National has today lodged a Member’s Bill to implement a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that would widen access to medicinal cannabis and license high quality domestic production, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Over the past few months the National caucus has been considering the issue of medicinal cannabis while our Health Caucus committee members have been hearing submissions on the Government’s own, limited, medicinal cannabis Bill.
“New Zealanders deserve greater access to high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering but we must have the right regulatory and legislative controls in place.
“The Government’s Bill utterly fails both those tests, so we will vote against it. It includes only minor improvements to how cannabidiol products are treated, which the previous National Government had already facilitated.
“It is also totally silent on how a medicinal cannabis regime would operate in practice. The Government has said it will increase access now and leave it to officials to think through the controls and the consequences later. That’s typical of this Government but it’s not acceptable. So we’re putting forward a comprehensive alternative,” Mr Bridges says.
National’s proposed regime includes:
- Medicinal cannabis products will be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe. No loose leaf cannabis products will be approved.
- Medical practitioners will decide who should have access to a Medicinal Cannabis Card, which will certify them to buy medicinal cannabis products.
- Medicinal cannabis products will be pharmacist-only medicine.
- Cultivators and manufacturers must be licenced for commercial production. Licence holders and staff will be vetted to ensure they are fit and proper persons.
- A licensing regime that will create a safe market for medicinal cannabis products. Cultivators and manufacturers will not be able to be located within 5km of residential land, or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.
- No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted.
- The Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.
“National is determined to be a constructive opposition working on new ideas and new policies. National’s Bill is the result of significant work in recent months including study by MPs overseas and reflects a blend of international best practice, tailored to New Zealand.
“I encourage the Government to pick up the enormous amount of work done by National in Opposition and implement our comprehensive reforms to ensure New Zealanders in need can access high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering.”
More people are moving onto a benefit but fewer sanctions are being imposed on those who fail to hold up their end of the bargain as the Government reduces the responsibilities placed on beneficiaries to help themselves, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“New figures show that since the Government took office, there has been a 21 per cent drop in the number of sanctions imposed, despite there being almost 2000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit.
“This isn’t a sign that more people on benefits are being more compliant – it’s a sign the Government is going soft.
“These figures show a reversal of the trend under National which saw over 70,000 people moved off benefits and into work between 2011 and last year, and the number of children living in benefit-dependent households reduced by 60,000.
“The Jobseeker benefit is there to support those who need it but it comes with obligations including looking for work, turning up to appointments and staying drug-free. They must fail repeatedly before they have their benefit cut or reduced, until they meet the obligations.
“We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, with 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meeting their obligations within four weeks.
“Ensuring that benefits come with obligations is a fair agreement with the hardworking New Zealanders who are willing to lend a hand to people willing to help themselves. But this Government clearly doesn’t think it needs to be a two-way street.
“That’s worrying and signals a return to a system where the Government just hands out cash and sends people on their way. People’s lives are improved when they get off benefits and into work and that must continue to be encouraged.
“It’s important to help our most vulnerable by providing income support when they are out of work but also by incentivising them to get into work and improve their lives. This Government seems intent on tipping the balance too far the other way.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has today concluded a three-month tour of New Zealand, rounding off almost 70 public meetings attended by around 10,000 Kiwis who turned out to share their views about what matters to them.
“I have the honour of being leader of New Zealand’s largest political party which represents the views and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis,” Mr Bridges says.
“This roadshow has been about listening to them about the issues they care about and to hear from them what they want to see the National Party focused on as we work towards 2020.
“Over the last three months, I’ve travelled from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and heard a range of views about hundreds of different issues.
“Crime, roading, housing, the environment, education, health and of course the economy were discussed at almost every meeting. New Zealanders are focused on jobs and opportunities for their families, protecting our environment for future generations and building on the progress we have made in recent years.
“And people are worried about the direction of this Government. They’re worried about the uncertainty and lack of leadership, the rising cost of living and the slowing economy and the Government’s soft on crime approach.
“It’s clear to them these are all being driven by decisions made by the Government – decisions that often look ill-thought-out, chaotic and destructive.
“National knows, and New Zealanders know, that we won’t get ahead with more taxes and low-growth policies that slow our economy down.
“And we know that New Zealanders want more than just a good vibe – they want real plans and policies that will make a difference and create opportunities for them and their family.
“I’m encouraged by the response I’ve had throughout the roadshow and it’s reinforced to me that National is in sync with New Zealanders and focused on the issues that matter to them.
“I look forward to using what I’ve learned from listening to New Zealanders to develop ambitious new policies for our country’s future as we look to earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
Health Minister David Clark going on holiday while nurses went on well-signalled strikes around New Zealand is the latest example of a Government failing to front up to New Zealanders.
