Yes to snuffing but no to puffing: topping ourselves (voluntarily) is approved but going to pot (legally) is vetoed

Until yesterday there had been only three pronouncements from The Beehive since Election Day, October 17. 

One of those had been jointly made by Winston Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ron Mark as Minister of Defence, presumably a last-gasp announcement before they are despatched to the political wilderness at least for three years. It regarded a third P-3 deployment of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea.

What flowed yesterday – compared with what had dribbled out during an ominously quiet post-election fortnight – was something of a flood.  Two ministerial press statements (as distinct from party ones) in one day.   

The Point of Order Beehive Monitor was caught by surprise.

One of these statements emerged in the name of Justice Minister Andrew Little, who dutifully acknowledged the provisional results of the two referendums voted on in the 2020 General Election.

Besides deciding who should govern us for the next three years, New Zealanders had been asked if they supported two bits of legislation coming into force –  

  • The proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, and
  • The End of Life Choice Act 2019.

On provisional results, the electorate has given the thumbs up to snuffing but not puffing:  a majority of voters approved the End of Life Choice Act (which will give people with a terminal illness the option of receiving assisted dying) but stymied the passage of the the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill (which would enable the government to control and regulate cannabis and proposes rules for growing, selling, buying, and consuming cannabis).  .

Little explained that the End of Life Choice Act has gone through the parliamentary process and been given Royal Assent.  Hence it will come into effect 12 months from the final results – on 6 November 2021.

He reminded us (especially those with an urge to exercise the right to seek medical assistance in shuffling off into the Hereafter) that assisted dying remains illegal in New Zealand until 6 November next year.  The Act will be administered by the Ministry of Health.

But the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill will not be introduced as legislation by the Labour Government this term.

Subject to the release of the final results on 6 November, the incoming government will respect the result of both referendums. This will mean that recreational cannabis use will remain illegal in New Zealand.

Final referendum results are due to be released next Friday with the official election results.

More information on the End of Life Choice Act can be found at www.referendums.govt.nz

The other announcement yesterday came from Chris Hipkins, perhaps his last as Minister of Health.  We hear he would rather shake off the demanding health chunk of his ministerial workload.

What he had to say invites a question: why has it taken so long for the government to get around to doing something that obviously needs doing and to plug yet another gap in its (and our) border defences. 

Curiously, the language employed by Hipkins suggests the gap isn’t being plugged in a desperate hurry.  He said:

The Government is moving to provide further protection against the chance of COVID-19 entering New Zealand through the maritime border. 

He reinforced the impression there is no urgency in the next sentence of the press statement: 

“Yesterday I instructed officials to consult with the maritime sector around tightening of the requirements for international maritime crew entering the country.”

Hipkins then spelled out the objective:    

 “Ultimately, this will mean mandatory testing for all replacement maritime crew arriving in New Zealand, regardless of the time they spend in transit. This will begin from next week, with any maritime crew in managed isolation for more than 24 hours getting a COVID-19 test.

“At the same time we will also test maritime crew departing New Zealand, providing end to end protection in this area.”  

Are there other gaps in our border defences?

He seemed to be conceding there may be more gaps while assuring us the defences are robust and secure:   

“Our current border requirements have served us well, with recent cases quickly detected and contained – but there is no room for complacency. As our knowledge of COVID-19 grows, we are always looking for potential improvements.”

Hipkins proceeded to explain the implications for the workers affected:  

“The Government recognises mandatory testing may present some challenges for the maritime sector. Officials will continue to work with key stakeholders to ensure these new measures do not disrupt supply chains or put undue pressure on our managed isolation facilities.

“This new requirement is a strong, yet carefully considered change which ensures that our maritime border is safe, and that to the greatest extent possible we reduce the risk of COVID-19 being spread, while also protecting our economy.”  

Hipkins said the government also is taking further steps to ensure the Ministry of Health’s infection prevention and control guidelines are being followed consistently.

This suggests they are not being followed consistently now. 

“These changes balance the need to keep COVID-19 out at the border, while at the same time protecting the supply chain in order to ensure the flow of import and export goods to and from New Zealand,” Chris Hipkins said.

Latest from the Beehive

30 OCTOBER 2020

Government’s response to preliminary referendums’ results

Minister of Justice Andrew Little has acknowledged the provisional results of the two referendums voted on in the 2020 General Election.

New testing requirements for international maritime crew arriving in NZ

The Government is moving to provide further protection against the chance of COVID-19 entering New Zealand through the maritime border. 

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