Jim Anderton 21.1.38 – 7.1.18

January 9, 2018

A junior reporter wouldn’t normally interview a senior political figure.

But when Jim Anderton came into the newsroom in the run-up to the 1981 election I was the only one there.

He was president of the Labour Party. I don’t remember what he said but I do remember that he was immaculately dressed and a relaxed interviewee.

I disagreed with many of his policies – so strongly was I opposed to Kiwibank, I didn’t go into a Post Office for at least two years after it was established.

But I admired his standing up and working for what he believed in.

And as another member of that club no-one chooses to join – bereaved parents – I had great sympathy for him after the death of his daughter. It is difficult enough dealing with bereavement privately, it must be so much harder when you’re a public figure.

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Rural round-up

December 20, 2017

Six suspected suicides of farmers ‘tragic’ – Alexa Cook:

A group representing young farmers says a spate of suicides over the past few weeks is tragic – but not surprising – after a really stressful year for the sector.

New Zealand Young Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland said it’s been a really tough time for the farming community and there have been six suspected suicides in recent weeks.

“My understanding is that there were four young men in Canterbury last week that had taken their own lives.

“But also I’ve heard two in the Waikato as well, and one of them in the Waikato was one of our young farmer members … it’s tragic,” he said. . . 

Federated Farmers president’s message to workers after sudden deaths in rural communities

Farming groups are pleading with stressed workers to speak up if they need support in the wake of a series of deaths of young men across the country.

The Herald on Sunday understands four farmers died suddenly in the past few weeks, including a Hamilton City Young Farmer member, and a popular rodeo competitor in Canterbury. Both were aged in their 20s.

The coroner’s office has confirmed one of the deaths is before coroner Michael Robb.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne broke down in tears while speaking to the Herald on Sunday, saying she was becoming increasingly desperate to remind farmers that help was available if they needed it. . . 

The faces of disease-fearing farmers: Mycoplasma bovis meeting spills out of Southland hall – Dave Nicoll:

Farmers spilled out of a Winton hall as hundreds of them gathered at a meeting, concerned about the discovery of Mycoplasma bovis in Southland.

The Memorial Hall was packed to capacity with people standing, and even spilling outside as they waited to hear what the Ministry for Primary Industries had to say about the containment of the disease.

Ministry director of response Geoff Gwyn said the response team was working to identify where in Southland infected cattle had been moving, in an effort to contain the disease. . . 

Japan’s Itoham Yonekyu buys 100% of Anzco Foods as part of Asia growth strategy – Sophie Boot:

 (BusinessDesk) – Japanese-listed Itoham Yonekyu Holdings has received Overseas Investment Office approval to increase its shareholding of Anzco Foods to 100 percent, from the 65 percent it already owned.

Anzco was New Zealand’s second-largest meat company and fifth-largest exporter in 2016, with turnover of $1.5 billion and 3,000 employees. It was already 83.3 percent overseas owned, with 16.8 percent of the company held by Japanese marine products company Nippon Suisan Kaisha, known as Nissui, and the remaining 18.2 percent owned by the company’s chair Graeme Harrison and management. Harrison will step down at the company’s next annual meeting in March, having signalled his plans for retirement in 2015. . . 

What do we do? Agriculture in the age of synthetic food – William Ray:

Meatless meats and milkless milks seem to be just over the horizon and with many companies aiming to undercut the price of the ‘real’ stuff there’s the potential for a real threat to the New Zealand economy.

In this special episode of Our Changing World, William Ray investigates.

“We’ve got chicken or beef!” yells comedian Ben Hurley from an ad in my Facebook feed (cue sound effects for clucking chickens and mooing cattle).

“Wow, that’s absolutely delicious!” gushes a smiling stranger, which is the only polite response when someone hands you a free taco and pushes a microphone into your face.

Now the big reveal: “Do you know what… that’s 100 percent plant based!” (cue record scratch sound effect). . . 

