been affected by a denial of the right to health, or componants of health.

Only one complaint has ever been made from New Zealand to the Special Rapporteur, he said, and this facility could be better used by those who feel discriminated against.

Kris encouraged those present to use the international rights he had outlined because otherwise, “if you don’t use them, you actually don’t have them“.

Wallace then opened the floor and asked for questions.

This blogger asked Kris if the international treaties he had outlined have the same weight as free trade agreements, where member states can take disputes to legal tribunals for judgement?

Kris replied,

“Yes, they’re international obligations;  they’re the same as any international  obligations including the free trade international obligations. And the point is that those free trade obligations, the treaties that we’re signing up to there are all signed up to in the context that there is an existing, long standing human rights framework. So the free trade agreements do not overtake the international human rights framework. They exist in the context of the existing and enforceable human rights framework.”

At that moment, I thought of the other forms of discrimination that National was engaging in – such as punitive new policies against welfare beneficiaries. Could forcing beneficiaries to undertake drug tests or use contraception be a form  of discrimination that could be litigated at an international disputes tribunal such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Health?

To be continued at:  Opposition parties work together on “orphan drugs” (part rua)

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*

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

* Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
* Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders is requested.
* At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
* Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous related blogposts

Priorities? (19 Oct 2011)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key (12 Nov 2012)

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions (28 Nov 2012)

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe? (18 Dec 2012)

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion (9 Jan 2013)

“There’s always an issue of money but we can find money for the right projects” – John Key (20 Jan 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part tahi (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part rua (4 March 2013)

“One should judge a society by how it looks after the sick and vulnerable” – part toru (4 March 2013)

Additional

NZORD

UN Special Rapporteur on Health

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Nationwide rally condemns animal testing for party-drugs (part rua)

3 August 2013 4 comments

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Continued from: Nationwide rally condemns animal testing for party-drugs (part tahi)

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30 July - rally - protest - animal testing - party pills - Peter Dunne - Parliament - synthetic cannabis - Psychoactive Substances Bill

Image courtesy of  HUHANZ

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NZ, Wellington, 30 July – Thousands of animal rights campaigners,  animal lovers, and other people who oppose testing party drugs and synthetic cannabis on animals protested against the Psychoactive Substances Bill on Tuesday 30 July.

TV3′s news crew filming the protesters;

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I don’t want to die for someone to get high” – a good point. And one that National ministers and Peter Dunne seem unwilling to address;

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Ok, this is right off the Cuteness Scale factor;

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(But animal testing on these party pills is still wrong, regardless of cuteness or not.)

The legalise-cannabis lobby were represented by this gentleman;

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legalise cannabis

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It has been said that real cannabis is actually safer (in adults) than the synthetic stuff. Plus it’s been  “consumer-tested” for hundreds (thousands) of years. So wouldn’t it make more sense to de-criminalise the natural stuff and ban the synthetic variety?

Or is that too much common sense for politicians to handle?

About half an hour later, the procession moved off,

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The procession, at the northern end of Wellington’s Cuba Mall – on the right;

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… and on the left, waiting to set off across Dixon Street;

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And the marchers – four-legged as well as two – were off;

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After a brisk march through Wellington’s CBD, the rally ended up in Parliament’s grounds beneath the stature of Richard Seddon;

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Rally Organiser and HUHA founder, Carolyn Press-McKenzie, addressed the rally, surrounded by MPs and media crews;

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Epsom MP, John Banks, was the first MP to address the rally;

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http://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/wellington-anti-animal-testing-rally-30-july-2013

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In a somewhat fervant speech, Banks said,

“I say no to farming animals in China and India for the purposes of drug testing.  I say no to putting animals at the alter of drug dealers and importing for the purpose of recreational drugs…”

…I say to my Parliament colleagues testing fun drugs on animals is obscene.It is obscene in a country that prides itself on animal welfare and  animal ethics. Britain banned testing; Britain banned testing of fun drugs on animals in 1997. The EU has banned the  testing of cosmetrics of on that beautiful rabbit down there some years ago.

… If we want to be leaders; if we want to be leaders in the safety of fun drugs in this country, if it’s necessary to have these mind-changing chemicals, then test them on the idiots that want to take  them, because there’s hundreds that want  to do it. There are hundreds and hundreds of idiots up and and down the country that will willingly take fun drugs to test their toxicity.

…And I say to my Parliamentary colleagues,  don’t test them on animals at all!”

