Health

Collective Efforts

In his recent post, Too quick to take the credit? Morgan Godfery argues that it was a “crass” move by the Māori Party to put out a statement taking credit for the $790 million hardship package included in this years Budget. His key argument was that there were others who shifted political thinking such as Matua Hone Harawira with his Feed the Kids Bill and various advocacy groups, and as such that credit lies with those people not the Māori Party. It’s not that I don’t think others have been strong advocates on poverty. I absolutely do and of course agree they all deserve credit for their advocacy. But I think it’s unfair to discount the efforts of Dr Pita Sharples and Dame Tariana Turia and the continued efforts of Matua Te Ururoa Flavell and Whaea Marama Fox, as well as the party’s previous MP’s, parliamentary staff and members and supporters who have advanced the issue of poverty within the party and in their respective communities for the past decade.

Godfery writes that:

[C]laiming the credit for forcing the government to act seems a little, well, crass. Much of the credit belongs to Hone Harawira. It was Hone who did more than anyone else to help put child poverty on the Parliamentary agenda with his Feed the Kids campaign

Firstly, if you have had an opportunity to listen to Flavell’s Budget Speech, you will note that he said the Māori Party pulled it over the line…with a little help from National. After all, no Budget measures can take effect unless the government agree to it. The Māori Party have been strong advocates for poverty since entering Parliament, and the evidence is readily available in their policy manifesto’s. [Discussed further below].

Secondly, I completely agree that Harawira has been an outstanding advocate on issues of poverty and social justice. He certainly put child poverty on the media agenda but the claim he put it on the parliamentary agenda is bold. It’s worth noting that despite his advocacy in the media, Harawira had 2 years to put his Feed the Kids Bill before the house, yet withdrew and delayed on numerous occasions. It was only put forth following the 2014 Election, by NZ Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei. Also note, the Māori Party voted in favour of that bill.

I also wholeheartedly agree that Campbell Live, Action Station, Child Poverty Action Group, and Auckland Action Against Poverty among other groups have been at the forefront of many community led initiatives to get the government to address poverty in Aotearoa. That doesn’t mean in order to recognise their strong advocacy that we need devolve into adversarialism. To allege misattribution by the Māori Party and essentially accuse them of riding on the coattails of the work of others is itself a misplaced attribution. The collective efforts and the varying roles each of the organisations have in policy development were not dismissed by the Māori Party. But in my view, they have every reason to say we pulled it over the line, since it is the Māori Party who through their relationship accord were able to directly influence that budget decision and absolutely the public pressure from these groups played a vital role in the Māori Party being able to secure that funding for poverty.

Action Station have expressed their tautoko of the Party in the fight against poverty:

And have acknowledged Fox for receiving the Action Station petition at Parliament on 20 May 2015.

On the above it is only fair then that we also take a brief look at the Party’s history of poverty advocacy.

In 2008, the Māori Party entered their first relationship accord with the National Party. At that time, Harawira was an elected MP for the Māori Party under the leadership of Turia and Sharples. The 2008 Policy programme that the Māori Party campaigned on included Ending Child Poverty by 2020. Part of that policy programme included:

  • Rais[ing] core benefit levels
  • Establishing an Every Child Matters fund
  • Investigating the reintroduction of a Universal Child Benefit

In 2011, the Māori Party entered a second relationship accord. At this time Harawira had left and formed his own Mana Party. The 2011 Confidence and Supply Agreement included:

  1. Supporting the ongoing implementation of Whānau Ora
  2. Establishing a Ministerial Committee on Poverty
  3. Urgently addressing the effects of poverty through health and home initiatives

See also: 2011 Maori Party policy package.

In 2014, addressing the effects of poverty was weaved through critical areas of the Party’s policy platform: Whānau Ora, Health, Education, Economic Development, Homes, Family Violence, Enabling Good Lives and so on. The goals stated were to build on the objectives and the progress made since 2008.

For the Party to be reproached for being proud of their contributions, that is, seeing the materialisation of the work their MP’s and the kaimahi behind the scenes have put in to the relationship accord over the past 7 years, is awfully undermining of their efforts.

I do agree with Godfery where he states:

Improving even one life is a positive step, but we can’t claim success until we begin changing the system which reproduces Maori disadvantage generation after generation. Budget gains may help stop the slide, but they won’t reverse it.

