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The Bulletin: End of Life choice bill survives for now

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Challenges ahead for End of Life Choice bill, councillors question if Invercargill mayor is still up to it, and principals vow to fight on.

The End of Life Choice bill has passed a second reading, meaning a limited form of euthanasia is now closer to coming into law. National and Labour both treated the vote as a conscience issue, while the Greens and NZ First voted in favour as blocs. The bill’s sponsor, ACT leader David Seymour, also voted in favour, giving the bill a margin of 70-50.

That might seem like a lot, but the third reading will be a lot tougher, and the bill may well still fail to pass. As Stuff’s Henry Cooke notes, almost every MP agrees that major changes will need to be made to secure enough support. In particular, those blocs votes will matter a lot – the Greens want it narrowed down to just those with terminal illnesses only, and NZ First want it to be confirmed by referendum. That would probably take place alongside the 2020 election if it were approved. Either party switching support en masse would swing the numbers perilously close to the line.

Concerns from those with disabilities, and around choices to die being coerced, loomed large over the debate.  Labour’s Deborah Russell changed her vote from a yes to a no based on disability concerns, and as Newshub reported before the vote, many with disabilities are “terrified about this End of Life Choice Bill.” The spectre of families shuffling their elderly relatives off this mortal coil was also raised. “The so-called right to die for some, would become the duty to die for others,” said North Shore MP Maggie Barry.

A wider philosophical point was debated around comparisons of what the end of life meant. Many of the socially conservative members of the house argued that the sanctity of life underpinned our whole society. We abolished the death penalty, and we strive to prevent suicide, went the argument. Labour’s Andrew Little used his speech to oppose that point, by saying that euthanasia and suicide were fundamentally different. “This bill is about those people, whose health condition is such, that they have no future, that they are terminal. But more than that, that their quality of life is gone.”

Many of the speeches took in complex and nuanced points of view. One such came from Labour’s Willie Jackson (read it here) who noted that the collective was paramount in tikanga Māori, rather than the individualism that underpins the premise of the bill. He is currently in support of the bill, and said there was no one view among Māori. Willie Jackson’s change in view towards supporting the bill was based on reflecting on his own whanau’s experience with his mother Dame June Jackson, a widely respected leader who is now herself dying. And death can be a long, slow and grim process.

National’s Nikki Kaye predicted that if the law did pass the third reading, it would be narrow in scope. She said it would almost certainly only be accessible to a small number of people, and most of them would not take it up. But she said that for those people who wanted to take up that right, it should be their choice to prevent unnecessary suffering. It was an argument that carried the day for many members of the house, reports the NZ Herald, with many MPs sharing stories about the pain suffered by family members as the approached the end. Supporters and opponents alike agreed that more support was needed for those in palliative care.

Finally, and as a personal observation, it is easy in this line of work to become contemptuous of politicians. Often they give very good reason for that impression. But on this debate, most have shown deep empathy and compassion for people, regardless of how they ended up voting. They have listened carefully, and thought deeply. This most unlikely of issues has brought out the best of many of our elected representatives.


Opponents of Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt say he has started to struggle with following Council business, reports the Southland Times. A majority of councillors have expressed concerns to the paper, along the lines of the mayor struggling to keep a handle on discussions, and going off on tangents. Sir Tim, who has been mayor since 1993 (with a short gap near the start) says in response that a “toxic faction” had formed around the Council table, and those members need to be cleared out. He added that the complaints are driven by ambition, and confirmed he’ll be running for another term this year.


An interesting development in primary school contract negotiations – teachers have voted to accept their deal, but principals have voted against. Radio NZ has worked through what will happen next as a result, with principals talking about non-cooperation with ministry paperwork as being one option for future action. The principals are disappointed, because their offer would have left some earning less than senior teachers, and wouldn’t give them parity with secondary principals. Minister Chris Hipkins says the offer could be reconfigured, but the total amount of money on offer won’t be increased.


New mothers are constantly told ‘breast is best’, but for many circumstances don’t allow for that to happen. It’s a conclusion that comes from this very important feature from Stuff’s Michelle Duff, who has examined some of the class differences in rates of breastfeeding. For many mothers, particularly those in more working class jobs, it’s actually just not possible to get the time to breastfeed for any significant length of time. It can lead to damaging situations where mothers are being pressured, but not actually being supported.


