Girls, Not Brides

Girls Not Brides - end child marriage now graphic

My submission on the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit on this Bill.

I agree that this Bill is a good first step, however it does not go far enough and should be amended to ban all forms of child marriage and civil unions. The legal minimum age of marriage and civil union should be 18 with no exceptions. This includes no exceptions due to judicial or parental consent.

I study a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Laws.

As a young person, I think it is important that the voice of youth is taken into account during the Select Committee process at all times, but especially when issues relating to young people are being debated and discussed.

We set legal ages for many activities. When someone is 16 they can’t vote, they can’t get their full driver licence, they can’t buy alcohol or cigarettes, they can’t apply for a credit card, they can’t buy Instant Kiwi scratchies, and they can’t gamble in a casino. We set these limits because we are conscious of the development stages of children.

A non-government organisation’s name states this bluntly. These are Girls, Not Brides. Their ‘Role of Parliamentarians’ report is attached.

Sustainable Development Goals

New Zealand has agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve target 5.3 this Bill must be amended to ban all marriage for children under 18, with no exceptions.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the successor of the Millennium Development Goals and are intended to determine national and international development priorities up to 2030. There are 17 goals and 169 targets and one of them relates to child marriage.

All United Nations member states pledged their support toward achieving target 5.3, which is to end child marriage. Ending child marriage will contribute to achieving eight of the Sustainable Development Goals.

To be clear: New Zealand will not end child marriage by 2030 unless the practice is completely prohibited – this means there can be no loopholes such as obtaining judicial approval.

This Bill is the perfect opportunity to implement target 5.3 through an amendment that will prohibit child marriage entirely.

The Rights of the Child

The Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child recommends that the minimum age of marriage be 18 years.

Child marriage affects the rights of children, especially girls’ right to health, education, equality, and the right to live free from violence and exploitation.

Child marriage increases health risks.

For girls it encourages the start of sexual activity when they are still developing and when they might not know as much about their rights and sexual and reproductive health. Girls in a child marriage are forced to negotiate safe, consensual sex with usually much older husbands.

They are under social pressure to prove their fertility and so are more likely to experience early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies with an increased risk of pregnancy-related issues.

Girls married before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence than unmarried peers and to report that their first sexual experience was forced. Child brides more likely to believe that a man is sometimes justified in beating his wife compared to women who marry later.

A rubber-stamping process

My preference is for this Bill to be strengthened so that no marriages of children under 18 occur.

However, if the judicial consent avenue is taken the process needs to be strengthened.

  • From watching the speeches at the first reading of this Bill, it seems clear that the intention of the Bill is to reduce the number of these marriages, however the Bill provides no criteria for Family Court judges considering an application from a 16-17-year-old to take into account.
  • The Bill does not empower judges to seek funded expert reports, such as psychologist or cultural reports, or to order funded counselling. A lawyer for child should be appointed and reports such as cultural, medical, psychiatric, and psychological reports should be able to be requested by a Family Court judge. Family Court Act 1980 section 16D would need to be amended too.
  • There is no need for the Bill to include provisions around public/media presence and other matters that are covered by other Family Court legislation. Sufficient controls on the media and public are contained in the Family Court Act – a person under the age of 18 or a vulnerable person cannot be identified in a report and the public are not able to attend hearings without consent of the Family Court judge.
  • The Committee should consider amending Family Court Act 1980 section 12A rather than including an evidence subsection in the Marriage Act.
  • This Bill should be compared to the law in Australia. If the judicial approval approach is taken the legislation should be reworked to be much more similar to sections 11 to 21 Marriage Act 1961 (Australia). For example: that authorisation should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, parental authorisation should be required as well, expiry of consent etc. The Australian law makes it clear that the intention is to reduce child marriages: “the circumstances of the case [shall be] so exceptional and unusual as to justify the making of the order”. However, please note that even this does not meet the Sustainable Development Goal requirements.

UNICEF recommendations

The Committee should consider UNICEF’s recommendations (PDF), such as:

  • child marriages should be voidable by either party with applications being able to be made within two years from the date the person reaches the age of majority (with considerations made regarding immigration status, division of property, and care of children);
  • in relation to penalties; and
  • child marriages taken place to date should be analysed.

Civil unions

The Civil Union Act 2004 should also be amended to make the minimum age for civil unions 18.

Image credit: Girls Not Brides

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

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

Deaf In Parliament? Pay Your Own Way

Or not.

How this is not crystal clear to the powers that be in Parliament, I’m not sure.

Lockwood Smith, the speaker in Parliament, seems to think that transcribing services for Green MP Mojo Mathers, who happens to be deaf, should come out of her budget or the Green Party budget. Parliamentary Services has paid for and installed the technology needed, but don’t seem to be willing to pay for the people required to run it.

If someone has a disability, they should not have to use their budget that is for representing their people to the best of their ability, just so they can fully participate in Parliament.

This issue does not just apply to Mojo Mathers. It applies to any person who is deaf who faces these barriers in their life because of ableism, including at work. It applies to any person who is deaf who wants to tune into Parliament TV and have closed captions available for them. It will apply to any future MPs who are deaf.

Lockwood Smith is meeting with the Parliamentary Services Commission on March 7, but you have to ask: how long has he and others known this would be an issue?

 

Here is a petition on Change.org urging the Government to pay for live closed captioning of debates in Parliament.

Image credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture