Cannabis reform frustrated

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Chloe Swarbrick and the Greens proposed positive cannabis reforms worth supporting. New Zealand First and some Labour MPs have blocked this.

by Martin Gregory

Parliament’s so-called “progressive” majority fails to support Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis reform

 

Within two days Parliament has considered two Bills on medicinal cannabis. The net result falls far below the reform of cannabis prohibition that the public wants and had a right to expect.

 

An extremely timid Government Bill passed its First Reading with all-party support. All it does is allow legal dispensation for only the terminally-ill to use regulated, commercially-produced cannabis products.

 

The second, a Private Member’s Bill piloted by Chloe Swarbrick, went beyond the Government’s as it would allow the use of cannabis in medically-certified cases of chronic pain. The patient, or their nominee, would have dispensation to grow cannabis, which would alleviate the problem of the prohibitive cost of commercially-produced medicinal cannabis products. This was too much. Parliament voted the First Reading of Swarbrick’s Bill down by 73 to 47.

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Employment law changes show the limits of reformism

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Employers have “nothing to fear” from Labour’s proposals, Iain Lees Galloway assures them. That should be a worry for the rest of us.

by Martin Gregory

 

On 25 January the Labour-led government announced in outline its proposed changes to employment law. We will have to wait for the wording of a draft Bill in February to see the details and any devils lurking there.

 

If the reader detects a level of distrust on my part this will be in large measure due to the failure of the government to propose the removal the 90-day trial period, “fire at will”, law in respect of small employers of less than 20 workers. This is a slap in the face of workers becoming employed in small businesses. Small businesses employ 29 percent of the workforce and they are usually un-unionised and unscrupulous employers. Labour’s policy for the general election was to repeal the 90-day law completely because “90 day trial periods have stripped workers of their rights while failing to support job creation or employment as promised.” The government now proposes only partial abolition of the 90-day law because “This balances the insecurity of 90 day trials to workers against keeping barriers to hiring low for small businesses.”

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Trump, fire and fury

ct-donald-trump-korean-peninsula-dmz-20171101.jpgby Andy Raba

 

The arrival of Donald Trump into the Whitehouse has escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula. In recent months, Trump has goaded the North Korean regime on an almost daily basis. In August, he threatened to unleash “fire, fury and frankly power” if the North does not halt their nuclear weapons programme. In September, at the U.N, he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” and to make “Kim Jong-Un disappear.” After the latest round of UN sanctions forced Koreans to queue for gas, Trump tweeted, “Too bad!” And finally, on September 19th, he launched a massive show of force by sending 14 fighter jets and bombers on a live-fire drill near the border. Trump’s ongoing suite of provocations are part of his bid to appear effective in dealing with America’s overseas headaches. He has signalled that he is finished with Obama’s “strategic patience” policy. The new approach will be one of “maximum pressure and engagement.”

 

Trump’s lurid, off-hand militarism is an awful addition to the Korean crisis. The constant stream of threats creates a climate of fear that inflames the conflict and terrorizes ordinary Koreans. The degree of tension that already exists on the peninsula means that Trump’s aggressive behaviour could easily spark a larger confrontation. Yet, whilst it is important to register the distinct threat that Trump poses, his behaviour is by no means unprecedented. In fact, Trump’s racist sabre-rattling draws on a long history of US pressure and provocation against the North. For the past nine years, the Obama-Clinton administration has held the embattled state in a stranglehold of economic sanctions accompanied by threats of military annihilation. Throughout his presidency, Obama routinely threatened Kim Jong-Un with total destruction. In 2016, he warned that “the US could, obviously, destroy North Korea with its arsenals.” And from 2012 onwards, Obama massively expanded the “Foal Eagle War Games,” which take place each year in neighbouring South Korea. In 2013, in a move to provoke and intimidate the North, Obama deployed nuclear-bomb capable B-2 and B-52 bombers, F-22 fighter jets, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and four guided missile carrier destroyers. These deployments were on top of exercises and simulated invasions of the North which involved 10,000 US soldiers and more than 200,000 South Korean troops. Judged as rhetoricians, Trump and Obama are certainly poles apart. Judged as defenders of US interests abroad, they share much the same perspective.

