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West Papuan speaker ‘silenced’ when trying to raise UN agenda issue

Asia Pacific Report - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 6:34pm

By Andrew Johnson

Since 2004, a number of university papers have raised the question of genocide in the Pacific territory of West Papua administrated by Indonesia subsequent to a 1962 United Nations General Assembly vote to occupy the colony in defiance of the territory’s objections.

Although the United Nations claims to be opposed to genocide, it was was quick last week to silence a speaker at a General Assembly forum concerning self-determination.

The speaker, John Anari, ambassador for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was stating that West Papua was under a UN-appointed occupation and that the UN had a legal obligation under article 85 part 2 of its charter to place the issue of the UN occupation authorised in 1962 by General Assembly resolution 1752 on the agenda of the UN Trusteeship Council.

READ MORE: Lawyers launch landmark action to challenge Indonesia’s 50-year incorporation of West Papua

The moderator interrupted Anari and then when he tried to raise the issue again, she cut him short and went on to the next speaker.

This is not the first time the UN has censored information and requests about West Papua.

The same request was stated clearly at the 2016 Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), yet the forum made no mention of the request in its report to the UN Economic and Social Council, which has the power to place issues on the agenda of the Trusteeship Council.

This year, in addition to again presenting West Papua’s request to the PFII, Anari was making use of an invitation from the President of the General Assembly to attend a forum concerning indigenous self-determination when the forum’s moderator tried to silence him.

Anari resumed asserting his request for the UN to comply with its charter obligations and acknowledge its responsibility for the consequences of the General Assembly authorisation of UN military occupation in Papua.

There may be additional opportunities this week for the United Nations to live up to its charter and the promise of advancing human rights, but if the past week and years are any indication the prospects are not good.

Andrew Johnson is a 20-year veteran with the Australia West Papua Association, specialising in historical research and analysis.

UN webcast of the ‘shutdown’ of John Anari speaking at the UN General Assembly on April 25. Source: ULFWP

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PNG’s Pangu in turmoil – facing no MPs as no confidence vote looms

Asia Pacific Report - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 11:55am

By Frankiy Kapin and Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

Pangu Pati – the political party that gave Papua and New Guinea independence from Australia – may finally splutter on its colourful history and wind up with no members in PNG’s Parliament by next week.

Its apparent death knell was announced yesterday by party leader Sam Basil, who – along with his 14 MPs – say they have agreed to quit the parliamentary wing of the country’s oldest party before Tuesday’s vote of no confidence.

If this happens, it will signal a chapter in the life of Pangu where it will, for the first time in more than 50 years, have no MP in the House.

READ MORE: O’Neill gives away millions – greatest sell-out in PNG history

Under Basil, Pangu swept through Morobe during the 2017 general election, claiming eight of the 10 seats, and is a key ally in Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress (PNC)-led coalition, but recent bickering between its non-parliamentary wing and Basil had led to his ouster as leader.

Basil announced last week he would soon launch his new party, Our Party.

However, the party’s general secretary, Morris Tovebae last night said Basil was not the Pangu leader, and had not been a Pangu member since being ousted by the court.

He said he or his executives had not received a single resignation letter from the 14 Pangu members.

Interim party leader
He said the Pangu party executive met and agreed to appoint Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu as its interim party leader, and Saonu had accepted to lead Pangu.

He said this appointment would be formally announced by the party executives shortly.

In Lae, Basil acknowledged that Morobe was the birth place and stronghold of Pangu, started by founding Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, but he and his party members had agreed to leave Pangu.

Basil admitted that the resurrection and dominance of Pangu Pati becoming the second biggest party in the current O’Neill-led coalition government was manifest of his leadership and not necessarily on the following of the Pangu Pati.

“I believe that we’ve got good players and good policies, unfortunately we didn’t get the first call of the peoples wish of the government they elected, so we respect that wish and are serving under the current government,” he said.

Basil said they would work with parties that shared common principles into the next election.

He said with the looming vote of no confidence, the Basil-led faction had made a promise to the O’Neill government and would stand by that promise as the second majority party.

Standing by PM
He said if the PM’s PNC party could not number up, they would have to tell the PM and move out.

Basil said but now if the PNC party had the numbers, they would stand by the prime minister.

Member for Sumkar Chris Nangoi, who accompanied Basil, reaffirmed his commitment to Basil, saying that he was voted by the Sumkar people who made a choice between two Pangu Pati candidates contesting the same seat.

He said one was put in by the Pangu Pati executives and the other by Basil, and the outcome showed that the people believed in the leadership of Basil by voting for Nangoi.

Frankiy Kapin and Gorethy Kenneth are Post-Courier reporters.

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NZ: Herald launches premium paywall – how will it impact on other media?

Pacific Media Watch - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 11:11am

ANALYSIS: By Dr Merja Myllylahti
AUCKLAND (The Conversation/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): New Zealand’s largest newspaper, The NZ Herald, launched its digital subscriptions today for online content, making history at the same time.

Its paywall is the first for a general newspaper in New Zealand.

read more

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NZ media companies agree on protocol for covering mosque terror attack trial

Asia Pacific Report - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 10:19am

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

New Zealand’s major media companies have agreed to follow a strict protocol when covering the trial of the Christchurch mosque accused terrorist.

The accused man, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, faces 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder in relation to the attacks on two Christchurch mosques on March 15.

In a NZ Media Freedom Committee statement released today, the senior editors of TVNZ, Stuff, NZME, Mediaworks and RNZ said they were “aware that the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views ideology.”

READ MORE: Online hate speech ‘gives green light’ to religion, race attacks 

“We are committed to ensuring the outlets we represent cover the upcoming trial comprehensively and responsibly,” the statement read.

Victims of the terror attack included people from 12 countries.

The protocol consists of the following guidelines which will limit coverage and prevent the broadcast of any white supremacist ideology.

The protocol stated:

  • We shall, to the extent that is compatible with the principles of open justice, limit
    any coverage of statements, that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist
  • For the avoidance of doubt the commitment set out at (a) shall include the accused’s
    manifesto document “The Great Replacement”.
  • We will not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols or signals
    (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or
    supporting white supremacist ideology.
  • Where the inclusion of such signals in any images is unavoidable, the relevant parts
    of the image shall be pixelated.
  • To the greatest extent possible, the journalists that are selected by each of the
    outlets to cover the trial will be experienced personnel.
  • These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all
  • This protocol shall continue in force indefinitely.

Editorial signatories to the protocol are Miriyana Alexander (NZME and chair of the Media Freedom Committee), John Gillespie (TVNZ), Shayne Currie (NZME), Mark Stevens (Stuff), Paul Thompson (RNZ), and Hal Crawford (Mediaworks).

The accused terrorist is due to appear in court on June 14.

This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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NZ Herald launches premium paywall – how will it impact on other media?

Asia Pacific Report - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 9:36am

ANALYSIS: By Dr Merja Myllylahti

New Zealand’s largest newspaper, The NZ Herald, launched its digital subscriptions today for online content, making history at the same time.

Its paywall is the first for a general newspaper in New Zealand.

Back in 2011, The NZ Herald’s parent company APN (now NZME) launched a digital-first initiative which was deemed critical for its future digital revenue. As a part of that initiative, APN was considering digital subscriptions for The NZ Herald.

READ MORE: NZ Herald’s editorial – Premium, strategy an investment in our journalism

Eight years later, this future imagined by APN bosses has arrived and will affect other players in New Zealand media.

The National Business Review, a business newspaper, has charged its readers since 2009, and digital news outlet Newsroom already charges for its premium content.

The New Zealand portfolio of Stuff, which is now owned by Australian Nine, includes digital news site Stuff, print newspapers and the community site Neighbourly. Stuff has no paywall, but The NZ Herald’s move to paid online content raises the question of whether it will follow its competitor.

My bet is that a similar move is unlikely.

Stuff has built its revenue model on e-commerce activities and is now selling broadband access, electricity and health insurance among other things.

Benefits of online traffic
For years, NZME and Fairfax Fairfax NZ (now part of Nine) avoided charges for their digital news content because of their duopoly in the New Zealand print and online news markets. The two companies feared that if one of them would introduce paid content, the other one would reap the benefits and gain in traffic.

On the other hand, traffic is perhaps not the main concern of The NZ Herald as it is targeting to convert a proportion of its audience to paid readers. For the first year, its aim is modest. It is aiming to gain 10,000 digital subscriptions.

To put the current situation into context, in 2018 Stuff had a unique audience of 2.1 million and The NZ Herald 1.7 million. According to SimilarWeb data, in the first quarter of 2019, Stuff had 34 million monthly visits compared to The NZ Herald’s 27 million.

For several years, NZME and Stuff pursued a proposal to merge. But when ruling against the merger in 2017, the Commerce Commission observed:

Both NZME and Fairfax have currently decided against introducing some form of paywall primarily because of the threat of readers switching to their competing online news websites and the risk of putting advertising revenue at risk.

That risk still exists, and it will be interesting to see whether Stuff gains in audience, traffic and advertising now that The NZ Herald paywall is going up.

The Commerce Commission was also concerned that if the merger had gone through, the combined company would introduce a more expensive paywall. As the merger was denied, this worry does not apply. But we don’t know how restrictive or pricey a joint paywall would have been.

Bundled with syndicated content
The NZ Herald paid content model is a “freemium” model. It allows readers free access to some content, but the premium content such as business news will be behind a paywall. It is also a very bundled model as the paper promises paid readers syndicated material from The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Times and Harvard Business Review, to name a few.

At this point it is not clear how much and what content exactly this large syndicate offers for The NZ Herald readers, but clearly the deal does not include full access to these sites.

The paper’s premium content editor, Miriyana Alexander, said:

While our major focus is on the delivery of the very best New Zealand journalism, we know that the addition of these four publishers, alongside the likes of the Washington Post and The Daily Telegraph will make for a terrific, unrivalled package of journalism and content.

As indicated in the table below, the annual digital subscription to The NZ Herald will cost NZ$199, compared to The Age’s and The Sydney Morning Herald’s NZ$294. Compared to prices of The New York Times (US) and The Telegraph (UK) it is cheaper, but compared to Le Monde (France) it is substantially more expensive.

All about business
It remains to be seen how much of The NZ Herald’s content will be behind a paywall and how much will continue to be freely accessible. Interestingly, academic studies of paywalled content have found that paywalled newspapers offer news sourced from newswires and syndicates for free whereas the most valuable content such as hard news, financial news, politics and opinion pieces have been hidden behind a paywall.

Alexander says the paper invests especially in business coverage, and it aims to be “the go-to destination for specialist, insightful and essential business journalism”.

