Red Alert

Archive for the ‘alcohol and other drugs’ Category

Delay on local alcohol action way too long

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012

The Alcohol Reform Bill returns to the House for its committee-stage debate tomorrow. The Bill is a disappointment in many ways, with many of the Law Commission’s more substantive recommendations ignored, but one provision that has the power to do a lot of good is the one that gives local Councils the power to regulate liquor outlets by way of Local Alcohol Policies.

There has been a palpable shift in community attitudes to alcohol abuse in recent years. Communities have felt powerless and angry at the proliferation of corner liquor stores, extended opening hours, and the marketing of cheap booze. Local Alcohol Policies will allow Councils to regulate the number and location of outlets, as well as opening hours.

But for some strange reason the Government has ignored the calls of Councils who have told them that the Bill’s 12 month delay before the framework for the policies becomes operative is just too long.

It means that after the 12 month delay, a month for notification and appeals, and then another three months’ public notice for policies that affect opening hours, it could be up to 16 months before Councils’ new alcohol policies start to bite.

That is way too long.

I’m putting up an amendment that will reduce the wait to three months. This should be plenty of time for police and social agencies to get ready. Add four more months for public notification and it will mean new Local Alcohol Policies will be up and running within seven months.

It won’t affect the people I represent in West Auckland. The presence of the licensing trusts out here ensures socially responsible management of liquor marketing, but this provision will make a big difference everywhere else. Let’s just make it happen more quickly.

Abuse of women in NZ -highest in OECD

Posted by on July 28th, 2011

A recently released UN Women report shows that NZ has the highest rates of physical and sexual violence in the OECD with 30% of women having ever experienced physical violence and 14% having ever experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner from 2000 – 2010.  This is something we should be very worried about.  Physical and sexual abuse by intimate partners is generally about power and control.  It is often about men having a very negative view of women.  There is no doubt that stress and alcohol play a role.

The consequences of this violence are huge.  I have previously worked in the women’s health movement and I have seen first hand the depression, the loss of confidence and the other consequences that remain long after the physical injuries have healed.  Children are also hurt by this violence in so many ways including fear and trauama from seeing their mother hurt.  They can often learn and become caught up in similar patterns of abuse.  I have also seen the guts and determination women muster to leave violent relationships and to rebuild lives that have been shattered.

We must do something real to change the violence that pervades our culture. Just to give a sense of scale – in 2008 the Police responded to 82,692 incidents involving some form of domestic violence.  I find it appalling that at a time when reported violence is increasing  that successful programmes like Child Advocates and Te Rito have been cut as has funding for residential services. 

In contrast, earlier this year the Gillard Government in Australia announced a 12 year multi-million dollar framework for action to reduce violence.   This unified strategy across agencies has cross party support.  The strategy includes a major focus on prevention. 

I don’t for one minute claim this is a new problem or indeed one that is unique to NZ.   Last week I attended two meetings focussed on women on consecutive nights .  In the first Marilyn Waring was speaking about the Solomon Islands and the second was a presentation by Ratna Osman from an organisation called Sisters in Islam.  Both presentations referred to the significant problem of violence against women. 

Violence against women occurs in all societies but I do worry about the scale of the problem in NZ.  I think we need to do more to address this problem and reach some sort of consensus on what is needed.   In my maiden speech I committed to working to on the issue of family violence.  I want to acknowledge those who work in paid and unpaid capacities to try to prevent such violence and to deal with the consequences of such violence.  Yours is an important and difficult job. 

Women’s Refuge is one such group and last week Jacinda, Carmel and I made a small contribution by collecting for Women’s Refuge in Auckland.


Thought provoking visit to Arohata Prison

Posted by on July 18th, 2011

As Labour’s Women’s Affairs Spokesperson I visited Arohata Women’s Prison with my colleague, Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Charles Chauvel, this afternoon.  I have never been in any prison before in any capacity and I have to say the visit has really got me thinking.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but one thing I can say is that anyone who calls a prison a holiday camp or a luxury hotel has got it completely wrong.  The facilities were basic and functional.

After a warm Maori welcome we were shown around the prison.   The highlight was talking to a group of about twenty five women who are part of the prison’s Drug Treatment Unit (DTU).  The DTU operates a therapeutic community model with a structured programme operating in a community environment with community expecations, community support and evalutions.  Charles and I asked the women to tell us the things that would reduce the chances of them reoffending when they go back into the community and what things might have stopped them offending in the first instance.

