Law Commission proposed relaxing suicide reporting ban

April 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Law Commission has released a paper on the current restrictions for suicide reporting. Their release says:

The Law Commission is recommending revising the restrictions in the Coroners Act 2006 regarding reporting suicide.  The new restrictions would be limited to public comment by any person of the method of the suicide death, the place of the suicide where it is suggestive of the method and the fact that the death is a suicide. However, a death would be able to be described as “suspected suicide” where that is supported by the facts. 

That seems a sensible way forward. It is farcical that very obvious suicides have euphemisms such as “no suspicious circumstances” attached to them as a code. Plus of course social media means that there is usually considerable discussion on such suicides (for better or worse) such as Charlotte Dawson’s. Of course as hers was in Australia it could be openly reported here.

The important thing is not giving details, which it is proposed remain prohibited unless released by a Coroner. A key finding is:

We are satisfied that there is widespread agreement amongst experts in this field and world authorities, such as the World Health Organisation, that media reporting can lead to copycat suicidal behaviour by vulnerable people.

Reporting the details of a suicide is protected by the right to freedom of expression in section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We have concluded that despite extensive evidence of a link between suicide reporting and copycat behaviour, it is only the evidence linking the reporting of the method of suicide to subsequent suicidal behaviour that is strong enough to justify a statutory restriction.

Again I agree.

Hopefully the Government will take up the recommendations at some stage.

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Burial laws

October 6th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Law Commission has released a raft of proposals as part of the first full review of burial and cremation laws for almost 50 years. They include stricter controls on funeral directors, allowing private firms to run cemeteries and letting the bereaved bury loved ones on family land.

The latter proposal was aimed mainly at those with a farm or similar who could demonstrate it would stay in the family for generations, lead commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp said.

“A national standard would set out minimum standards you would expect when a person was buried,” Dr Mapp said.

“My personal preference is there to be a separate title for an area of land [for burial], but I can understand it might be sufficient for it to be noted on the title of the land.”

Funeral Directors Association president Eion McKinnon supported the shake-up, saying many of the current laws were “archaic”.

 Mark Blackham, founder of the Natural Burials funeral service, backed the possibility of change.

“It means all manner of people, in all manner of places, would be able to set up their own cemeteries. Our surveys have shown that around about a third of New Zealanders would do [natural burials] if it was available.”

Sounds a good proposed change to me.

Wellington City Council was concerned about permitting burials on private land, highlighting issues around maintenance and accountability.

“There has to be strict controls in place,” a spokesman said. “There’s a terrifying possibility of people just being able to … dig a hole and put granny in it and put some flowers in it. It raises all sorts of obvious questions about procedure.”

Silly scaremongering. Councils like monopolies.

Mind you my personal preference is to be buried in the Bolton Cemetery in Wellington. Just need to get it re-opened!

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No unified media regulator

September 13th, 2013 at 10:09 am by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has given the New Zealand news media a vote of support by rejecting proposals for a single, independent media regulator which would have had the power to demand corrections and removal of news content.

Mrs Collins said that unlike the UK and Australia, there was no crisis of confidence in mainstream media in New Zealand and no pressing need for changes.

She said the Government would not establish a “one-stop-shop” media regulator – a merger of the existing Press Council, Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) and Online Media Standards Authority – but said it could be considered again if reform was called for.

My reading of this is that the Government thinks the status quo is working well enough, that a change wasn’t justified.

They are right that the status quo is working, and unlike the UK, there is no crisis or even anything close to it.

However I still thought the Law Commission model was worth pursuing, for two reasons:

  • It would get the Government out of media regulation, by moving broadcasters (for news purposes) from the Government appointed BSA to an independent regulator where board members are not appointed by Government
  • It would mean one regulator, instead of the three we have at the moment, which would be easier for those with complaints to use

I note the Government has not said the model proposed is unsuitable, so it may happen at some stage. But for now it seems the decision is to not fix it, as it isn’t broken.

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Cyber-bullying

April 4th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Judith Collins has announced:

  • Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes setting up or appointing an approved agency as the first port of call for complaints.
  • Allowing people to take serious complaints to the District Court, which will be able to issue sanctions such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
  • Making it an offence to send messages and post material online that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false, punishable by up to 3 months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine.
  • Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.
  • Amending the Harassment, Privacy and Human Rights Acts to ensure they are up-to-date for digital communications. In some cases, existing laws were written before cell phones, instant messaging devices and social networking websites became common communication channels.

This is mainly based on the Law Commission report, but with a key difference.

The Commission recommended a specialist Communications Tribunal, instead of the District Court. I think it is better to have it as part of the District Court, as there is less concern about scope creep.

I have no issue with the proposed law changes above, however one area remains a concern:

The FAQ says: The Government proposes adopting the 10 statutory principles recommended by the Law Commission, which are based on criminal and civil law and regulatory rules.

This is the area which concerns me the most. The principles are:

  1. A communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual.
  2. A communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.
  3. A communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
  4. A communication should not be indecent or obscene.
  5. A communication should not be part of a pattern of conduct that constitutes harassment.
  6. A communication should not make a false allegation.
  7. A communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.
  8. A communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to a person with the intention of causing that person harm.
  9. A communication should not incite or encourage another person to commit suicide.
  10. A communication should not denigrate a person by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, ethical belief, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

I blogged last year on a legal analysis of the principles, and I think some are too wide-reaching.

I would encourage people to read the proposed law when it is introduced, and make sure they submit to select committee.

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Final Law Commission report on new media and news media

March 26th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Law Commission has published its final report as part of their review of regulatory gaps and new media.

I blogged on their draft report in December 2011, and said I thought their draft report was excellent.

I also blogged my submission on the draft report in March 2012.

Their final report is not hugely different to their draft report, but there have been some useful changes, especially around the key area of having any media regulator totally independent from Government (unlike the current Broadcasting Standards Authority).

The report is a welcome dose of common sense and respect for a free media, which avoids the excesses recommended in the UK an Australia.

The Law Commissions cites four policy objectives in their report:

  • recognise and protect the special status of the news media, ensuring all entities carrying out the legitimate functions of the fourth estate, regardless of their size or commercial status, are able to access the legal privileges and exemptions available to these publishers
  • ensure that those entities accessing the news media’s special legal status are held accountable for exercising their power ethically and responsibly
  • provide citizens with an effective and meaningful means of redress when those standards are breached
  • signal to the public which publishers they can rely on as sources of news and information.

They note:

Finally, there is a strong public interest in ensuring that any accountability mechanisms for the news media encourages rather than stifles diversity. It must therefore provide a level playing field for all those carrying out the functions of the fourth estate, irrespective of their size, commercial status, or the format in which they publish or distribute their content. In other words it must be technology neutral focusing on content and context rather than the format or delivery platform.