The National Business Review and Newsroom Pro are competing in the same market, and they already have paid content strategies in place. I do wonder if the New Zealand market is really big enough for three players focusing and charging for business content.

One major decision is where to draw the line between free versus paid content. In France, Le Monde paywalls roughly 37 percent of its content, so readers have free access to the majority of its articles. According to Digiday, the paper found that putting more than 40 percent of its content behind a paywall had a negative impact on the potential of gaining new subscribers.

When the paper reduced the number of its paid articles last November, its traffic rose from 84 million to 97 million in a month, increasing its pool of potential subscribers.

Getting the balance rights seems to matter.

 is co-director of the Journalism Media and Democracy (JMAD) research centre at Auckland University of Technology. This article was first published by The Conversation and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

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Guyon Espiner: Farewell Morning Report – what I won’t be apologising for

Asia Pacific Report - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 9:04am

COMMENTARY: By Guyon Espiner, RNZ Morning Report presenter

After five years and 1000 shows I’m switching off the 4am alarm.

This is my final week on Morning Report and I’d like to tell you why I’m leaving, what I’ve learned and what I won’t be apologising for.

I’ll leave the why question until the end but firstly, thank you. Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of people – 464,000 according to this week’s GfK radio survey – who listen to Susie Ferguson and I present the programme.

WATCH VIDEO: Guyon Espiner on his reo journey during last year’s Māori Language week

With Corin Dann joining Susie from next week and Indira Stewart presenting the First Up programme at 5am, leading into Morning Report, I’d expect those numbers to increase.

So thanks for sharing your mornings with me. I know I haven’t always made it easy for you.

Maybe we got off to a rocky start you and I. ‘Bring back Geoff Robinson’ was a constant refrain back in 2014, when I replaced the 39-year veteran of the programme. ‘Thugs on Radio’ read one headline in The Press, as Christchurch listeners mounted a letter writing campaign in response to some of the more robust exchanges. And that’s my home town, so they weren’t going easy on me.

And fair cop. Sometimes I got the tone wrong. Sometimes I headed down to the wrong path with a question line (although I have learned that when an interviewee responds with, “good question”, it rarely is).

Put anyone on the radio or TV and the audience will find things to like and dislike. That’s their right and I’ve always seen it as part of the contract. You get the platform, you take the hits.

But there are two major things people have complained about over the last five years and I am not sorry for either of them. I am not sorry for speaking te reo Māori on the radio and I am not sorry about interrupting politicians.

You might remember the backlash when about two years ago I started to use more te reo Māori on Morning Report. The messages streamed in. Diatribe, gibberish and rubbish were some of the less offensive descriptions. Listeners invited me on a daily basis to leave to a ‘Māori station’ and one texted to ask “when are you going to get a grass skirt and put shoe polish on your face”.

For a Pākehā from a privileged background it was a small insight into racism in New Zealand, a tiny sliver of what some people must put up with every day.

But slowly that receded and now the main complaint I get is that I speak te reo Māori too quickly. Slow down. We want to learn, they say. So thank you for that too.

I want to acknowledge the support I have had from te ao Māori. Broadcasters and te reo Māori champions Scotty and Stacey Morrison have been great mentors. Within RNZ, Shannon Haunui-Thompson, and before her Mihingarangi Forbes, have provided huge encouragement. Ngā mihi ki a koutou mō tō koutou tautoko.

While I had thousands of complaints from Pākehā, I’m not aware of one complaint from Māori. Not one. So to other Pākehā worried about how they’ll be received for using te reo Māori: from my experience, if you put the work in you will be rewarded and embraced. Karawhiua e hoa mā.

The other thing I am not sorry for is interrupting politicians. I know some of you swear at the radio and have even thrown things. Admit it.

I’ll make a deal with you. The day politicians give straight answers to legitimate questions I’ll hear them out and move on to the next question. Until then, they need to be dragged back on track or they’ll just read out the talking points in a non-answer to a question you never asked. They will run down the clock until they are saved by the pips.

So my time is up. Why? Some of you may have read that I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about seven months ago. That is not the reason I am going. Well, that is not entirely true.

About 25,000 New Zealanders live with this incurable disease every day. If you manage it well and have good support there is almost nothing you can’t do. So it’s not a physical thing.

But lying in hospital last September I had one of those moments. What do I really want to be doing with my career?

The satisfaction I got from doing The 9th Floor series of interviews with former prime ministers came to mind (yes I was probably the only person in the ward thinking about Mike Moore and Geoffrey Palmer at 2am). I want to get back to long form and investigative journalism.

I’m staying at RNZ so you can judge here on the website and on the radio whether I’ve been successful or not.

But most of all I am leaving because I love it. I love Morning Report and I don’t want to lose that. I know for some of you I haven’t achieved this, but my aim is to never outstay my welcome. Mā te wa e hoa mā. Thanks for listening.

This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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Union leaders arrested by Fijian authorities

Pacific Scoop - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 8:04am

Press Release – New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is calling on the Fijian Government to urgently release the Trade Union officials currently being detained.Union leaders arrested by Fijian authorities
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is calling on the Fijian Government to urgently release the Trade Union officials currently being detained.

“We have heard that union officials being detained include the Secretary General of the Fijian Trade Union Congress (FTUC) Felix Anthony and general secretaries of the Fijian Teachers Association, the Fiji nurses’ union and an official from the National Union of Workers,” CTU President, Richard Wagstaff said.

“This behaviour is simply appalling. We call on the New Zealand Government to take action and call on the Fijian government to immediately release the union leaders they are detaining.”

“It appears that these union leaders have been detained in response to a call for a nationwide day of action on Friday and a march planned for Saturday. This is an appalling response from the government to Fijians exercising their democratic right; to organise and to protest.”

“This is an attack on the rights of working people in Fiji and is both outrageous and shocking. We stand in solidarity with Fijian working people and their trade unions.”

“We will be protesting outside the Fijian Embassy, 31 Pipitea Street, Wellington, from 5.15pm on Thursday 2 May to send a clear message to High Commissioner Filimone Waqabaca that the rights of working people to organise is a core tenant of democracy,” Wagstaff said.


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Primary Health Alliance appoints new Chief Executive Officer

Pacific Scoop - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 7:49am

Press Release – Primary Health Alliance

The Primary Health Alliance (the Alliance), whose purpose includes promoting primary and community health through integrated multi-agency and multi-professional partnerships, has today announced the appointment of Sharron Harris as its new Chief Executive …Primary Health Alliance appoints new Chief Executive Officer

The Primary Health Alliance (the Alliance), whose purpose includes promoting primary and community health through integrated multi-agency and multi-professional partnerships, has today announced the appointment of Sharron Harris as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Confirming the appointment, Dr Angus Chambers, Chair of the Alliance, said “On behalf of the Executive Committee and Members of the Alliance, I am delighted that we have been able to secure a new CEO of Sharron’s calibre. Her expertise and working knowledge across so many parts of New Zealand’s primary health sector will be a significant asset for the Alliance and its broad membership base.”

Sharron has a primary health care career spanning two decades and which includes direct working experience within PHOs, DHBs and General Practices.

Sharron has provided business support to both private and corporately owned medical facilities throughout the country as well as having been a RNZCGP Cornerstone Assessor for 17 years.

Sharron acknowledged the long standing and multi-professional strength of the Alliance and is looking forward to working with its wide range of members. “I am thrilled to have been offered the opportunity to lead the Primary Health Alliance. An established and credible organisation with an impressive membership that is collectively stronger than the sum of its parts. It is great to see such a membership organisation having a greater altruistic focus on the health of the country’s population.

“I am looking forward to supporting the on-going agenda with the Alliance members and continuing the impressive impact the organisation has had over recent years” she said.

Dr Angus Chambers thanked the outgoing Chief Executive Officer, Philip Grant, saying “Philip has been in post for 6 years and has made an outstanding contribution. During that time, working with successive Executive Committees, our previous Chair [John Ayling] and myself, I believe the Alliance has become a significant influencer across the national landscape of primary health whilst also providing a valuable range of additional services for our growing membership. I am of course disappointed to see him leave but wish him well for his exciting new assignment in Fiji.”


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Parliament: Questions and Answers – May 1

Pacific Scoop - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 7:44am

Press Release – Hansard

WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) : Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister[ Interruption ]ORAL QUESTIONS


Question No. 1—Finance

WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Minus two.

1. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): On Monday, Treasury released the Crown financial statements for the nine months to the end of March, showing that the Government continues to manage the books responsibly. The accounts show a surplus of $2.5 billion in the operating balance before gains and losses over the nine months, $329 million above forecast. Net core Crown debt as at 31 March was also below forecast, at 20.6 percent of GDP, compared to the 20.9 percent expected. These results demonstrate the solid underlying fundamentals of the New Zealand economy.

Willow-Jean Prime: What other reports has he seen about the fundamentals of the economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This morning, Statistics New Zealand released labour market statistics for the March quarter, showing the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent. This means that the last nine months have seen the lowest unemployment rate in over a decade. The underutilisation rate also fell to 11.3 percent, the lowest it has been since December 2008. Meanwhile, according to the quarterly employment survey, wages grew at 3.4 percent, well above the annual inflation for the quarter of 1.5 percent. The data released today does reinforce the tightness of the labour market, but it also shows an economy that is delivering for more New Zealanders on the back of solid underlying fundamentals.

Willow-Jean Prime: What reports has he seen on international risks to the New Zealand economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Eurozone GDP data for the March quarter came out overnight, showing growth of 0.4 percent and annual growth of just 1.2 percent. The data reaffirmed the message that I heard at the IMF and World Bank meetings last month that the global economy, while still growing, is doing so more slowly than the highs seen in recent years, amidst risks from geopolitical and trade uncertainty.

Hon Amy Adams: Risks of bad Government.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As a relatively small—you should leave your negativity in the caucus room, Ms Adams—open nation, we are not immune to the challenges posed by the international outlook. That’s why we’re continuing to manage the books responsibly while implementing our plan for a modern and resilient economy based on productive, sustainable, and inclusive growth.

SPEAKER: Question No. 2, the—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question. I thought they wanted to take one.

SPEAKER: The Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your consideration. Can I ask the Minister of Finance: do these stats indicate that rather than gloom and doom, so beloved of some, the economy in New Zealand is being seriously, soundly managed?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I am far too modest to respond to the second part of the member’s question, but what I can say is that this is an economy that is resilient, that is strong, and that in the face of international headwinds, this Government is committed to making sure that it’s more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive, and the management is down to everyone on this side of the House.

• Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s actions, policies, and statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that under the previous Government, job creation was at 10,000 per month, yet in the last three months, job growth has fallen by 4,000—that is, it’s gone negative?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I notice that the member has very specifically drawn on a quarter-to-quarter comparison because what he doesn’t want to say is that the unemployment rate, as it’s being announced today, is at 4.2 percent, the second-lowest level in 10 years. What he doesn’t want to say is that wages grew 3.4 percent over the year; that the underutilisation rate—again, we want to make sure that people, when they’re in employment, are working as much as they want to be working—fell to 11.3 percent, the lowest underutilisation rate since December 2008; and the NEET rate fell—not as much as we’d like, but it has fallen—and the number of employed people rose 38,200 from a year ago. The member has compared one quarter to the next because that was the only number that he felt comfortable raising in this House.

Hon Simon Bridges: So will she answer the question: does she accept that under the previous Government, job creation was at 10,000 per month, yet in the last three months, job growth has fallen—that is, has gone negative—by 4,000 people?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For the quarter, yes. However, if we’re looking at the average change in employment, it is, of course, in the positive and over 10,000. Again, I notice that the member, when he was in Government, tended not to use quarter-on-quarter either.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know that the reason Statistics New Zealand gave for the unemployment rate falling in the last quarter was because people were deciding to leave the labour force—that is, to go on a benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is actually not correct. If someone goes on a benefit, by default they are termed unemployed and would show up in the unemployment statistics, which have gone [Interruption]—if surveyed, they would indeed be regarded as unemployed, and the unemployment rate has gone down. Secondly, I also acknowledge that when the numbers came out, Statistics New Zealand said they saw a rise in men aged over—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Don’t just make it up.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —this is actually from Statistics New Zealand, Mr Brownlee, if you’d like to tune in—55 leaving the labour force in order to go into leisure time—perhaps a suggestion, Mr Brownlee.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! I think the member has a right to make a point of order.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh, I just want to express to the House how overcome I am by the kindness of the Prime Minister.

SPEAKER: Well, I thought the member was going to say he wouldn’t notice any difference.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: We really should get our two back.

SPEAKER: Fair enough—fair enough.

Hon Simon Bridges: How does she explain unemployment down but benefits strongly up?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, there’s been a variation of 0.2 percent in the benefit numbers. Again, however, when we look at the percentage of those of the working-age population receiving a main benefit, even where it is now in the March quarter, which is at 9.5 percent, that is lower than it was in every year from March 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, under the last Government. So, yes, of course we want to keep those numbers coming in a different direction, but, again—relative to the last Government—in better shape.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that under the previous Government, 60,000 people came off benefits, yet in the last 12 months, there were 13,000 more people on the benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yet, I say again, despite that, we are still at a lower rate than under the last Government. Of course we maintain the aspiration that we want to see people in work. That’s why we have Mana in Mahi, where we are supporting those who are on unemployment benefits to go into work and supporting employers to take them on in apprenticeships. That’s why we’ve got our driver-licensing scheme, where those on youth payments are eligible for free driver-licensing to help them get into work. And it’s why just this week, Ministers announced the work they’re doing with the building and construction sector. We do want people in meaningful work, and we’re taking meaningful action to make it happen.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why are there 13,000 more New Zealanders on the job seeker benefit under her watch?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I prefer to use the proportion of working-age population, but, again, even then I have said there has been a 0.2 percent increase. We have seen, according to the Ministry of Social Development, some softening in the areas around construction, from memory. So those areas where we have seen problems around our sector is where we’ve seen also job issues, and that’s why we’re doing the work to try and make sure those individuals have the skills to go into those areas of work.

Jami-Lee Ross: Why is the country still waiting for the Government’s response to the inquiry into mental health and addiction, when the Minister of Health said in November, January, and February that a response would be delivered in March, and in March he said that it would be only a few weeks away?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I did add clarity to our expectation around when that report would be released on Monday, at post-Cabinet. The Minister had indicated it would be released by the end of April. As we worked on the final response from the Government, what became apparent was that so much of the response was tied up with the Budget, and tangible announcements of our health service delivery would change under this Government. The view was that bringing closer proximity, therefore, to the actual announcements at Budget time and the Government’s response would be preferable. So we’re asking members to wait a matter of weeks.

Jami-Lee Ross: Will the Government be adopting a suicide reduction target?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I won’t make that announcement here today, but what I will highlight is one of the vexed issues that we’ve had is that on the one hand, the inquiry did recommend that a target be adopted, and on the other, the various members of this Government are on record talking about a view that of course we should have no tolerance, and targets suggest tolerance. We’ve grappled with that as a Government, but we’ll be making an announcement in its totality when the response comes out.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Government’s $1.5 billion mental health package be announced pre-Budget or on Budget day?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: All Budget announcements, of course, sit with the Minister of Finance and the Government. We don’t give time lines on what is in and what is out, and nor am I going to confirm the totality of those Budget amounts.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree that it’s a failure that the Ashburton District, with an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent, saw a 20 percent increase in the number of people on the job seeker benefit in the last year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, my preference would always be to look at some of that individual, regional data myself, because sometimes it does give us patterns around what’s happening for industry areas. Of course, we don’t wish to tolerate growth in any of those areas; that’s why we’re taking very specific initiatives in very specific regions and employment areas in order to try and turn such numbers around. I would again say, though, this is a day where we’ve, again, had the second lowest unemployment rate in a decade, matched only by the lowest in a decade, which we achieved two quarters ago. This is a time for celebration for the country, that we are doing well in the face of some international headwinds which are not positive.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With all of these questions about employment, when unemployment is at a most commendable rate of 4.2 percent, could, nevertheless, one professional position be facing unemployment?

SPEAKER: Well, there’ll be one facing underemployment.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I wouldn’t want to speculate, but given how tight the labour market is at the moment, I imagine prospects would be good, no matter where anyone went.

Hon Simon Bridges: If unemployment being down is so good, why are benefits up 13,000 people?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve given multiple answers to this question. Regardless, again, of those rationales, we are taking individual efforts to make sure that in those areas where we have job need we are matching those on a benefit in a way that we just did not see under the last Government. And that is the right approach to get our benefit numbers down.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report, due to be released on Friday, recommend the removal of most or all benefit obligations and sanctions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, I welcome the question from the member, because I’ve noticed some statements being made around sanctions which are just not accurate. There have been no changes to the sanction regime. We have, however, ensured that Work and Income is following the existing policy. So I cannot make any statements around whether or not that kind of rigour was applied to our system before, but it is being applied now. The sanctions themselves, however, have not changed. The second point is that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group—you’ll be able to discuss and debate their recommendations once they’re released.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will her Government not only “remove excessive sanctions in the welfare system” but, as the Speech from the Throne states, also “go further”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have been very open as a Government around some of the discomfort we’ve had with some of the sanctions that exist, for instance, naming of children—the penalty that applies for, particularly, women in those circumstances. That’s something we’ve been very open about. With sanctions, of course, we’ve always been mindful about the impact of them on children in particular. But again, in terms of any announcements, you’ll have to wait until the Government formalises its response.

Hon Simon Bridges: If she and her Government have made no secret of the fact that they’re uncomfortable with the sanctions and obligations, why have no changes been made, and will changes be made when the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report and the Government’s decisions come back?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I was simply flagging a particular sanction that at least Labour and the Greens have been on record on for a number of years. When it comes to announcements, the member will have to wait.

Hon Simon Bridges: So can I confirm that she is uncomfortable with the sanctions and obligations that are in place on benefits today, as she, I think, just said?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. The member completely misinterpreted my statement and he knows it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the current system and what we’ve got in place right now—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to remind the Prime Minister that she cannot accuse a member of deliberately misleading the House, and I think she just did.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she then saying that the benefit arrangements around obligations and sanctions today are fine as they are?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have not changed them—they have not been changed. We’re just making sure that Work and Income applies them appropriately.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, what’s the point of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group then?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will see the results in due course.

• Question No. 3—Veterans

3. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Veterans: What announcements has he made regarding funding for veterans’ support?

Hon RON MARK (Minister for Veterans): Last week I announced additional funding to support the well-being of veterans and their families. The funding will be used to meet ever-increasing demands for services and for new health and well-being assessments to ensure our veterans are linked into the right support services when they leave the Defence Force. I also announced additional capital funding to improve the application and IT systems at Veterans’ Affairs to make it easier to get assistance online, and to free up case managers to provide better support for more complex cases. This is on top of the extra $250,000 we allocated to the RSA, and on top of the $25,000 that we’ve allocated to the No Duff Charitable Trust.

Darroch Ball: Why are early interventions for veterans important?

Hon RON MARK: Whilst there are approximately 11,000 veterans from World War II, Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam, we now have upwards of 31,000 contemporary veterans in New Zealand—that is, people who have seen active service since 1971. Many of these vets return with service-related health and mental health issues, in particular post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Where we see severe and complex PTSD issues arise, it is paramount that they be identified as early as possible and that support is put in place to prevent self-destructive behaviours leading to self-harm and suicide. It is with all this in mind, and this Government’s particular focus on mental health and well-being, that we decided to put in the extra funding.

Darroch Ball: How much additional funding will be allocated?

Hon RON MARK: Over the next four years, there will be a $2.1 million boost in operating funding, representing a 5.4 percent increase in the current Veterans Affairs baseline. Capital funding totalling $2 million has also been allocated to overhaul Veterans Affairs’ client management structures and IT systems. It is money that will be very well spent and the changes will enhance support and services to our veterans and their families, ultimately leading to improvements in well-being and better transitioning into civilian life.

• Question No. 4—Finance

4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of the Government’s statements, policies, and actions in relation to the economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were given, made, and undertaken.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he reconcile his statement that the Government is making solid progress on improving the well-being of New Zealanders, with data out today that shows the job market now has 4,000 fewer jobs in it than it did three months ago despite our growing population—fewer jobs for more people?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I would justify that by the following statistics released today: the unemployment rate falling to 4.2 percent in the March quarter from 4.3 percent, the second lowest since December 2008; wages growing 3.4 percent over the year, on average ordinary time hourly earnings; the underutilisation rate falling to 11.3 percent, the lowest rate since the December 2008 quarter; the NEET rate falling, although we want to see it fall a bit further; and the number of employed people rising by 38,200 people from a year ago. That’s how I would justify that statement.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, has he seen reports out today from the ANZ, commenting on the latest statistics, that note that the very slight drop in the unemployment rate was only because of a decline in participation, with employment growth actually falling over the last quarter?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I’ve seen the whole statement from the ANZ, which includes the following: “The labour market is currently in good shape.”