He looked pleased at the crowd’s response, obviously enjoying the cheers to his speech. (He probably hasn’t received such cheers and applause since he sat down to  a nice cuppa tea with the Prime Minister, in November 2011.)

Green MP, Mojo Mathers, was next to address the rally;

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“I am angry! I am angry that animals are going  to have to suffer.  I am angry that animals are going to have to die, for the sake of  a legal high. I am angry because the government has not been listening! The government is ignoring public opinion! It ignoring your conscience.  Because the the general public has a conscience! The general public cares. The general public does not want to see animals suffering in  this way!
The government has ignored the hundreds of people who have put in a huge amount of time and energy to provide detailed information [and] submissions on the Bill, on the issue of animal testing. And what happened? The Select Committee said “no we won’t hear you”! That was wrong! The information these people have in their submissions is directly relevant to the issues of the Bill. Because what that information showed was that there are alternatives to animal testing. And that we care about our young people. We can’t use these alternatives [background noise]  for safety.
The Government ignored the 64,000 people who signed the petition in one month.And this government voted against my amendment that would have ruled out these awful tests. That is apalling and I am angry about that. I am angry that the government covered it’s ears and hands over it’s eyes and refused to look at the evidence of alternative tests and refused to rule out animal. testing of party pills.”

Mojo said,

And we have to keep up the pressure!”

And I intend to keep up the pressure in Parliament. The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill is another opportunity to keep up the pressure and I will be asking for Party Pill testing on animals to be ruled out of this Bill.”

She added,

“What you have done here by coming out en masse today is that you’ve shown this government that you  are not going to forget this issue.”

Mojo’s speech received an enthisiatic  response from protesters and organisers alike;

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Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, also took an opportunity to speak to the rally;

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“I sat on the Health Committee when we considered to the Psychoactive Substances Bill. And I want to tell you about how the National Party completely refused to listen to any of the discussion around animal welfare.
When we received all the submissions; we received all those hundreds of submissions saying that people wanted to come to the Select Commitee and talk about animal welfare and wanted to make your voices heard and make the animal’s voices heard, in front of us, the people who are making the decisions about the Bill…
…The Select Committee had to eventually to  have a vote about whether or not we would hear those submissions. And the vote actually  went five/five. There’s five National Party members on the Select Committee. They voted against hearing your submissions.
The other five members are  from Labour, The Greens, and New Zealand First and we voted in favour of hearing your submissions.”

Ian Lees Galloway said that the motion to hear submissions was lost, in favour of the status quo. He said,

“That was a decision  by the National Party and I think it’s a real shame [cheering drowned out speaker] that the National Party is not interested in giving you your democratic right to be heard by Parliament. We have a wonderful transparent system in New Zealand where everybody has the right to be heard about whatever piece of legislation we are putting through Parliament. And you had your democratic right taken away from you by the National Party.
So I want you to know that the Labour Party voted in favour of Mojo’s amendement. We did not want to see animal testing… for party pills. And I agree with Mojo’s recommendation to you, which is that we have the Animal Welfare Bill coming up next. That is the opportunity to have your voice heard again. Make sure the National Party understands that you want to be heard about this and that you want to get in  front of the Select Committee that is considering the Animal Welfare Bill, because you have a democratic right to be heard and Labour will  support you all the way on that.”

Inexplicably, as  Carolyn Press-McKenzie pointed out,  no National Ministers, nor Peter Dunne, appeared to present their case to the rally. Perhaps their courage deserted them on this day.

Never mind, I’m sure that there will be many in Mr Dunne’s elecorate who, next year at election time, will be only too happy to attend public meetings and ask Mr Dunne a few pertinent questions.

Politicians can run and hide – but eventually they have to surface, to seek our votes again.

We can wait, Mr Dunne, Mr Key, et al.

Expect us.

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Near the conclusion of the rally, Ms Press-McKenzie handed new evidence for alternative testing to John Banks, and asked him to present it to the Prime Minister.

Banks accepted the documents and acknowledged that the submission would be passed on to John Key.

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Grumpy cat is not happy. Politicians would do well not to annoy Grumpy cat;

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One hopes that National listens to public concerns on this issue. Because it seems that their Focus Group polling is not delivering the message that, generally,  the public are disgusted with the notion of testing synthetic highs on animals, so that a small minority  can enjoy a moment of chemically-induced pleasure.

There is more than a hint of disquiet on this issue – for many it is quite obscene.

So never mind the morality of this issue – evidently morality doesn’t factor with National MPs.

Let’s talk votes then. How many votes can possibly be in this issue for the Nats?