I agree, and that is why I support their key recommendation of just one self-regulatory standards body, rather than the existing three bodies (one Govt regulatory, and two self-regulatory).

Some of their recommendations are:

  • A news media standards body (the News Media Standards Authority or NMSA) should be established to enforce standards across all publishers of news.
  • Membership should be entirely voluntary and available to any person or entity that regularly publishes or generates news, information or current opinion.
  • To gain the full legal rights of news media (which are extensive), an entity or person must be accountable to a published code of ethics and the NMSA.
  • The NMSA should be chaired by a retired Judge who is appointed by the Chief Ombudsman and the majority of complaints panel members should be representatives of the public who are not from the media industry.
  • The NMSA will have a code of practice and may also have sub-codes for different mediums (I think is is important as I think online media should focus more on correction, which is less of a remedy in broadcast or print media).
  • NMSA powers will include publishing of their decisions, website take downs, corrections, right of replies, apologies, censure and ultimately termination of membership. However no power to fine.
  • A three person appeals body is also recommended.
  • No state funding of the NMSA for its regulatory function – will be entirely industry funded.
  • A working party of seven people to establish the NMSA, with the Chief Ombudsman appointing the Chairperson and the Chairperson the other six members – with industry representatives in the minority.
  • NZ on Air funding of news and current affairs will only be open to media that are members of NMSA.
  • BSA would have its role reduced to good taste and decency and protection of children standards only.

I think this report is an opportunity for the media to move from a mixed model of partial government regulation and partial self-regulation to effectively full self-regulation. I also like the opening up of opportunities for non traditional media to gain the legal privileges of the media, so long as they are willing to sign up for a code of practice and complaints procedure.

To some degree the status quo isn’t broken, so I wouldn’t call this a legislative priority for any Government. We’ll see a formal response in 120 days (off memory). But it does represent a sensible way forward and is worth pursuing.

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Petty drug crimes

January 8th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Ben Heather at Stuff reports:

Hundreds of people are locked up for petty drug offences every year – many for crimes our top legal body says should not exist.

Justice Ministry figures show a significant amount of court time is taken up by minor drug cases, with nearly as many people imprisoned for possessing a small quantity of cannabis as for dealing.

Among these offenders are hundreds imprisoned for possessing a pipe or a needle, an offence the Law Commission recommended legalising last year.

I wonder if those imprisoned for possession of a pipe or needle only convicted for that offence?

The figures also show fewer than one in three minor drug offenders is offered diversion, allowing them to avoid a criminal record.

How many were eligible for diversion? It is only available for first time offenders.

In the past six years, possession of small amounts of cannabis or smoking utensils, such as a pipe, made up about half of all drug charges laid by police.

While most offenders received a fine or community work, more than 2800 were imprisoned on minor drug offences.

These included possession of needles, pipes, and small amounts of cannabis or methamphetamine.

I note that proportions going to prison were:

  • Cannabis possession 6.8%
  • Cannabis utensil 9.7%
  • P possession 22.4%
  • P utensil 19.8%

Rather than dealing with people through the criminal justice system, the Government could introduce a mandatory cautioning scheme, he said.

“For a drug like cannabis you could get three cautions before being diverted to a treatment programme. We are not talking about decriminalising or legalising, it’s about a more pragmatic way to get help for people that need it.”

However, Ms Collins said the justice system was the right place for all drug offenders.

“The Government relies on enforcement agencies such as police to make appropriate decisions on how to charge someone for their offending, and the judiciary to make appropriate sentencing decisions based on the circumstances of individual cases.”

Personally I think the Law Commission proposal of a mandatory cautioning scheme is a sensible initiative, and would like to see it implemented. And I am not sure that the justice system is the right place for all drug offenders.

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The cyber-bullying law

September 6th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Barton writes at NZ Herald:

In its rushed proposals to stomp out cyber bullying, the Law Commission has blundered in haste.

Instead of refining our existing laws to ensure they reach into cyberspace, it’s proposing a whole new offence “causing harm by means of communication device.”

No, it doesn’t mean causing grievous bodily harm by taking to someone with your iPhone. The proposed offence aims to make it illegal to send “a message or other matter” – whether by text, Twitter, email or Facebook that is “grossly offensive; or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character; or knowingly false”. To make the criminal charge stick you’d also have to show that the sender was out to cause substantial emotional distress to someone else.

I have some concerns with the proposed law also. But it is worth noting the law does not create a new criminal offence, or charge. It proposed a tribunal that could order material removed.

“We are prepared to accept that a case can be made out for making the very worst of deliberately harmful speech illegal,” says Tech Liberty, which has argued against aspects of the proposals. “However, we see no reason why this illegality should only be limited to electronic communications. Surely a poison-pen letter delivered to the letter box can be as harmful as an email or a text message on a phone.”

Making separate laws for the internet and the real world ushers in a dangerous precedent and sets up the prospect of two different legal realms.

This is one of the issue. Something done offline and online should be treated the same. Arguably you could extend the gambit of the proposed Communications Tribunal to include offline harmful speech also. Or you could narrow it to only target speech which is currently covered by our laws.

The proposed law is under consideration by the Government, and could even be introduced to Parliament later this year. There are potentially very significant ramifications for Internet users.

To help inform debate, and to try and improve the proposed law, InternetNZ has organised two half day workshops on the proposed law. The agenda is here and details are:

  • Wellington, Mon 17 Sep, 1 pm – 5 pm, Civic Suites, Wellington Town Hall
  • Auckland, Tue 18 Sep, 1 pm – 5 pm, Limelight Room, Aotea Centre

If you wish to attend, you can RSVP to rsvp@internetnz.net.nz. They are free to attend.

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Communication Principles

August 17th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Lawyer John Edwards blogs on the proposed draft bill by the Law Commission to deal with harmful online communications. I share some of his concerns. A key issue is the ten principles in the bill:

  1. A communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual.
  2. A communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.
  3. A communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
  4. A communication should not be indecent or obscene.
  5. A communication should not be part of a pattern of conduct that constitutes harassment.
  6. A communication should not make a false allegation.
  7. A communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.
  8. A communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to a person with the intention of causing that person harm.
  9. A communication should not incite or encourage another person to commit suicide.
  10. A communication should not denigrate a person by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, ethical belief, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Principles 2, 5, 8 and 9 are fairly uncontroversial to me. The others can be challenging.