Hon Amy Adams: Does he think that the well-being of New Zealanders has been improved by facing rents that are $50 a week higher under this Government, according to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment statistics?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I understand that for everybody who pays rent, they monitor very closely the fluctuations in rent. I can say that between February and March, the geometric mean rents—which we know we’ve covered in this House before—have, in fact, fallen.

Hon Amy Adams: Is the well-being of New Zealanders being improved by facing electricity prices up to 40 percent higher because of the Government’s renewable energy target, as confirmed by the interim Climate Commission?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise in that question.

Hon Amy Adams: Is the well-being of New Zealanders being improved, as he’s claimed, when the number of New Zealanders on a benefit has gone up by 13,000 people over the last year?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the Prime Minister has already stated, in fact, if we look at the various March years right the way back, I think, to 2014, we would see that, in fact, the working-age population on a main benefit is lower at this point than in future. But what I do want to do is thank the member for constantly referencing the well-being Budget.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it a sign that the well-being of New Zealanders is improving when the number of New Zealanders who now need emergency housing grants has gone up more than 300 percent under his Government?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I think everyone in this House shares the view that we need to do more in New Zealand to deal with the housing crisis that developed over the last decade. What this Government has done is got on with building more houses, including around 1,600 houses in the past year and 6,400 over the next four years. We are actually committed to making the changes, and we actually acknowledged that there was a housing crisis, unlike what that member did for the last nine years.

• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development

5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by his answers to oral question No. 6 on 12 March that “The test applied to determine whether a KiwiBuild underwrite should proceed is additionality” and that “I’m advised that the threshold can be met in four key ways”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, in its original context.

Hon Judith Collins: Does he have confidence additionality tests undertaken so far have been robust enough to determine whether a KiwiBuild development should proceed?


Hon Judith Collins: Has he seen any of the additionality tests that were undertaken?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Those additionality tests are carried out by officials in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and I’m advised by those officials that the test was conducted in each case.

Hon Judith Collins: Is he surprised to hear that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development have advised, when asked for a copy of additionality tests, that these tests are done verbally with builders and no written record existed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I was surprised to learn that too, but I am advised that there are other documents and that the ministry will clarify its response to the National Party research unit later today. However, the point is that KiwiBuild reduces the price paid for those houses by first-home buyers. It enables new affordable homes to be brought to the market more quickly, and our Government makes no apologies for backing builders to build more affordable homes.

Hon Judith Collins: Is it acceptable for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to be playing so fast and loose with their response as to how these sign-offs for $700 million worth of homes have been assessed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, that is a matter for the ministry, but I understand that while there is no specific single assessment document as requested by the National Party research unit, there are other documents and communications that set out the negotiations and record the ministry’s work in this area. The point is that in the case of, for example, the Mike Greer deal, 104 affordable homes will be brought to the market more cheaply and more quickly for the benefit of first-home buyers.

Hon Judith Collins: Is the quality of the response from his ministry dependent on who is asking the question?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, not at all.

• Question No. 6—Pike River Re-entry

6. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry: What actions is the Government taking to meet its pledge to re-enter the Pike River mine?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry): On Friday, 3 May, the coalition Government will start the process of re-entering the Pike River mine drift, following the tragic loss of 29 lives in the 2010 disaster. This is the first step in meeting our pledge of re-entering the drift. Re-entry will enable the thorough investigation of the drift, which will hopefully allow us to better understand what caused this dreadful loss. This will be an ongoing process, and there are still many challenges ahead. Our primary focus will always be safety, and if our commitment to safety means delays or a slower process eventually, then so be it.

Rino Tirikatene: What work has been done to ensure that Pike River can be re-entered safely?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Re-entry to the Pike River drift is a complex undertaking. This is a site which, even eight years after the explosions that caused that great loss of life, still poses significant but manageable hazards. This has required robust planning, and the Pike River Recovery Agency has done an incredible job getting ready for re-entry, along with important oversight and scrutiny from WorkSafe New Zealand. The agency has received advice from international experts and the independent ministerial adviser, Rob Fyfe, and has operated with a commitment to safety first.

Rino Tirikatene: What support has the Minister seen for the Pike River Recovery Agency’s re-entry plan?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I want to acknowledge the Pike River families for their patience and determination to see that justice is done. I’d like to acknowledge the advocacy and support of local MPs the Hon Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene, as well as the New Zealand First and Green parties for their support. I’d also like to acknowledge the Hon Mark Mitchell for his support, and I look forward to seeing him there on Friday morning.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that, as promised, the re-entry will be led by the Rt Hon Winston Peters?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! He’s not responsible for undertakings made pre-election.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unlike that questioner, I am experienced in going underground, and I’m happy to answer it myself.

SPEAKER: I’m not certain which particular Standing Order he was referring to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The one where I—

SPEAKER: Well, the member’s skating on pretty thin ice at the moment.

• Question No. 7—Police

7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Why did he say yesterday, “I have not received advice that there was a leak of top-secret information”, when the Police Commissioner has today confirmed he has directed that an investigation be commenced into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information to a media outlet, and does he now accept there has been a leak of intelligence information to the media?

SPEAKER: The Hon Stuart Nash, with the caveat that I have been warned that this answer is longer than I would normally permit.

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): I stand by my answer to the question the member put to me yesterday. He claimed the information disclosed was top secret. He was wrong—the commissioner today has stated it was, “Not top secret information”. Today, he claims it is intelligence information. The member’s statement needs a fact check. Police have not stated that intelligence information has been leaked. The original media report did not claim there had been a leak; it stated the information had been obtained [Interruption]. Police today have stated, “Information related—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. I think most members in this House will recognise that this is a very serious matter that may involve the security of individuals, or the country. The rest of this part of the answer will be heard in silence.

Hon STUART NASH: Police today have stated, “Information related to [the] ongoing investigative and prevention steps” has been allegedly disclosed. Police, and myself, do take these allegations seriously, that’s why on Monday morning I asked police to look into the media report. As I said in the House yesterday, I expect the commissioner to investigate potential breaches of operational protocol, and that is exactly what he is doing.

Chris Bishop: When was he advised that Stuff had obtained part of a confidential watch list of more than 100 people being watched by police?

Hon STUART NASH: I read a media report on Sunday, but it is not a confidential watch list of more than 100 people. The fact that police compile lists of suspects and persons of interest is not a secret. As I told this House before Easter, there are a small number of individuals who are emboldened by what occurred on 15 March and have made threats and preached racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric online and in other forums. Some of this online chatter and threats are open-source information and not gathered through covert means. They are often reported to police by responsible members of the public. As that member is aware, deleting something from Facebook or Snapchat does not mean the information goes away.

Chris Bishop: Is he saying that the reason he did not confirm to the House yesterday that there had been a leak of clearly confidential information was because the article on Stuff described the information erroneously as top secret?

Hon STUART NASH: Do not believe everything you read in the press. In fact, I think the Prime Minister should have been a 10 out of 10.

Chris Bishop: Why did he not tell the House yesterday exactly what happened to the confidential information in light of the commissioner’s words this morning: “The disclosure of this information is of significant concern to police and we are taking this matter very seriously”?

Hon STUART NASH: As I said yesterday, I expect the commissioner to investigate potential breaches of operational protocol—

Hon Amy Adams: Yesterday the Minister denied it.

Hon STUART NASH: —and that is exactly what they are doing. Yesterday, Ms Adams, I denied that there had been a leak of top secret information, and I stand by that statement.

Chris Bishop: Why, when he was told on Sunday—as he has now confirmed to the House—did he not answer the question yesterday and tell the public and the House that there had been an unauthorised disclosure of confidential information about people being monitored by police?

Hon STUART NASH: I urge that member to be very careful with his words, because allegations and false and outrageous claims can undermine the great work our New Zealand Police service is doing in keeping us safe and preventing crime.

Chris Bishop: I’ll just ask the question again, Mr Speaker: why, when he has confirmed to the House he was told on Sunday about an unauthorised disclosure of information, did he not tell the House yesterday, when given repeated opportunities, that information confidential to the police had made its way to a media outlet?

Hon STUART NASH: If I had been asked that question, maybe that member would have received that answer.

• Question No. 8—Social Development

8. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Has there been a reduction in the number of single mothers having their benefits cut for not naming the father since this Government took office?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Thank you for that question. I am pleased to say, although there have not been changes to the policy at this stage, we have seen a reduction in the number of section 192—formerly known as section 70A—deductions applied to parents who do not, or are unable, to name the other parent of their child. There has been a drop from 17,731 deductions as at March 2017 to 15,302 deductions as at March 2019. This reflects Work and Income case managers ensuring that sanctions are being applied correctly, and having conversations with clients to better understand their circumstances and situations.

Marama Davidson: Does the Minister agree that the social welfare system should value the work done by caregivers and provide support for mums struggling to get by, rather than making their lives harder with excessive sanctions?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I do agree that we should have a welfare system that is fair, accessible, and provides people with the support they are eligible for. That is why the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) started a proactive campaign in April this year to contact sole parents who currently have a section 192 deduction applied to do a full review of their entitlements. So far, 93 reviews have been completed, resulting in 23 people getting more financial support, five people having more manageable debt repayments, and 12 people having the deduction itself removed due to new information about their situation, or because they have named the other parent, and/or applied for child support.

Marama Davidson: Has any advice been provided on the impact of sanctions, particularly for children?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I have received a range of advice on sanctions, in particular on section 192. I started looking into these deductions in more detail in November 2017 and have continued to do work in this area. MSD, alongside Oranga Tamariki, also recently completed work on section 192 deductions, which will be proactively released this Friday, alongside the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report. This evidence reflects that these sanctions are not in the best interests of children, and there is no evidence that they have achieved their original objective to encourage child support applications. The previous Government received the same advice in 2016. I’ve also seen international evidence which suggests that a very harsh sanctions regime can have adverse effects that drive people away from, rather than closer to, employment.

Marama Davidson: So is the Minister concerned that, despite this reduction in numbers, there are still over 15,000 children who are missing out because of this sanction?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Yes, I am concerned about that, particularly based on the evidence I have seen, which shows that sole parents who have this deduction applied to them are one of the major groups who rely on other supplementary assistance through the welfare system. I look forward to working with our coalition and confidence and supply partners to address this.

