Return to Back Benches

So, here’s another post about Back Benches!
[yes, I’m pasting info directly from Prime’s PR – but why change perfectly good material when you don’t have to?]

This week’s Back Benches panel in Wellington is Labour MP Phil Goff, National MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, and Green Party MP Kevin Hague.

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

WHO SHOULD GET THE PILLS?: Pharmac—the Government’s drug-buying agency wants your input on their funding policies? Who should be getting the pills? Where should our priorities lie? Should they put more money extending the lives of the elderly? Or should they prioritise medicines that would improve the lives of younger people? What about the poor—are they more deserving of help than rich people? Should the future earning potential of children be considered? Focusing on preventable diseases vs. genetic?

SPY BILL—IS IT SAFETY vs. PRIVACY?: The Law Society has made their opinion over the GCSB law changes proposals known. They hate it. They say the changes would mean the GCSB would go from a foreign intelligence agency to a domestic one. So, would the new powers be too broad? Why would New Zealanders need to watched? In order to gain safety—is a loss of privacy the price to pay?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:
First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 26th of June at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

I’ve missed my weekly fix of fun at the Back Bencher pub in Molesworth St, but during a flying visit, managed to squeeze in an evening with old mates.
The renovated pub layout is rather swish, I do approve of the changes – it’s been a bit hard to see how it all fitted together from the Prime footage I’ve watched. Up close, there was a lot to enjoy, not the least of which was the new puppets, which I hadn’t seen for myself before.
This weeks episode was full of rather good quotes – if you didn’t manage to watch it on Prime, catch it on i-Sky’s on-demand section, Prime shows are free-2-watch for a fortnight after transmission.

Save TV7, come to Back Benches and even a march on Parlie :-)

Haven’t updated y’all on the progress of Back Benches for a week or two, so here goes. COME ALONG TO SEE IT FILMED, IT RUNS OUT SOON!

Right, now I’ve got that off my chest, some cut’n’paste goodness and linky-love for you to play clicky with:
As you may have heard, the Back Bencher was damaged in a kitchen fire, so there’s been a lot of woe and dismay about the final three shows.
Last week’s episode was filmed in the Shepherd’s Arms in Tinakori Rd, just uphill & around the corner as it were, from BB. Notorious to a certain generation of VUW law students as the Western Park tavern, it’s now less of a booze barn and more of a heritage pub with a ‘southern’ twist. Once more, my trusty companions and I eschewed the brews for coffee and soft drinks, all the better to pay attention.
The acoustics are not great, as half the bar is incapable of seeing or hearing the set, thus talk amongst themselves. We had fun anyway, and Damian and Wallace soldiered on, attempting to get good soundbites from Nat MP Paul Goldsmith, Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove, our own lovely Julie-Anne Genter, and NZ First’s inimitable and intractable Richard Prosser.

This week, it’s the turn of Green MP Kevin Hague, Labour MP David Parker, New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin and National MP Louise Upston, with topics on ACC, Asset Sales, and Gareth Morgan’s opinions. TVNZ blurb here. Once again, at the Shepherd’s Arms Tavern in Tinakori Rd, Thorndon, get in by 6pm if you want food, or 8pm if you just want a spot to stand. Filming starts at 9.05pm, live broadcast with help from the big techy truck parked outside.
Closest thing you can get to being an unpaid extra on a film set … no, wait, it is actually being an unpaid extra on a film set. Damn, shoulda checked that with the union!

Then for even more excitement, join the Save TV7 crew for a march through Wellington on Thursday 28th June, meet at Civic Square 12 noon and march to Parliament. More at their website, where you can also find the petition – it’s still worth signing to save our only ‘TV for grown-ups’ channel in NZ.

Lest we forget the ACC claimants

There is a parallel story to the ACC scandal that has already cost Nick Smith his Ministerial career, and may well cost other Ministers or senior public servants theirs.  It is a story that no-one apart from Kevin Hague appears to be telling.

That is the story of how ACC claimants are being treated (or mistreated) by ACC. I am not necessarily convinced Bronwyn Pullar’s motivations are honourable, and they may well have much  to do with personal gain, rather than a genuine attempt to address how the system fails ACC claimants.

But as someone who has for many years assisted ACC claimants, including taking cases to review and appeal, I can verify that many of the concerns Pullar expresses in her list (published in the frogblog post from Kevin Hague I have linked to above) are genuine concerns about ACC practices and culture that require investigation.

A good number of them were raised in a report from an inquiry completed by Judge Peter Trapski as far back as 1994. But nothing has ever been done by successive Labour and National led Governments to address them, and the issues, as far as ACC claimants are concerned, fester on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hounding out the National Party corruption and cronyism going on here, and for addressing what appears to be appalling information privacy practices by ACC.