Edwards blogs on principle 1:

Thirdly, the Bill also later waters down the “publicly available publication” exemption from the prohibition on using or disclosing personal information.  Under current law, if I disclose personal information contained in a publicly available publication, it cannot be a breach of the Privacy Act.  Under the Bill, you could be liable for disclosing material from a publicly available publication …

And principle 3:

subjective “grossly offensive” test could force a rethink of Hell Pizza’s marketing strategy, but what else might it catch?

I don’t like this at all. If people are offended by what I say, then they should not read it. A blog is not like a billboard you are forced to walk pass, or a TV ad displayed during the news.

Principle 4:

prohibition on indecent or obscene communications simply aligns communications with a range of other publications, and does not really materially change the landscape.

I still think if an Internet publication breaches NZ law, then the correct response is to prosecute them for it, not have a Tribunal do a take down notice.

I can maybe accept takedown notices for content that targets an individual. But takedown notices for stuff which is merely arguably against community standards as expressed in the law I have an issue with.

Principle 6:

pretty much reprises defamation (without the troublesome need to prove the subject’s reputation or standing in the community has been harmed as a result).

Which is rather important.

Principle 7:

codifies the common law against breach of confidence, and might in fact afford a more accessible remedy than the court proceedings now required.

But what i someone sends me a massively abusive e-mail, yet says it is confidential. Does that mean I can’t expose their abuse?

Principle 10:

I prefer vilify to denigrate. If someone is a scientologist, should they be able to get a takedown notice against me if I say only morons are scientologists, so you must be a moron if you believe in Lord Xenu?

There are some real harms done, especially to youth, by cyber-bullying. But we have to be careful that any measures do not over-reach, and I remain concerned that these do. The challenge is not to just oppose – but to constructively propose improvements to make the proposal acceptable.

On the issue of the proposed bill though, I did like this piece from Trans-tasman:

At the same time came a crackdown on cyber bullying, launched by Justice Minister Judith Collins. This is a rare case of politicians reaching across the political divide to help opponents.

One of the first beneficiaries of the crackdown will be Labour’s David Cunliffe, who has been bombarded with texts saying “U R stink & evry1 h8s U” and the like from @WainuiBiker and @SonOfBobGrant.

Heh.

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A Communications Tribunal for the Internet?

August 15th, 2012 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

The Law Commission has published Harmful Digital Communications: The adequacy of the current sanctions and remedies.

This proposal will be considered by the Government and in some form a law change is highly likely. There are significant issues for Internet users. I recommend peopel read through the paper. Their recommendations:

  • The creation of a new criminal offence tailored for digital communication.
  • Amendments to the Harassment Act 1997, the Human Rights Act 1993, the Privacy Act 1993 and the Crimes Act 1961 to ensure that the provisions of these Acts can be readily applied to digital communications.
  • The establishment of a Communications Tribunal to provide citizens harmed by digital communications with speedy, efficient and cheap access to remedies such as takedown orders and “cease and desist” notices.
  • New legal requirements for all New Zealand schools to help combat bullying of all kinds, including cyber-bullying.

From their report:

This report is primarily about the laws to which we are all accountable when we communicate. Its recommendations are not aimed at censorship. Nor are they about criminalising speech which offends people simply because it may be abusive, nasty, vulgar, untrue or inflammatory.

That is good. However I do have some fears about how this boundary may get shifted over time.

Types of digital communications covered by the offence would include comments on websites, message boards and blogs, and in the social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), and also emails and texts.

Hence, why people should read the report.

Under our proposed amendments it would be an offence to publish intimate photographs or recordings of another person without their consent. We also recommend that the laws about online sexual grooming be tightened.

I support that.

We recommend that it become an offence to incite a person to commit suicide, irrespective of whether or not the person does so.

Likewise.

The Tribunal we propose would comprise a District Court judge supported (where necessary) by an expert internet adviser. There would be a number of judges designated to act.

If there is to be a Tribunal (and I have some reservations), I’m glad it will comprise a Judge, as they will be acquainted with the balancing if rights more than a lay commissioner might be.

The Tribunal’s jurisdiction would be protective, rather than punitive or compensatory. It would not have any powers to impose criminal sanctions. It would be limited instead to providing civil remedies, such as takedowns and cease and desist orders. In some cases it might also require apologies, right of reply, corrections or retractions. We do not propose that it have any power to award monetary compensation.

That sounds good, but what is implicit, not explicit, that a failure to comply would be contempt of court and see someone fined or jailed for non compliance eventually. I have reservations about someone being forced to take down material they stand by and are prepared to face legal consequences of.

The Tribunal would be a solution of last resort and the threshold for obtaining a remedy would be high. Complainants would have to demonstrate that the communication complained about had caused significant harm, including distress, humiliation or mental harm.

Distress can be rather subjective.

Among the other factors the Tribunal would have to take into account would be: the nature and purpose of the communication and whether it was the type of speech requiring high protection, such as political speech; the truth or falsity of the statement; the context in which it was expressed; and the conduct of the complainant – including the extent to which that conduct may have contributed to the harm suffered.

I am glad to see this, as one concern I have is political activists trying to use the Tribunal to silence critics.

We recommend that NetSafe be given statutory recognition as an “approved agency” responsible for triaging and, where possible, mediating complaints before they reach the Tribunal.

I support this. Netsafe do an excellent job, Mediation is preferable to arbitration.

 

 

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Speaking next week

April 26th, 2012 at 12:18 pm by David Farrar

For those interested, I’ve got three speaking engagements next week.

On Monday evening I’m speaking in Auckland on the MMP review to the National Party’s Northern Region Policy Committee. That is open to party members only.

On Tuesday I’m speaking at a forum organised by the Legal Research Foundation on media and new media regulation. This is also in Auckland and open to the public. There is a fee to attend.

On Wednesday I’m speaking at the “Privacy in the age of big data” forum, organised by the Privacy Commissioner. This is in Wellington and open to the public. Also a fee to attend.

A somewhat diverse range of subjects. Hence, blogging may be lighter than normal next week.

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New media regulation

April 17th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Legal Research Foundation has organised a forum on media and new media regulation in Auckland on Tuesday 1 May. It will discuss the issues raised in the Law Commission paper reviewing regulatory gaps with media and new media.

My submission on the paper is here.

There is a star-studded line-up of speakers (plus me). They are:

  • Justice Raynor Asher, President of the Legal Research Foundation
  • Law Professor John Burrows and former editor Cate Brett from the Law Commission
  • Hon Barry Paterson QC, Press Council Chair
  • Claire Bradley, Mediaworks Legal Counsel
  • Martin Cocker, Netsafe Executive Director
  • Steven Price, Barrister
  • Judge David Harvey

You can register at the link above, or just send an e-mail to info@legalresearch.org.nz, and the LRF will invoice you.