However, to my knowledge the Party haven’t claimed success on the “reversal” of poverty – they’ve indicated that the budget gains are a start to improving the lives of our most vulnerable whānau.

WHĀNAU ORA: It was the way our people lived

Whānau Ora has always been in the hissing pit when it comes to NZ politics. Another example of Māori “Special Privilege”. Every jibe simply an attempt by the sneerer to reinforce their assimilationist predisposition and/or self importance. Much of the criticism is misplaced or exaggerated. And it can be quite distressing seeing Māori internalise that lack of faith in Māori systems. It’s implementation is by no means perfect, and sure there are certainly areas requiring vast improvement, but there is no denying that it has helped thousands of family in the four years it has been in operation as a matter of government policy. 

Two days ago, the Auditor General released a report on Whānau Ora. While it has been depicted in the media as a damning indictment, the Report simply sought to clarify what whānau ora is, where the funding has gone, and what Whānau Ora has achieved after four years. The Auditor General appraises Whānau Ora as “an example of innovation and new thinking in service delivery”. She also states that it provides “an opportunity for providers of health and social services in the community to operate differently and to support families in deciding their best way forward”.

Many people have commented that they are not quite sure what Whānau Ora is or does. I’m not convinced that’s due to a lack of information. Arguably,(in many cases at least) it is misunderstood as a result of passive ignorance.

What is Whānau Ora?

Whānau Ora is not a new concept. Like many concepts in Te Ao Māori, no group or individual can determine for others what it means. What can be generally agreed is that from a policy perspective it is an “inclusive and culturally anchored approach based on a Māori view of health that assumes changes in an individual’s wellbeing can be brought about by focusing on the family collective” rather than “focusing separately on individual family members and their problems”. In practice then it requires “multiple government agencies to work together with families rather than separately with individual relatives”.

Three key principles 

Professor Mason Durie emphasises that Whānau Ora is built on three key principles:

Integrated solutions

  • The idea is that “no single sector or discipline has all the answers” to meeting the holistic needs of whānau. This means that a Whānau Ora approach is “cross sectoral, inter-disciplinary, Whānau centred”.

Durie writes:

An integrated approach recognises that economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions are inter-related and one cannot be adequately progressed without the others.

Distinctive pathways

  • Whānau Ora recognises that “cultural worldviews are important to health”. As well as building on “Māori world views, language [and] culture, networks, [and] leadership”, Whānau Ora reaches out to cultures in all their diversity. The objective is to provide a framework within which all whānau can define their own distinctive pathways in accordance with their cultural practices and values to improve whānau outcomes.

Goals that empower

  • Whānau Ora values “human dignity, positive relationships, self-management and self-determination”.
  • It is about “addressing the impacts of whānau disadvantage as well as assisting families to be strong, capable, resilient and self-managing”. The goal then is not only providing services that address existing disparities, but to unlock potential to help whānau access opportunities and navigate their own futures with the tools they need to improve their whānau outcomes.

In a nutshell, Dame Tariana Turia explains that Whānau Ora is about:

…restoring to ourselves, our confidence in our own capacity to provide for our own – to take collective responsibility to support those who need it most.

See also Te Puni Kōkiri Fact Sheet.

Criticism

Following the Report, Whānau Ora and in particular, Te Puni Kōkiri has come under attack from opposition MP’s. The Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) have criticised the way that some politicians have bought into the “beat-up by politically motivated tirades which do nothing but bring this kaupapa into disrepute”. The ILG argue that as Māori we need to have faith in our own answers and be proud of the progress that has been made to enable whānau to date.  The group asks:

Why would we turn the spotlight on ourselves, and expect an initiative which is still evolving to rectify generations of neglect or indifference from the state?

Critique is to be welcomed. Evaluations ensure transparency and accountability. The Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell appreciated the report claiming it affirms “the value of taking an innovative public policy approach to supporting families in need.” He considers that the Report provides valuable lessons for “Ministers, government departments, commissioning agencies and providers”. Flavell highlights that:

Since Whānau Ora began in 2010, around 9,400 families have benefitted from whānau-centred service delivery which includes almost 50,000 people.

The problem with exaggerating the shortcomings identified in the report, as the ILG point out, is that it risks hurting whānau who have or could benefit from Whānau Ora services. The reason being that if the public perceive the services to be performing poorly or at least buy into the misplaced criticism by opposition MP’s, then it provides grounds for the government to withdraw funding despite the gains made to date and the future potential of the approach.