I  think the women were pleased and surprised to be asked these questions by MPs and  I was really impressed with the answers.  One area that stood out is that in Arohata the women have an opportunity to learn and to gain qualifications.  This is clearly valued by the women -this was stated by both the inmates and the staff.  They want to keep learning and to use that learning to get jobs and to help their children. 

What is also obvious is the strong desire of the group to deal with their addictions.  Arohata  is the only women’s prison that operates a DTU and so many of the women have had to move away from Christchurch and Auckland women’s prisons and proximity to their families to take part in the programme.   They clearly make the link between violence, drugs, alcohol and their offending. 

The women who spoke clearly want to move forward, to get jobs and to get their children back.  They want to be given a chance by employers.  They are also worried about what support there will be once they leave Arohata.

Some things that were reinforced for me were:

  • we need to focus on the causes of crime and not solely on punishment
  • we especially need to consider whether imprisonment is the best  response to all of the situations people are currently imprisoned for
  • the need for drug treatment programmes in all our prisons and in the community
  • the importance of life long learning opportunities, to name a few

Charles and I have committed to going back and continuing the conversation. We are intending to visit the other women’s prisons too.

Keep it 18

Posted by on May 7th, 2011

Keep it 18

Liquor laws involve conscience votes for Labour MPs.

I support retaining 18 as the age for alcohol purchase.

The idea that you can marry and go to war but not purchase a beer is nuts.

I do however support much tighter rules around punishing those who sell to underage people. Including permanent license removal for second offenders.

I do not support liquor sales in dairies or small grocery shops except in very remote areas. I think we should implement that policy by not renewing current licenses as they expire. And not transferring them.

My night at the shelter

Posted by on April 21st, 2011

Earlier in the year Mike Leon who runs the Wellington Mens Night Shelter asked if I would come and spend a night staying at the shelter. I have worked with Mike and his team over the last couple of years, and have great respect for what they do, so I said yes. On the condition that I was not taking a bed that someone else needed. That night was last night.

Mike, of course, had an ulterior motive. The Shelter has never been busier, and its resources are stretched beyond breaking point. They would love to do more for those that stay there, but they just dont have the resources to do it. An MP staying was bound to draw attention- and you can see the end result of that on Campbell Live here.

For those that dont know the Shelter caters for homeless men with around 20 dormitory style beds, and another 20 or so hostel rooms upstairs. For the dorm beds you pay $10 a night. There is no food (many of the residents eat at the soup kitchen). It is not luxury. A single bed, with a cabinet. There are partitions that provide some privacy, but certainly do not block out the noise! By all accounts last night was a pretty calm night. It was uncomfortable, noisey, and there was a fairly tense atmosphere. But its a bed and a roof over the head.

I had really good chats with a number of those there. They range in age from early 20s to early 70s. Everyone has a different story. There is Tom (name changed) who’s life took a turn for the worse when he got a brain injury in a car accident a few years back, has chronic alcohol problems and is desperate to get in a rehabilitation facility (more that another day). There is Ian (name changed) who got evicted from his last flat and just can’t get the money together to find another one as he does not have a job. He has a list of places he has applied to, from here to the Kapiti Coast, but nothing is coming his way. There’s Nathan (name changed) recently out of Rimutaka Prison, with nowhere to go. He has a set of health problems that make the mind boggle, and at least at the Shelter the wonderful doctors and nurses from the Te Aro Health Centre come in each week and he can see them.

Mike and his team are a magnificent ambulance at the bottom of the cliff that is homelessness. But we must build the fences at the top. What was clear from almost every conversation I had last night was that the people there have ambitions and dreams. They might be modest in some eyes, but they are about dignity. They want a job, a secure place to live that is theirs and many talked of wanting someone to share it with.

We need to take homelessness seriously. The government would not even have an inquiry when it was proposed by Moana Mackey. That would be just the first step for me. To really tackle homelessness we need to find stable accomodation for these guys, and put in place the support and the programmes that will allow them to live independent lives. That will be easier for some than others. Some will need extensive support to deal with their addictions (did someone say a Wet House), others will need support to get basic life skills and other work skills. But it is worth the investment. Not just for them, but for all of us. It is a social and economic scandal that in a relatively wealthy country people are caught in this cycle. The social cost is huge, the pure economic cost (and loss) is huge.

