Parliament resumed for the calendar year this week. Some items of note were:
- On Wednesday the Child Poverty Reduction Bill was introduced to Parliament (see article above.)
- On Tuesday the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill was read a first time and referred to the Health Committee. This is a Labour Party bill that proposes amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, allowing terminally ill people to use cannabis-based products, and to legalize and regulate medical cannabidiol (CBD) products. A supplementary Green Party Bill introduced on Wednesday that sought to allow people suffering from a debilitating condition to use cannabis if supported by a registered medical practitioner failed at its first reading, and will not be considered further. (I.e. the Labour Party bill is centered on developing and regulating cannabis-based medicine, the Green Party bill had been centered on allowing usage of cannabis (quality and quantity unknown) by anyone with a medical certificate. We have included the issue here given the Māori population has a high cannabis usage rate. (The New Zealand Health Survey indicates up to 25% of Māori adults used cannabis at least once within a twelve month period.)
- On Tuesday the Employment Relations Amendment Bill was introduced. According to the Government the purpose of the bill is to “restore key minimum standards and protections for employees, and to implement a suite of changes to promote and strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace.” Pānui edition 1/2018 advised many of the changes proposed will support low income workers, and Māori are over-represented in that area. e. one-in-five Māori (circa 50,000) are in ‘low skilled occupations’, such as labourers.
- On Tuesday the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill was read a first time and referred to the Justice Committee. This bill aims to prevent a person from remaining in Parliament if they leave the Party in which they stood for. We note National’s Māori Development spokesperson Nuk Korako, has advised he considers this ‘waka jumping bill’ to be bad for Māori representation, and Māori MPs have a duty not just to their party, but also to act in the best interests of Māori, and this bill could prevent that.