The issues being discussed are very important, and could well have a significant impact on the Internet. Id encourage interested people to attend, if they can.

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Submission on new media and media regulation

March 12th, 2012 at 9:01 am by David Farrar

Submission close at the end of today to the Law Commission on their discussion paper, “The News Media meets ‘New Media’: Rights, Responsibilities and Regulation in the Digital Age“.

My submission is below. I encourage others with an interest in this area to do even a brief submission.

New Media Submission to Law Commission

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What media standards should apply?

March 6th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

This is a guest post from the Law Commission, which continues to seek feedback on and discussion of its Review of Regulatory Gaps and the New Media issues paper. It follows on from three posts at Public Address being  Who are the media? and Who guards the guardians? and Censorship is not the only enemy of free speech. The Law Commission warmly invites you to engage in discussion of this post.

This is a rare opportunity to influence the direction of media and new media policy in New Zealand. I encourage people to make constructive comments, that help answer the questions posed.

Note the disclaimer at the bottom of the posts.”

I would also encourage people to consider making formal submissions, which can be done up until the closing date on Monday 12th of March.

DPF

4.What standards should apply?

One of the first challenges facing any new converged media regulator would be to consult the public about what standards should apply to the news media and the extent to which standards should differ in different contexts.

Currently, the two existing news media regulators, the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council adopt quite different approaches to how they define and apply journalistic ethics and standards.

Because it is a statutory body the BSA must apply standards laid down in primary legislation and must work with industry to translate these into specific codes of practices which are used to assess complaints. There are currently four different codes:

  • Free-to-air television
  • Pay television
  • Radio
  • Election Programmes

The BSA has developed a significant body of media jurisprudence, particularly in the area of of privacy.

The Press Council is much less prescriptive in its approach, relying on a set of general journalistic principles which are intended to provide guidance to the public and publishers with respect to ethical journalism.

To date we are not aware of any New Zealand research investigating public expectations of media standards and how these may be changing as a result of the greatly expanded menu of options available to consumers of news and current affairs.

Some of the questions a new regulator might want answered are whether the public has a different expectation of standards of accuracy and fairness from news websites which are constantly updating breaking news, compared with those same sites’ print products? Similarly, does the public expect the same standards from news videos published on newspaper websites as they do from footage broadcast on prime time television? What about news and current affairs programmes accessed on demand?

And what care are news sites expected to take when publishing user-generated content including comments on news stories?

What about bloggers who might choose to come under the independent news media complaints body – should they be subject to a different code more appropriate for the inevitably partisan nature of opinion makers?

Interestingly recent research undertaken by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) exploring Australians’ expectations of media standards in a converged environment found the content itself (and the provider) were more determinative of consumer expectations than the platform on which that content was delivered:

One of the key findings from the focus groups involved in the research was “the expectation that community standards should apply differently to content type rather than delivery channel.

Participants consistently distinguished between user-generated and professionally produced content. This distinction was driven by the perception of each content type having a different ‘community’ Content that was professionally produced (such as films, television programs or series) was expected to be consumed on a mass scale by the broader community and, as such it was expected to reflect broad community standards.

In our Issues Paper we raise a number of questions to test New Zealanders’ perceptions and expectations of media standards in the converged environment. We also suggest a new regulator would need to consult widely with the public on these questions. Among the questions we pose in our Issues Paper with respect to standards are:

Traditionally, the standards to which the news media have been held accountable have dealt with the following matters: (chapter 4 at 4.30)

  • Accuracy;
  • Fairness and balance – ensuring for example that news is not deliberately distorted through the omission of important facts or view-points;
  • Respect for individuals’ rights to privacy;
  • A commitment to public interest rather than self-interested publishing;
  • Transparency; ensuring conflicts of interest are declared;
  • Good taste and decency; ensuring the general public is not offended by the gratuitous publication of offensive content.

Do you think these standards are still important?

Do the internet and the facility for others to comment and participate in the news process change any of these standards?  (chapter 6 at 6.41)

Should all news media be accountable to the same standards irrespective of the medium in which they publish?  Or is there a distinction to be made between content which is broadcast to mass audiences simultaneously and content which is accessed by individuals on demand? (chapter 6 at 6.92)

The ACMA research suggests the on-demand distinction is less important than the nature of the market for which the content was intended. With respect to news and current affairs, this market is by its very nature almost invariably broad-based, which might suggest community expectations of standards for news and current affairs may be uniform irrespective of delivery channel.

What are your views?

“IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS DISCUSSION:

This discussion is being advertised across several new media websites – guests to Kiwiblog are very welcome but please refer to the rules under Posting Policy and Demerits.

This discussion is part of the Law commission’s consultation on their issues paper “The News Media meets ‘New Media’: rights, responsibilities and regulation in the digital age. I.E. your comments below may be taken into account when the Law Commission writes its final report on Media Regulation issues. The discussion will be moderated, however this moderation will be in accordance with the normal rules of moderation in this forum.

Several other things follow from this:

1. The Law Commission may participate in the discussion.  Any comments it makes in this forum should be regarded as provisional as the Commission will not finalise its policies and recommendations to government until it tables its final report which is expected at the end of 2012.

2.  Parts or all of this discussion may be archived as part of the official record of this Issues Paper Consultation (Practically this means that  if you change your mind on something then you are encouraged to say so and explain why – otherwise your initial view may be interpreted as a kind of submission).;

3.  This discussion may be subject to the Official Information Act – and certainly any remarks made by the Law Commission will be; The Law Commission encourages all participants to also make formal submissions to the Law Commission here.  If you form an opinion on these issues as a result of reading the discussion in this thread then please share that with the Commission directly if you wish.

- The Law Commission and David Farrar (Host and publisher of Kiwiblog)

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More nastiness from Labour

March 1st, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard blogs:

Wayne Mapp’s commercial legal experience is limited to three years assisting one John Collinge, former President of the National Party who is better known for activity on the the table at the London High Commission than legal expertise.

He spent thirteen years at the University of Auckland but was unable to obtain a chair or a position in the Law School. He then became an undistinguished MP and a lacklustre Minister.

Mapp got the push from the National caucus but has been given a job at the Law Commission – a role normally reserved for distinguished lawyers.

Cronyism again.

An incredibly nasty and spiteful post by Mallard, who continues to remind people of all that is bad within Labour. He doesn’t just attack the appointment of Dr Mapp, but denigrates his entire career.

I have no issue with people having a go at appointments not made on merit, due primarily to their political links. for example the appointment of Brian Neeson to the Human Rights Review tribunal was rightly criticised by many (including me).