• Question No. 9—Prime Minister

9. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Has she seen New Zealand Police evidence that New Zealanders consume around 16 kilograms of methamphetamine a week, doing $20 million worth of social harm, and what effect will the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill have on communities given that it will decriminalise personal consumption of these drugs?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: First of all, the member is incorrect in her characterisation of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MODA). There is still the ability within the legislation for an individual to be prosecuted for personal use and possession. What we have proposed is to codify what the police tell us is what they do in practice, which is to take a health-based approach for those who are caught with enough to be considered to be using for personal use. Evidence around the world suggests that a health-based approach is the best way to reduce the harm of drugs in our society that the member talks about. That means using drug and alcohol addiction services rather than prisons.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the New Zealand Drug Foundation and the Police Association, and others, who presented at the select committee this morning and who said they do not believe there will be any prosecutions for those who are using drugs?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I say, I’ve relied on the advice from the police and, of course, the likes of the Ministry of Justice. I’ve seen the Police Association’s submission very recently—happy to look at the suggestions that they have made and the points they’ve made, but, again, it is the police themselves who have suggested this would simply codify their practice in law, and this is the House that wants to base its decisions based on research and evidence. I would be very surprised if the Drug Foundation did not support that move.

Simeon Brown: Is the Prime Minister concerned about the most recent report from the Coroner that says 80 people died from synthetic drugs in less than two years, and is she committed to urgently addressing the supply of these drugs?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. That’s exactly why the misuse of drugs legislation increases dramatically the penalty for those who manufacture and supply synthetic cannabis, because we are concerned about the harm it’s doing. However, when it comes to those who are users, we do not believe that the best way to prevent their death is by arresting them and putting them in prison. Instead, we believe the best way is to make sure that they get the treatment and support they need to cease their use of dangerous drugs.

Simeon Brown: Will the Government support, at the third reading of my member’s bill today, the increasing of penalties for those found guilty of supplying dangerous psychoactive substances in order to urgently make our communities safer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, because our bill does it in a more substantive way.

Chlöe Swarbrick: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party requires that this Government treat drugs as the health issues that they are, and does she believe that this is a better approach to solving problems of addition than criminalisation?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, and all of the international evidence backs up that approach.

SPEAKER: Question No. 10, Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki—[Interruption] Order!

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, she’s arguing with me, too.

SPEAKER: Well, you’re arguing louder.

Hon Paula Bennett: That could be true.

SPEAKER: Yes, and it’s while I’m calling a member, which sort of—[Interruption] Both of you should know better.

• Question 10—Social Development

10. ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What support, if any, has the Government introduced to help families with heating costs over the winter months?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Last year, we introduced the winter energy payment, which was implement on 1 July 2018 as part of the Government’s Families Package. Single people who are eligible will receive an extra $20.46 a week and eligible couples and people with dependent children will get an extra $31.82 a week from 1 May to 1 October this year—1 May. The winter energy payment has the largest eligible population for financial support within the welfare system and benefits around 1 million New Zealanders. Under this policy, more Kiwis will receive a helping hand to keep their homes warm and dry over the coming winter months.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What feedback has she received about the winter energy payment?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Overwhelmingly, the feedback has been positive. We have had people over the year tell us what a difference this payment has made, helping them keep their homes warmer and themselves and their families healthier. Recently, I have had people write in to say that they can finally use their heating without the fears of it being unaffordable come the end of the month. Some have said that the additional support almost brought them to tears. We are proud of the impact that this payment is having for Kiwis across the country.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Why is this important?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Winter is coming. As we know, every year too many of our seniors are hospitalised due to respiratory illnesses during this period. I’ve also been told of many others in our communities on low incomes concerned about—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! At risk of wanting to show a personal interest in this, I would like to hear the answer.

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Would you like me to start again, Mr Speaker?


Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Oh, OK. I’ve also been told of many others in our communities on low incomes concerned about the cost of heating, with some seniors saying that they stay in bed all day just to keep warm during winter. That’s not right, and we can do better. The winter energy payment is a simple but important way of supporting over a million New Zealanders to keep warm and stay healthy over winter.

• Question No. 11—Education

11. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement in May last year that “In early childhood education, the average wait for help from the early intervention service is about 74 days. And in the life of a little three- or four-year-old child who’s hungry to learn, that’s 74 days too long. Today’s announcement will halve the current waiting list for services, as well as help meet future demand”; and, if so, what is the average wait [time] for help from the early intervention service today?

SPEAKER: I think there’s an extra word, but we’ll go for it anyway.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Yes. I also agree with the Prime Minister’s press release—also in May last year—that outlined that this was a four year budget and a reduction target. This acknowledged that it takes longer than a year to rebuild a workforce neglected for nine years. Currently, the average waiting times to receive support from early intervention services is 106 days.

Nicola Willis: Is the Minister confirming that despite the Prime Minister’s promise, waiting times for early intervention have increased under this Government.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I am confirming that after nine years of neglect, with no workforce planning, this Government invested $21.5 million in April last year. Since then, 120 extra specialists have been employed in specialist services. Over the four-year period of that budget, with the roll-out of the learning support delivery model, with the roll-out of learning support coordinators in 2020, to improve a system that was broken under the previous lot, yes; that is true.

Nicola Willis: Does the Minister stand by her reported statements that, “Most teachers and most parents will have not noticed a single bit of difference” and “It just hasn’t worked”; and, if so, will she take responsibility for this failure to deliver for children in need?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I stand by all the statements I make, but the reason why it hasn’t worked is the other part of the statement I made on the radio, which was, I believe, a 21 percent increase in behavioural needs, a 15 percent increase in oral language needs, and a 15 percent increase in other needs. So, unfortunately, quite rightly, $21.5 million—10 times what was previously invested over a nine-year period by the last organisation—when we started so far behind the eight ball, has not been enough; hence why this Government is rolling out the learning support delivery model across the whole of New Zealand by the end of this year. We’ll have the first tranche of 600 learning support coordinators on the ground, and the pilots tell us that when the early childhood education providers are a part of the learning support coordinator and the learning support delivery model, wait times drop. It takes a while to repair nine years worth of damage.

Nicola Willis: By what date will the Government deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to halve waiting lists for early intervention?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Recognising that that was a statement made about a four-year budget and so therefore a four-year target, recognising that there had been no workforce planning, that it takes five to seven years to train an oral language specialist, and recognising that this Government put in 10 times in one year what that Government only invested in nine years, it will take time.

• Question No. 12—Statistics

12. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Does he stand by his answer to oral question No. 12 on 12 April 2018 that “What I would say is that this census looks to be more successful than previous censuses, that we’re meeting all of our targets, and that that person, whoever wrote that article, should stop believing everything that he sees on Twitter”; and, if not, why not?

Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): I feel I covered a fair amount of territory on this topic yesterday, so I will just say yes.

Dr Jian Yang: Was The Northland Age editor Peter Jackson incorrect when he described the census as showing all the hallmarks of being a shambles, and if not, why not?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as I said the previous two times I’ve been asked about this in the House, when I said this census looks to be more successful than previous censuses, I was referring to online response rates and other targets, which at that point, Statistics New Zealand have advised me, they were on track to meet or exceed. There are significant successes with the 2018 census. The 4.7 million population count is a better count than the 2013 census. There is more comprehensive Māori ethnicity and Māori descent than ever before. Online participation was substantially higher than expected, and Statistics New Zealand is now several years ahead of their work programme that was signed off by the previous Government in the business case in 2015.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: All made up.

SPEAKER: Order! Just before the member asks his supplementary, Mr Brownlee, you are now being repetitious.

Dr Jian Yang: Does he agree with Victoria University School of Mathematics and Statistics Professor Richard Arnold’s statement on census 2018, “It is disastrous.”; if not, why not?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as I have said now several times, yes, I do disagree with that. The member and others have failed to distinguish between the outputs of the census versus the inputs of the census. We’ve always said that there were clearly problems in the field collection phase of the census, but if the member was paying attention to what the Government Statistician said this previous Monday, the output of the census is starting to look very successful indeed. There are gaps in the data, and we are working very hard to fill those gaps, but at the level of data that’s required for some of the most important uses, such as district health board funding—[Interruption] See, the issue here seems to be that the National Party are attempting to weaponise their own incompetence. I would suggest that they allow the Public Service to continue the good work that they have been doing in line with the business case that was signed off in 2015 by the previous Cabinet.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that the northernmost newspaper, The Northland Age, is pointing out the failure of an online attack with respect to the census, when there should have been a backup—and who was responsible for not getting that ready?

Hon JAMES SHAW: As I said yesterday, I am reserving my judgment on the execution of this service until I receive the report of the independent review conducted by a management consultant, Murray Jack, and the former Canadian deputy chief statistician, Connie Graziadei, which I’m expecting before July and, at that point, I will pass judgment on every aspect of the budget, including the decisions of the previous Government to conduct and fund the census the way that they did.

Dr Jian Yang: Can he explain how Census 2018 could have an optimal output but a suboptimal input?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, yes, actually, and I’m very glad that the member asked that question.

SPEAKER: I don’t know if the House is going to thank the member for asking that.

Hon JAMES SHAW: So, as the previous Government intended, what the census output includes is a mix of data that’s gathered as a result of the census forms that people participate in and a set of administrative data, the kind of data that Government collects all the time about people and that Mr Brownlee insists is made up. That kind of information is things like births, deaths, and marriages, which Mr Brownlee insists is made-up data. It includes things like ACC, which Mr Brownlee insists is made-up data. It includes things like education records, that Mr Brownlee insists is made-up data. It includes things like health information, that Mr Brownlee insists is made-up data, and that data—real data about real people—is added to the census file from the forms that are gathered during the census process. Now, the data file of 4.7 million people that the Government Statistician referred to on Monday, a more accurate file than the 2013 census, which the National Government was also responsible for, was composed 89 percent from census forms and 11 percent from administrative data. That is completely in line with the long-term transformation of the census that that Government signed off on in 2015, and you should congratulate them for their foresight.

Dr Jian Yang: Does he agree with Massey University Professor of Statistics, Professor Paul Spoonley, who said yesterday, “I think that DHBs at this point are going to be incredibly nervous about having a good census data set that tells them what sort of catchment they are working in and the needs of that catchment”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No, I do not agree. I do not agree with him, and I do not agree with him because—and I repeat—as the Government Statistician said on Monday, we have a more accurate population count file than we have ever had before. And that is the kind of information that gets used for DHB funding and electorate boundaries. And if the National Party want to continue to try and undermine—

SPEAKER: Order! I think that it now certainly meets any definition of tedious repetition.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That part of the questioning today is extremely important. The prospect of there being electoral boundaries drawn on information that many people have less than a high degree of confidence in is, I think, quite dangerous for our democracy.

SPEAKER: The member has asked the member to have an extension of time and feels like he wants to have more, I’m happy to grant Mr Brownlee his point of order and ask Mr Shaw, in fact, to start that supplementary answer again.