The main criticism refers to the amount of funding spent by Te Puni Kōkiri on Administration based on the Auditor General’s observation that:

…delays in spending the available budgets meant that some of the funds intended for whānau and providers did not reach them as originally planned. In our view, better planning and financial management were needed.

Te Puni Kōkiri

Te Puni Kōkiri is the government organisation tasked with “carrying out the Initiatives, for giving the Government policy advice about the Initiatives, and for assessing and reporting on the Initiatives’ effectiveness”.

The funding made available for their use was administrative “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora service delivery approach” in the 2010/2011 period and “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora commissioning approach” in the 2013/2014 period.

The total amount spent was $137.6 million, which was made up of:

$20.8 million (15% of the total) spent through the WIIE fund which “made funds available to whānau through some form of legal entity to enable them to prepare plans to improve their lives”

$67.9 million (49% of the total) spent through the Service Delivery Capability fund which “made funds available to providers, who used it to build their capability to deliver whānau-centred services”

$6.6 million (5% of the total) spent through the funds for commissioning agencies; and

$42.3 million (31% of the total) spent on administration (including research and evaluation).

In response to this criticism, Te Puni Kōkiri’s CEO, Michelle Hippolite, has responded that she can account for where all the funds clustered for administration are currently allocated and asserts that no funds have been misspent. While Minister Flavell acknowledges that there were issues “of design, development, and implementation” and money was allocated to “research, evaluation, and leadership programmes” to assist to that end without which “the administration spending would have been at a normal level for a Government programme”.

Conclusion

There is certainly good reason for being concerned that funding appears to have centralised in administration and bureaucracy. This is especially so when providers are always in need of additional funding to meet the needs of whānau. Former Minister Tariana Turia criticised this last October when she questioned why there was an underspend on Whānau Ora and sought answers to where the money had been allocated as she believed that more funding should have been directed to frontline services.

The Report most likely answers her question: much was tied up in Administration. The challenge going forward will be finding more efficient administration systems to ensure more funding finds its way to service providers and navigators.

The benefit of the Report is that it provides clear observations and recommendations that highlight for Te Puni Kōkiri in particular, where it needs to improve its effectiveness. After all, Whānau Ora is about being whānau centric, so any costing’s and financial planning must always be mindful of how whānau are centred in those plans.

However, Whānau Ora cannot resolve the effects of almost 200 years of colonisation in 4 years. This seems to be the crux of much of the criticism in an attempt to disband Whānau Ora and force a return to the shabby state services that have been in place for decades and have not been able to change outcomes for a large proportion of Māori. It is an undeniably unrealistic expectation to suggest that Whānau Ora would magically solve inter-generational disparity in under half a decade.

In saying that, Whānau Ora has helped numerous families to date. And that success should be celebrated. Although, it is currently geared toward Māori and Pasifika whānau to address the history of disparity in Aotearoa, the approach itself is applicable to all whānau and has the capacity to provide a new way of delivering health and social services to all whānau to improve outcomes and finds solutions for whānau self-determination.

See also Turia’s comments on the long term goals of Whānau Ora.

 

 

Harawira declares his totalitarian darkside

MP Hone Harawira,  Mana Party NZ

Appalled. That is how I feel about Hone Harawira’s latest outburst.  Endorsing the public murders of legally abiding citizens is a grotesque proclamation to make.

Harawira made the statement during a Public Meeting in Waitakere (West Auckland) regarding  legal highs and the recently enacted Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 (PSA).

Section 3 of the PSA provides that the purpose of the act is to:

regulate the availability of psychoactive substances in New Zealand to protect the health of, and minimise harm to, individuals who use psychoactive substances.

The Act banned certain synthetic drugs and requires all synthetic drugs to undergo scientific testing and to obtain approval for sale from the Director General of Health (s1o) who receives advice from an expert advisory committee (s11). The list of banned or controlled drugs are found in Schedules 1-3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

Understandably, tensions were high (no pun intended) as families present had experienced the destruction caused by many of the synthetic products.

Simon Collins from the NZ Herald reports:

Mana MP Hone Harawira…said drug retailers should be killed.

“If there is one law I could pass, it would be line up the guys who are making the most money out of this legal drug stuff, put them on TV and then publicly execute them, and then introduce a law to say the next bastard that does it is going to get the same treatment,” he said.