“This is the first time in a generation there has been a nationwide nurse’s strike. New Zealanders are missing out on important health services while the nurses try and get an acceptable deal across the line, after the Government raised expectations around pay rises so significantly.
“But the Health Minister is MIA. At a time of one of the most serious disruptions in recent memory to healthcare in New Zealand he’s on holiday and leaving others to deal with the mess he’s helped create.
“This continues a concerning pattern of behaviour from a Government which is consistently failing to front up, to tackle the hard issues and to lead.
“Instead of making decisions it’s setup 134 working groups and reviews.
“Instead of telling the people of Taranaki that the Government was axing oil and gas exploration, the Prime Minister did it from Wellington then went overseas and still hasn’t held any public meetings in Taranaki to allow the people directly affected to share their views.
“The Prime Minister and Education Minister has failed to visit a single partnership school in spite of her Government’s callous decision to shut them down.
“And Statistics Minister James Shaw was also in the Pacific while the Census was conducted, in spite of serious concerns which have proven founded, with 400,000 New Zealanders left uncounted meaning serious flow on effects to everything from funding for hospitals and schools to electoral boundaries.
“And the Government is reducing its accountability by axing public sector targets meaning it won’t be held accountable for the quality of the services it delivers to New Zealanders.
“All of this shows a lack of courage and a lack of leadership and New Zealanders deserve better.
“National believes in accountability, it believes in fronting up and it believes governments should lead in the interests of New Zealanders.”
The Government’s borrow, tax and spend attitude means they will be increasing public debt by the equivalent of the cost to the previous Government of the Christchurch earthquakes, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Grant Robertson’s loose and untargeted spending promises means the Government is planning to increase its borrowing by $17 billion over the next four years. That’s the same as the cost the National-led Government faced to rebuild following the Canterbury earthquakes.
“We need to continue to prudently manage the books, to ensure we’ve got enough in the bank to cover the next Global Financial Crisis or natural disaster. Instead, the Government is spending billions on diplomats, a tertiary fees policy that doesn’t deliver any more students, and a slush-fund for New Zealand First’s pet projects.
“National carefully managed the books to guide New Zealand through the Global Financial Crisis and then rebuild following the Canterbury earthquakes. We borrowed to ensure we could rebuild and continue to support vulnerable New Zealanders but we made prudent spending choices in order to get back to surplus and then begin to reduce debt.
“But at the same time economic uncertainty is increasing internationally this Government is taking the opposite approach – spending up large now and hoping that the next rainy day doesn’t happen under its watch. That’s irresponsible. There’s a difference between borrowing to respond to economic shocks as National did, and borrowing to fund loose and untargeted spending as this Government is doing.”
The extra debt is made up of $11 billion of additional core Crown debt, and a further $6 billion hidden off the balance sheet in Crown entity borrowing.
“On top of the extra $17 billion of debt, the Government is also raising an extra $2 billion through higher taxes on fuel and housing, with more and higher taxes likely.
“This is a Government that is borrowing more, taxing more and spending more. Unfortunately it has no plans for how we as a country can earn more and in the meantime it’s reducing New Zealand’s ability to cope with international and domestic economic shocks.”
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has appointed new MP Dan Bidois as National’s Associate spokesperson for Workplace Relations and Safety and Simeon Brown as Associate spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.
“Dan Bidois has had an accomplished career as an economist and will make a real contribution to National’s fight against the Government’s backward and bad changes to New Zealand’s industrial relations laws.
“Supporting National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson, Dan will help businesses fight the proposed changes which will take the power to run their own businesses away from hardworking New Zealanders and give it to Labour’s union members.
“Simeon Brown will help National develop new and forward-looking tertiary policies, in support of National’s Deputy Leader and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Paula Bennett.
“The Government has blown $2.8 billion to make tertiary education free, and bought nothing but the status quo, with only a 0.3 per cent increase in the number of students.
“Both MPs will play an important role in holding the Government to account and coming up with the plans and policies to help National earn the right to govern in 2020.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis’ claim that he hadn’t seen the latest prison population forecast before making the decision to slash the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison beggars belief, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Mr Davis has claimed that the first time he saw the latest prison population forecast report – which says the forecast muster is set to be 2000 prisoners higher than the last projection – was last night as a result of a media query.
“This is despite justice sector officials having finalised the report last October – well before the Government made the decision to reduce the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison by around 1000.
“It’s hard to believe that Corrections would not have given its Minister this crucial information at a time when the Government was making a decision on how many prison beds to build.
“But even if what Mr Davis says is true, he has the new forecast now so what is his plan?
“The Government was not building enough beds to meet the previous forecast. Now its decision to build 1000 fewer beds has been shown to be downright reckless. It simply won’t have enough beds to lock away all the serious offenders it needs to to keep New Zealanders safe.
