(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinApril 1, 2019

The Bulletin: Submissions show tough euthanasia fight ahead

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Submissions show euthanasia campaigners have tough fight ahead, flooded dump causes environmental disaster, and Gareth Morgan cuts all ties with TOP.

Heavy opposition has come in against changes to the laws on euthanasia, which signals the tough fight ahead for both sides. The NZ Herald reports submissions to the Select Committee were 90% against any liberalisation of the law. The total number of submissions was more than 38,000, which broke the record for volume. Think about it like this – on those numbers approximately 1% of all registered voters in the country made a submission against ACT party leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill.

The analysis of the submissions as a whole paints a fascinating picture of who was making them, and how they argued their case. The vast majority didn’t reference religious arguments, though some churches are understood to have strongly encouraged parishioners to write in. The vast majority were also uniquely written – that is, they weren’t just a form letter or postcard which groups sometimes use to pile submissions up. More than one in ten were longer than a page in length. All of that indicates a significant amount of vehemence behind the views. The submissions were analysed by a group called the Care Alliance, who are comprised of Christian groups, Family First, and medical representatives like Hospice New Zealand.

Of course, tens of thousands of submissions still doesn’t add up to a majority of the electorate, or even remotely close to it. The ACT Party responded immediately by pointing to polling that showed a relatively long term base of support for assisted dying. And Mr Seymour is right to point out that quality, not quantity, is what matters most in Select Committees. Having said that, those people who were polled aren’t necessarily hard supporters of law changes – if anything, the Select Committee process shows which side of a legislative argument is more organised and committed, and the side in favour of euthanasia didn’t show up in force.

It brings to mind the famous Margaret Mead quote – “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Unfortunately for those urging for the law to change, the other side thinks the same thing.

One of the people in that small group pushing for change is Matt Vickers. His wife Lecretia Seales died in 2015 from a brain tumour. During her final years, she had advocated strongly for euthanasia to become permitted, but was denied the right to make that choice. Mr Vickers wrote recently for North and South, making his case on the idea that terminally ill people should be able to choose their own fate. In opposition to that, many have argued that if the law were changed, many people might feel pressured to make that choice – for example, elderly people who feel like they’re being a burden.

Regardless, it will almost certainly end up being a decision that goes to the country. An amendment proposed by David Seymour would be that if passed by parliament (which is likely) the bill would then be confirmed or knocked down through a binding referendum, held at the same time as the election. If the polling is correct, it could be a comfortable confirmation. But along with potential referendums on cannabis and electoral reform, passionate single issue supporters could end up skewing turnout, and with that the results, in unpredictable directions.

Flooding on the West Coast has resulted in an environmental catastrophe, with rubbish unearthed and strewn all over the beaches, reports Stuff. An old dump near the Fox river became exposed in the flooding, and massive piles of rubbish have now floated down. Locals say that while there’s an obvious aesthetic concern, they’re also deeply worried about the environmental impact. More rain appears set to hit the already sodden region today and tomorrow.

As for the rest of the recovery, Morning Report this morning indicated that Haast residents are getting fed up with still not having power for most of a week. And at the end of last week, it emerged the smashed Waiho Bridge won’t be fixed as quickly as was previously expected.

Gareth Morgan has cut all ties with The Opportunities Party, which he founded to contest the 2017 election, reports The Spinoff. It leaves the party facing an uphill battle for both money and profile, and Dr Morgan said he expects the party to face significant challenges, in part because he viewed some in TOP as “just dreamers – think money grows on trees.” New leader Geoff Simmons says having to rebuild the organisation since taking over has been a “bit of a hospital pass.” They still intend to contest the 2020 election, though will have a much tougher time of it without Dr Morgan’s millions.

A moving remembrance service has been held in Christchurch to mourn the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack. Following the service, two survivors spoke to The Spinoff about their experience of the attack, and how they have experienced the response since. The stories of MD Faysal and Tofazzal Alam feature serious trauma, which has been with them ever since. But the stories also feature an uplifting note of hope, based on how the wider community has responded to the attack.

Superannuation, veteran’s pensions and the minimum wage are going up today, reports Radio NZ. For the minimum wage, it’s the biggest ever jump – up $1.20 to $17.70. ACC levies will also fall for some, and a new R&D tax credit will also be in place. Newshub also reports that as of today, a new law allowing for victims of domestic violence to take 10 days of paid leave a year will take effect.