In the meantime what Mike and his people do is a great service to the community. If you want to support them they need money, blankets and sheets. If you want to donate food, and you live in Wellington the Downtown Community Ministry is desperate for more food for its foodbank. If you want to solve the underlying issues, well, that would politicise this story, but I think you get my drift.

Public urges stronger measures on alcohol reform

Posted by on March 4th, 2011

I am sitting on the Justice and Electoral Select Committee as we hear submissions on the Alcohol Reform Bill for two days in Auckland.

There have been so many powerful and moving submissions.  Some brave individuals have shared their own stories of alcohol harm.  Overwhelmingly submitters are urging that a decisive leadership role is taken in dealing with alcohol harm.  Submitters illustrate time and again what research has shown  and that is as a drug alcohol causes greater harm to others than to self.

One submitter yesterday afternoon showed us a photograph of an advertisement in a local off-license for RTDs (ready to drink) which cost $1 per can. He pointed out that a can contains one and a half standard drinks.  This means 20 standard drinks for$12.  According to the submitter, a health professional, depending on the person somewhere in the vicinity of 30 standard drinks is enough to kill you. 

This example illustrated key points that submitters are overwhelmingly saying which is that the Government needs to strengthen this Bill in relation to issues like price, availability and advertising/sponsorship.  There is also huge support for lowering the blood alcohol level to 0.05 from 0.08.

Booze-Free Month: Half Way Through

Posted by on February 17th, 2011

During February I’m taking part in FebFast along with Labour MPs Carol Beaumont, Brendon Burns, Clare Curran, Lianne Dalziel, Kris Faafoi, Sue Moroney, Lynne Pillay, Carmel Sepuloni, staff members Jessie Barwick, Sonny Thomas, Jen Toogood and Labour Tukituki candidate Julia Haydon-Carr.

By taking part in FebFast – and swearing off the booze for 28 days – we are raising funds for four organisations working with at-risk youth, particularly on drug and alcohol issues.

I can’t say that I’m missing alcohol all that much. Actually I feel pretty good. Being on FebFast is a great reason to say ‘no’ when the inevitable opportunities to consume occur at Parliament and around the electorate. Don’t think I’m going teetotal just yet though, and that’s not the point. This is just about having a break from alcohol and raising money for a really good cause.

If you’d like to donate, go to the Labour Party Team page on the FebFast website.


Risk of increased violence against women during the Rugby World Cup

Posted by on February 10th, 2011

Like the vast majority of New Zealander’s, I’m a rugby fan, infact I’ve even played a few games during my lifetime.  Like most Kiwis I’m excited about the fact that we’re hosting the Rugby World Cup this year (I’m also proud of the fact that it was the Labour Party that secured the rights to host for our country…but that’s a separate issue).

One issue that I hadn’t considered till recently was the copious amounts of alcohol that is likely to be consumed over the course of the world cup and the subsequent impact that this could have on family violence, abuse and neglect.  It was a report written by Debbie Hager and Diane Woolsen Neville that alerted me to these concerns, ‘Mitigating the risk of men’s violence aginst women increasing during the Rugby World Cup 2011′.

The report cites evidence of increased levels of violence, abuse and neglect during major sporting events.  It looks like a successful campaign run overseas during these type of events is being rolled out in New Zealand, the ‘Blow the Whistle Campaign’ – this is a wise move.  Recommendations have been made in this report with respect to advertising, policing, venue safety, safety of children and young people and a number of other areas.  The Government will need to take up these recommendations to ensure that any risk of increased violence is mitigated during this time.


Posted by on February 4th, 2011

This week my son started his first day of high school (year 9 or third form to those of us from that era).  Twenty years ago, I was embarking on the same journey.  That year back in 1991, was also the year I picked up smoking.  Now is the year I figure it is time to kick that habit.

Apart from a couple of MP’s who will have the very rare puff on a cigarette, I’ve been the only Labour MP during this term who smokes.  Pretty good for a caucus of 42 (or 43 when Carter was still with us).  I’m not giving it away because of the peer pressure from my colleagues (although this has been very intense from a couple of them…not mentioning any names Trevor).  I’m giving it up because it’s ridiculous – I’ve been controlled by this substance for far to long.  I’m sick of huffing and puffing my way through the occasional netball game I play;  I can’t sing along to songs without running out of breathe or struggling to reach notes; I have to hide in the most ridiculous places to have a cigarette when out in public, I’m worried that the wrinkles that have started featuring more prominently on my face are only going to get significantly worse if I continue smoking and most importantly – the last thing I want is for my son to pick up this same dirty habit at the same age I did 20 years ago at the same age that he is now, thirteen.

