robson-on-politics Thu 16 Oct
An early edition of robson-on-politics this week as this afternoon I go to Rimutaka prison for the opening of the new Faith-Based Unit, a joint venture between Corrections and Prison Fellowship New Zealand. Then on Friday to their conference at Waikanae. Kim Workman of PFNZ tells me that overseas experience is that prisoners who willingly join faith-based units have re-offending rates under 20% after they have served their sentence.
Genetic engineering and the NOOM Bill
The big news is that the Progressives voted against the third reading of the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill on Tuesday. The NOOM bill as it is called in Parliamentary jargon is about the release of genetically modified organisms into the human food chain, among other things. Earlier this year we reserved our position on the issue within the Cabinet process.
The moratorium came about because of the work of my former colleague Phillida Bunkle. We made it clear that we wanted scientific and economic considerations to influence the nation's planning and that the moratorium should only lift if a majority of the Parliament agreed. Last week we moved amendments, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to continue the moratorium. Jim Anderton speaking in Tuesday's debate said the Progressives are not convinced that the potential gains from releasing GM crops have been demonstrated conclusively enough to sufficiently outweigh the known benefits of being GE-free.
He went on to say he was disappointed not to be voting with our Labour colleagues today. It is not common for there to be a difference between us. Out of the hundreds of issues we consider each month since the election, we have differed on only a few - tertiary fee increases and pokie machine numbers come to mind.
We are pro-science and we agree with a rational evidence-based approach. That is why we support the provisions in the NOOM bill to streamline lab research.
See Jim Anderton's speech at: http://www.progressive.org.nz/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=498
I wrote to 52 Labour MPs about this political refugee. I have received numerous letters in reply, including ones asking if I have talked to Ministers. Yes, I have told those MPs about my meetings, on several occasions, with Ministers about Mr Zaoui and also my meeting with Police Commissioner Rob Robinson. Good news that Mr Zaoui is being moved out of solitary confinement.
Supreme Court established
Also on Tuesday the Supreme Court bill was passed into law. What has happened is that we have replaced a London appeal court with a new one in New Zealand, more accessible to New Zealanders because it will cost nowhere near as much as an appeal to London. Also, there are now wider grounds to appeal. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act enshrines the fundamental right to go to our highest appeal court. This new step gives practical effect to that right.
I acknowledge that I have received more feedback on this issue than any other in robson-on-politics, and I accept that those views are sincerely held. Some of the MPs arguing against the Supreme Court forget that before 1972, appellants could only go to the equivalent of today's High Court. The Judicature Act 1972 brought the Court of Appeal into being, a constitutional change, and provided for appeals to the Privy Council.
And it is a step for our independence. Almost every other country which were British colonies broke the link with the Privy Council long ago, and New Zealand as a cautious nation is only now taking the step of establishing its own highest court. See: http://www.progressive.org.nz/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=497 and Matt Robson's speeches are about to be posted on the site
Forestry must be a consistent employer
Jim Anderton said the forestry industry needs to stop shedding their workforce as a response to commodity cycles. At the Forest Owners Association conference this week he said they cannot expect partners - government and the community -to continue to support forestry if they are devastated on a regular basis. Bluntly, partnership is a two-way street.
More on all these issues at www.progressive.org.nz