Submissions on petition to reverse convictions for consensual homosexual acts close tomorrow

Bert and Ernie

Submissions on a petition in front of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee to reverse past convictions for consensual homosexual acts and issue an official apology to those convicted close tomorrow (Thursday 6 October 2016).

You can submit online here.

My submission:

I support this petition to reverse the convictions of people who were convicted of consensual homosexual acts and for the Government to officially apologise to them.

I strongly disagree with Justice Minister Amy Adams who has said that the process would be a hugely complicated task. It would not be onerous for the Government to set up a process to proactively review conviction files to void convictions for consensual acts which would be legal today.

Implementing the above would work towards restoring the human rights of those whose mana and dignity has been tarnished.

Image credit: See-ming Lee

Minister Peter Dunne’s Uber expenses actually for luxury car service

The Office of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Peter Dunne, has confirmed that two trips declared as Uber rides in Minister Dunne’s international travel reconciliation form for a trip to the United States were actually for a luxury car service.

A staffer writes that the transactions to Kelley’s Luxury Car Service “were mislabelled [as Uber rides] on the expense form due to a case of mistaken identity of the company involved”.

The two trips between Newark Liberty International Airport and “accommodation in New York for Ministerial staff while on ministerial business” cost USD $92 and USD $102.

Uber estimates that an uberX fare between Newark Liberty International Airport and a Midtown hotel, The Westin New York Grand Central (where Minister Nicky Wagner stayed while in New York), would cost between USD $43 and USD $50. It is unclear which hotel Minister Dunne stayed at.

Uber fare estimate between Newark Liberty International Airport and The Westin New York Grand Central

University of Canterbury must improve crisis student communication and support

Need help? In New Zealand, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, Youthline on 0800 37 66 33 or find out about other crisis services here.

Student communication

University of Canterbury James Hight libraryOn 22 July 2016 a woman was sexually assaulted while walking through the University of Canterbury owned Ilam Fields.

In response to a request from the Police, who informed UC Security of a “physical assault”, an email was sent to all students that day.

On 24 July 2016 a reporter from The Press contacted the University in response to the Police releasing a statement to the media. The Police told The Press that the assault was actually a sexual assault, and this fact was published in an article that day. In response to an Official Information Act request, most of which was initially declined, the University said that “the Police appeared not to have told the University of the sexual nature of the incident before telling the media”.

However, the University did not inform students of the sexual nature of the incident after it became public knowledge. The assault was alluded to in a 28 July UC blog post, which included 10 ’safety and security tips’ and a list of ’support for students’ links, including a link to the UC Health Centre. This content was also included in the next edition of the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’, a weekly digest sent to all students, on 31 July.

Last night a student died suddenly at the Rochester and Rutherford Hall of Residence.

The death has been reported as sudden and not suspicious, often used by the media as code for a suspected suicide.

UC acting vice-chancellor, Dr Hamish Cochrane was quoted by the media as saying “all the university’s students and staff were advised [Sunday], and made aware of the support available”.

Communication to students consisted solely of a UC blog post listing four UC support services that are available to students, including the UC Health Centre. Links to blog posts appear for a few days in the sidebar of Learn, UC’s online learning management system which is regularly accessed by students and staff. However, no email was sent to students, and there was no acknowledgment that a student had died.

Late on Sunday night, a link to the blog post was included in the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’ emailed to students.

UC Health Centre Counselling under pressure

Students are struggling to access support.

The UC Health Centre provides free counselling to UC students, however their website states that counselling appointments “are in high demand [and] you may have to wait a few weeks to be seen”. During office hours there is an on-call counsellor to deal with students facing an “emergency situation”.

During this year’s UCSA elections one group of candidates asked students on Facebook which one out of four campaign policies they thought was most important. “Increased mental health awareness and support” was voted second. In response to a question asking how the UCSA should help support those with mental health issues, students voted overwhelmingly for “increased health centre funding for more counsellors”.

Students wanting to skip the UC Health Centre counselling waiting list could choose to pay for sessions with a private counsellor or psychologist. Students may be eligible for the disability allowance, however there are restrictions, including a maximum payment of $61.69 a week (appointments with private psychologists can cost $150 or more).

Submission on the Bill extending benefit sanctions to people serving community sentences

Stacks of coins

My submission on the Social Security (Stopping Benefit Payments for Offenders who Repeatedly Fail to Comply with Community Sentences) Amendment Bill:

This Bill would extend the sanction regime to people on benefits who have a community sentence and who fail to comply with that sentence.