I hope I’m successful this time.  It’s been exactly two weeks since I had my last cigarette and so far so good – in fact better than any time I’ve tried before.  I had to give up coffee and alcohol as well to have any chance – both are triggers for my smoking.  One of my Senior Labour colleagues told me she gave up during the 2005 election campaign.  She reckons that if you can give up during a period of high stress, then it’s more likely to last.  2011 is likely to be a ‘challenging year’ – Wish me luck.

Liquor Licenses

Posted by on December 28th, 2010

OK, so the last time I posted one of these videos, everyone jumped down my throat despite me saying it was not Labour policy, just something I had been sent by one of the groups lobbying for reform.

Having said that, this one is about giving the licensing power back to communities, something I totally support.

Have a look.

Alcohol Law Reform Bill First Reading

Posted by on November 11th, 2010

I will post some more detail on the Alcohol Reform Bill over coming weeks as there is a lot to be considered.  To get the debate started I think it is important that we look at the Law Commission’s report on Alcohol: Curbing the Harm and ask whether this Bill will be effective in doing that – curbing the harm.  My view is that it doesn’t go far enough and in a way it’s prioritised the wrong issues.  The Minister cited age as the most important measure in the Bill, when that is one of the many diversionary tactics they are using to avoid being held accountable for what is missing from the Bill. And to cap it all off the government has managed to trample on Bill of Rights Act obligations – I predict the offending clauses will not survive the select committee process in their current form.  In my press release I said National had squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to curb the alcohol-related harm evidenced by the Law Commission’s report into alcohol. Only people power through submissions to the committee and demanding answers from MPs will get that turned around. I spoke in Parliament on the First Reading – unfortunately the tape ends before my final comments which were that we the politicians have lacked courage and that hopefully the Bill will be strengthened by the Select Committee process and that we will have the courage to make a difference. I have attached the notes I took to the House.  Let the debate begin!

The Price of Alcohol

Posted by on November 9th, 2010

Got sent this today. Thoughts?

Who is running the country?

Posted by on November 1st, 2010

At some point John Key has to demonstrate that it’s his govt that is running the country and making decisions that it is accountable for and stop blaming everything on the previous Labour government.

On Breakfast TV this morning John Key was asked about the government’s response to Labour’s challenge to the govt to lower the blood alcohol limit.

As he and all his Ministers usually do, he first started by saying that Labour had nine long years to do something. And then went on to say he was doing very little and why it wasn’t on his government’s agenda.

Well now he’s had two years and there’s not much to show for it other than some bad laws, some new roads and more crime.

There’s less jobs to go round, people are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, the wage gap between NZ and Australia is getting bigger and John Key goes to an East Asian Summit and says he’s met some really important people.

Here’s what Key said he did in Vietnam:

“If you think about the lunch we went to, the richest man in the world was there in the form of the sultan of Brunei, and the largest most populated country in the world was there in the form of China and India and the like,” he said.


Cropp riding again – shocking

Posted by on October 17th, 2010

I’ve blogged about Lisa Cropp before and spoken in the House about her.  She is someone who has been found to use methamphetamine over a period of time when she was New Zealand’s leading jockey – gaining considerable advanage during which time she broke a number of records. Unfortunately that included riding the Chief Justice’s horse while she was before the courts in a massive delaying action.

She is a disgrace and should not be allowed to ride.

I’m shocked to read in the HoS that she is riding again in Aussie:-

Last year Cropp was disqualified from riding for nine months on methamphetamine charges and ordered to pay fines and costs of nearly $100,000. New Zealand racing authorities say she has not applied to race again here and there is no barrier to her riding in Melbourne.

SFO nails Judith Collins

Posted by on August 12th, 2010

The poor relationship between Judith Collins and Simon Power is legendary.

Ministers who get confidential briefings need to know how to keep their mouths shut.

The SFO chief  mightn’t have intended to but his switch from denial to no comment nailed Judith Collins who btw is the only Cabinet Minister I have ever seen who talks without her cheeks moving.

