Real Issues No. 318
Real Issues No. 318 -
Urgency, Violence, 'Work life balance' Maxim Institute - Real Issues - No. 318 11 September 2008 www.maxim.org.nz
Law in a hurry The long legacy of violence 'A golden thread'
IN THE NEWS Nuclear deals with India Auckland NZ Votes political debate date changed A political forum with a difference Summer Internship applications now open!
LAW IN A HURRY
Parliament went into urgency both this week and last week in a rush to pass a raft of legislation. The House had the air of a legislative spring clean, with MPs working until all hours of the night to get every item on the list done and dusted, regardless of whether it had received adequate consideration. Amongst the business completed under urgency was a wide variety of legislation, surprising and unanticipated changes to bills and a glaring lack of public consultation.
Urgency is one of the measures described by Professor Jeremy Waldron, in July's Annual John Graham Lecture, as a 'parliamentary abuse'; a means 'for fast-track legislation which [is] quite disgraceful by world standards.' It requires the House to continue sitting until all business agreed upon is completed. While this process gets things done, the difficulty is that it compresses the necessary time and space for good and reasoned law-making. The effect of urgency is often that insufficient time is given for proper deliberation on a bill, for considered and rigorous debate or for any further public consultation or submission.
A clear example of this, passed last week, is the Employment Relations (Breaks, Infant Feeding and Other Matters) Amendment Act. Introduced in April this year, the legislation was intended to formalise work breaks and require a space for breastfeeding employees. These were the issues that the public was consulted on during the Select Committee process in May. However, while under urgency, a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) was introduced by Government Minister Trevor Mallard which substantially amended the Bill. This SOP introduced a whole 'Other Matter' to the legislation: significant changes to KiwiSaver. The Act as now passed makes it illegal for an employer to make employment decisions -- such as the salary or wage of an employee—based on their participation in KiwiSaver. Including the compulsory employer contribution as part of an employee's complete remuneration package, therefore, may now be unlawful despite earlier legislation having allowed employers to do this.
This entirely separate topic should have been introduced in its own bill, and given time and space for proper public consultation. The Act now contains new clauses which will impact many employers, none of whom were given the opportunity to comment, and about which MPs -- who barely had time to read the changes themselves -- could not have known the opinions of their constituents. Passing legislation in this way is a breach of public confidence and parliamentary process. Urgency re-focuses the law-making process towards expediency and results, losing considered deliberation, transparency and good solid law-making along the way.
Some of the bills passed under urgency:
Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill This Bill, divided into two Acts in its final stages, creates an Emissions Trading Scheme for carbon credits across many industries in New Zealand. The Bill is over 200 pages long, and received over 1,000 amendments during the Select Committee stage, with hundreds more proposed during the Bill's consideration by Parliament. With so many amendments made and due to the complexity of this Bill, it should have been brought back for further public consultation and deliberation before being passed.
Biofuel Bill This complex and controversial piece of legislation, divided into four separate Acts, introduces the mandatory use of biofuels in New Zealand, provided they come from sustainable sources.
Policing Bill This Bill made substantial changes to the current policing system in New Zealand, though in this case the dangers of urgency were reduced by an extensive review of existing laws and policing practices before the Bill was introduced.
Family Courts Matters Bill This Bill, divided into twelve Acts in its final stages, makes a number of procedural changes to the Family Court in an attempt to increase public confidence and transparency in the system.
Read the Daily Progress in the House for Tuesday 2 September (under urgency) http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/Progress/6/e/0/00HOOOCProgress200802091-Daily-progress-for-Tuesday-2-September-2008.htm
Read the Employment Relations (Breaks and Infant Feeding) Amendment Bill, as reported by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0205-2/latest/viewpdf.aspx
Read the Supplementary Order Paper No. 229 http://www.legislation.govt.nz/sop/government/2008/0229/latest/viewpdf.aspx
THE LONG LEGACY OF VIOLENCE
In recent years, it has become ever-more obvious that the health of a child begins before birth. A mother's alcohol consumption or tobacco use during pregnancy, are commonly understood to impact on their baby's health. Two articles by Fanslow et al, published in the 'Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,' look at another aspect of women's health and the impact it has on their babies—their experience of violence. The articles stem from research carried out in New Zealand and they show that when a woman is a victim of violence, it has an impact on the well-being of their offspring. Violence during pregnancy is linked to higher rates of tobacco use and alcohol consumption. There is also a more surprising link identified between women who experience 'intimate partner violence' and high rates of miscarriage and abortion, even if that violence did not occur during pregnancy. It seems that the legacy of violence is far deeper than a cut or a bruise.
According to the article, women who have experienced 'intimate partner violence' (IPV) are more likely to have a medical abortion or a spontaneous abortion (miscarry) whether or not the violence took place while they were pregnant. Of the women interviewed, 41.6 percent who had experienced IPV had also miscarried, compared to 28.3 percent of the women who had not experienced IVP. Women who had experienced IPV at some stage in their lives were also more than twice as likely to seek a termination of pregnancy. While data does not categorically conclude that violence is the direct cause of these higher rates of miscarriage and abortion, the link is strong. The results of other research where poverty has been controlled as a factor still demonstrate a link between violence and 'adverse reproductive health outcomes.' A few reasons are suggested for this.
One obvious explanation is that violence could physically harm the baby if it occurs while the mother is pregnant. Another is that women who experience IPV may be less able to care for themselves during pregnancy due to a lack of autonomy or resources. The third possibility suggested in the research is that the stress that comes from violence physically affects women. Even if it has occurred in the past, '... their bodies may trigger responses that influence the outcome of the pregnancy, an influence that may persist even after women have left a violent relationship.'