I note that section 186 does not give those people already on community sentences a grace period before this sanction can be applied to them.

This Bill highlights failures in the New Zealand justice system and does not address the underlying causes of non-compliance with community sentences.

A very concerning part of this Bill is that it would negatively affect children. If the Ministry of Social Development knows a child is dependent on the person whose benefit they propose to cut, the benefit can still be cut, but “only” by half. On the levels that benefits currently are, cutting a benefit in half will still be devastating for a family, and for the welfare of a child.

A person’s benefit can be restarted if they start to comply with the community sentence, but it’s unclear how they will be able to comply with their sentence if they have no money for transport. They might also not have money for food, rent, power or health costs – things that we recognise as minimal entitlements of prisoners. This Bill might push vulnerable people to committing petty crime in order to survive.

Our social security legislation should be a safety net. This Bill will further erode that. It will not make a positive difference to people or to society. It will not “rescue” people from their situation. It will not rehabilitate them. It will not increase public safety.

The Department of Corrections should be given more resources to take practical steps to address non-compliance. This Bill is not one of them.

Image credit: Nathaniel_U

No money spent by airports on ‘lost luggage’ auctions

Airport passengers with luggage

Last month the member’s bill of Nuk Korako, a National Party list MP, was drawn from the ballot. The Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill will replace, in relation to the advertisement of lost property auctions: “the insertion of suitable advertisements in a newspaper circulating in the district where the airport is situated” with “publicising the sale in what the authority considers to be a fair and reasonable manner”.

The Bill is unnecessary

The explanatory note to the Bill says that it “would allow authorities to use modern means of communication as well as future, unforeseen, means of communications as the airport authority may determine fit.” This isn’t true. The current Airport Authorities Act does not restrict airports from advertising any auction in new media. If airports wanted to advertise their auctions on their website, Facebook, or Snapchat, there would be nothing stopping them.

The Airport Authorities Act only provides a suggested template for what airports may wish to include in any bylaws they create. The Act states:

any local authority or airport authority may, in respect of the airport which it operates, make such bylaws as it thinks fit for all or any of the following purposes:



(ff) providing for the establishing and maintaining of facilities at the airport for the reception and storage of lost property, and, after the insertion of suitable advertisements in a newspaper circulating in the district where the airport is situated, providing for the sale by way of auction of any such property that is unclaimed after being held by the authority for not less than 3 months:


provided that in the case of lost property which is perishable or valueless the bylaws may provide for the disposal of the property in such manner as may be determined by the authority

This does not mean that airports must have this as a bylaw. Many airports do not have any bylaws at all. Hawke’s Bay Airport has a lost property bylaw, however it only requires that those finding lost property hand it in.

It follows that if an airport does have a clause requiring the advertising of a lost property auction in a local newspaper, for example, Auckland International Airport, amending the Airport Authorities Act will not change that bylaw. The airport would have to have the bylaw changed, which could happen even if Mr Korako’s Bill does not pass.

Airport lost property auctions are rare and advertising them is free

I asked eight airports how much money they spent on advertisements for lost property auctions within the last year. Of the six that replied, only one airport, Dunedin Airport, has held an auction and placed an advertisement for it in the last year. The cost to them? $0. The Otago Daily Times doesn’t charge them.

The responses from the airports are below this post.

Airports don’t care

Airports don’t have an issue with this part of the Airport Authorities Act. The Ministry of Transport did not receive any submissions on this part when they were reviewing airport legislation.

In any case, minor and technical changes to acts can be made through the annual Statutes Amendment Bill.

To be fair, Mr Korako isn’t solely to blame. Minister Simon Bridges had the opportunity to include this Bill as part of the Ministry of Transport’s review of the Airport Authorities Act, but chose not to. It’s more convenient for the government that Mr Korako’s bill reduces the chance an opposition member’s bill will be drawn.

A similar bill that should be included in the Statutes Amendment Bill instead of taking up Parliament resources is Matt Doocey’s Companies (Annual Report Notice Requirements) Amendment Bill which also was recently introduced to Parliament.

The government wants to block bills from opposition members that might make them confront difficult issues that aren’t on their agenda. This Bill is a waste of Parliament’s time and resources, and as Andrew Geddis said, we, as New Zealanders, deserve better.

Airports respond

Queenstown Airport

Queenstown Airport has a bylaw that covers lost property, however it has not held an auction within the last year, instead it has donated property to the Salvation Army. The property was not of significant value and included: second-hand clothing, sunglasses, reading glasses and books.