Social licence and NZ aquaculture:

Research from the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge has found that personal relationships go a long way towards aquaculture companies gaining/maintaining community acceptance and social licence to operate.

Interviews with aquaculture, fishing and enviro community groups have revealed that social licence to operate (SLO) is easily lost – or absent – if a company’s relationship is purely transactional; ie if links with the local community are solely business-related.

“Relational relationships, where one or more employees have personal as well as professional relationships with community, go a very long way to gaining and maintaining SLO,” said Peter Edwards, a co-author of the paper and a Political Scientist at Scion. “In other words, these employees are part of community life.” . . 

Director election for Beef + Lamb New Zealand Northern North Island electoral district:

A Director election will be held for Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Northern North Island electoral district after three nominations were received.

Martin Coup of Aria, Murray Jagger of Whangarei and Ross Wallis of Raglan will stand as candidates to replace current Northern North Island director and chairman James Parsons, who announced last month he was not seeking re-election. . . 


What euthanasia isn’t

December 15, 2017

Polls show a sizable majority in favour of euthanasia but a new poll shows many don’t understand what it means.

A new Curia Market Research poll shows New Zealanders are confused about what ‘assisted dying’ even means.

“This groundbreaking poll challenges the validity of most other polls on the issue. It shows that support for euphemisms such as ‘assisted dying’, ‘aid in dying’ or ‘assistance to end their life’ should not be taken as support for a law change,” says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

The more strongly a person supports ‘assisted dying’, the more likely they are confused about what it includes.

Of those who strongly support ‘assisted dying’:

• 85% thought it includes turning off life support

• 79% thought it includes ‘do not resuscitate’ (no CPR) requests

• 67% thought it includes the stopping of medical tests, treatments and surgeries.

In all three cases a person would die from their underlying medical condition – of natural causes.

These ‘end-of-life choices’ are legal and people can make their wishes known via Advance Care Planning.

This might look like angels dancing on a pin head but there is a very important difference between not doing something to prolong life and doing something to end it, withholding treatment that would extend a life and actively cutting it short.

Dr Amanda Landers is a palliative care doctor in the South Island, caring for people with a range of life-limiting conditions. She also gives presentations to nurses, doctors and the general public.

She says that many patients, and even some doctors, are unaware that stopping life-prolonging treatment and medication is legal and ethically acceptable. This means the person dies from their underlying illness – which is completely different from an intervention which deliberately ends their life prematurely.

“I was caring for a man in his 60s who was on peritoneal dialysis. He thought he would be committing euthanasia/suicide by stopping it. This belief was weighing heavily on his mind as he thought it was morally wrong.

“Once I explained to him that stopping dialysis was acceptable and that it would allow a natural death from his underlying illness, he stopped it.

“His family was unaware of his fears of dying by suicide/euthanasia and that he wanted to stop the dialysis. It was a very emotional moment for them when they heard how he was feeling, but ultimately they supported him in his choice.”

ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill proposes ‘assisted dying’ by administering drugs to end someone’s life, either by injection or ingestion through a tube (euthanasia) or by giving a lethal dose to a person to swallow or administer (assisted suicide).

There are subtle differences between suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia: It’s suicide when a person ends their own life. It’s assisted suicide when a person receives help to access the means to end their life but then takes the final action themselves. It’s euthanasia when the final action is performed by another person.

Only 62% of the 894 respondents polled thought that ‘assisted dying’ includes receiving deadly drugs to swallow or self-administer (assisted suicide).

Only 68% of respondents thought that ‘assisted dying’ includes receiving deadly drugs by injection (euthanasia).

New Zealanders are significantly less supportive of the administration of lethal drugs to end someone’s life than the notion of ‘assisted dying’ as a whole.

This is asking doctors to kill people.

After hearing which practices the proposed Bill would be limited to, support for ‘assisted dying’ dropped from 62% to 55%, opposition rose from 22% to 26% and unsure/refuse responses rose from 6% to 11%.