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Abortion should come out of the Crimes Act

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2015 Wellington protest defends abortion rights before the High Court. Image credit: ALRANZ

by Shomi Yoon

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said these words in a televised leaders debate in the lead up to the elections. She is the first leader to bring up the issue of decriminalising abortion in a forum so close to an election. It came as a breath of fresh political air. Not because Ardern was taking a lead, but because – finally – she was a politician reflecting the existing sentiment out in wider society. Aotearoa is pro-choice. The number of women who have had terminations over the past thirty years is one measure of this. And yet, in Parliament, conservative views prevail. And – until this campaign – few Labour politicians have had the courage of their commitments to make their pro-choice stance meaningful.

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There are no white people

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Bigoted Brash blethers because bothered by bilingual broadcaster

By Dougal McNeill

A pleasing irony to end the year: enrolments by non-Māori in Māori language courses in the Wellington region have surged recently, encouraged in part it seems by the reactionary campaign against the use of Te Reo Māori on Radio New Zealand. It’s a welcome sign.

Socialists support any and all efforts to revitalise, preserve and celebrate te reo Māori. Language and culture are democratic rights. Whānau have the right to have their tamariki educated in the language of their choice, and the state should massively fund Māori language instruction and support – in Kura Kaupapa Māori as well as in schools generally – to make this possible. Genuine open access to university and better student allowances would allow more Māori to reconnect with their language, as would further funding for wānanga and other language providers. We defend any moves to centre the use of Māori as a lived official language. The example of French in Canada shows that, where there is a political will, there is always a linguistic way. The Māori Language Commission, Māori Television, te reo Māori in schools, arts and culture funding: these are all products of the long struggle for Māori rights, and represent democratic advances. And they are a benefit to the whole class, not just Māori themselves. My daughter comes home from primary school proud of the waiata she has learned, and can say a karakia before meals. There is plenty around us to feel good about.

This year has seen a flowering of Māori intellectual, cultural and artistic life. Carwyn Jones’s prize-winning book on legal theory is being reviewed and debated internationally. Tina Makereti’s speech on Māori literature and what is taught (and not taught) set a challenge for literary critics working in New Zealand. Vini Olsen-Reeder graduated with a PhD from Victoria in December for a thesis written entirely in Māori. Rawinia Higgins, Jessica Hutchings and Olsen-Reeder have just published an important book on strategies for language revitalisation. And those are just examples from around where I live – much more is going on elsewhere. It’s an exciting time to be alive and be thinking. [Read more…]

David McNally: from global slump to Trump

eight_col_David_McNallyLong-time Canada-based activist and socialist David McNally is in New Zealand for both an academic conference and a socialist meeting at the University of Otago. Guy McCallum reports on McNally’s first New Zealand public talk:

 

The Global Financial Crisis in 2008, one of many crises under capitalism, has led to austerity for the working class, economic stagnation for the middle but, through no mystery, ever increasing wealth for a greedy few. Though recovery has been recorded in several countries, this has occurred along class lines as wages stagnate, public services are cut but the stream of wealth to the top few has increased rapidly. While developed countries make up the bulk of this recovery, some developing countries are slipping backward while others are rallying under the umbrella of Russia and China. Growing political instability across the globe is connected to the conditions of austerity, enforced by a powerful elite who wield massive influence in political systems everywhere.

 

David McNally, speaking at the 2017 New Zealand Political Studies Association – 50th Anniversary Conference held at University of Otago in Dunedin, places the origins of Donald Trump and the era he represents in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Saliently, McNally began his lecture by referring to Karl Marx’s 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, citing from its preface that conditions of austerity “created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.” Neoliberalism’s prejudice against the working class and it’s empty platitudes to anti-oppression movements “shaped the range of possibilities” making Trump’s election a major possibility.

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We Support the RMTU

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A steady stream of unionists and supporters visited the picket line on Thursday

by Romany Tasker-Poland

The Wellington picket for the RMTU’s 24-hour strike on Thursday drew a steady stream of support. Alongside RMTU members, some of whom were at the picket from 6am to 6pm, unionists from the Tramways union, the PSA, E Tu, NZNO, PPTA, TEU and other unions turned up to tautoko the strike.

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Wellington rail strike – end contracting out!

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Chris Morley from the Tramways Union speaks in solidarity with striking RMTU members yesterday. (Image credit: Sam Huggard, CTU)

By Martin Gregory

 

Privatisation, in the form of contracting out, lies behind the Wellington rail dispute between Rail and Maritime Transport Union members and their employers Transdev Wellington and its maintenance subcontractor Hyundai Rotem. Greater Wellington Regional Council contracted Transdev to operate the region’s passenger services from July 2016 for 15 years. Previously the service was run by Trans Metro, the regional arm of state-owned KiwiRail. The railway workers went over to Transdev and Hyundai Rotem on the conditions of their existing collective agreement. Lo and behold, at the first opportunity Transdev and Hyundai Rotem are attempting to cut conditions. The main attack is a pay cut. Transdev want to cut penalty rates: double-time down to time-and-a-half, and time-and-a-half down to time-and-a-quarter.

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Wellington says no to racism and fascism

Rally 1By Andy Raba

 

At lunchtime today, hundreds of people gathered outside parliament to say no to racism. The event, organised by the Migrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, was a protest against the annual gathering of National Front fascists and a commemoration of the New Zealand land wars. It drew in scores of individuals as well as campaigners from a wide range of activist and political parties. The day began with a karakia from Mike Ross followed by speeches from Teanau Tuiono of the Polynesian Panthers, Golriz Ghahraman from the Green Party, Arama Rata, the Māori spokesperson for MARRC, and Karam Shaar, a Syrian refugee and student. The speeches emphasised the need for solidarity across all oppressed groups and the need for us to recognise that it is in fact the racists in suits, in the halls of power, that are more dangerous than these thugs of the National Front. Dr Rata emphasised the disgraceful anti-immigrant campaigns of the Labour Party and New Zealand First. Throughout the day, the Solidarity Brass Band provided an amazing soundtrack that ranged from Nga Iwi E, Bella Ciao to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

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Labour must deliver

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Ardern’s rhetoric around child poverty and inequality inspired thousands – now Labour must deliver.

Labour has committed to working for what its Coalition Agreement with New Zealand First calls a ‘transformational government, committed to resolving the greatest long-term challenges for the country’. Listed amongst those long-term challenges are getting ‘decent jobs paying higher wages’ and reducing ‘poverty and inequality’. Jacinda Ardern campaigned on a message of hope and change.

It’s clear we cannot take more of the same. Nine years of National meant nine years of underfunding in health and education, regressive reforms promoting inequality, increases in poverty, homelessness, unemployment and wasted human potential. The young, locked out of the housing market and admonished that the days of secure employment are gone forever, voted clearly for change, backing Labour and the Greens. This deal speaks to that hope for change.

Labour has announced plans better than the International Socialists dared hope possible. There are real reforms set up here, and proposals which, if implemented, will bring real benefits to the lives of working people. But we – trade unionists, students, workers – need to make sure that reforms beneficial to our side are carried through. All sorts of pressures will come to bear on Ardern and her new government: from conservatives in Labour’s own ranks, from New Zealand First (leaning left for now economically but wedded to a conservative world-view and institutional base), from the ruling class and their mouth pieces in the mainstream media. Commentators and columnists are already seeking to undermine the government’s mandate. So our slogan should be: “Labour must deliver!”

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