Bugger all, I suspect.

It could be said that National “gone soft on drugs and animal welfare”.  How will that play out with animal lovers at the next election, I wonder?

Not very well, I think.

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"Emo", the bunny

“Emo”, the bunny

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 August 2013.

Links

Helping You Help Animals (facebook)

Helping You Help Animals (Website)

SAFE  (website)

References

Parliament: Psychoactive Substances Bill

Parliament: Psychoactive Substances Bill – Related Documents

Green Party: Psychoactive Substances Bill could have been great

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Nationwide rally condemns animal testing for party-drugs (part tahi)

3 August 2013 1 comment

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30 July - rally - protest - animal testing - party pills - Peter Dunne - Parliament - synthetic cannabis - Psychoactive Substances Bill

Image courtesy of  HUHANZ

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NZ, Wellington, 30 July – Thousands of animal rights campaigners,  animal lovers, and other people who oppose testing party drugs and synthetic cannabis on animals protested against the Psychoactive Substances Bill on Tuesday 30 July.

The weather was beautiful – warm, sunny, and an almost cloudless sky. Aside from a wintery nip in shadowed areas, it was like a fine spring or summer day. Proof, perhaps, that the deity of your choice is a keen animal lover.

In Wellington,around 500 people assembled at Cuba Mall’s landmark bucket fountain;

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They were armed with placards expressing their views, and with determined certainty that animal testing was morally, ethically, and humanly just plain wrong;

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When animals can’t speak for themselves, their human companions must – and do – speak for them;

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There was a consistent message through the placards and people’s comments; if you want to take party pills and synthetic cannabis, accept responsibility for their dangerous properties – but don’t test them on animals. Our pleasure is not to be had at the sake of innocent creatures;

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Indeed, their lives are in our hands – which in itself says a lot about ourselves that we have such power of life and death over other species;

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This placard asks a very good question;

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TV3′s film crew interviewing some of the protesters;

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As a side note, there was good coverage by both TV1 and TV3 News on the nationwide rallies. Indeed, the reporting was better and fairer than the anti-spy Bill rallies held on Saturday 27 July.

More of our furry companions at the rally;

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These were ordinary New Zealanders expressing their opposition to animal testing – not “politically-motivated” activists. Something that National ministers should take into consideration when looking at this Bill;

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“We want our voices heard” – but is National listening? Or has their arrogance made them deaf to the concerns of New Zealanders?

National should remember – these people vote;

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Can any National Minister answer this question;

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The next placard shames the government. Hopefully though, the protester meant “Don’t Vote [for National]“. Not voting at all is not resistance – it is surrender;

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Engaged in street theatre. Note “Cosmic” in the background. “Cosmic”  is a known retailer of party pills/synthetic cannabis;

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wellington-anti-animal-testing-rally-30-july-2013

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Just before mid-day today (31 July), I phoned Mark Carswell, owner of the “Cosmic”-chain, to ask his views on the animal-rights rallies held around the country.

When asked to comment, Mark’s responded;

“I’ve been way on holiday mate, so I’ve  just sat down on my desk again and I’m just getting…I’m just actually  finding out what’s going on, but at this  stage I’ve no comment.”

Let’s hope Mark finds out what is going on soon.

People like this lady will be very keen to know Mark’s position on this  problem;

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And the lives of animals like these will be at risk;

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SAFE (Save Animals from Exploitation) were visibly present at the rally;

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SAFE Executive Director, Hans Kriek,has said,

It is obvious to most of us that torturing animals to death for the sake of unnecessary recreational drugs is completely unethical.

Animals should not suffer just because drug manufacturers want to get rich by getting people high.

There are plenty of non-animal tests available that can determine the safety of party drugs, so leaving the door open to (possibly cheaper) animal testing methods is deplorable.

It is hard to believe that animal tests could provide reliable results anyway. Testing a psychoactive drug on a rat or dog for a few weeks or even months is hardly going to prove that it is safe for a human who may take the drug for many years.

How many people will suffer brain damage in the future in the mistaken belief that the drugs they use are safe because they have been tested on animals?

Source: Kapiti Independent – Hans Kriek Writes

The following image, showing Key holding a cute kitten, is a well-known image on the ‘net. This protester has created a whole new meaning to it;

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Sometimes, political photo-ops can end up in  unforeseen situations. I’d say this one has bitten our Smile & Wave Prime Minister on his $50 million dollar backside.