“We would expect public support to drop even further when people consider the wider implications and unintended consequences of euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation,” says Ms Joubert.

“A case in point is a 2014 UK ComRes poll which showed that public support for the Falconer Assisted Dying Bill dropped as low as 43% when people heard various arguments against changing the law or were provided with certain facts – for example the fact that six out of ten people requesting a lethal prescription in Washington State said a reason for doing so was their concern about being a burden on friends, family or caregivers.”

Assisted dying, euthanasia . . . call it what you will, it is a very emotional issue.

But as Bill English said during Wednesday evening’s debate, the issue for MPs is one of law.

.  . . I’m sure we’ve all had the experience—I know I have—or know about the experience, of witnessing the suffering, the fear, and the anxiety of a dying person and those around them and, sometimes, a difficult death. Alongside that personal connection, we have to weigh up, in our role as law makers—not just as parents or children or siblings or friends of those who we’ve seen die, but as law makers. Our role is not principally to alleviate suffering; our role is to ensure that our society has a set of laws that protect those who most need protection.

Did you know that in our law, section 179 of the Crimes Act, it is a crime to induce the suicide of another person, even if they don’t actually commit it—even if they don’t actually commit it? Why is that there? Because we don’t want people encouraging a depressed disabled young person that their life isn’t worth anything. As law makers, the reason there is a blanket prohibition is because “you” are not always the best judge of the value of your life, and the price that our community pays for enabling a doctor to take your life, free of criminal scrutiny, is that many other people are more vulnerable. Their lives will become more fearful, and they’ll become more subject to the pressure to make the judgment themselves that their life has less value and therefore they should make the decision. It is a slippery slope. That is why this bill, with its cold technical bureaucratic process of death, tries to look like it’s safe.

We have to weigh it up, and every Parliament up to now has said that the balance between what is enabled for an individual and the cost of that enablement to the rest of society is too big a risk to take. I put the case that as law makers that is the question that we need to weigh up: is the gain in personal autonomy—because the research shows people embark on euthanasia principally for autonomy reasons; they may not be suffering that much—worth the broader cost to our community? I don’t think anyone can in their heart of hearts believe that this bill will make life safer for the disabled or that it will make our community more warmly embracing of our ageing population. Who pretends that? It won’t—it won’t.

That is why I will oppose it and invite others to. You know, we’re not creating medical procedure here; we’re creating an exemption from the criminal law against killing for a specified group—that is doctors, who do not want to carry this burden—under some conditions that amount to box-ticking. So I ask the Parliament to consider that very carefully—the removal of the blanket prohibition against taking a life, which should be subject to scrutiny and accountability.

Euthanasia isn’t turning of life support.

It’s not adhering to do-not-resuscitate requests.

It’s not stopping treatment.

All those happen now and are both ethical and legal.

What doesn’t happen now is deliberately acting to end a life.

Proponents of euthanasia talk about a person’s right to die.

We all have the right to die.

What we don’t have is the right to kill and that’s what this Bill would give to doctors if it becomes law.


For the sake of the other families

December 5, 2017

Each time I read or hear reports about Pike River families agitating for a retrieval of the bodies of the men who were killed there I wonder about the other families.

You’d not know it from most reports, but some of the bereaved families have accepted that their men are dead and the mine where they died will be their grave.

How hard it must be for them to get on with their lives when time and time again the disaster and the ongoing saga of re-entry hit the headlines.

The latest news is that the liability for anything that goes wrong in a re-entry will like with the Pike River chief executive, not the Minister for Pike River, Andrew Little.

Documents on the Pike River Recovery Agency show that while the Minister will decide whether a re-entry goes ahead, it will be the agency’s chief executive who will be liable if any re-entry goes wrong, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“This Government has continued to make entering Pike River a political decision but this is patently wrong. While there’s been lots of talk about how Mr Little will be responsible for his decisions, it will be some poor senior public servant who carries the can.