The most outrageous crony appointments was when Mallard’s Government appointed Labour MP Di Yates to four separate boards – to Food Standards Australia New Zealand,  Trust Waikato Community Trust, education book publisher Learning Media’s board and the board of the Waikato Institute of Technology.  The appointment to FSANZ was justified in the press release on the basis Yates was from Waikato which is “arguably the food bowl of New Zealand”. Yes, seriously, that was the only rationale they could come up with..

But anyway back to Dr Mapp, his appointment needs a fairer appraisal than Mallard’s nasty denigration. I’m surprised he has such venom for Mapp, because in fact Wayne was one of the least partisan MPs in Parliament. In fact he was a member of the Labour Party for many years, before he joined National. He even stood against Phil Goff for the Labour nomination for Mt Roskill in 1981 (when Wayne was in his 20s). Most Labour MPs would be far more generous towards Wayne, and probably be mortified by Mallard’s nastiness towards him. However they allow Mallard to remain their public face.

Wayne has always had a great love of policy and the law. I first met him before he was an MP, when he was Northern Region Policy Chair, and I was the Young Nats policy person. He would happily spend hours debating policy and law with me and others. He’s exactly the sort of person you do want on the Law Commission – he won’t be partisan, he has huge intellectual curiosity (which is what you need on the Law Commission) and a passion for good law and policy. I think his appointment is an excellent one – and it is useful to have someone with actual parliamentary experience on the Law Commission, in my opinion.

As for his legal background, so denigrated by Trevor Mallard who has a BCA (and an assault conviction). Wayne has an honours degree in law from Auckland University, a masters from the University of Toronto and a PhD in international law from Cambridge. He spent 12 years as an academic in commercial law, and left as an Associate Professor before he became an MP.

The suggestion he got the push from the National Caucus is also a typical Mallard lie. Wayne’s decision to retire at the last election took everyone by surprise. His primary motivation for leaving Parliament was to open doors for his wife Denese Henare, whose activities as a lawyer had to be somewhat restricted while he was an MP. Denese, incidentally, has served on the Law Commission herself and I am confident that Wayne’s contribution will match her own distinguished record.

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Who are the news media

February 29th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Law Commission is discussing at public address the issue of who are the news media, and what regulation should there be of the media. You can comment over there and your views will help influence their final report. One extract:

In chapter 4 of our Issues Paper we attempt to answer these questions by posing another, more fundamental, question: what is the function of the news media? What is it that distinguishes the news media from other types of publishers?

These questions are the subject of a very large and divergent academic literature which we cannot traverse here. But it may be worth re-stating the orthodox view that suggests the key functions of the “Press” in a liberal democracy are to:

* act as an independent watchdog on government and other seats of power;

* represent the public (for example in Parliament and the courts );

* disseminate information to the public;

* provide a forum for debate and the formation and expression of public opinion.

You can also make a formal submission to the Law Commission.

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News media meets New media

December 12th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Law Commission has publicly released today its report on legal and other issues around new media such as blogs. I was one of those interviewed by them in initial consultation phase in formulating this issues paper. It is open for public comment until 12 March 2012.

I think the report is an excellent one, and I am enthusiastically supportive of their proposed model of media regulation in the digital age. There are some risks around the model proposed, but these can be mitigated. Balanced against those risks are considerable opportunities for “new media”.

News media have special protections under the law. The Law Commission recommends “news media” be defined as a publisher in any medium who

  1. has a significant proportion of their publishing activities being the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value
  2. disseminates this information to a public audience
  3. regularly publishes
  4. is accountable to a code of ethics and a complaints process

Kiwiblog (not that this is my main concern) would clearly qualify under points 1 to 3, so would need the accountability and complaints process to qualify. Whether or not this is worthwhile, will depend on the details.

A key point made by the Law Commission is:

It is important to note this definition is not intended to exclude others from reporting or commenting on the news. It simply proposes a set of statutory criteria to resolve the current uncertainty as to which groups and individuals qualify for the legal privileges and exemptions assigned to the media.

This is quite crucial, and one of the risk areas of a new definition. At present bloggers are allowed to report on court proceedings, attend Treasury lockups etc. This should continue to occur, even if a blogger does not qualify under the proposed definition. The definition is for qualifying for legal privileges, and should not be used to block genuine access for online publishers.

The key aspect of the Law Commission paper is an independent regulator for all news media regardless of format or delivery platform. This would replace the Govt appointed BSA for broadcasters and the Press Council for print media. There are significant anomalies in the current system, with an example being:

  • A video broadcast by a broadcaster is subject to the BSA
  • A video placed on a broadcaster’s website is not subject to any regulation
  • A video placed on a newspaper’s website is subject to the Press Council

The Commission proposes the following features for a new regulator

  1. Independent of both government and the news industry
  2. Appointments to the regulator would be by an independent panel
  3. Regulator would work with industry on different codes, so bloggers might have their own code (for example accuracy required, but possibly not fairness)
  4. Recognised by statute and part-funded by industry and subsidised by the state

I think the independence from Government is crucial. Without that it becomes a path through which the Government could censor the media and I would be against. The details in these areas will be vital.

The subsidy is also a necessary evil. Bloggers are generally non-commercial and you can’t charge a blogger $10,000 a year to come under such a regulator. Likewise, I can’t see APN and Fairfax wanting to pay on behalf of bloggers. The Commission says:

It is in the public interest that as many news publishers, including small startups, belong to such a standards body and a lack of financial resources should not be an impediment to joining. The state and wider public have a strong interest in a robust and ethical news media and we see no reason why this body should not receive state support, provided there are no strings attached to the appropriation.

One of the issues in the paper would be whether membership of the regulator would be entirely voluntary for everyone, or whether commercial media should be required to join.

I believe it should be voluntary for everyone. The incentive to gain the legal protections of being news media should be enough. A key issue will also be what are the powers of the regulator. If they have the power to (for example) suspend a newspaper, then newspapers would not want to join. If the power is to require publication of a finding, and low level fines, then perhaps less of an issue. The print media are the ones who potentially lose a wee bit of freedom in this model, while broadcasters would end up with greater freedom. In a converged world, all media should be on the same level, and so long as the regulator is not Govt controlled I think that is a good model.

The Commission notes:

The large majority of New Zealanders publishing on the internet would not come within the ambit of the new regulatory system we propose. In essence they will be able to exercise complete freedom of speech. They can, without fear of any regulator, be inaccurate in their facts, unbalanced in their coverage and extreme in their opinions. The public can rely on them, or not, as they see fit. They would not be recognised as “news media” for the purposes of the statutory privileges.