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, certainly. I’d be quite happy to do that—[Interruption]


Hon JAMES SHAW: —and maybe if Mr Brownlee had been paying attention, he would have understood why—[Interruption]. Well, he’s clearly not interested, so I’ll sit down. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Now, part of the problem I have is that there are a number of members who complain when the answers are extensive, and then we have very senior members on my left asking Mr Shaw to take us through it. [Interruption] Well, Mr Shaw, can you take us through it quickly.

Hon JAMES SHAW: One more time—just one more time. So, by using administrative data, Stats NZ has been able to create a data set that includes records for 4.7 million people. This is 1.2 percent lower than their estimated population for census day, compared to 2.4 percent lower in the 2013 census. Now, what Mr Brownlee is asking about is whether we can trust administrative data. What I am saying is that if he cannot trust administrative data, there is literally no data in the Government that he should ever have been able to rely on while he was a Minister in Government, because that administrative data is the kind of data that the Government collects all the time. The long-term business case that that Government signed off on in 2014 called for the increased use of administrative data over the next two or three census cycles, and what we are now doing is what that Government had planned for the 2023 census, and it is working.

Dr Jian Yang: Does he agree with Brian Easton, who described the census mess as so serious that “the response gap was so large it could make the data useless for research”?


Dr Jian Yang: Does he agree with former Labour Party president Mr Mike Williams that Census 2018 was “an industrial-strength fiasco”; if not, why not?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I didn’t agree with that the first time the member put it to me a couple of months back, and I still don’t agree with it now.

SPEAKER: Has the member finished? That concludes oral questions.

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Samoa probes cryptocurrency-linked churches

Pacific Scoop - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 5:04am

Article – RNZ

Two Samoan churches which allegedly invested in a banned cryptocurrency are being investigated for money laundering, the country’s central bank says.Mackenzie Smith

Two Samoan churches which allegedly invested in a banned cryptocurrency are being investigated for money laundering, the country’s central bank says.

The probe follows revelations by the Central Bank of Samoa on Thursday that the cryptocurrency OneCoin had “compromised” Samoa’s financial system.

The Central Bank of Samoa in the capital Apia. Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins

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Citing a report it was handed by New Zealand police, the Central Bank said OneCoin – also known as OneLife – had used two Samoan churches with branches in New Zealand and Australia to funnel millions of dollars into Samoa.

The Central Bank’s acting-governor, Gilbert Wongsin, told RNZ Pacific on Tuesday there were active investigations into the Samoa Worship Centre and the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church.

“We have liased with police in terms of the information that we have,” he said in a phone interview, adding that the probes would seek to establish whether the churches breached anti-money laundering laws in Samoa.

The Central Bank last week labelled OneCoin a “hybrid ponzi-pyramid scheme” which had implicated a number of Samoan individuals and money transfer operators. In the interview, Mr Wongsin said hundreds of Samoans had invested in OneCoin.

A pastor with the Samoa Worship Centre in Apia, Josh Seiuli, said lawyers for the church were exploring possible legal action against the Samoan government over defamation.

“Honest to god, we never done any transfer or any transfer action using Worship Centre accounts,” he said, adding that around 500 Worship Centre parishioners in Samoa had invested in OneCoin.

Mr Seiuli said most people – including himself – had not broken the law because they had invested before the Central Bank imposed a ban on OneCoin transactions last May.

An Auckland-based minister with the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church, Fa’avae Gagamoe, declined to comment.

a church roof with a cross on the peak, clear sky

Photo: RNZ/ Tracy Neal

Money laundering carries a maximum penalty in Samoa of 15 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of around $US374,000 or a combination of both.

Mr Wongsin, the Central Bank’s acting-governor, said Samoan authorities were considering possible action against OneCoin, but declined to elaborate.

The Bulgaria-based company has not responded to multiple requests for comment since Thursday but in March said transparency was one of its core values.

Mr Wongsin said authorities were also still working on what action to take against Samoans implicated in the scheme.

“It’s something that people need to have a good understanding of what it is all about. This is one of the efforts that the Central Bank is working on. To make sure that not only the people of Samoa but the financial system is not exploited.”

According to one expert, OneCoin had exploited the vulnerability of church-centred communities in the Pacific and abused the trust placed in ministers and pastors to sell their product quickly.

“In these communities there is an enhanced sense of family and community bonds and with that comes a very strong sense of trust. And of course, trust can be exploited by these scams,” said Campbell Pentney, a senior associate at Auckland law firm Bell Gully.

In interviews, Samoa Worship Centre members said before the ban was imposed the church was used to facilitate presentations from OneCoin company representatives to parishioners.

IT engineer Fono Toluono said he was a OneCoin “independent marketing associate”, or IMA, an internal qualification which enabled him to onsell the cryptocurrency.

Mr Tuluono, who has invested around $US1100 in the scheme, said he had encouraged a lot of Samoans to invest.

“I pointed the people to the website so they can sign up, because everything was on the website to buy the package.”

The pastor, Mr Seiuli, said he also assisted with congregation members who wanted to invest, including answering questions and “helping people understand more about it [OneCoin].”

He said OneCoin had not been allowed to hold presentations since the Central Bank announced its ban on the cryptocurrency.

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Announcement of new High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea

Pacific Scoop - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 4:29am

Press Release – New Zealand Government

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Phillip Taula as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea. Mr Taulas wide experience has provided superb preparation for New Zealands commitment to a fresh approach …
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Phillip Taula as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea.

“Mr Taula’s wide experience has provided superb preparation for New Zealand’s commitment to a fresh approach to the Pacific,” said Mr Peters.

“This marks our ambition and investment in the region. At the heart of our efforts is a focus on building deeper, more mature partnerships with Pacific Island countries, and supporting their independence and sustainable social and economic resilience.

“New Zealand’s relationship with Papua New Guinea is friendly and growing, with regular political consultations, a large development assistance programme, defence cooperation activities, and commercial and business links,” Mr Peters said.

Prior to his appointment Mr Taula was Divisional Manager of the United Nations Human Rights and Commonwealth Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mr Taula also served a term as Deputy Permanent Representative to New Zealand’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York during the campaign for a seat and two-year membership on the Security Council where his role involved close engagement with Pacific missions and other Small Island Developing States. Mr Taula also served as Acting Head of Mission in Suva, Fiji, from 2010 to 2013.

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Predator Cops, A Menace to Society

Pacific Scoop - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 10:37pm

Column – John W Whitehead

Predator Cops, Guilty of Sex Crimes Against Women and Children, Are a Menace to SocietySexual predation by police officers happens far more often than people in the business are willing to admit.”—Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper

How could this be happening right under our noses?

That’s what readers wanted to know after my column went viral about the extent to which young children are being bought and sold for sex in America.

Where are the police when these children—some as young as 9 years old—are being raped repeatedly?

For that matter, what is the Trump Administration doing about the fact that adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in suburbs, cities and towns across this nation?

I’ll tell you what the government is doing: little to nothing.

While America’s children are being menaced by sexual predators, the Trump Administration and its congressional cohorts continue to wage endless wars, run up the national debt, and distract the populace with vitriol and kabuki political theater.

The police are not much better.

In too many instances, the cops are worse.

Indeed, while there are certainly many good cops in this country—and I’ve had the honor of working with a number of them—the bad cops have become symptomatic of a criminal justice system that is deeply rotten through and through.

We can no longer count on police to save us from the worst in our society.

In many cases, rather than being part of the solution, America’s police forces—riddled with corruption, brutality, sexual misconduct and drug abuse—have largely become part of the problem. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “Hundreds of police officers across the country have turned from protectors to predators, using the power of their badge to extort sex.”

Let’s start with sex trafficking.

In a number of cases, victims of sex trafficking report that police are among those “buying” young girls and women for sex.

In other words, as a recent study by the State Commission on the Status of Women and Arizona State University makes clear, “victims are being exploited by the very people who are supposed to protect them: police officers.”

In New York, seven NYPD cops—three sergeants, two detectives and two officers—were accused of running brothels that sold 15-minute sexual encounters, raking in more than $2 million over the course of 13 months. Two of the cops, brothers, were charged with holding a bachelor party at one of the brothels where “they got the place for nothing and they used the prostitutes.”

In California, a police sergeant—a 16-year veteran of the police force—was arrested for raping a 16-year-old girl who was being held captive and sold for sex in a home in an upscale neighborhood.

A week-long sting in Florida ended with 277 arrests of individuals accused of sex trafficking, including doctors, pharmacists and police officers.

Sex trafficking victims in Hawaii described “cops asking for sexual favors to more coercive situations like I’ll let you go if you do X, Y, or Z for me.”

One study found that “over 14 percent of sex workers said that they had been threatened with arrest unless they had sex with a police officer.” In many states, it’s actually legal for police to have sex with prostitutes during the course of sting operations.

While the problem of cops engaged in sex trafficking is part of the American police state’s seedy underbelly that doesn’t get addressed enough, equally alarming is the number of cops who commit sex crimes against those they encounter as part of their job duties, a largely underreported number given the “blue wall of silence” that shields police misconduct.

Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper describes cases in which cops fondled prisoners, made false traffic stops of attractive women, traded sexual favors for freedom, had sex with teenagers and raped children.

Young girls are particularly vulnerable to these predators in blue.

Former police officer Phil Stinson estimates that half of the victims of police sex crimes are minors under the age of eighteen.

According to The Washington Post, a national study found that 40 percent of reported cases of police sexual misconduct involved teens. One young woman was assaulted during a “ride along” with an officer, who said in a taped confession: “The badge gets you the p—y and the p—y gets your badge, you know?

For example, a Pennsylvania police chief and his friend were arrested for allegedly raping a young girl hundreds of times—orally, vaginally, and anally several times a week—over the course of seven years, starting when she was 4 years old.

In 2017, two NYPD cops were accused of arresting a teenager, handcuffing her, and driving her in an unmarked van to a nearby parking lot, where they raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on them, then dropped her off on a nearby street corner.

The New York Times reports that “a sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio was charged with sexually assaulting the 4-year-old daughter of an undocumented Guatemalan woman and threatening to have her deported if she reported the abuse.”

One young girl, J.E., was kidnapped by a Border Patrol agent when she was 14 years old, taken to his apartment and raped. “In the apartment, there were two beds on top of the other, children’s bunk beds, and ropes there, too. They were shoelaces. For my wrists and my feet. My mind was blank,” recalls J.E. “I was trying to understand everything. I didn’t know what to do. My feet were tied up. I would look at him and he had a gun. And that frightened me. I asked him why, and he answered me that he was doing this to me because I was the prettiest one of the three.”

Two teenage girls accused a Customs and Border Protection officer of forcing them to strip, fondling them, then trying to get them to stop crying by offering chocolates, potato chips and a blanket. The government settled the case for $125,000.