I am prepared to accept that Harawira was probably just speaking hyperbolically  to the mood of the crowd but as an experienced MP, I would have expected Harawira to make a more considered statement.

Instead, he confirms for critics of the Mana Party’s state socialist ideology, that he backs the totalitarian excesses of the communist military dictatorships that ‘Movements of the People’ typically despise.

Declaring approval for public executions of people acting within the bounds of the law and alluding to introduce a law to legalise executing people acting legally, Harawira has dug a ditch that will be almost impossible to dig his way out of.

I am by no means defending the legal high industry. I happen to agree that synthetic drugs are more harmful than the naturally occurring product they are trying to replicate. However, Harawira’s words are unforgivable and are a tremendous insult to the many freedom seeking socialists that support his movement.

End of Life Choice Bill withdrawn

Maryan Street has withdrawn her – End of Life Choice Bill from the ballot box. (H/t Mark Hubbard, blogger at Life behind the IRon Drape)

The Bill proposed to legalise voluntary euthanasia for people with terminal illness likely to cause death within 12 months, or to people with an irreversible physical or mental condition that renders their life unbearable – by their own assessment.

Street reasons that if the bill is drawn during an election year, that it risks not being given proper consideration, but she denies the withdrawal was a result of internal pressure from the Labour Party.

However, its reported that the Labour Party are divided over the euthanasia issue, and it seems rather convenient that when the Party is under pressure to unify that a dividing issue is expunged – perhaps to avoid any perception of disunity.

Euthanasia is a very difficult topic because of the risk of abuse and issues around competency and consent. Some argue that we already practice involuntary euthanasia when turning off life support machines.

I think Street is mistaken to presume that election year is a bad time for the euthanasia discussion, because, the public seem most attuned to politics in election year and are more likely (in my view) to participate in the discussion.

Street was promoting this bill up until as recently as August, so I’m not convinced that she didn’t cave to some internal pressure in withdrawing her bill.

If removing private members bills that might be internally controversial  is part of Labour’s strategy for unifying the party, then they risk annihilating the  democratic reforms the party has already undergone.

Legalising discrimination

When I first received the news that government were contributing $92 million over the next four years on payments to family members who care for disabled adult family members, I was pleasantly surprised.

The initiative derives from Atkinson & Others v Ministry of Health, alternatively known as the Family Carer’s case. In this case, eight families successfully argued that the Ministry of Health had unjustifiably discriminated against them because of their family status, by refusing to pay them for the services they rendered to their disabled adult family members.

But on further reading, my pleasant surprise soured. The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill (No 2) restricts the remedy where discrimination is found and creates further avenues that essentially legalise discriminatory practices.

The Explanatory Note states that the reason for the amendment is to avoid the ‘unmanageable fiscal costs’ that subsequent litigation would have given the precedent set by the Family Carer’s case.

At first glance, this statement makes sense. The risk of litigation is high given the government’s poor record of recognising the work of family members in these situations. My criticism is not limited to the National Party, it applies to all preceding governments that neglected to recognise the important role these family members play in optimising the quality of life of the individuals affected.

However, this amendment is not rights conferring legislation. Rather, it is a barrier to obtaining compensation for legislation that expressly discriminates against family carers. And its couched in language that implies a benefit, when in fact it creates a limitation. The Bill states:

 “In amending the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000, the Bill allows the Government to reduce the ongoing litigation risks while also allowing the Government to implement policies of paying family carers where it wishes to do so”

Catherine Delahunty argued that this Bill discriminates against family carers who can be paid less than a non-family member for the same work; it discriminates against carers of family members  eligible for disability support who have mild to moderate needs and it denies disabled people choices over their carer which is contrary to the disability convention and the disability strategy. She further states that it legitimises discrimination against family members under 18 and against spouses.

This normalisation of authoritarianism in NZ never fails to astound me. When will we actually realise as a collective conscience that a right is not conferred by government but instead that a right exists independent of government? The audacity of the government to market their ‘good deed’ of recognising rights of family carers is rubbish since the amendment openly refuses to recognise those rights.

While the amendment does not have retrospective effect, it aims to stop any claims of unlawful discrimination concerning any care policy, that arise on or after 16 May 2013 and any claim that does arise can proceed, but the remedy is restricted to a declaration that the policy is inconsistent with NZBORA. Seriously, wtf? A declaration of inconsistency is implied in this statement since the government admits that there will be cases of discrimination. This is appalling NZ.