They also note that such publishers are still liable to the laws of defamation, copyright, contempt of court etc.

There are other interesting issues the Commission looks at in its paper

  • consider introducing a new offence of maliciously impersonating another person
  • amend the Harassment Act 1997 to explicitly include cyber-bullying

But rather than have these go to court, which would be over-kill, they float a model of a Communications Tribunal “which could administer speedy, efficient and relatively cheap justice to those who have been significantly damaged by unlawful communications”

I think this aspect is more problematic, while well-intentioned. They do say:

The Tribunal would only deal with cases which it judges would have met the threshold of a breach of the law. It should not be a port of call for those with insubstantial complaints.

My suspicion is it would become exactly that. For such a model to work, it will need considerable safeguards against malicious and trivial complaints designed to (ironically) harass the person complained about.

The Tribunal would not have the ability to impose any criminal sanction they say:

Sanctions and remedies available to the Tribunal would include the ability to award monetary compensation up to a prescribed level; to order publication of an apology or correction; to order that a right of reply be granted; to order that the defendant cease the conduct in question (a type of injunction); and to make takedown orders against either the perpetrator or an innocent avenue of communication such as an ISP. It might also make a declaration that statements made about the victim are untrue. Failure to comply with an order would be an offence.

I do like the notion of the Tribunal being able to make a declaration that statements about a victim are untrue. Defamation is rarely viable for those who have false things said about them online. And victims of lies and slander often just want the truth affirmed, not damages. I do see considerable merit in the concept of the Tribunal. My concerns are around the small number of nutters out there would would try to use it as a form of harassment in itself.

Two safeguards against this might simply be requiring complainants to use their real names to complain. Those who post under an alias can not claim they have been harmed by speech against them when no one knows who they are. A further safeguard would be a requirement to pay a filing fee. This is the most effective way to stop serial complainers.

An alternate option they put forward is a Communications Commissioner as part of the Human Rights Commission. I don’t think this would be a good fit for the HRC, and in fact could distract them from their primary focus.

The paper is (as expected) very well researched, and shows great understanding of the online environment. I encourage people to read it, or at least the summary paper, and give your feedback. It is my understanding that there are likely to be some sort of forums organised where people can attend and discuss and debate the issues and proposals. I’ll blog details of these as they are known.

Finally it is worth noting this is an issues paper, not a final paper recommending action to the Government. That means this is the best time to influence it.

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Law Commission report on new media

December 5th, 2011 at 8:50 am by David Farrar

Tom Pullar-Strecker reports at Stuff:

Bloggers are nervously waiting for the publication of the Law Commission’s report on “new media” next Monday.

Former Commerce Minister Simon Power raised their blood pressure when he ordered the review in October last year, commenting that there was a “wild west out there in cyberspace”.

InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar said at the time that if that was what Power really believed, “we’ve got reasons to be very, very worried”.

Power was concerned about breaches of suppression orders, libel on the internet, and whether bloggers and online publications should be subject to oversight by the Press Council or Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Blogger David Farrar, of Kiwiblog, expects a high-brow report but believes it is unlikely the Law Commission will advocate an “uber regulator” for new media.

I wouldn’t say I was nervous about it, but I certainly am interested and looking forward to blogging on the report next Monday. As with most areas of law reform there are likely to be opportunities and risks for those who are online publishers (which is anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account).

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A more sensible drugs policy

May 3rd, 2011 at 3:13 pm by David Farrar

The Law Commission has completed its report reviewing our drug laws. Their key proposals include:

  • A mandatory cautioning scheme for all personal possession and use offences that come to the attention of the police
  • Removing minor drug offenders from the criminal justice system and providing greater opportunities for those in need of treatment to access it.
  • A full scale review of the current drug classification system which is used to determine restrictiveness of controls and severity of penalties, addressing existing inconsistencies and focusing solely on assessing a drug’s risk of harm, including social harm.
  • Making separate funding available for the treatment of offenders through the justice sector to support courts when they impose rehabilitative sentences to address alcohol and drug dependence problems;
  • Consideration of a pilot drug court, allowing the government to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of deferring sentencing of  some  offenders until they had undergone court-imposed alcohol and/or drug treatment

I think the Law Commission’s proposals are very sound, and they are not a “soft line on drugs“, as Stuff says.

Giving people a criminal record over a one time possession of small amounts of cannabis is silly, considering arund half the adult population have smoked cannabis. I’m not one of them incidentially.

I hope the Government does not reject this report knee-jerk, and doesn’t rule out any changes which might lead to better outcomes for New Zealand and New Zealanders. The proposed warning system for drug use provides good incentives for people to stop.

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Law Commission on Parliamentary Salaries and Perks

December 7th, 2010 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

The Law Commission has published its review of the Civil List Act 1979, which sets out MPs salaries and expenses. They recommend:

  • Travel, accommodation, attendance and communications services for members of Parliament and members of the Executive should be determined by an independent body – an enhanced Remuneration Authority which includes a former MP and a person with appropriate skills and
    experience in the administration of Parliament
  • The RA should also determine entitlements to funding and services to support parties’ and members’ parliamentary operations
  • The Official Information Act 1982 should be extended to cover information held
    by the Speaker in his role with ministerial responsibilities for Parliamentary
    Service and the Office of the Clerk; the Parliamentary Service; the Parliamentary
    Service Commission; and the Office of the Clerk in its departmental holdings
  • The OIA should not apply to information held by members in their capacity as members of Parliament, information relating to the development of parliamentary party policies,  and party organisational material, including media advice and polling information.
  • Unauthorised absences of greater than nine days should result in 0.2% of annual salary being deducted a day. That is around $250 a day, up from $10.

Overall this looks very good. I’ve long supported the OIA applying to the financial aspects of Parliamentary Service, but have not supported full inclusion, where someone like me (for example) could send in an OIA asking for all e-mails between Phil Goff and his press secretaries. No parliamentary party could operate with its internal e-mails being made available to the media and other parties.

So I think the Law Commission have done a good job on the OIA side, as their proposals hopefully stand a good chance of being adopted.

The handing over of perks, expenses and parliamentary party funding to an independent body is also an idea whose time has come. Having a former MP and someone with parliamentary administration experience on the Remuneration Authority should mean that its decisions will be made on practical experience, not textbook theory.

I hope the Government, and indeed all parties, support the report. There may be some fine-tuning to be done, but the principles look good to me.

UPDATE: Yay the PM has just announced that the Government has accepted in principle the recommendation to have MPs and Ministers expenses set by an independent body. By the end of this term of Parliament, things will be hugely more transparent and accountable compared to 2008 and before.