“It is wrong to put a Chief Executive in this position. He or she will have to carry out what their political masters decide in a very unsafe environment. Why would any sensible person put their hand up for that job?”

Sensible or not, a CE would have to resign rather than carry out a directive in the knowledge he or she was putting lives at risk.

Ms Adams says the Coalition went against official advice which was to make the final decision-maker independent of politicians.

“That would have been the responsible approach which fairly reflected the dangers of re-entering the mine. This undermines the very health and safety laws which were strengthened in the wake of the Pike River disaster to try and ensure it never happens again.”

The one good thing to come out of the disaster was the strengthening of health and safety laws. It would be a travesty if they were to be breached by order of a politician.

Ms Adams also notes that the mission of the agency has changed from the Government’s pre-election commitments.

“Up until now all their talk has been about manned re-entry into the mine. Now the papers tell us it’s about achieving manned re-entry of the drift only, all bar 400 metres of which has already been explored.”

The families’ quest for answers is understandable but that quest can’t risk more lives.

John Armstrong writes that Little’s real role as Minister is to let the families down gently:

Little will have to judge what level of risk is acceptable. The answer to that question has been staring Labour in the face. The answer is none.

It is both morally reprehensible and incomprehensibly stupid to place another human being in an environment where death and injury have already proved to be beyond human control.

Rather than humming the Red Flag in solidarity with the miners’ families, Little should be engaged in quiet persuasion that their wish to be reunited with their loved ones risks others’ loved ones suffering the same fate.

At most —and purely to save everyone’s face — a recovery team might be permitted to go part way up the drift.

For his own and Labour’s sake, the minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry needs to become the minister for No Re-Entry to Pike River, if not in name then most definitely in actions.

It is his job to gently puncture the over-inflated hopes of the families.

He needs to get the families to take ownership of the reality that re-entry cannot be a happening thing. He needs to lull them into believing they made the decision —not him nor a faceless bureaucrat chosen to run the Pike River Recovery Agency.

Executing what would be the Mother of All U-turns will require some very deft politics on Little’s part.

Thursday’s Supreme Court’s ruling that WorkSafe’s decision to withdraw its prosecution of Pike River mine boss Peter Whittall, in exchange for payments to the victims’ families, was unlawful provides an unexpected opportunity for everyone to come to their senses.

The families should rejoice in at last receiving the justice so long denied them. They should view it as a cue to drop their demand for re-entry.

That won’t happen. The families are victims alright. They are victims of politicians who have exploited their emotions without caring one jot for the consequences.

There can be no sympathy for Little even if he has deluded himself into believing he is doing the right thing by the families. . . 

The right thing by all the families is to accept, as some of them have, that the risks of re-entry are too high.

A former union head, in what’s supposed to be the workers’ party should know that safety is paramount and each new announcement is a move in that direction.

Each new announcement from the government is a step away from the original irresponsible rhetoric of unconditional re-entry.

Each new announcement includes ifs, buts and acknowledgements that safety must come first.

The honourable and sensible course of action now would be to admit that no-one can guarantee that re-entry would be safe and in doing so to help those families still stuck in the early stages of grief to accept, as the others have, that the mine where their men died is their grave.

When my first son died we waited months for the post mortem results. He’d been dead for longer than he’d lived when they finally arrived and they were somewhat of an anti-climax.

That was partly because we’d hoped the post-mortem might uncover some clues to the condition which killed him that the numerous tests during his life had not and it didn’t.  But it was also because it made me realise that regardless of what the report said, he was still dead and nothing could make that better.

The death of a baby as a result of illness for which no-one was to blame, is different in many ways from deaths in an unsafe workplace for which someone should have, but has not, been held responsible.

But no matter how it happens, death is death and it only compounds the loss if those who survive are stuck, focusing on what they’ve lost and in doing so losing what they’ve got.

Continuing to pretend that a re-entry would be possible is continuing to perpetuate a lie and it’s helping to keep some of the families stuck.