Rocket Lab has launched another payload in partnership with US military research organisation DARPA. As Ollie Neas writes on The Spinoff, the particular payload on this occasion is a new type of antennae, which has military applications. Neas writes that Rocket Lab’s work in this area sits awkwardly “with New Zealand’s stated commitment to the peaceful use of outer space.”

An apology has been issued by a Hamilton Councillor after a bizarre decision to wear an anti-vax T-shirt to an autism fundraiser. Stuff reports Siggi Henry, an avowed conspiracy theorist who steadfastly refuses to accept peer-reviewed science, has said in hindsight it probably wasn’t appropriate attire. Many parents were upset, because it was seen as a reference to the pernicious but entirely debunked falsehood that vaccines are in any way linked with autism.

And as Newshub reports, a completely different Hamilton councillor, James Casson, is being hammered for comments about the alleged perpetrator of the Christchurch terrorist attack – saying holding memorials means the terrorist won, somehow. Mr Casson plans to run for mayor.

Finally, be a bit careful today about not becoming an April Fool. If you see any that are actually funny, please feel free to send them through – email thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.

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Runescape and communism: How did the two meet? Emilie Rākete has the lowdown.

Right now on The Spinoff: Jai Breitnauer says it’s time the Ministry of Education took responsibility for kids with special needs not getting what they’re entitled to. Aaron Smale reflects on a career in media in which Māori have so often faced a hostile environment.

In slightly less serious stuff, Emilie Rākete reflects on the lessons learned when a Communist revolution swept through the online world of Runescape. Sam Brooks, someone who almost never opts for beer at Friday drinks, was sent along to review the beer awards. James Dann has updated his ridiculous but wildly popular listicle about every single Warriors jersey – to be honest it looks like this post being updated is going to be the best thing that happens for the Warriors all year. And Madeleine Chapman has ranked every flavour of chips in the country – by my count at least 5 different MPs subsequently weighed in on it.

It has crept up on everyone a bit, but all of a sudden, the Ardern government is halfway through its first term. There have been a few pieces written about it, but in my view this one from Max Rashbrooke in UK politics magazine Prospect is up there with the best. He’s perhaps a bit kinder than I would be regarding the balance between target-setting rhetoric and concrete accomplishments. But overall it’s a skilful and insightful analysis that captures the essence of a government, that came into office saying they really wanted to change things. Here’s an excerpt:

With the complacent assumptions of the centrist “Third Way” espoused by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and New Zealand’s own Helen Clark having been blown away after the financial crisis, the Ardern administration came to office without any obvious template. By 2017, the left was in some places talking in a newly punchy language, but it was still struggling to come up with an alternative that goes beyond speculative ideas about what “post-capitalism” might look like.

So where does Ardern stand? She has said she strongly believes in “the values of human rights, social justice, equality, democracy and the role of communities.” But who doesn’t? She has also, however, called capitalism “a blatant failure” for allowing high levels of homelessness, and bonded with Winston Peters—the leader of New Zealand First, a populist party in her governing coalition—over his decidedly non-Third Way attacks on neoliberalism.

Chris Hipkins, an Ardern lieutenant with multiple briefs including education, likewise insists that the aim is not just “tinkering around the edges of the neoliberal model.” Rather than being content with fixing a few “market failures,” ministers recognise that “the state does have a role in public services, that public service is different from the market, and that market decisions don’t always apply in the public sector.”

On a quiet Saturday night in, I tuned in to Elliott Smith and the Radio Sport team to hear the Blues win gritty and ugly over the Stormers. The 24-9 triumph at home looks good on paper, but at 17-9 the Blues lost Tanielu Tele’a to a red card with about 11 to play. They responded magnificently, scoring for a bonus point and holding on. I mention Elliott Smith because it indicates a serious turning point for the Blues – the team have now won three in a row, so soon after a drought of 7 games last year during which he never once commentated a Blues win.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix smashed in four goals to beat the Newcastle Jets in Wellington. David Williams scored a hattrick, finishing off with this frankly absurd piece of magic. With four games to play the Phoenix are all but assured of a spot in the top six, and are looking reasonable for a home playoff game.

Finally, a correction: I was wildly hyperbolic in describing Manchester United having been near the bottom of the EPL table this season on Friday. They went as low as 13th, and spent the vast majority of the season at 6th or below, which isn’t remotely close to the relegation zone but still bad for them. Still, the turnaround has been real – they’re a few points away from the top 4, which comes with a lucrative Champions League place.

From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.

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