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Review good, framing of it bad

October 14th, 2010 at 3:46 pm by David Farrar

Simon Power has announced a review of new media:

Justice Minister Simon Power has asked the Law Commission to review the adequacy of regulations around how the Internet interacts with the justice system.

“I’ve ordered this review because it’s imperative the law keeps pace with technology and that we have one set of rules for all news media,” Mr Power said.

I am a supporter of there being a review, and have in fact advocated for it. But I have to say the way the Minister has framed it is regrettable and rather confrontational.

First of all it may make a nice slogan, but the status quo doesn’t have one set of rules – broadcast media have very different rules to print media.

“At the moment we’ve got two tracks – conventional media and the so-called ‘new media’ – intersecting with the justice system, and it’s not sustainable.

“It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace at the moment, because bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards.

This is another slogan which means little (and remember I do actually favour a review). First of all bloggers are subject to the law – as have been demonstrated of late. The notion of regulating bloggers (beyond the normal requirement to obey the law) or imposing some sort of “professional standards” on them is ridicolous fancy. Bloggers are simply citizens having a say. Simon Power makes it sound like he thinks you should have to apply for permission to have a voice online. Now that may not be Simon’s intent, but the way he has framed this issue is incredibly bad.

“Issues I’m concerned about include how trials can be prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and re-publication of a libel.

Issues which I helped facilitate discussion of at last year’s R v the Internet seminar. They are good issues to discuss.

It will focus on whether either of the two existing industry watchdogs – the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council – could provide a suitable vehicle for regulating unregulated forms of new media.

Yeah, and lets also give them the power to fine MPs if they say nasty things on their Facebook pages.

Having said that, it is worth noting the Press Council is self-regulation, not external regulation. One could discuss options such as allowing bloggers to voluntarily sign up to the Press Council, if they wish to do so as a way to enhance their reputation. But you then have issues around who covers costs of the Council – considering most blogs are non-commercial.

Mr Power says the public will have the opportunity to have their say when the commission releases an issues paper by December next year.

That is December 2011? Good – this should not be rushed.

As I said I am pleased the Law Commission is doing this review, as there are potentially even benefits for bloggers in it. But the way the Minister’s press statement has framed the issues is not good, and likely to rub a lot of people up the wrong way.

I will be advocating to the Law Commission, and InternetNZ, that they look to convene some workshops next year to discuss and define some of the issues.

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OIA Reform

September 30th, 2010 at 10:49 am by David Farrar

Yet to read the full discussion paper, but on the basis of the Herald report, the direction looks promising:

The paper strongly supported greater use of proactively releasing information, an idea that is gaining traction in the Open Labour NZ debate on a more transparent Government.

I have been pushing this issue for well over a year, and delighted to see the Law Commission of a similar view. The Internet age makes it practical and desirable for information to be released, even in the absence of a specific request. The problem with the status quo, is people often don’t know that a document exists, so they can’t request it.

Talking of Open Labour, they have now distilled 63 suggested actions for open government from their consultation. You can vote on them here.

I’d urge readers to vote, and vote in good faith, on what they would like to see as policy. You do need to register to vote, so if you get permission denied, go to the top right and register.

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Editorials 28 April 2010

April 28th, 2010 at 2:20 pm by David Farrar

All four are on the proposed alcohol law reform. First up the Herald:

Against earlier indications and its better judgment perhaps, the Law Commission has recommended a drastic reversal of 20 years of liberal liquor regulation. …

f Parliament takes the commission’s advice, the minimum purchasing age will be restored to 20 without previous exceptions. A reasonable suggestion that 18 might remain the minimum for licensed premises, with 20 for off-licence purchases, has come to nothing.

Students and other 18 and 19-year-olds will lose the right to drink in bars and clubs unless MPs take a more realistic view. …

Communities ought to be able to decide the character and scale of their liquor supply.

That goes for inner city nightlife districts too. The commission’s proposed prohibition on all-night bars is needless. While a 4am closure would be late enough for anybody most of the time, there is self-evidently a demand for all night services in the central city and they should not be prohibited without good cause and proven benefit.

The past 20 years might not have made us more civilised but previous experience suggests the proposed regime would be a retrograde step, destined for regret.

I like the comment one journalist made to me about the proposed regime. They said they tried to thing of a single thing short on outright prohibition that Sir Geoffrey did not recommend, and they couldn’t think of any.

Next The Press:

There will be support for raising the purchase age to 20 years at all venues selling alcohol, because the experiment of lowering the age a decade ago has been a costly failure.

As critics feared, the age when teenagers begin drinking has percolated down, with many as young as 14 years heavily imbibing, and there is growing evidence of the harm alcohol does to developing brains.

Raising the age should make it harder for under-age drinkers to buy alcohol and less likely for older friends or relatives to purchase it for those as young as 14. The medical evidence also outweighs complaints from older teenagers that it is unfair to raise the liquor purchase age when they can drive or marry at a younger age.

I hate such fuzzy logic. Advocating that the solution to stopping 14 year olds getting alcohol is to make it illegal for 19 year olds to go to a bar or have wine in a restaurant. They also ignore the evidence most under age alcohol supply comes from parents.

While much attention will centre on the purchase age and the proposed increase in the alcohol excise tax, even though the latter is unlikely to be implemented, the commission’s recommendations should be regarded as a coherent package, with the focus on moderation and responsibility.

It’s a coherent package alright. Prohibition was coherent also.

The Dom Post:

The problem the commission faces is that, in seeking to deal with problem drinkers, it has also affected the majority, who believe they drink responsibly.

No-one wants drunks running amok in the capital’s party zone, but nor do they want to be told that they cannot buy a bottle of wine to take home from a supermarket after 10pm.

There are similar reservations over the proposed rise in the drinking age to 20. Whatever the science – and recent research indicates that the effects of alcohol on young brains have been underestimated – convincing the public that people old enough to vote, join the armed forces and marry are not mature enough to buy a cold beer at the end of a hot summer’s day will not be easy.

More particularly, politicians who want the age to rise will have to tell a sizeable chunk of their voters – the 18 to 20-year-olds – that a right they previously had would be taken from them. In the face of a promised organised campaign by young people, including the youth wings of major parties, to keep the age at 18, that is asking for a lot of political courage.

The talk of political courage reminds of of the Yes Minister episode when teh sure fire way to scare a Minister off doing something is to tell them doing so would be brave or courageous :-)

And the ODT:

Our most recent experiment with liberalisation has proved to be a fatally attractive combination for our youth in the sale of wine and beer in supermarkets and the reduction of the minimum age of purchase to 18 years.