Continued at: Nationwide rally condemns animal testing for party-drugs (part rua)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 August 2013.

Links

Helping You Help Animals (facebook)

Helping You Help Animals (Website)

SAFE  (website)

References

Parliament: Psychoactive Substances Bill

Parliament: Psychoactive Substances Bill – Related Documents

Green Party: Psychoactive Substances Bill could have been great

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Surveillance laws, Strikebreaking, & Subversive groups

30 June 2013 6 comments

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Big Brother Inc

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“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” – say  those who attempt to justify the  increasing surveillance power of State’s, multi-nationals, and internet “webcorps” like Facebook and Google.

I find that usually these people fall into three categories;

  1. the incredibly naive, who believe that their government loves them. Because Big Brother loves you.
  2. the incredibly fearful, who see terrorists under their beds, in the closet, out on the street behind a tree…
  3. the incredibly partisan – who identify so closely with  their  Party-of-choice, that that will give it wholehearted trust whilst  in office. But will then condemn an opposition Party’s use of State surveillance power once they win government.

The SIS was formed in 1956 – during the height of the Cold War. It was a perilous time in our history, when two super power blocs faced off against each other. Armed with colossal numbers of atomic weaponry, Planet Earth stood on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation. Cockroaches bided their time to inherit.

Twentyone years later, the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) was created in 1977 at the behest of  then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. Super power rivalry and  a volatile mix of Middle East tensions created an environment where intelligence-gathering became as vital as  actual military (if not more so).

Prime Ministers of the day promised, hand on heart, that each organisation would be carefully controlled and their activities monitored.

A year earlier, the police Wanganui Computer centre had opened, holding  information for the  New Zealand Police, Land Transport Safety Authority and the justice department,

‘Big Brother is watching’? The New Zealand government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Act raised questions about the state’s ability to gather information on its citizens.

[...]Critics were unconvinced. Civil libertarians likened it to something from George Orwell’s 1984 and mounted numerous protests against the system. The ultimate protest occurred in November 1982, when 22-year-old anarchist Neil Roberts was apparently blown up by his own gelignite bomb as he tried to breach security at the computer centre.

Acknowledgement:  NZ On-Line History – Wanganui Computer legislation passed

By 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end and the “runner up” in the rivalry between superpowers- the Soviet Bloc -  fell apart. The Berlin Wall came down. The Iron Curtain parted. Eastern European nations jumped on the NATO bandwagon. And the  CCCP (USSR) now lives on only in history books and far-flung space probes on the Moon, Mars, Venus, and further out in deep space.

But you wouldn’t think it, as the West – including little old laid-back New Zealand – ratcheted up the power of the State. After the televised terror of 9/11, who could say ‘no’ to more and more surveillance; security; spying; and other governmental powers?

In October 2002, the Clark-led Labour government enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act  2002. The Police website referred to this legislation as,

The TSA establishes a legal framework for the suppression of terrorism. In particular, it is the mechanism by which New Zealand gives effect to the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) mandatory resolutions requiring UN member states to take certain steps to suppress terrorism. An important feature of this framework is the Prime Minister’s power under the TSA to designate individuals or groups as terrorist or associated entities. Designation can be on an “interim” (s 20 TSA) or “final” (s 22 TSA) basis.

Acknowledgement: NZ Police – New Zealand’s designated terrorist individuals and organisations

It should be noted that the definition of who/what is a terrorist entity was left up to individual governments to make,

Secondly, and by contrast, while UNSC Resolution 1373 obliges New Zealand (inter alia) to outlaw the financing of, participation in and recruitment to, terrorist entities, it does not specifically identify those entities. The Resolution effectively leaves it to Member States to identify the entities against which they should act.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Some 21 groups  around the world are currently listed as “terrorist” organisations.  One of those 21 organisations is the Kurdistan Workers Party/ Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (“PKK”), which is seeking a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The PKK is currently in negotiations with the Turkish government. If it is a “terrorist” organisation, then the Turks are negotiating with terrorists.

Perhaps the best known example of  “terrorist-come-statesman”  is Nelson Mandela who served as President of the  African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.  The ANC was banned in 1960 and Mandela served 27 years in prison.

Once upon a time,  Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the ANC as a terrorist organisation,

“The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land‘. ” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987

Now the ANC is the legitimate government of South Africa  and Nelson Mandela is revered as one of the greatest statesmen the 20th Century has ever produced.