What screams to us from these studies is the interconnectedness of people and the gross damage of violence. Violence is not simply about a physical wound, it affects a whole person and extends beyond that one person to impact their kin. Its damage is deep and its consequences are insidious. Caring for children cannot be seen in isolation from caring for their mothers and the communities that they belong to. People are not merely medical objects. The legacy of the past is an ongoing part of lives. Any attempts to tackle infant health must begin with restoring relationships, or solutions will only ever be superficial.
'A GOLDEN THREAD'
British think tank the Centre for Social Justice has fuelled the debate on children and how they are cared for this week, with the release of a new report in its Breakthrough Britain series, The Next Generation. The report calls for a new emphasis on relationship, and a new, more holistic approach to helping the children most at risk.
Citing the problems of family and domestic violence, 'isolation and loneliness' and 'the stress of family breakdown,' the report calls for a focus on the needs of children in the early years, recognising the 'crucial window of vulnerability and ... opportunity' represented by infants. The report traces the effect of things like relationship breakdown on infant children -- children who have negative 'relational experiences,' a lack of appropriate discipline, or a lack of affection, have difficulty in a variety of ways in later life, including behaviour, education, socialisation and relationships. New Zealand too is suffering from huge issues of abuse, family violence and social disconnection and we should not ignore evidence that these issues cost us in the long term, as well as the children they so tragically affect.
The report goes on to examine government policy, and recommends reforms and amendments to it. Several themes familiar to the New Zealand context emerge in the British context. Effort is being made to address some of the problems at-risk-children face. But while the report finds some positive aspects in government policy, it also finds there is 'a golden thread' missing, the thread of relationship. Too often, policy which deals with infants and children-at-risk focuses on them and their individual immediate needs, rather than also considering the wider social and relational environment the whole family is exposed to. Arguing that 'at the heart of the many and varied influences on the infant is the family,' the report calls for policies to be 'family centred, not just child-centred,' for families to be 'fostered instead of fostering children' and for a key focus on 'prevention' and 'healthy relationships.' More concretely, the report calls for an increase in 'integration' and more 'health visitors' to assist families, 'relationship and parenting education' and a greater and more flexible role for private and family-based childcare, paid for by 'use of the childcare tax credit.'
It is pleasing that the vital issue of disconnected children is attracting such attention, and that the authors of The Next Generation seem to acknowledge both the relational context of children, and the importance of some basic truths about the importance of family and strong relationship. The greater issue raised by the report, however, needs a second look. Parents wish to spend more time with their kids, kids need strong relationships, and parents who love them, and we need 'choices' to enable that to happen. But how far will simply tinkering with incentives (helpful as doing so may be in the short term) really address the wider economic and structural fabric of modern society, in which two incomes have become normative for many? With lots of families struggling with 'work life balance,' paying the tax bill and making ends meet, significant questions remain over family policy, tax structure and the use of incentives. We cannot dig long into issues of relationship strength without tripping over these elephants in the room.
Read The Next Generation http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/client/downloads/TheNextGenerationReportFINAL.pdf
IN THE NEWS
NUCLEAR DEALS WITH INDIA The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is comprised of nations that supply atomic fuel and technology around the world. For decades India has been on the list of countries that the NSG does not trade with, due to a history of nuclear testing and India's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. However, this week, the NSG's ban on India was lifted, opening the way for nuclear trade to the nation and allowing for India to remedy its current fuel shortage.
While the agreement to allow trade with India will open up many business opportunities and stimulate the uranium market internationally, some are concerned that the decision undermines those nuclear treaties, which India still has not signed, and also sets a dangerous precedent of prioritising trade over international agreements.
AUCKLAND NZ VOTES POLITICAL DEBATE DATE CHANGED
The Auckland NZ Votes political debate, due to be happening in Auckland at Greenlane on Tuesday, 16 September, will now be happening at a later date. As soon as the new date is confirmed information will be available at www.nzvotes.org.nz.
A POLITICAL FORUM WITH A DIFFERENCE
The Auckland Executive Club will be holding a political debate and dinner in conjunction with NZ Votes on Wednesday, 17 September at 6pm. The MPs taking part include Judith Tizard (Labour), Sue Bradford (Greens), Jackie Blue (National), Heather Roy (ACT) and Judy Turner (United Future). The evening is open to any women to attend and tickets are $55.
Find out more information http://www.aucklandexecutiveclub.org.nz/meeting_details.asp
SUMMER INTERNSHIP APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN!
The application process for Maxim Institute's Summer Internship programme 2008 / 2009 is now open. The Summer Internship is residential and runs from 24 November 2008 - 13 February 2009. The interns will study a range of topics including jurisprudence, civil society, theology, economic policy, philosophy and politics, while gaining professional experience working directly with the Institute's research, policy, communications and events departments.
Find out more or request an application form http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/About_us/Send_Email?id=34
'If our law courts were to perform the functions entrusted to them as recklessly, as impetuously, and as peremptorily as Parliament performs its law-making functions, we would think the legal system was in very serious crisis. We do not sacrifice due process and natural justice to efficiency, to prosecutorial impatience, and to political expediency. We would be outraged—and rightly so—if trials were rushed, and parties were limited in the amount of evidence or the number of witnesses they could call, if court sittings went on into the night under 'urgency ...''
Professor Jeremy Waldron
A registered charitable trust, funded by donations, Maxim Institute values your interest and support.
Click here to find out how you can support Maxim Institute (http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/About_us/Support_us)
Maxim Institute's regular email publication, Real Issues, provides thought-provoking analysis of developments in policy and culture in New Zealand and around the world.