No doubt mature and sensible drinkers have welcomed both innovations – supermarket sales statistics would seem to bear out that presumption – and the State has certainly benefited from taxes on alcohol, for excise tax alone produced more than $900 million in 2008. …

To some extent, the additional recommendations of the commission – restrictions on who can supply alcohol to minors and in what circumstances; increasing the ability of local people to influence how and where alcohol is sold in their communities; a civil cost recovery regime for those taken into custody when grossly intoxicated – may have a greater long-term impact than simply increasing the purchase age. …

The way I count it is one editorial pretty hostile to the thrust of the Law Commission’s recommendations, one very supportive and two somewhat cautiously in the middle – pro doing something, but not everything.

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Keep It 18 press release

April 27th, 2010 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

YOUTH WINGS CALL ON PARLIAMENT TO KEEP IT 18

The youth wings of the National, Labour, Green and ACT parties have joined forces in the Keep It 18 campaign, to tell their MPs that increasing the purchase age for alcohol to 20 is the wrong thing to do.

“Parliament has twice voted for the purchase age to be 18, and it is disappointing that the Law Commission is trying to turn the clock back again,” said group spokesperson Jenna Raeburn.

In 1999 Parliament voted to change the age of purchase from 20 to 18 by 59 votes to 55. The previous law had numerous exemptions to it, so in fact 18 year olds had been able to legally drink alcohol in licensed premises for many decades.

In 2006 a move to change it back to 18 was defeated 49 votes to 72. The members of Keep It 18 urge MPs to not spend time on trying to reverse history, but instead to focus on measures that target problem drinkers, rather than seek to punish all 140,000 18 and 19 year olds.

“While primarily focused on the purchase age, we also are concerned over the proposed nationwide setting of closing times, and mandating a one way policy for bars after 2 am. In our opinion, these also fail to target problem drinkers, and again will disadvantage the many responsible young people who enjoy a night out dancing and drinking with friends.”

Young Nationals President Daniel Fielding said “Let’s not have a return to nanny state policies, a blanket measure of raising the drinking age will not change the drinking culture. This can only be achieved by introducing measures that places responsibility back onto the individual“

Nicola Wood, Young Labour spokesperson for Keep It 18 said “Young Labour feel a higher drinking age would serve only to exacerbate the harms caused by alcohol. If we want to create a culture of responsible drinking, we need policy which better enables young people to make positive decisions about how they use alcohol, while at the same time acknowledging that this broad problem cannot be pinned on one sector of society. We will oppose any change to the law which discriminates unfairly against young people “

Zachary Dorner, Young Greens spokesperson said “Raising the drinking age has more to do with pointing the finger at young people than solving the real issues. What we need to do is to take a look at ourselves and start treating alcohol as the harmful drug that it is”

ACT on Campus President Peter McCaffrey said “Politicians have no right to tell New Zealanders what they can consume and when they can consume it. The government’s role is to protect you from others not from yourself. The government should focus on targeting people who are causing harm to others rather than act as a nanny-state, telling everyone how much fun they can have “

Jenna Raeburn continued “All our political parties have 18 and 19 year old members who are allowed to vote, allowed to marry, allowed to have sex, and trusted enough to go out and do volunteer work for their parties. Saying that these same members can not be trusted to purchase a bottle of wine from a supermarket or a pint of beer at a bar is hypocritical and insulting, and we urge all MPs in Parliament to reject an age change.”

“We accept the problems caused by alcohol abuse in our society, and are happy to work with MPs in identifying which proposals put forward by the Law Commission are worth supporting. But increasing the purchase age is not one of them. Criminalising 140,000 18 and 19 year olds is the wrong answer,” concluded Miss Raeburn.

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The Law Commission recommendations.

April 27th, 2010 at 1:26 pm by David Farrar

Their report is here. There are 153 recommendations. They include:

  • A 50% increase in average excise tax on alcohol
  • Purchase age from 18 to 20
  • No exemptions for 18 and 19 year olds, even if with parents at a on-license (illegal for someone the day before their 20th birthday to have a glass of wine with their parents at a restaurant – madness)
  • 10 pm close time for off licenses
  • 4 am close time for on licenses
  • no entry policy after 2 am
  • ultimate aim should be to arrive at a point where no alcohol advertising is permitted in any media other than that which simply gives straight product information (certain sports codes will hate this one – also bans Tui billboards)
  • A $250 “notice of debt” on anyone who is held overnight for intoxication (I like that one)
  • drop drive drive limit from 0.08 to 0.05
  • consideration of alcohol ignition locking devices on cars for all convicted drink-drivers (that one also worthwhile IMO)
  • new offence of supplying alcohol to a minor under 18 (worth considering IMO)

There are some worthwhile recommendations, but the ones around a huge tax increase, the drinking age and a nationwide closing time are far too nanny state for me.

The report comes over as very wowserish in places, such as:

A familiar refrain we heard in our consultations and the submissions is that moderate drinkers should not be punished for the abuses of a minority.

The statistics in New Zealand tend to give lie to the bald assertion that the “vast majority of New Zealanders drink responsibly”. Instead they suggest that the majority of drinkers get drunk occasionally …

Oh my God. Call the Police. The majority of drinkers have occasionally got drunk. So effing what. Do they bash people up? Do they commit crime?

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The war against alcohol

April 23rd, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my weekly Dispatch from St Johnnysburg at NBR 24/7 I write:

The anti-alcohol industry (and it is an industry – mainly taxpayer funded) will be delighted by the Law Commission’s report when it is released on Tuesday. They have succeeded in convincing the Law Commission that alcohol should be treated in the same way as tobacco – an evil to be heavily discouraged, if not prevented.

I focus on how the role of the Law Commission has changed from quiet diligent updating of laws to:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer has morphed back into his former role of a crusading politician, and has spent months talking about the evils of alcohol. He even went out to Courtenay Place with a Police escort, and said he saw scenes that “no civilized society can relish”.

I end up at Courtenay Place around once a month on average. Often until well past 2 am. Sometimes there to dance and party with friends, but often just to carry on chatting politics and life over a few drinks. I’ve never seen these scenes “no civilised society can relish”.

The crusading was not restricted to New Zealand. Sir Geoffrey even went to Australia, and spoke at an Australian Drug Foundation conference. Not the Minister., ot the Director-General of Health, but the Law Commission President. The 68 year old Sir Geoffrey decried the fact that people put photos from parties up on Facebook. He wants an end to people getting drunk – an endeavour that would be as likely to succeed as prohibition succeeded in the 1930s.

I await the proposal to ban photos from Facebook which show alcohol.

The full article is subscriber content at NBR.

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