Such is the difficulty with branding a group as “terrorist”.  It is a political statement – and that is the problem. One person’s  terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

The government attempted to employ the Terrorism Suppression Act once, and once only -  subsequent to  the Urewera Raid on Monday, 15 October 2007. For the first time, something out of C.K. Stead’s “Smith’s Dream/Sleeping Dogs” crossed over from fantasy, into harsh reality,

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Urewera Raids

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Imagine welcoming a Time Traveler from New Zealand 1971 to 2007 with the above scene. Would s/he think that New Zealand had fallen under the harsh rule of a military-fascist dictatorship? That somewhere in the intervening time-period, a coup d’état had overthrown a democratically-elected government, and we were living under a Chilean-style regime?

However, the confusing nature of the law was such that charges were dropped against most of the 18 arrested. Only four proceeded to trial.

Eventually, none  were charged with “terrorism”, the Act iself being described by  Solicitor General Collins as “complex and incoherent”, and “almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances”.

The Act, however, remains in force.

Since then, as if in some bizarre “Space Race” with Labour, the Key-led National Government decided to trump the Terrorism Suppression Act with the Search And Surveillance Act 2012.

As the NZ Herald reported on 1 October, last year,

The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – New police search and surveillance law in force

The report went on to state,

Police could complete some forms of surveillance and searches without warrants, but [Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm]  Burgess said the situations were pretty common sense.

“Either emergencies, where life might be at risk, or where the destruction of evidence might occur in very serious circumstances,” he said.

“My own interpretation is this is very common sense legislation which provides us reasonable means to carry out our functions.”

He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers.

Acknowledgement: IBID

“He did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers“.

Well, Burgess would say that, wouldn’t he?

Does anyone remotely believe that Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess would say the opposite, like this,

“Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm  Burgess saw the changes as a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers, which would move New Zealand society further into the realms of a Surveillance Society where State power over-rode the right to privacy.

“We already have sufficient powers to catch burglars, drunk drivers, and drug pushers”, he said.”

Show me a senior police office who would say something like that, and I will show you a Little Green Man  from Mars. (He’s living in my basement and the little bugger has drunk most of my bourbon. Not that it has much effect on him…)

Eight months after the Search & Surveillance Bill was enacted, this bombshell hit the news;

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Illegal spying - 85 Kiwis watched - Fairfax Media - Andrea Vance - Kitteridge Report

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Illegal spying: 85 Kiwis watched

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Despite the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 being fairly clear on the issue, the Bureau still had the mistaken belief that they were somehow entitled to spy on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Either in ignorance, or another of his pathetic lies, John Key maintained this fiction,

In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.  It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

Despite the fact that the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 is actually quite clear – especially Section 14 which states -

Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

- the myth is perpetuated that the law is “unclear”.

So what does John Key and his National Ministers do? Do they, make the law more explicit that the GCSB “may not authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident”?

No.

Instead National has amended the law – in effect  legalising the illegal “88 cases identified as having a question mark over them since 2003” (source) through a new  Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill.

National is also enacting the new amendment  – under Urgency – which will give the GCSB the right to now spy on a person  who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Remember – there is no Cold War. That ended 24 years ago.

But you wouldn’t think so.

Instead, Key now makes references to other “threats” to New Zealand,

  • There are people within our country who have links to offshore terrorist groups.” -  John Key, 15 April 2013
  • …covert attempts to acquire New Zealand’s science and technology for programmes related to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems.” - John Key, 15 April 2013
  • This shows New Zealand’s public and private organisations are facing increasing risks of cyber intrusion which could compromise their operations and could result in the theft of valuable intellectual property.” – John Key, 7 May 2013

When asked to be specific about these claims, Key replied,

I cannot tell New Zealanders everything our intelligence agencies are doing, or what the details of their operations are.” (Source)

And as reported, Key was less than forthcoming about other matters relating to the GCSB’s activities,

He refused to say what the support was that the GCSB provided to the Defence Force, police and SIS.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what they do.”

He also refused to say whether information on New Zealanders was passed on to foreign agencies.

Acknowledgement:  John Key – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

But he did admit that not one of those 88 New Zealanders spied on by the GCSB has been prosecuted for any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Not one, as Key admitted,

Police have conducted a thorough check of all their systems. Police advise that no arrest, prosecution or any other legal processes have occurred as a result of the information supplied to NZSIS by GCSB  .”

If this had happened thirty or fourty  years ago, when New Zealanders were seemingly far more conciousness of the threat of growing Orwellian state power, there would have been mass protests in the streets.

New Zealanders seem to have either fallen into a deep trance, or have grown tired in resisting the remorseless advance of the State.