But just as important is ensuring the very serious concerns about the way claimants are treated by ACC are addressed. Good on Kevin for focusing on that. I hope some MPs from other parties will follow his lead.


Back Benches for 5th October 2011

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...

This week’s line-up included ACT MP Heather Roy’s last attendance, supported by Labour MP Lianne Dalziel from Christchurch East, National MP Todd McClay from Rotorua and Green MP Kevin Hague, who although a list MP lives on the West Coast, and maintains a strong interest in the affairs of the local constituents.

The ‘Double-downgrade’, as it’s being called (‘a fiscal fact you can choke on’?) was the headline topic as Wallace and Damian rolled into a wet and windy Wellington show.

Most of the pub tables were taken up by members of PRINZ, the professional body for PR people, so it was a very different crowd than usual, despite an influx of young Labour supporters right before the show started. I lucked into a seat just before the filming began, but had to rely on the screens for a view as the wall of student shoulders clustered around the bar and the stage manager’s taped white line on the floor totally obscured the panel!

‘Teh News’ roundup focused, not surprisingly, on Dan Carter’s groin strain, and we were apprised of Wallace’s degree of compassion on this issue as he castigated Damian for his frivolity and told us all that he’d experienced groin strain and it was no laughing matter. Cue Damian heading off-screen to recover as Wallace went on with the script.
Ahem, Wallace, if you’re reading – TMI, darling, only your lovely girlfriend needs to know the state of your groin, mm hmm, ‘kay?
The rest of us would have been happy to have remained in ignorance of the depth of your experience in the matter under discussion ….

Back to politics again, Wallace went round the panel asking them how serious the Standard & Poors and Fitch downgrades are for the NZ economy. Fascinating, I could almost hear Sir Roger’s teeth grinding somewhere in Wellington by telepathy as Heather answered. The rest went through their paces, with Kevin making very good points about the cost of rebuilding Christchurch having had a strong effect on the decision to downgrade.
Then Damian spoke to NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who must be one of the smartest of the young crop of economists in NZ. He gave us all a good perspective on how much difference there is between an AA+ and an AA rating, and Damian quipped that he’d have been happy with either grade on any of his university papers, which got a solid laugh from the wall of students. The short version of what the effects of this downgrade might be was not looking good for property speculators, exporters, or even just those running businesses in NZ.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for mortgages to get more accessible, those who aspire to get into their first home any time in the next five years. (I’m getting déjà-vu from the late 80’s, am I the only one?)

Then Heather Roy got the topic of her choice and completely shot herself in the foot by saying that women are less engaged in politics than men, in her opinion, and that it’s not good enough … curiously, Damian couldn’t find anyone willing to support Heather in this view, and did find several members of the audience (male and female) who roundly contradicted that point, which was then carried on further by the other panel members. The overwhelming conclusion was that women are large-scale participators in NZ democracy, but maybe just not in the ACT party. Lolz all round.

Peter McCaffrey managed to win a book prize for answering a patsy question on ‘Who am I?’ which was engineered to find the young ACT supporters in the room, who’d been pretty silent while Heather was speaking. (The politician described was Sir Roger Douglas ….) I wonder if he’s ever read a short story by Katherine Mansfield, or knows anything about her? Perhaps it will make a good gift for his mother ….

PRINZ then got their moment in the sun, during a panel round on the importance of public relations in politics. Damian spoke to Daniel Paul, the MD at Four Winds Communication Ltd, who gave a very smooth, ‘Mad Men’ performance in support of the PR industry. Todd McClay professed ignorance of which PR company the National Party uses, which only made him look like an uninformed/disingenuous twat as it appeared most of the room, and indeed all the other politicians, knew the answer to that one. This segued into a discussion around the use of social media, and some vox pop’s on internet privacy issues with specific relevance to FB. Lolz, school holidays bring out the best in crowd-sourced opinion!

Todd did however win the Quiz round, and has a lovely book to take home, ‘The Great Crash ahead: strategies for a world turned upside down.‘ Let’s hope he hands it on to his esteemed leader when he’s finished dealing with his insomnia.

The final round up included Kevin Hague’s strong statement about the need for better safety for miners in the wake of the Royal Commission on the Pike River disaster, which has seen truly damning evidence produced by mines safety experts and the Pike River Mine management. Lianne Dalziel made an impassioned plea for further support for Christchurch from the rest of us, after thanking everyone for all the support given so far. Todd McClay thanked all the valedictorians for their service in Parliament, and Heather Roy thanked Wallace and Damian for ‘telling the story of politics’ and ‘having her on’. Can only say roflmao…

The full episode can be viewed here, if you want more detail than this post has provided.
There’s one more Back Benches in Wellington before they set off for their Summer Tour around the country, so if you’re local get down to Back Benches next week and if you’re out in the provinces, watch out, they’re coming your way soon.

