Could cannabis decriminalisation have positive outcome in New Zealand (Photo: Getty Images)
Could cannabis decriminalisation have positive outcome in New Zealand (Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinFebruary 21, 2020

The Bulletin: Cannabis vote on a hot knife edge, polls show

Could cannabis decriminalisation have positive outcome in New Zealand (Photo: Getty Images)
Could cannabis decriminalisation have positive outcome in New Zealand (Photo: Getty Images)

In today’s edition: Views on cannabis legalisation could hardly be tighter, the Papua New Guinea PM arrives in NZ, and bad light threatens cricket on the radio.

A new poll published this morning finds that 46% of those surveyed would vote yes, and 44% no, with 10% undecided. That’s a markedly different finding to the Newshub/Reid poll result, which as reported in the Bulletin a couple of days ago had 39% yes against 48% no, with 12% don’t-knows, and the Colmar Brunton/One News result published last week: 39% yes, 51% no and don’t know 9%.

In less than seven months, New Zealanders will vote not just on the people and parties they want to represent them, but also on a couple of other big questions: assisted dying and legalising cannabis. Polling suggests that the assisted dying referendum is poised to succeed; the cannabis vote hangs in the balance.

But more important, say the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation, which together commissioned the UMR poll, is that “support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation”. When many of the details of the proposed law change, such as the restrictions on sale, were explained to respondents, the numbers shifted to 50% yes, 42% no and 8% undecided.

The NZ Herald quotes Family First’s Bob McCoskrie denouncing the poll as “loaded” and the Drug Foundation’s Ross Bell saying many public doubts were born of “well-funded and relentless opposition scaremongering”.

The Papua New Guinea prime minister, James Marape, meets his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in Auckland today at the start of a four-day visit. Speaking to PNG media ahead of his visit, Marape, who replaced the long-serving prime minister Peter O’Neill halfway through last year, said he wanted to thank New Zealand “personally for being a genuine friend”, most recently in “evacuating our PNG students from China to New Zealand due to the coronavirus”, reports the PNG Post Courier.

RNZ International’s Johnny Blades has covered PNG superbly for many years and in an analysis we’ve reprinted on The Spinoff writes: “With a population that recently passed eight million, PNG is the Pacific Islands region’s burgeoning colossus. It is a country with towering human development problems, where the reach of government barely touches the vast majority of citizens, making the prime minister’s job unenviable.”

We interrupt this Bulletin to bring you a brief message from, well, me, about Spinoff Members: If you value the work we do at The Spinoff, the best thing you could do to help us survive the maelstrom of a media market struggling for air thanks to the rise of online giants like Facebook and Google is by becoming a Spinoff member. Contributions allow us to keep making homegrown, NZ-owned and independent journalism that’s free to all. Across politics, social issues, climate change and a host of other important topics, Member contributions enable us to commission and publish content that is impossible to justify on a solely commercial basis. If you do sign up, you can contribute any amount you like, but give $8 a month or more and you’ll get a free copy of a Spinoff tea towel designed by Toby Morris. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the puzzling “tea towel” name dates back to 18th century England, “when they were used to insulate tea pots at tea ceremonies”.

Spark is a big success story in NZ business, as most recently evidenced by the leap in revenue and profits recorded this week. But you’d forgive those scrapping away at Sky TV still feeling a bit peeved at having a proposed merger with Vodafone being rejected by the Commerce Commission, only to watch Spark blossom into a telecoms and sports-streaming operation not altogether unlike their merged vision.

In that light it’s interesting to see further speculation – via the Herald’s Chris Keall – that Sky might enter the broadband market. The new Sky CEO, Martin Stewart, who has rarely seen an idea he doesn’t want to dance with, has confirmed it’s under consideration. Market analysts quoted by the Herald reckon”Sky is increasingly motivated to enter the broadband market with its significant content portfolio and customer base”. Keall adds: “It would be the ultimate reply to Spark’s incursion into sport – take the fight to Spark’s home turf by eating into its broadband and mobile business.”

Experts have long predicted that a Covid-19 case in New Zealand is almost inevitable – and the worry is that it could dovetail nastily with the winter flu season. The “winter surge” of flu seasons is the “new normal” in many New Zealand hospitals, Sarah Dalton of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, tells RNZ this morning. “It’s not unusual for our medical wards to be over 100% occupancy even outside the winter surge.

The Chinese experience showed the urgency of ensuring protocols and protective equipment were introduced immediately. “I think our whole public health function in terms of epidemiology, planning, preparedness for epidemics and pandemics has been really undercooked. And the worry is the increase in funding for health is really too little, too late at this point.”

An Arctic blast ripped through the lazy, hazy days of summer yesterday with news that this will be the last season of New Zealand cricket broadcast on Radio Sport. NZ Cricket and Radio Sport owner NZME couldn’t reach an agreement on rights, with an NZME statement explaining, “Our cricket coverage has run at a loss – something we’ve previously been prepared to wear, but we’re now taking the opportunity to rethink our offering in this space.”

The prospect of summers with Coney, Waddle et al providing company in the garden or on long drives is unimaginable to those of us who’ve been listening for decades. Cricket podcaster and man on holiday Alex Braae put it like this: “Can’t help but think this’ll do huge damage to NZ Cricket through loss of probably their most loyal, long term audience. And it’s hard to see any other media company having any interest in stepping in.”

Don’t make us call Helen Clark.

Right now on The Spinoff: The Kiwibank New Zealander of the year was announced last night, and we’ve got an interview with the winnerShane Jones has been garrulously attacking almost everything that doesn’t get made by or cut from a cow lately – here’s what the plant-based people have to say in response. We have exclusive revelations about something the prime minister once did that could change everything (this is clickbait, don’t click on it). Emily Writes says it’s time to challenge those who minimise the actions of rapists based on the gender or ages of their victims. And are you seeing ads for a show called Shen Yun everywhere you look? Here’s what it’s all about.

Gossip is the cockroach of the journalism world, scuttling through the media apocalypse. In a feature for Esquire magazine, which doubles as a greatest hits of gossip from recent times, Kate Storey looks at the “secret history” of one of the most famous columns in newspapers, the New York Post’s Page Six. Here’s a taste:

“Page Six is an institution built on tipsters, anonymous sources, and old­fashioned reporting. Appearing in it means you aren’t just a success in your line of business; you are a true boldfaced name. You matter. Items about movie stars appear alongside stories about socialites and power players – as long as you make for good copy, the playing field is level. The fear Page Six strikes in its subjects has made it an indispensable tool for Manhattan’s rich and powerful …

“In a media environment that prioritizes gaming algorithms to bloat website visits, Page Six reporters still do things the old-fashioned way, spending most nights at events, parties, and dinners cultivating sources, and days working the phones to verify tips. About 24 million people per month read, while 170,000 people read the Post in print and about 200,000 read the Post daily on the app.

“Henry Schleiff, group president at the media company Discovery, reads his Post on the treadmill while he watches CNN. ‘I savor Page Six as my dessert,’ he says, marveling at the quality of reporting in the column. ‘One could argue they’re Woodward and Bernstein on speed.’”

Keep going!