Is this the country that marched, en masse, to prevent a racist rugby team from touring, in 1981?

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anti tour marchers

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What happened to us?

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On top of becoming a Surveillance State, National is also winding back the rights of workers to negotiate with employers, and the right to strike,

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Employment reforms 'sinister' - Labour

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

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In a series of  tweet-exchanges, National MP, Jamie-Lee Ross explained his purpose of the Bill,

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jamie lee ross - twitter conversation - 14 june 2013

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Jamie-Lee Ross is simply repeating the line from National’s spin-doctors. His repetition of “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is garbage of course.

You will most likely keep hearing Ross’s refrain, “restore a balance between employers and employees” more and more as the Bill progresses through the House.

The only “choice”, “freedom”, and “balance” is for employers to get rid of striking workers and replace them with a more compliant, subservient  workforce who will accept lower wages and lesser working conditions.

As CTU President, Helen Kelley explained on The Standard,

1. Notice for strikes.

Currently only those in essential industries must give notice to strike. The new law not only requires notice for all strikes but it also requires that these notices say when the strike will begin and end and there is a requirement for each employee to give notice when a strike will end early. This will prolong strikes and see workers lose wages when they are seeking to return to work. It is intended to create technical grounds for strikes to be ruled illegal.

2. A strike tax

The Bill provides for partial pay deductions for action that falls short of a strike. Firefighters for example, reluctant to take strike action, may take action such as not filling in fire reports, teachers may refuse extra curricula activities or workers may do other creative actions (librarians at universities once refused to process new books rather than shut the library during exam times). The Bill proposes that the employer can unilaterally decide the value of this work and deduct the amount of wages they consider to match this value. Workers can challenge the amount deducted in the Court, but this will take time and the pressure of wage deductions will be used to pressure workers to drop the action. Workers will still be completing their full hours but not getting paid the full amount. The Bill even excludes compliance with the minimum wage for this deduction (it will not matter if the deduction takes the worker below the minimum wage). For state workers that take this limited type of action – the State will benefit – full time work for part time pay – a strike tax.

3. Restrictions on the right to strike

The last change is the most serious one. Currently it is lawful to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement. Sixty days before the expiry of a collective agreement, the union can initiate bargaining and begin negotiations for a renewal. When this happens the expiring collective remains in force for a full year after expiry. This means workers retain coverage and new workers can gain coverage while renewal bargaining takes place.

There is a duty of good faith on the parties to the bargaining to conclude a collective agreement unless their are genuine reasons on reasonable grounds not to. It is not a genuine reason to simply object on ideological grounds to a collective.

40 days following initiation the parties can strike or lock out in order to put pressure on the other party to change their position in the bargaining – an essential element sometimes of getting a settlement. Without it, workers have no ability to shift an intransigent employer to get a reasonable offer – it is a recognised international right, and you have heard the EMA, Peter Dunne and others defend this right. Even Key says he is not too keen.

Acknowledgement: The Standard – Don’t be fooled by the spin regarding strike laws

Bill Newson, national secretary of the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) summed it up with simple clarity,

“ The latest piece of legislation actually goes further than what applied in the 1990s.

It’s already very difficult, in an era of reasonably high unemployment and very low economic activity, for workers to test their employers for fairer wage outcomes.

It’s an answer to a problem we don’t have. We don’t have a problem with high wages, we don’t have a problem with industrial chaos .”

Acknowledgement: Employment reforms ‘sinister’ – Labour

This is a direct reaction to the industrial dispute at the Ports of Auckland which faced off  Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) against Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). It is a dispute which MUNZ pursued (and won!) through legal channels such as the Employment  Court, and also won in the Court of Public Opinion.

Meanwhile, the employers, POAL, broke employment laws; negotiated in bad faith; leaked sensitive employee information to a foul-mouthed, deranged right-wing blogger; and spread dis-information to the media and public. It was a nasty, vicious, under-handed battle.

The country saw it for what it was, and understood that the POAL and it’s CEO, Tony Gibson, and Board were directly responsible.

Eventually, on 29 March last year, the Employment Court found in favour of the Maritime Union and forced POAL back to the bargaining table.  Make no mistake, this was a major defeat for the Right. A defeat that could not stand – Unions could not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to make our labourforce more “flexible”.

Having lost the battle in both Courts and with the Public,  rightwing politicians and employers  are now wanting retribution. But more than that, the Right Wing want the law changed so that workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed. In fact, they want the right to strike to become a thing of the past.