For their sakes and the sakes of the other fmailies who are no longer stuck, the government needs to be honest, stop wasting money and prolonging the inevitable announcement that any risk of life is too high.


Mining personal grief for political ends

November 19, 2017

When politicians make promises do you take them at their word?

Under MMP that’s harder because they can always use the excuse, that was their policy but had to let it go during coalition negotiations.

But if it was a promise made by the two parties in government and their coalition partner outside government that one can’t be used.

In August, leaders of Labour, United Future, the Maori Party and the Green Party signed a commitment to reenter Pike River mine.

National, rightly, put lives before politics:

Environment Minister Nick Smith responded to the commitment and said the parties were either making empty promises to the families or proposing to water down a law intended to prevent future workplace tragedies. 

“It is a hollow political stunt for parties to promise manned re-entry of the mine by the end of 2018,” he said.  

“It would be reckless for politicians to override the 800-page detailed assessment that concluded that manned entry deep into this drift was too risky to life.

“There is no cover-up. There is no conspiracy. Pike River was a horrible industrial accident that unnecessarily killed 29 men.

“The greatest duty we owe the memory of these men is to take the risks of explosions in gassy coalmines seriously and to comply with the new workplace safety laws that stemmed from the Royal Commission of Inquiry [into the Pike River Mine Tragedy].”

Winston Peters said he’d be one of the first to go back into Pike River and manned entry was one of New Zealand First’s bottom lines.

Such promises are oh so easy in opposition, but what happens when the reality of government bites?

Pike River Mine minister Andrew Little says he cannot guarantee a re-entry of the mine and has told family members that he will do what he can but safety is the top priority. . . 

“Ultimately, and the families are very clear, the first principle of the set of principles that are governing what we do is safety, the safety of anybody involved in the re-entry project. I’m not going to put anybody at undue risk. I’m simply not going to.”

He did not intend to legislate for any exemption to the health and safety laws or immunity from liability for the Pike River Agency.

Safety was the priority of the previous government in the face of harsh criticism from the Pike River families and then-opposition parties supporting them.

That was the right position.

The Pike River disaster was a tragedy. There are many unanswered questions on how it happened and the shortcoming that led to it happening.

Some of the answers to those questions might be found if it was possible to safely reenter the mine.

But safely is and must always be the operative word.

The bottom line that National and the mine owners stuck to still stands: no lives must be endangered, no lives must be lost, to retrieve the dead.

Some families have accepted this.

Some have not and put their faith in the politicians who promised them manned entry would be undertaken.

Little will be criticised for his safety-first stance, but this time it’s the right one.

The wrong one was making a promise that he and the other politicians, including his leader, Jacinda Ardern, should never have made.

Those politicians were mining personal grief for political ends.

It was despicable behaviour.

 


Fats Domino 26.2.28 – 24.10.17

October 26, 2017

The music world  has lost another voice:

Fats Domino, the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer whose two-fisted boogie-woogie piano and nonchalant vocals, heard on dozens of hits, made him one of the biggest stars of the early rock ’n’ roll era, has died in Louisiana. He was 89. . . 

Mr. Domino had more than three dozen Top 40 pop hits through the 1950s and early ’60s, among them “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t It a Shame” (also known as “Ain’t That a Shame,” which is the actual lyric), “I’m Walkin’,” “Blue Monday” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans.” Throughout he displayed both the buoyant spirit of New Orleans, his hometown, and a droll resilience that reached listeners worldwide.

He sold 65 million singles in those years, with 23 gold records, making him second only to Elvis Presley as a commercial force. Presley acknowledged Mr. Domino as a predecessor. . .

 


Passchendaele perspective

October 12, 2017

The Otago Daily Times has invited family members of those who were killed in World War I to pay tribute to them on the 100th anniversary of their deaths.

Most days there are a few names.

Putting the disaster that was the Battle of Passchendaele into perspective. today 130 men are remembered.


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