Christchurch International Airport

Christchurch International Airport has a bylaw that covers lost property, however the airport has not placed any lost property auction advertisements within the last year.

Dunedin Airport

Dunedin Airport is the only airport that replied that has placed an advertisement for a lost property auction within the last year. They are not charged for placing the advertisements, which run in the Otago Daily Times.

Their policy is to advertise lost property twice in the Otago Daily Times with all property being held for at least three months before being auctioned. Any remaining property is donated to charity. Any valuable item or identity documents are handed to the airport police

The Airport provided an example of an advertisement they have recently run.

Invercargill Airport

Invercargill Airport has not placed an advertisement for a lost property auction within the last year. They donate lost property to charity or give it to the police.

Invercargill Airport does not have a bylaw relating to lost property. They have a lost property policy from 2012, and a draft replacement policy written in 2015 that has not been approved.

Hokitika Airport

Hokitika Airport has not received any lost property since 2002. They have no written policy on lost property. In practice, any lost property is handed to Air New Zealand staff as it likely belongs to one of their passengers or someone accompanying one of their passengers and Hokitika Airport staff are not present at the airport on a regular basis.

Hawke’s Bay/Napier Airport

Hawke’s Bay Airport has a bylaw relating to lost property, however the bylaw does not cover the disposal or auction of that property.

They have not placed an advertisement for a lost property auction within the last year.

Auckland and Wellington International Airports

Auckland and Wellington airports are not subject to the Official Information Act. Auckland International Airport reportedly donates at least some lost property to charity. Wellington International Airport passes valuables to the police.

Nelson and Palmerston North Airports

Nelson and Palmerston North airports did not respond to an Official Information Act request within the statutory timeframe.

Image credit: Monika

Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne incorrectly declared Ministerial credit card transactions as Uber rides

Hon Peter Dunne
Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs

On 18 August the Department of Internal Affairs proactively released Ministerial credit card statements and reconciliations for the previous quarter.

Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs, made two payments on his Ministerial credit card in April while on official travel in New York through the payment processor Square. Square is a service designed for individuals or businesses to accept payments through an application on a phone or tablet. The payments were for the equivalent of NZD $137.56 and $152.69.

These were declared in his international travel reconciliation form as payments for Uber taxis.

The receipts for these transactions show these were clearly payments through Square, and not payments for Uber rides.

Receipts for Uber rides are sent by Uber and look very different to the receipts provided by Mr Dunne. Uber receipts include details of the pickup and destination locations, miles, and trip time.

Mr Dunne’s office refused to comment on what the payments were for, stating questions asked would be responded to in accordance with the Official Information Act.

Image credit: New Zealand Tertiary Education Union

MOH recommends HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men, but PHARMAC doesn’t fund it

Vaccine vial
Not the HPV vaccine

Update 30 May 2016: PHARMAC is currently consulting on a proposal to widen funding for the HPV vaccine to everyone under the age of 26.

PHARMAC currently funds the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for all girls under 20. The intention is that through ‘herd immunity’, males will be protected too. However, herd immunity does not help males who exclusively have sex with other males (and herd immunity doesn’t kick in for males at all until female vaccination rates are above a certain percentage).

The Ministry of Health’s Immunisation Handbook even recommends the HPV vaccine (and the Hepatitis A vaccine) for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are at higher risk for HPV infection, anal cancer and high-grade anal intraepithelial neoplasia. They are more likely to acquire HPV compared to other males. But they’d need to pay around $500 to buy the vaccine’s three doses themselves.

In August 2013, the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee recommended that the HPV vaccine for males aged between 9 and 26 years who self-identify as having sex with other males be listed in the Pharmaceutical Schedule (aka funded) with a high priority.

The application’s status is now ‘ranked’, which PHARMAC describes as “prioritised; PHARMAC has assessed the application and has ranked it against other funding options”. It has had this status since November 2013, well over two years.

It is preferable to vaccinate people at a younger age to reduce the chances of exposure to HPV strains prior to vaccination–the younger people are vaccinated, the stronger the immunogenicity. PHARMAC sitting on this means that for some people the vaccine will be less effective when it is eventually funded than if they received it today.

The Human Rights Act 1993 is meant to protect New Zealanders against this sort of discrimination, but it would be much easier if PHARMAC just did the right thing.

Below: PHARMAC’s response to an Official Information Act request on this topic. The funding of medicines is a numbers game so naturally all mentions of relevant dollar figures have been redacted by the agency.

In the interests of full disclosure, I filed a Human Rights Commission complaint about this issue last year.