No worker will dare strike if they risk losing their jobs to strike-breakers.

It is no coincidence that Jamie-Lee Ross is the author of this repressive legislation. Because Mr Ross was also involved on the fringes in  the ports of Auckland dispute.

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union-biting-the-hand-that-feeds

Acknowledgement: Scoop.co.nz – Union biting the hand that feeds

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So it seems that Jamie-Lee Ross has evidently been tasked with “reforming”  New Zealand’s current labour laws. By “reforming”, I mean to change the law in such a way that a Union could never again challenge – and defeat – an employer.

This is what Mr Ross’s Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill is all about.

I just wish Mr Ross was more upfront with the true intent of his Bill. It’s a strike-breaker. End of story.

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union badge

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3.

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And next on the Dark Agenda, curtailment of peoples’ right to protest that might interfere with corporate activity.

I refer, of course, to another National MP – Minister Simon Bridges – who enacted a new law through Parliament – one with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“ (see: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview).

On 3 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A, there was this exchange between Bridges and Jessica Mutch,

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Notice that Bridges has dressed up increased suppression of dissent and protest as a “safety” issue. He refers to “ stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous act” and because of the dangers associated with doing that [protesting]“.

National’s spin doctors have created the meme to be repeated ad nauseum; this is a “safety” issue and not a civil rights issue.

I think most New Zealanders are not taken in by that bit of daft fiction.

It is little wonder that East Coast locals and environmental activists joined together to protest against deep-sea drilling of their coast. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 was a clear warning what the potential was for an environmental catastrophe – one that we are simply unprepared for, as the grounding of the MV Rena showed, eighteen months later.

For Simon Bridges to now threaten future protestors with heavy fines and prison sentences has the hallmarks of a nasty, brutish, authoritarian  government that is afraid of it’s own people.

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4.

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National’s increased surveillance powers could come in very handy for a left wing government. First of all, National’s stooge – Ian Fletcher – will have to be replaced by someone more “sympathetic” to a left-wing government.

Someone with strong left-wing credentials, and who is willing to crack down on right-wing subversive elements in New Zealand.

Subversive right wing groups that threaten the safety of New Zealand citizens – an which can now be more easily surveilled. Groups and individuals such as,

  • ACT
  • National Party
  • New Zealand Initiative (formerly Business Roundtable)
  • Family First
  • NBR
  • Karl Du Fresne
  • Michael Laws
  • Cameron Slater
  • David Farrar
  • Business NZ
  • Crosby Textor

And probably a few others  I’ve forgotten to list.

The new US-based company, Palantir, that has set up office in Wellington and is currently seeking an Embedded Analyst with the NZ  Government, could be useful to monitor and keep track of these subversives. They have a known track record for anti-social, and undermining economic activities in this country.

National also intends to strengthen data-sharing between government departments such as IRD, WINZ, etc (see: Govt considers new ‘big data’ hub). This will be handy to evaluate possible tax evasion for any of these groups.

Of course, if the GCSB/SIS can’t find anything illegal, we can always scrutinise their internet history. Check out what websites they’ve been visiting. Something, anything, dodgy. Preferably involving illegal sex acts. Then leak it to a friendly left-wing blogger to publish. (see: Port admits leaking worker’s details – union)

Yes, indeed, increasing powers and laws that allow a crack-down on dissent could prove very handy for the “far left” Labour-Green government that John Key warns us is coming.

No doubt the Righties will be screaming blue-murder about infringing their privacy. Their identities and comments will be noted. And added to their files. (see:  “The Spies Are Welcome To Mine”: A Fantasy)

There is no more privacy.

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Conclusion

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The rise of the Police surveillance state…

Crushing Union opposition…

Placing heavy restrictions on protest activity…

These are the hallmarks of a government that is exerting firm control  over society and willing to flex it’s “muscle” to have it’s own way. It is a phenomenon that seems to be occurring around the world, with even The Bastion Of Democracy, the USA, now a fully-fledged Surveillance State (but with capitalist trappings).

Through growing  surveillance,  National is watching those “persons of interest” who are likely to interfere with their agenda. Such people can be environmental activists, intellectuals, unionists,  civil rights advocates, left wing bloggers, et al. People who are vigilant on behalf of all New Zealanders – yes, even those on the Right.

Though Ross’s Bill, National will reduce Union power to such a degree that businesses and investors will no longer have to put up with disruption to their incomes and profits. Workers and their representatives will effectively be silenced.

