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The BulletinOctober 29, 2018

The Bulletin: Crucial moment for abortion law reform

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Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Report puts abortion law reform back on the agenda, housing shortage likely to worsen despite Kiwibuild, and are the Taxcinda attacks on Labour fair?

A Law Commission report has put abortion law reform firmly back on the agenda. The report outlines three potential approaches to reform, based on the premise that it should be considered a medical issue rather than a criminal issue. Currently, abortion is in the Crimes Act, and Radio NZ reports that all three options presented by the Law Commission would change that and completely decriminalise the process.

Currently the process by which a woman can terminate a pregnancy is pretty convoluted. Family Planning CEO Jackie Edmund wrote on The Spinoff that currently, the law around abortion gets in the way of it being able to be done safely and to best practice standards. Of the three options presented by the Law Commission, they vary most on the question of the statutory test – by which a woman effectively has to prove the procedure is necessary on mental or physical health grounds. Family Planning are backing model A, which would remove that statutory test.

But why change the law when nobody is ever prosecuted for breaking it? That has been one of the arguments floated in response to the Law Commission’s report. But it perhaps misses the point, as regardless of prosecutions, the current law can lead to delays which can become more dangerous to a woman’s health. That’s the point made in this editorial on Stuff this morning, which argues that “when laws fail to work as intended, they must be repaired” – also arguing that the current requirement that women must see two different doctors was put in the original law for political, rather than medical reasons.

And politically, the push for reform is picking up momentum. Justice minister Andrew Little, who would be responsible for overseeing the change, told Newshub Nation he backs ‘model C’ – sort of a hybrid version that is basically A until 22 weeks into a pregnancy, and then becomes more restrictive subsequently. PM Jacinda Ardern has also thrown her support behind changing the law, but as One News reports, she’s also keen to reach out to other MPs on the issue. After all, if it does go through it will be as a conscience vote – where each individual MP makes their own decision rather than being bound by their party. It is somewhat ironic that a fundamental issue for women will end up being decided by a Parliament in which fewer than 4 in 10 of the decision makers are women.

And while this all charts a political and legal way forward, that’s not necessarily true on a social level. Any changes will be fought tooth and nail by groups like Family First and Right to Life NZ. Protests on the issue can draw numbers, commitment and passion not really seen on other conscience issues. For example, I covered a 40 day vigil outside a clinic on Dominion Road last year – they were back again for 40 more days this year. Regardless of the legal and political case for change, it won’t be an easy process.

New Zealand’s housing shortage is expected to get worse before it gets better, even with Kiwibuild, reports Newshub. That’s based on documents obtained by Newshub that show in the next couple of years, total house-building will be slower than the rate of increased demand. As well as it, that indicates that even with Kiwibuild homes being priced in the lower to middle range, house prices will continue to rise.

With stories like that in mind, Bernie Smith from the Monte Cecelia Housing Trust says on The Spinoff that we need to start looking at 25-year plans for housing, rather than the current decade at best. Mr Smith says the crisis in housing has been created by the inertia of successive governments, and while Kiwibuild will be great for the middle class, it won’t do much for renters and those on low incomes.

New Zealanders are paying more tax under the Labour government than they would have under National, but the increase is pretty marginal. That’s the conclusion of some calculations done by Interest’s Jen​ée Tibshraeny, who concludes that in the year to 2019 it will average out to about $51 more per person for the year. And while I’m sure we’d all love to have a spare Apirana floating about, it’s unlikely to break the bank. Of course, we still don’t know the full details of what the Tax Working Group will recommend.

There’s a glimmer of hope that the planned primary teacher strikes may be called off, reports Stuff. That’s because the teachers union and Ministry of Education have jointly asked for a mediation process, which will be facilitated by the Employment Relations Authority. If that doesn’t work, then the strikes are still scheduled to go ahead in mid-November.

Piha residents hit by flooding earlier in the year are left in limbo, not knowing if or when they’ll be able to go home, reports the NZ Herald. The long form story is a great example of how natural disasters continue to affect people long after the event has passed. The decision being waited on relates to whether it will be safe to repair or rebuild the houses, or whether the area will continue being too susceptible to flooding.

Yesterday was an important milestone anniversary in New Zealand’s history, but one that has largely slipped out of the collective Pākehā memory. On October 28 1835, the northern-based United Tribes signed He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni – otherwise known as the Declaration of Independence. E-Tangata have published a fascinating transcript of a discussion of what He Whakaputanga has meant to Māori – particularly the Ngāpuhi iwi – and what it means in Aotearoa today.

Is the Royal Tour a popular event? Based off a Colmar Brunton One News poll, the country at large is a bit tepid on the visit. About half of those polled think the $1 million price tag on the trip is a bad use of taxpayer money, while under 40% think it’s a good use. On the other hand, crowds of thousands have turned out to see them so far, reports Radio NZ.

So I want your thoughts: Rather than getting into the Constitutional Monarchy/Republic debate, let’s just talk about the tour itself. Is it worth the money? Is the press coverage too much or about right? Will you turn out too see two people who (given the rules of royal succession) have about as much chance of becoming King and Queen as you or I do? Email

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Right now on The Spinoff: We’ve got a Group Think collecting various views on what the wording of the cannabis reform referendum question should be. Staying with hard-out political debate, we’ve got competing views on the oil and gas exploration ban – Claudia Palmer from 350 Aotearoa says it shows leadership on the most difficult issue of our time, while Cameron Madgwick from PEPANZ says the process of the ban has been rushed, and the outcomes will be counter-productive.

And if that’s all too serious, José Barbosa reviews his new bum bag.

The 2018 APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea is coming up, and it isn’t without controversy. This excellent RNZ Pacific multimedia feature outlines why. PNG remains astonishingly poor, with few benefits of the rich natural resources being plundered ever making it down to the level of the people. Here’s a short excerpt:

Promises of ‘development’ have long been a feature of the country’s politics, but rarely come to fruition. Some big resource projects have got off the ground, but the benefit flows have been uneven. It’s hard for people to swallow the government’s claims that hosting APEC, all its hundreds of meetings this year and the big upcoming summit, will benefit PNG’s general population.

“People say that because of this APEC, all the funds are being misused on APEC,” said Ken, shaking his head.

Auckland have won the Mitre 10 Cup, after a thrilling final, and in which even more thrillingly for the sport, a big crowd showed up. Auckland Rugby decided to throw the gates open at Eden Park, a risky decision but one that paid off with 20,000 fans making the trip out. I for one have literally never seen an Auckland rugby team fill up an entire stand of Eden Park, which happened in the first half. Unfortunately, because of the heavy rain, we had to retire to the safety of the pub for the 2nd half and extra time.

NZ’s netballers have finished the year on a high, with a win in the Fast5 tournament in Melbourne over the weekend. The NZ Herald reports it was a close run thing in the final against Jamaica, who almost came back from a double-digit deficit. The Ferns have traditionally done well at this tournament – it’s their 7th win since 2009.

Finally, there’s more rumblings over the governance of NZ Football in the wake of a hard-hitting review, reports Stuff. The Northern Football board say the entire NZ Football Executive Committee should be on notice, and that “wholesale change will be required.” Ominous stuff in a year of battles over sporting governance.

From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.

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