Hurrah for self-identification – already we can change our gender and in the UK we can change our race, too

Legislators who are being pressed to change discriminatory laws  – including a measure enabling people to choose the gender recorded on their birth certificates –  should brace for a fresh wave of agitation.

It’s the notion that people should be allowed to choose their race as well as their gender.

University staff and students in Britain have been told they can choose if they are black, white or any other race as well as their gender and whether they are disabled.

The decision was made by the University and Colleges Union, which represents researchers, teaching staff and lecturers.

Its latest report says:

“Our rules commit us to ending all forms of discrimination, bigotry and stereotyping.

“UCU has a long history of enabling members to self-identify whether that is being black, disabled, LGBT+ or women.” Continue reading “Hurrah for self-identification – already we can change our gender and in the UK we can change our race, too”

Brexit and the popular vote – a lesson in folly that should steer NZ First away from facile referenda

Veteran journalist David Barber, a champion of  voluntary euthanasia, and Ken Orr, spokesman for Right to Life, have found common ground.  Both agree that our elected politicians should not be passing the buck on the End of Life Choice Bill to a referendum.

They question the need for a binding referendum being held at the 2020 general election, if the contentious End of Life Choice Bill is passed at its third reading on November 13.  This is the consequence of the nine MPs of NZ First pledging to support the third reading of the bill on the condition that Parliament votes to support its supplementary order paper requiring such a referendum.

But the Brexit shambles in Britain provides ample evidence that a referendum can undermine a democracy rather than buttress or strengthen it.

The shambles is the subject of an article, headed Brexit is putting parliamentary democracy in question, recently published by the European Council on Foreign Relations, an international think-tank.  

It begins:

“Brexit may well become a textbook example of the damage that a referendum can wreak on parliamentary democracy.” Continue reading “Brexit and the popular vote – a lesson in folly that should steer NZ First away from facile referenda”

What’s up, doc? Oh, a sharp difference of opinion on legislation to help the terminally ill

Deep divisions in the medical community have become apparent as David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill is about to return to Parliament – on Wednesday next week – for what promises to be a tortuous clause-by-clause third reading debate.

A group of doctors who support the Bill – which would allow the terminally ill to get  medical assistance to end their suffering – this week accused the New Zealand Medical Association of ignoring international evidence on the issue in favour of “conservative cultural and personal beliefs”.

In a letter to NZMA chair Dr Kate Baddock, the group accused the six-member NZMA board, which opposed the Bill in submissions to the justice select committee, of ignoring international “disciplined, rational, evidence-based scientific medicine” on the issue.

“As such you and the board could be accused of being no more advanced than the ‘anti-vaxers’ or the ‘anti-1080 lobby’, whose beliefs cannot be impinged upon by science, fact or rational thinking,” the letter said.

It was signed by Dr Miles Williams, cardiologist, of Hastings, and 18 other practising and retired doctors. Continue reading “What’s up, doc? Oh, a sharp difference of opinion on legislation to help the terminally ill”

The Treaty is called on to be made relevant to whatever issue a government wants – this time, with plant varieties and IP

The remarkable elasticity of the Treaty of Waitangi is again being demonstrated in government proposals to insert a Treaty clause in the Plant Varieties Act.

Intellectual Property Office consultations on the issue wrap up on Wednesday.

An attempt to mollify Maori with a Treaty clause was portended in September last year when Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi released an issues paper for public consultation on New Zealand’s plant variety rights law, which regulates intellectual property protection over new plant varieties.

Faafoi released the paper while attending the Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho Conference, which provided a platform for attendees to lament it had been 25 years since the Mataatua Declaration (on the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples) was developed.  It was 26 years since the WAI-262 Indigenous Flora and Fauna Waitangi Tribunal Claim was lodged and seven years since the Tribunal released its Ko Aotearoa Tēnei report on the claim. Continue reading “The Treaty is called on to be made relevant to whatever issue a government wants – this time, with plant varieties and IP”

Calling for Bills to be read aloud is one stalling tactic – and in NZ we should brace for Maggie’s amendments

A reform bill aimed at further regulating the fossil fuel industry was seen as a certainty for passage in the American state of Colorado, where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office.

But wait.  Republicans, historically supported by the gas and oil industry and determined to stall its enactment, invoked a rule which entitles them to ask for bills to be read aloud on the Senate floor.

They used this device to require the reading aloud of a 2,000-page bill (unrelated to the energy bill).  It was estimated the reading would take some 60 hours.

Democrats read for nearly four hours before coming up with a plan:  they used five laptops to read the bill at an incomprehensible 650 words a minute, completing the task in a single day.

You can check out the incomprehensible consequences on YouTube. Continue reading “Calling for Bills to be read aloud is one stalling tactic – and in NZ we should brace for Maggie’s amendments”

Now that ‘binding’ has been defined (sort of), let’s anxiously wait for the meaning of ‘hate speech’

The Government seemed to be in a bind about the cannabis referendum to be held at the general election next year.  The dilemma was about whether the referendum should be binding.

Referencing a leaked cabinet paper, National Party drug reform spokeswoman Paula Bennett threw doubt on how binding the referendum would be. 

National declined to release the paper to protect the source (something of an impediment when it comes to establishing the credibility of claims against political opponents) but said only one of four referendum options due to be discussed by Cabinet yesterday might compel the Government to act on the outcome.

The other three possibilities would not be technically “binding” because the government would not be obliged to act on them. Continue reading “Now that ‘binding’ has been defined (sort of), let’s anxiously wait for the meaning of ‘hate speech’”

Assisted dying: professor advises against snuffing reform today from fear of what legislators might do in the future

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis highlighted important realities about law-making in a response to Maxim Institute chief executive Alex Penk’s  concerns about the End of Life Choice Bill currently awaiting a second reading in Parliament. T

Some of Penk’s concerns are misplaced, Geddis said.  Others are missing some important context.

Penk’s article, headed MPs should examine facts on euthanasia, rather than crystal balls, notes that David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill – if it passes the parliamentary process – is likely to require a referendum at the 2020 general election.

In other words, the public will get to decide on the legalising of euthanasia and assisted suicide.  This should take care of the doubts Penk raises about the extent of public support for voluntary euthanasia.

But another of Penk’s problems is that the public haven’t been given good information.

Continue reading “Assisted dying: professor advises against snuffing reform today from fear of what legislators might do in the future”