BTW, if anyone thinks I’m being a little harsh on Heather, at least I’m not an ACT member with a politics blog who regularly has a go at her – see here for Cactus Kate’s view of the blonde mother-of-five. Friends like these, as they say.

Portugal celebrates 10 years drug decriminalisation, NZ fights another losing battle in the War on Drugs

Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalised all recreational drugs. Drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself remained legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions were deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and were removed completely from the criminal jurisdiction. Drug trafficking continued to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

The proponents of the War on Drugs predicted rampant increases in drug usage among the young and the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for “drug tourists”.

The actual results proved to be very different.  Resources were moved from the criminal prosecution of drug users to providing support and rehabilitation to people with drug dependency problems. Judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalisation framework has been a resounding success. Drug use of all kinds declined in Portugal.  Lifetime drug use among seventh to ninth graders fell from 14.01% to 10.6%.  Lifetime heroin use among 16-18 year olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%.  HIV infection rates among drug users fell by 17%, while drug related deaths were reduced by more than half.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand we enact another silly law in the escalation of the War on Drugs, including forcing people with a cold or flu to spread their illness around in a doctor’s waiting room if they want to obtain pseudoephedrine, the most effective symptom reliever.

Green MP Kevin Hague made an excellent speech in opposition to the Bill: Continue reading

National or Neanderthal?

Being in a heterosexual relationship (at least for now) I only occasionally read

But today I received an email citing quotes from that site that shocked me:

Gay politicians and community leaders are expressing heightened concern at the National Party’s announced intention to disband the gay-aware Families Commission and divert its funding to services run by organisations such as “repressive” religious groups with a homophobic track record.

Speaking to a gathering organised by anti-gay Family First, National party leader John Key said he would abolish the Commission, and instead fund faith-based and other services. He told the religious forum that groups such as Family First and Ian Grant’s evangelical Parents Inc., which he praised, did not need bureaucrats telling them what constitutes a family.

Calling the plan “outrageous” and the product of either “bigotry” or “a preparedness to say or do anything in the pursuit of power,” Kevin Hague, a past head of the NZ AIDS Foundation, Chief Executive of the West Coast District Health Board and a Green party candidate says glbt families and individuals need to be especially alarmed by National’s plan. “It is a sad betrayal of National MPs like Katherine O’Regan and Katherine Rich who have been voices for celebrating the diversity of the wider human family.” Hague says Key’s proposal “reveals either the bigot within, carefully hidden until now, or a preparedness to say or do anything in the pursuit of power.”

Clearly in campaigning mode, Hague says the Greens “would want to see resourcing particularly available for groups like Rainbow Youth and for GLBT community organisations, but this would be additional to, and not at the expense of the Families Commission.”

Go Kevin!

Now, having given Lockwood Smith a lecture about his bigotry, I think it must be time for John Key to have a look at his own.

Oh, dem pesky polls – giz us enough votes for Mojo!

After a couple of polls that have been poor for the Greens, the latest Roy Morgan Poll puts the Greens at 8%.

Now, 8% means 10 or 11 seats in Parliament, depending on the overhang and the wasted votes that might go to NZ First – who are looking increasingly like electoral dog food and according to the Roy Morgan Poll are polling at 2.5%, and that before the worst of the revelations about their electoral finance declarations.

So that 8% would get all the current Green MPs elected, plus Kevin Hague, Catherine Delahunty, Kennedy Graham, David Clendon, and (possibly) one of the youngest Green candidates, Gareth Hughes.

This would give a real boost to the Greens in the composition of the next Government, because, unless the Maori Party were to support National, as a result of a deal over the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the figures indicate the Greens are crucial to the formation of the next Government.

Take a look:

Now, on the basis of this poll, and that the National Party are unlikely to agree to repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act (which the Greens opposed through its passage, and still vehemently argue for its repeal), there is a great opportunity for the Greens.

A few dead rats might have to be swallowed by either of the two best polling parties to form a Government.

But the Greens can do better! Let’s look to get at least 11%. That figure would really set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons at Parliament, because it would elect Mojo Mathers as New Zealand’s first profoundly deaf Member of Parliament. Mojo has impeccable credentials on both environmental and social issues.

Her election would require Parliament to give some real consideration to enabling people with impairments. And that can be only a good thing!