And if anyone disrupts corporate activity such as deep-sea prospecting/drilling, then the State can crack down on protesters with harsh financial penalties and dire  threats of imprisonment.

This is a government, my fellow New Zealanders, that is no longer willing to tolerate dissent. Especially if it threatens their agenda.

Recently, at the Green Party conference, Russell Norman likened John Key to Robert Muldoon. Notoriously, Muldoon had little patience with those who crossed him or opposed his views.

Norman got it partly right. Actually,  this entire government is Muldoonist in the way it is building up Executive power. Power  with which to  intimidate  opposition. Key is merely the affable, smiling face of that intimidating government. He is the “likeable uncle” behind whom is the full power of the State, and an Executive willing to use it, regardless of consequences or notions of human rights.)

The questions now demanding an answer;

  1. Are National voters comfortable with the accumulation of power by the State?
  2. How will National voters view such extraordinary power being wielded by a left-wing government?
  3. Will an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government committ to reversing these autocratic laws?

There was mass-hysteria when the media got hold of the ridiculous  story that Labour was going to “interfere” with shower heads. Charges of “nanny state” flew like wool in a shearing shed (see: Showers latest target of Labour’s nanny state). Of course it was nothing more than a beat-up by National and it’s friendly media.

But it seemed to have stuck in the public consciousness, and Labour became synonymous with the so-called “Nanny State”.

Never mind Nanny. Big Brother is the one to watch out for. He’ll certainly be watching us.

Oh, how we Baby Boomers – who lived through the 1960s and 70s – have seemingly forgotten our distrust of the State.

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neil roberts - we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity

Neil Roberts
1960 – 1982

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2013.

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Beware of unstable government!

27 June 2013 3 comments

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John Key - Peter Dunne - John Banks

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In case anyone has missed it, Dear Leader and his Ministers have been consistantly spreading the message,  warning us about the potential perils of a Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) coalition government.

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Only National can provide a strong stable Government that keeps debt down and delivers on jobs. The alternative is big spending, big borrowing, and huge uncertainty.  Any way you look at it – a Labour-led Government would owe our future.” – Steven Joyce, 22 November 2011

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If anyone thinks Labour and the Greens are going to deliver stable government, they’d better think again.” – John Key, 19 July 2012

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The sharemarket value of Contact Energy, Trust Power and Infratil shares alone fell by more than NZ$300 million yesterday afternoon. That value was taken out of the pockets of hard-working KiwiSavers, the New Zealand Super Fund and small shareholders across New Zealand. If Labour and the Greens could do that in just a few hours, imagine what they would do if they ever got near being in government.” – Steven Joyce, 19 April 2013

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There is not going to be a difference between centre left and centre right; it’s going to be a Labour government dominated by the Greens.

This would be the issue of 2014 and voters needed to be aware of the differences.

All of those differences between Labour and the Greens will need to be reconciled by Election Day.

If there is to be no Transmission Gully if a Labour/Green’s Government gets in then we need to understand that; they won’t be able to fudge that.” – John Key, May, 2013

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Normally, elections are fought between the centre left and the centre right. That is not what’s going to take place next year. David Shearer has cut his cloth and it is wrapped around Russel Norman … that now becomes an election between the centre right and the far left.” – John Key, 28 May 2013

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Well, we’ve seen “unstability” since November 2011.

One of National’s coalition Ministers was investigated by the Police for electoral fraud, and is now before the courts facing a private prosecution, charged with filing a false electoral return.

Another coalition Minister has just resigned his portfolios after allegations that he leaked document(s) to a journalist.

And National’s other coalition partner, the  Maori Party, seems unsure how many co-leaders it has;

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Three co-leaders of the Maori Party

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I think from now on, Key and his ministerial cronies may lie low a bit and keep comments of “unstable government” to themselves.

Instability? We’re seeing it now, in spades.

This blogger is picking an early general election – this year.

After that, this country can settle down to a coalition government of stability. One that doesn’t include Key, Banks, Dunne, et al.

About bloody time.

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The Nationalmobile

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References

National.co.nz:  Labour plus Greens equals billions more debt (22 November 2011 )

Dominion Post:  Key’s game is ripping into Greens (19 July 2012)

Interest.co.nz:  National’s Steven Joyce dismisses Labour-Greens power policy as ‘bumper sticker politics at its most destructive’ (19 April 2013)

FW:  Key fires warning shot over ‘green-dominated’ labour (May, 2013)

ODT: And so it begins (28 May 2013)

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