Mind you, this is the same government that has been separating immigrant children from their parents and locking them up in detention centers, where they are easy prey for sexual predators. So far, the government has received more than 4500 complaints about sexual abuse at those child detention facilities.

This is also the same government that “lost” almost 1500 migrant children. Who knows how many of those children ended up in the hands of traffickers?

The police state’s sexual assaults of children are sickening enough, but when you add sex crimes against grown women into the mix, the picture becomes even more sordid.

According to The Washington Post, “research on ‘police sexual misconduct’—a term used to describe actions from sexual harassment and extortion to forcible rape by officers—overwhelmingly concludes that it is a systemic problem.”

Investigative journalist Andrea Ritchie has tracked national patterns of sexual violence by police officers during traffic stops, in addition to heightened risk from minor offenses, drug arrests and police interactions with teenagers.

Victims of domestic abuse, women of color, transgender women, women who use drugs or alcohol, and women involved in the sex trade are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault by police.

One Oklahoma City police officer allegedly sexually assaulted at least seven women while on duty over the course of four months, including a 57-year-old grandmother who says she was forced to give the cop oral sex after he pulled her over.

A Philadelphia state trooper, eventually convicted of assaulting six women and teenagers, once visited the hospital bedside of a pregnant woman who had attempted suicide, and groped her breasts and masturbated.

These aren’t isolated incidents.

According to research from Bowling Green State University, police officers in the U.S. were charged with more than 400 rapes over a 9-year period. During that same time period, 600 police officers were arrested for forcible fondling; 219 were charged with forcible sodomy; 186 were arrested for statutory rape; 58 for sexual assault with an object; and 98 with indecent exposure.

Sexual assault is believed to be the second-most reported form of misconduct against police officers after the use of excessive force, making up more than 9% of all complaints.

Even so, these crimes are believed to be largely underreported so much so that sex crimes may in fact be the number one form of misconduct among police officers.

So why are the numbers underreported? “The women are terrified. Who are they going to call? It’s the police who are abusing them,” said Penny Harrington, the former police chief of Portland, Ore.

One Philadelphia cop threatened to arrest a teenager for carjacking unless she had sex with him. “He had all the power. I had no choice,” testified the girl. “Who was I? He had his badge.”

This is the danger of a police state that invests its henchmen with so much power that they don’t even need to use handcuffs or a gun to get what they want.

Making matters worse, most police departments do little to identify the offenders, and even less to stop them. “Unlike other types of police misconduct, the abuse of police power to coerce sex is little addressed in training, and rarely tracked by police disciplinary systems,” conclude Nancy Phillips and Craig R. McCoy writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “This official neglect makes it easier for predators to escape punishment and find new victims.”

Unfortunately, this is a problem that is hiding in plain sight, covered up by government agencies that are failing in their constitutional duties to serve and protect “we the people.”

That thin blue line of knee-jerk adulation and absolute loyalty to police above and beyond what the law requires—a line frequently pushed by President Trump—is creating a menace to society that cannot be ignored.

An investigative report into police misconduct illustrates the pervasiveness of the problem when police go rogue. According to USA Today:

At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade… Officers have beaten members of the public, planted evidence and used their badges to harass women. They have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk and abused their spouses. Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds. The records of their misconduct are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside their departments. Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed. Obtained from thousands of state agencies, prosecutors, police departments and sheriffs, the records detail at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, much of it previously unreported… They include 22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation and other sexual misconduct and 2,307 cases of domestic violence by officers.

As researcher Jonathan Blanks notes, “The system is rigged to protect police officers from outside accountability. The worst cops are going to get the most protection.

Hyped up on the power of the badge and their weaponry, protected from charges of wrongdoing by police unions and government agencies, and empowered by rapidly advancing tools—technological and otherwise—that make it all too easy to identify, track and take advantage of vulnerable members of society, predators on the nation’s police forces are growing in number.

“It can start with a police officer punching a woman’s license plate into a police computer – not to see whether a car is stolen, but to check out her picture,” warns investigative journalists Nancy Phillips and Craig R. McCoy. “If they are not caught, or left unpunished, the abusers tend to keep going, and get worse, experts say.”

So where does this leave us?

The courts, by allowing the government’s desire for unregulated, unaccountable, expansive power to trump justice and the rule of law, have turned away from this menace. Politicians, eager for the support of the powerful police unions, have turned away from this menace. Religious leaders who should know better but instead have silenced their moral conscience in order to cozy up to political power have turned away from this menace.

Distracted by political theater, divided by politics, disenfranchised by a legislative and judicial system that renders us powerless in the face of the police state’s many abuses, “we the people” have also turned a blind eye to this menace.

We must stop turning away from this menace in our midst.

For starters, police should not be expected—or allowed—to police themselves.

Misconduct by local police has become a national problem. Therefore, the response to this national problem must start at the local level.

This is no longer a matter of a few bad apples.

The entire system has become corrupted and must be reformed.

Greater oversight is needed, yes, but also greater accountability and more significant consequences for assaults.

Andrea Ritchie’s piece in The Washington Post provides some practical suggestions for reform ranging from small steps to structural changes (greater surveillance of police movements, heightened scrutiny of police interactions and traffic stops, and more civilian oversight boards), but as she acknowledges, these efforts still don’t strike at the root of the problem: a criminal justice system that protects abusers and encourages abuse.

It’s difficult to say whether modern-day policing with its deep-seated corruption, immunity from accountability, and authoritarian approach to law enforcement attracts this kind of deviant behavior or cultivates it, but empowering police to view themselves as the best, or even the only, solution to the public’s problems, while failing to hold them accountable for misconduct, will only deepen the policing crisis that grows deadlier and more menacing by the day.

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More winter welfare for the wealthy

Pacific Scoop - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 9:58pm

Press Release – ACT New Zealand

Tens of millions of dollars in welfare are being given to well-off New Zealanders, revealing a Government with an unbreakable addiction to spending other peoples money, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

Tens of millions of dollars in welfare are being given to well-off New Zealanders, revealing a Government with an unbreakable addiction to spending other people’s money, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

The Government’s $1.81 billion Winter Energy Payment scheme begins again today.

“According to the last census, 9 per cent of pensioners earn more than $60,000 a year – that’s three times the level of superannuation.

“This group almost certainly doesn’t need handouts from other taxpayers but it’ll receive about $73 million nonetheless.

“Not only that, recipients don’t have to spend the Winter Energy Payment on their power bills.

“A retired couple who have done well in the property market could instead put the money towards a holiday in Fiji.

“A responsible government would target help where it is most needed. But politics is now about playing groups off against each other and buying votes with taxpayer money.

“Government spending must eventually be paid for in taxes. There is no hope for reducing the tax burden on hardworking New Zealanders unless politicians are able to break their addiction to spending other people’s money.”


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Imperial Pacific Seizes Opportunity on US Saipan

Pacific Scoop - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 9:39pm

Press Release – Asia Corporate News Network – ACN Newswire

The Phase II Project: Saipan, a precious pearl in the Western Pacific Ocean SAIPAN, N. Mariana Islands, May 1, 2019 – (ACN Newswire) – Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific, welcomed …Wednesday, 1 May 2019, 05:00 HKT/SGT

Imperial Pacific Seizes Opportunity on US Saipan to Create an ‘Ocean Miracle’

The 2019 Saipan Business Study Tour, April 15, Northern Mariana Islands

The Phase I Project: The Imperial Palace-Saipan, leisure and entertainment center

The Imperial Palace – Saipan, an integrated world-class luxury Resort & Hotel

The Phase II Project: Saipan, a precious pearl in the Western Pacific Ocean
SAIPAN, N. Mariana Islands, May 1, 2019 – (ACN Newswire) – Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific, welcomed more than 300 investment banks and senior investors from around the world on April 15, officially opening the 2019 Saipan Business Study tour.

Under the arrangements of the Northern Mariana Government Development Bureau and the Tourism Bureau, the delegation saw Saipan’s world-famous natural attractions: its topical rain forests, beautiful white sand beaches and natural coral reefs, and experienced the world’s warmest seawater (the sea water is 28 C per year).

Every attraction on Saipan has its own special history: such as well-known Forbidden Island, the world’s best deep diving Grotto Site, the best sunset observation point on Bird Island, strangely shaped Crocodile Island, and Mt Tapochau, the Marianas highest peak, and various historical memorial parks and museums.

At the same time, the delegation also visited the largest investment project in the history of Northern Mariana, an integrated leisure and entertainment project by Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd, a company listed on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx: 1076).

The Phase I project, the Imperial Palace – Saipan, a SuperStar Royal Hotel and deluxe hotel project, is fully capped, and some parts have been opened.

The Phase II project, 4,500 acres with 20 SuperStar hotel groups, the world’s largest water theme park, Asia’s largest American outlets, and Phase III projects, with MultiStar hotel groups and Saipan iconic architecture, already demonstrate Imperial Pacific’s magnificent strength and grand vision.

The conference brought together the global business elite: using a global economic concept, advanced modern urban construction, enhancing the unique value of Saipan, improving the economic ecology of Saipan and promoting economic development; intending to make Saipan a part of the United States, the modern island city with the fastest growth and economic value in tourism.

Attending the conference were Mr. Blas Jonathan Tenorio Attao, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Northern Mariana Region, the United States of America, Mr. Manuel A. Sablan, Director of the Northern Mariana Development Bureau, Mr. Mark Brown, CEO of Imperial Palace – Saipan, and Mr. Zhao Qiang, Special Commentator for the BWC Chinese Network.

Opening the conference, Mr. Blas Jonathan Tenorio Attao, speaking on behalf of the Northern Mariana governor and government, said that Saipan had an excellent investment environment, superior policies and unique natural resources, cordially inviting the investors to take part in the development.

Mr. Manuel A. Sablan spoke on the current developments in Saipan, emphasizing that Saipan had many of the world’s largest natural tourist islands. Since Imperial Pacific had invested in Saipan, the island’s tourist population and economic GDP data have grown significantly. In 2016, when US GDP grew by only 1.5%, the Northern Mariana Islands economy was ‘exploding’ at a growth rate of 28.6%. It was called ‘the miracle of the ocean’ by the economic leader Bloomberg News.

Mr. Mark Brown, CEO of the current SuperStar Hotel, the Imperial Palace – Saipan, spoke subsequently. He has been in the hospitality industry for more than 40 years; he was CEO of the Trump Hotels; he also served as president of Sands, Venetian and Four Seasons hotels in Macau; and participated in the full range of construction and opening operations here in Saipan.