Did you know some local body voters actually get multiple votes if they own lots of property? I certainly didn’t, so was pretty shocked by this Radio NZ story. They’re known as ratepayer votes, and about 12,700 were cast around the country at the last round of elections. AUT researcher Policy Observatory director Julienne Molineaux says while they tend not to be cast in the sort of numbers that might distort outcomes, their presence is “hugely symbolic” in the question of who local government bodies are meant to serve.


The Official Cash Rate has stayed in place at 1.5%, but heavy hints have been dropped it will be further lowered, reports Interest. The Monetary Policy Committee sees “weakness” in the prospect for future growth, from both domestic and international factors. One of the interesting ones – the higher than expected government spending at the last budget could take a while to start flowing through the economy, so might not act as much of a stimulus in the short term.


A correction from yesterday: One of the reshuffle details I gave was wrong. Todd Muller will be pairing forestry with climate change spokesperson roles, and I included that detail because it seemed like an interesting combination of jobs. Unfortunately, I incorrectly said it was Brett Hudson, who will in fact be picking up police. And that one is interesting, because as the party’s Ōhāriu candidate, he’ll be running against former Police Association boss Greg O’Connor. Lots of interesting detail all round, but as always, information is most interesting when it is correct, so apologies on that.


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An artist’s impression of what Terence Arnold, Jordan Williams, Stephen Mills and Colin Craig would look like chilling on a sailing holiday

Right now on The Spinoff: Madeleine Chapman investigates how and why every child in New Zealand appears to have had the exact same tricycle. Legal academic Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere considers the strange case of the judge in the Colin Craig vs Jordan Williams case going on a sailing holiday with one of the lawyers. Alex Casey joins a group of teenage girls to talk about what they’re doing online. And Alice Burton reports on plans at Victoria University to kill of Study Week, and the concerns that is causing among students.

Also, can I just give the strongest possible recommendation to this piece by Trevor McKewen. In the early 90s, he wrote a sports book called Real Men Wear Black. His thoughts on it now are a testament to the radical changes around masculinity in New Zealand – changes that in my view have made this a much better country for everyone living in it.


Today’s feature is from the Metro advice column, and it’s about Arbonne and other such multi-level marketing scams, sorry, schemes. We’ve covered Arbonne on The Spinoff before, and it has been around for a while. But I think what the Metro column brings to the discussion is a really good understanding of where such MLMs fit in with the modern economy – particularly for women and particularly for working mothers. Here’s an excerpt:

The woman you went to high school with isn’t just selling make-up from her garage; she’s a mumtrepreneur, a #GirlBoss, she’s hustling and she’s slaying it daily owning her own business. The language around MLMs is hugely aspirational. A successful Arbonne Boss Babe (or doTERRA, or any other MLM) isn’t a bored housewife making a bit of extra pocket money; she’s a bad bitch with a white Mercedes, enjoying a free trip to Hawaii, a Rolex on her wrist.

It’s hard to think of a time where such a large portion of the population has been encouraged to aspire to more so constantly, and expected to work so hard to get it. I don’t mean in a “keeping up with the Joneses” way, but a new kind of warped normal where if you’re not hustling 24/7 to make bank and, relatedly, your dreams come true, well, don’t whine to me about not having enough money to pay your rent.

There’s always been a subsection of society for whom greed is good, but it’s the completely pervasive nature of this messaging which feels new and different, and kind of awful.


A rather exciting prospect looms for Auckland club rugby fans, with Sonny Bill Williams likely to turn out. The NZ Herald reports he’s available to play two games for Ponsonby, after a season blighted by injury has left him short on conditioning. For now, he’s expected to stay in the All Blacks squad ahead of the first test of the year in late July, but his prospects of making the World Cup don’t seem quite so bright, with other midfielders making strong cases over the season.

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And in the cricket, it has been another morning of trying to juggle writing and watching. Unfortunately, the Black Caps have lost to Pakistan, after top order struggles left the middle order and bowlers too tough a job. If you’re a superstitious person, you’ll love or perhaps fear this – it seems like Pakistan’s results are fulfilling some sort of prophecy, to repeat their 1992 heroics. Have a look at this from Cricinfo, the similarities are remarkable.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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