Mr Feeley said there was “no briefing to Cabinet” by his office and he knew nothing about suggestions that there had been. “I don’t have a preliminary report myself. I don’t see how we can provide a briefing on a report which doesn’t exist.”

But he refused to comment on whether the SFO had briefed individual ministers, including SFO Minister Judith Collins.

Get off your butt and earn your pay Tolley – drugs in primary schools never ok

Posted by on August 8th, 2010

When primary and intermediate school age kids take drugs to school then I think CYFS and the Youth Aid section of the Police should be notified. They might choose to take no action but sometimes the information can provide the vital link that might turn a kid’s life around. Or bust a “P” ring.

Anne Tolley disagrees and thinks every Board of Trutees in the country should have a different policy.

Poll on liquor stores

Posted by on June 18th, 2010

Lots of debate in local communities about liquor stores opening all over the place. What do you think?

We are going to try and get a poll up on Red Alert on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Most will be serious some will be lighter.

Should local residents have more ability to block liquor stores opening in their neighbourhoods?

  • Yes (72%, 208 Votes)
  • No (28%, 82 Votes)

Total Voters: 290

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One MP’s Perk

Posted by on June 12th, 2010

Years  ago I more or less stopped judging competitions in the electorate. Mainly no win politically.

The three year old who throws a tantrum because her sand saucer didn’t win, how much looking is necessary/appropriate with the young women in the beauty contest and the increased blood pressure that made me look like a ginga when one winked at me, or the eleven mothers who know that their baby is better looking than the one I chose.

But I relented for today and agreed to judge a tiramisu challenge. Prepared by riding bike and meeting constituents.

And what a contrast. One pretty much classic. Beautiful, classy and lots of it.

The other an unsubtle attempt to intoxicate. Variety of liquor and very strong expresso.

Went for the second and offered to judge again next year.

Sure beats cheese rolls.

Consume these stats

Posted by on May 5th, 2010

Today I received a letter from Alcohol Action NZ and although I don’t totally agree with their five-step solution to solving New Zealand’s drinking problem, they brought some compelling data to my attention:

• At least 25% of all New Zealand drinkers are heavy drinkers

• A third of all police apprehensions involve alcohol

• Half of all serious violent crimes involve alcohol

• 60 different medical conditions are caused by heavy drinking

• Up to 75% of adult presentations at Emergency Departments on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are alcohol related

• Over 300 alcohol-related offences every day

• Over 500 serious and fatal injury traffic crashes every year

• 17,000 years of life per-year are lost through alcohol

Also some interesting comments on my blog yesterday about alcohol reform:

1: Queenstown is a party town, The tourists clearly want this drinking as they are participating in it. Those vomit cleaners are in employment because of this and that is food in their mouths.

2: They (tourists) shouldn’t be shocked as plenty of them are partaking in the exercise themselves!

3: I remember when the minimum school leaving age was raised in the UK from 15 to 16. There was much resentment for a couple of years from those who considered they were being forced into an additional unnecessary year of school. Now, of course, no 14 year old Brit considers 15 as a natural age at which to leave school, and hasn’t for a couple of decades.

I wish I could be around such intelligent, witty and insightful people more often!

Another leak, another inquiry?

Posted by on April 27th, 2010

Today I have written to the State Services Commissioner asking whether he intends to inquire into the leaking of information about the Law Commission’s report into alcohol laws and policy, which was offically released today.

To recap on what happened last week, on Thursday a post appeared on Kiwiblog where David Farrar breathlessly informed readers that he had the scoop on the recommendations from the Law Commission. Now we know that the government and the State Services Commissioner take a very dim view of leaks from the public service. Just a month or so back they launched inquiries into the leaking of information on mining of Schedule four lands and public sector mergers. One would think that this also represents a significant unauthorised release of public information. That is unless it is not unauthorised of course?

Anyway, this will be a fairly easy investigation of course. Because in his eagerness DPF has told us

Details of the report have leaked out, and I can exclusively (emphasis added) reveal some of these

The Commissioner just needs to give David a call, and I am sure his enthusiasm for upholding the conventions of good government will see him spill the beans.

My only concern here is that the government and the State Services Commissioner seemed a lot less interested in the leaking of Budget information than the other inquiries.

But a leak is a leak. Of course DPF could clear the whole thing about right now by telling us where the leak came from?