Mr. Brown then explained the Imperial Pacific project in Saipan. Coming to Saipan, he emphasized, was for one reason only, that was Mr. Ji Xiaobo. With his lifelong experience, and vast resources, Mr. Brown lead the world’s best team to join him, surely making the future of Imperial Pacific a new benchmark for the global industry.

Mr. Brown also sent waves through the audience when he welcomed all: Join Saipan, Join Imperial Pacific, Join Now!

Then Mr. Zhao Qiang, Special Commentator for the BWC Chinese Network, introduced the history, current situation and future development of Saipan, as well as the progress and the grand plan for Imperial Pacific’s investment projects in Saipan; Imperial Pacific as the operator of the exclusive entertainment and holiday project on Saipan, is building the world’s top island entertainment resort complex on Saipan, integrating “Macau’s unique entertainment, Hong Kong’s shopping and Sanya’s island tour” to create a new global hotspot.

Saipan integrates “island tourism, unique entertainment and a shopping paradise” and has become the most popular tourist island in the world. As the investment operator of Saipan, Imperial Pacific focuses on the development of an international high-end leisure and entertainment industry, covering the development and operation of integrated entertainment, leisure facilities, and resorts.

At the same time, it is helping to accelerate the construction of “Belt and Road”, promoting economic prosperity and regional economic cooperation, and establishing a sound and rapidly growing economic model. While the government’s superior policy will provide a safe and sustainable development system for global investors.

Imperial Pacific will drive the economic growth and industrial expansion on Saipan and create an ‘Ocean Miracle’, which will in turn bring about higher value and stronger returns for investors.

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NZ: Journalists focusing on ‘tragedy prevention’, says CJR research

Pacific Media Watch - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 4:59pm

By Michael Andrew
AUCKLAND (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): More New Zealand journalists have been seeking ways to “prevent tragedy” through their reporting, shows new research published in Columbia Journalism Review.

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WEST PAPUA: Leader who advocated compromise with Jakarta dies

Pacific Media Watch - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 4:31pm

By Johnny Blades of RNZ Pacific
WELLNGTON (RNZ Pacific/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Franz Albert Joku, a former leading West Papuan independence campaigner who changed sides and became an Indonesian government supporter, has died in Jayapura.

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AUSTRALIA: Students gear up for first national live election broadcast with The Junction

Pacific Media Watch - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 4:17pm

MELBOURNE (JERAA/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Students enrolled in journalism programmes around Australia are working on the first national
student election broadcast for the 2019 election, underpinned by a generous contribution
from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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NZ journalists focusing on ‘tragedy prevention’, says CJR research

Asia Pacific Report - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 12:03pm

By Michael Andrew

More New Zealand journalists have been seeking ways to “prevent tragedy” through their reporting, shows new research published in Columbia Journalism Review.

The research, which analysed domestic and international coverage of last month’s Christchurch terror attacks, found that New Zealand news media preferred to focus on the victims, their relatives and the support from the community rather than the terrorist or his manifesto.

It also found that the most popular story in the week following March 15 shooting was a New Zealand Herald piece featuring “biographies of all the victims, focusing on their lives and their faith, which was shared almost 1.4 million times on Facebook”.

READ MORE: How can journalists improve diversity in the media?

“It seems, from our findings, that more journalists are stepping back from the “who, what, where, how, and why” to questions of how to prevent tragedy,” the research report said.

This contrasts with overseas coverage, especially by publications in the United Kingdom, which frequently used the terrorist’s name and discussed his ideas and manifesto.

The Daily Mail also featured the shooter’s name in headlines, published excerpts from the forum post where he announced the shooting, and showed photographs of the weapons he would use, emblazoned with names and phrases designed to promote his cause,” the research said.

However, The New Zealand Herald was found to have mentioned the terrorist’s name in almost half of its most popular stories.

No Notoriety guidelines
The research team analysed 6337 stories in 508 national-level English-language news sources in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, using a guidelines template developed by the No Notoriety media advocacy organisation.

“We found a mix of good and bad news for campaigns such as No Notoriety,” the researchers reported.

“We examined the stories we retrieved for compliance with seven guidelines, compiled from No Notoriety and other campaigns that seek to limit the amplification of terrorist acts through media.

“While media justice campaigns often seek out journalists as conduits of change, we also expanded our analysis to assess whether internet culture reflects journalistic choices about whether to list the name or ideology of the attacker.”

The research team coded for compliance with the following best practices:

  • Don’t publish the shooter’s name.
  • Don’t link to or publish the name of the forum that the shooter posted on to promote the attacks.
  • Don’t link to or publish the name of the shooter’s manifesto.
  • Don’t describe or detail the shooter’s ideology.
  • Don’t publish or name specific memes linked to the shooter’s ideology.
  • Don’t refer to the shooter as a troll or his actions as trolling.
  • Follow the AP (Associated Press) guidelines for using the term “alt-right” (contain it within quotation marks or modify it with language such as “so-called” or “self-described”)

The research team authors were Jason Baumgartner, Fernando Bermejo, Emily Ndulue, Ethan Zuckerman and Joan Donovan, all members of the International Hate Observatory project hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.

Historical coverage
The research comes at a time when New Zealand media have been under scrutiny for “negative coverage” of Muslims prior to the Christchurch attacks.

A 2018 research paper in Pacific Journalism Review entitled Representations of Islam and Muslims in New Zealand Media found a clear link between Islam and terrorism in New Zealand media articles.

Khairiah Rahman … representations of Islam research. Image: Khairiah Rahman/AUT

Of the 14349 stories featuring Islam, 90 percent also mentioned either Islamic jihad or Islamic terrorism.

The research also found many stories about Islam lacked the voice of the Muslim subject and were written in a way that created “suspicion or fear.”

The paper’s author, Khairiah Rahman, told Pacific Media Watch it was essential for journalists to engage in dialogue with their story subjects to adequately convey their voice and avoid misrepresenting them.

However, she said the New Zealand media had done excellent work covering the Muslim community since the Christchurch attacks.

“I think we’ve improved a lot since then,” she said.

“There’s been a huge wake up call.”

Categories: PMC network

West Papuan leader who advocated compromise with Jakarta dies

Asia Pacific Report - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 9:43am

By Johnny Blades of RNZ Pacific

Franz Albert Joku, a former leading West Papuan independence campaigner who changed sides and became an Indonesian government supporter, has died in Jayapura.

Joku, who also worked as a journalist in Melanesia for many years, controversially advocated autonomy for Papua within Indonesia rather than independence. He died on Sunday aged 66 after illness linked with heart disease and kidney failure.

He was a prominent landowner from Sentani and formerly the spokesman for the Papua Presidium Council which galvanised momentum in the West Papuan independence struggle at the turn of the century.


But the “Papua Spring” was short-lived, while the Presidium lost ground after Indonesian military special forces assassinated its charismatic leader Theys Eluay.

Although a key supporter of Eluay, Franzalbert Joku eventually threw his support behind the Special Autonomy Status which Indonesia granted to Papua in 2001 in response to the demands for independence.

After fleeing Indonesian rule in his homeland as a younger man, Joku returned for good in 2008.

He became a frequent representative of Indonesia’s government on West Papua matters at regional fora such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Forum.

Gifted orator
A gifted orator with extensive links in the region, Franzalbert Joku came to the conclusion that independence was not a realistic option, and that Papuans should focus their energies on being part of the Indonesian state.

“Now I say this without meaning to undermine my brothers and sisters who are still out there in the jungle or in other countries advocating outright independence,” he told RNZ Pacific in 2015.

“I just look at the issues and try to place them within the context and try to look at what options are within the realm of possibilities.”

Joku’s shifting of allegiances made him a distrusted figure among many in the West Papuan independence movement.

But when asked last year in his last interview with RNZ Pacific about whether Papua should have independence, Joku said a “deeper look at the issues” was required.

“Independence, for some of us, doesn’t mean an instant action of declaring a sovereign nation,” he said.

‘More a value’
“I think it’s more a value. In order to find that value of freedom, of being independent, it is a continuing process.

“I differ between being an independent, sovereign nation of Papua, than being free and well-off economically, socially within a government structure that is in existence today,” he explained.

“Like in any other political processes, you can never win outright. You always end up with political compromise.”

“Special Autonomy, however imperfect and incomplete it may be, is an acceptable political compromise, and we need to grab hold of it earnestly, and make it serve our interests.”

This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

Categories: PMC network

Students gear up for first national live election broadcast with The Junction

Asia Pacific Report - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 9:00am

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Students enrolled in journalism programmes around Australia are working on the first national
student election broadcast for the 2019 election, underpinned by a generous contribution
from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

Academics from more than 20 universities – many of them also seasoned journalists – are
guiding students in their coverage of the national election with stories on targeted
electorates being published on The Junction.

Student reporters are also preparing for a live television program, Election 2019, broadcast
on Melbourne-based community TV station Channel 31 from 6 pm (AEST) on May 18.

READ MORE: About The Junction student journalism mission

The Junction … the best of student journalism. Image: JERAA

Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre is also a partner in The Junction, with students providing coverage of the recent general elections in Fiji and the Solomon Islands, and the independence referendum in New Caledonia.

The Australian Election 2019 TV programme will be relayed to Adelaide and Perth, as well as CBAA’s network of radio stations.

Their stories and pre-election training materials are also being livestreamed via The
Junction’s Facebook page.

The Junction is a project of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA).

Website coverage
The Junction
editor, Associate Professor Andrew Dodd of the University of Melbourne, is overseeing the website coverage, while the television coverage is being led by Phil Kafcaloudes of RMIT.

The Junction allows university journalism schools in Australia and the Pacific to work together on all sorts of reporting projects,” Dr Dodd said.

“Our 2019 election coverage demonstrates how we collaborate to bring new perspectives to
important topics for the benefit of student reporters and public audiences.”

President Dr Alex Wake said the project showed the collegiality of Australian journalism

“JERAA’s number one aim is to raise the standard of teaching in journalism in Australia, and
what better way to teach students than by producing important stories in a live-to-air
format for television and online.”

The programme will be hosted by two students, Rachel Merritt from RMIT University and Ari
Balle-Bowness from Griffith University, alongside experienced television guest
commentators Paul Strangio and Mary Delahunty.

Experienced TV guidance
The television producers and crew are also students, working under the guidance of experienced production staff in RMIT’s studios in Melbourne.

Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie praised The Junction initiative and said it was a welcome platform to showcase the work of the centre’s postgraduate students in the Asia-Pacific region and to support the PMC’s collaboration with the University of the South Pacific, especially on political reportage and climate change.

“It would be great to see some other New Zealand journalism schools also joining The Junction,” he said.

Categories: PMC network