“The options are simple. He can either do the right thing and build the required number of prison beds while also coming up with a real plan to reduce crime, or he can make it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for them to get there in the first place.
“Softening the bail, parole and sentencing laws will make New Zealanders less safe but Labour has made it clear this is what it wants to do.
“And it will need the support of New Zealand First. So where does Winston stand?
“Either way this Government’s reckless endangering of the public and its incompetent handling of law and order needs to stop.”
Revelations that the Government has known since last year that the prison population is set to rise by 2000 more than the last forecast suggested makes its decision to downsize the new Waikeria Prison all the more egregious, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government has sat on a report for over six months showing that the prison population is forecast to reach 14,400, up from the previous forecast of 12,200, yet in that time made the decision to reduce the planned number of beds at Waikeria Prison from 1500 to just 600.
“Responding to a forecast increase of 2000 more prisoners by reducing the number of new beds at Waikeria Prison by almost 1000 shows a disconnect with reality and disregard for the safety of New Zealanders.
“On top of all this, there are more cops being added to the force which will raise the prison muster further and a shortage of around 200-250 Corrections Officers. A perfect storm is on its way to our criminal justice system and safety within and outside prison is in peril.
“It’s no wonder the Government chose to quietly dump the forecast report online without a word on Saturday.
“The National Government had used these forecast reports in making our decision to build a 1500-bed facility at Waikeria. That’s what a responsible Government that prioritises public safety does.
“Ignoring the latest forecast in its decision to downsize Waikeria Prison is the latest example of this Government dismissing evidence and advice it doesn’t like – but is perhaps the most shocking example because of the impact it will have on public safety.
“New Zealand will be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of prison beds short which means the Government won’t be able to put away all the serious offenders it needs to.
“It also shows that the Government’s Criminal Justice Summit in a few months is nothing more than a public relations exercise – it has already pre-determined the outcome and that’s to loosen up our bail, parole and sentencing laws.
“The Government will be making it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for them to get there in the first place, which means it is failing its most fundamental obligation to keep New Zealanders safe.”
This Government continues to show if you’re not on one of its 130 working groups or you disagree with its bad ideas then it’s not willing to listen, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Last week it was business groups launching a campaign against the Government’s destructive industrial law changes, and this week it’s school principals demanding a say on the overhaul of NCEA after being shut out of the process by the Government.
“When 40 of Auckland’s school leaders unite to speak on a matter as important as how our kids learn, the Education Minister Chris Hipkins needs to front up and listen to them – and not tell them they can just send in their thoughts on some web portal.
“The views and expertise of New Zealand’s principals matter. They’re at the coalface so they know our education system and they know what’s good for our children and young people far better than Mr Hipkins and his colleagues and the Government needs to recognise that.
“For the Government to refuse to even meet with them is arrogant and putting politics ahead of our children.
“National is open to good ideas but those who know the system best should be involved.
"But just as the Government is dismissing genuine business concerns as ‘junk’ and an issue of ‘perception’ from businesses only, it’s also telling principals that their views don’t matter.
“This a Government which continues to arrogantly show it doesn’t want its ideas challenged and that’s bad for New Zealand.
“National stands with school principals, and with boards of trustees and parents. National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has written a letter to Mr Hipkins raising the concerns of some principals and highlighting the need for direct engagement.
“Education is a partnership and the Government needs to treat our school principals with respect and listen to what they have to say.”
The worrying increase in strike action under this union-friendly Government will slow our economy, make it harder to do business and affect the access of New Zealanders to public services, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“After less than nine months of this Government 32,000 workers have been involved in industrial action, or signalled their intention to be – compared to just over 27,000 that undertook strike action in the entire nine years of the previous Government.
“And the strike action is escalating.
“Today 4,000 core public servants at MBIE and IRD as well as 150 Wairarapa meat workers announced they would undertake industrial action, following on from the likes of bus drivers and cinema and port workers who have repeatedly disrupted businesses.
“On top of this, around 49,000 teachers are also considering their options.
“That’s around 81,000 workers involved in or considering strike action this year.
“All this is going to make it harder for New Zealanders to do business and access public services like healthcare.
“National supports higher wages and the average wage increased by $13,000 under the previous Government, but the way to do that is to grow the economy while this unrest unleashed by the Government will just slow it down.
“Already the uncertainty is impacting peoples’ quality of life and ultimately the economy. With business confidence already low Labour needs to put the needs of the public and economy first, not its union backers.
“The situation will only get worse when Labour’s proposed employment law reforms are implemented, which are specifically targeted at strengthening unions and weakening the ability of New Zealanders to run their businesses.”