Post Script: This is a very brief commentary which deserves much greater attention. 

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal opinion and in no way reflects the views of my employer.

Indoctrination of the brazilian wax

I was recently enlightened about a generational shift to hairless vagina’s. Yes. Men with young daughter’s this is probably an uncomfortable, but necessary post for you to read.
The conversation begins by TP, SI and SP discussing the NZ Herald article on the susceptibility of sexually transmitted infections for those who wax their pubic hair. (Note: the particular study in question acknowledged the results were inconclusive because there was not a control group). This transpired into a discussion on the all faous full brazilian wax.
We were told by SP that in her view, females under 25 years old are predominantly foregoing their pubic hair. For clarity, this is not at all a problem, a woman is free to choose to do as she pleases with her pubic hair.
Why am I talking about hairless vagina’s? Because the subject both fascinates and terrifies me. You will see why by the end of this post.
SP is a 24 year old female who is considering IPL (permanent removal) and regularly waxes the lot.She made some interesting points that I want to discuss. Firstly, that she is insulted that (some) feminists consider her choice for a hairless vagina as submitting to the desires of men and secondly, that hairless vagina’s are a ‘generational thing’.
I can appreciate where those feminists are coming from when they make such remarks. They may have had wider issues in their minds but transfixed the idea onto an individuals choice. So the remarks were probably made without context and unfortunately relayed in way that demeaned SP as a woman capable of making her own choices. The problem SP raised about those feminists is similar to my own experiences of some self-proclaimed feminists – that all the decisions I make that benefit males are are not free choices but rather kowtowing to conform to the needs and/or desires of men. Note, that its a very small minority of feminists that fall into this experience for me. Although it highlights the importance for feminists to make clear that they are not judging the individual but instead considering the wider issues and implications of such choices (if that is the intention of course).
So I’ve established that I do not consider having a hairless vagina anti-feminist. Women of all generations have taken the brazen step to wax the lot.  I do believe, if it is true that as a generational thing young women are opting for hairless vagina’s, we should be concerned.
Intuition tells me that when there is a preference for female body appearance, that the element of conformity is in play. This suggests to me that not all women who choose the full Brazilian wax or IPL are doing so as a free choice. I accept that they are actively making the decision and this is a choice, but I worry that the reasons for those choices derive from a fear of being different or being ostracised for having what SP referred to as a ‘bush’ or a ‘beard’. I also worry that shame or repulsion of pubic hair is being indoctrinated within this generation not just for young women, but to their young male counterparts as well. I’m also concerned that if there really is a generation of young women who are opting out of having any pubic hair, then this could have unintended consequences. I worry that the depiction of a hairless vagina as preferable could adversely affect the sexual safety of our pre-pubescent females.
Obviously, my concerns derive from a single conversation and I do not have the resources to verify the views expressed by SP, but I do think it worthwhile considering in the wider context especially given the prevalence of rape culture  in our society.

The Heart Foundation Tick

Sugar. After demolishing my 6 inch sub and 2 ridiculously good cookies from Subway, I’m going to start this post by contradicting the meal I just ate.

Today, the Green Party posted on their Facebook page that the Heart Foundation refused to withhold support for a children’s lunchbox snack on the basis that there is no evidence or studies to show that sugar causes heart disease. The snack comprised of 44% sugar, yet was endorsed with a Heart foundation tick.

Admittedly, I can see the point of the Heart Foundation, if the foundation is premised on the view that it endorses any foods that are not proven to contribute to heart disease. But is that the role of the heart foundation?

In my view, this is questionable. Presumably, food product companies have their products endorsed by the Heart Foundation because consumers purchase such products on the assumption that the heart foundation tick indicates the product is healthy. For the more informed consumer, they know this is bogus. But where did the assumption come from? Probably,the way in which food companies promote their products as having the healthy heart tick and unclear objectives of the Heart Foundation. So herein lies the issue. Should the heart foundation endorse all food products that are known to be good for your heart,that is, products that promote heart health and products that are known not to be harmful to either heart or general health; or should it endorse any foods in which there is no evidence that those products are bad for your heart even if there are proven health implications elsewhere.

In my opinion, the Heart Foundation should endorse foods that promote a healthy heart and foods that do not contribute to other serious health implications that may indirectly cause heart problems. It is indisputable that sugar plays a role in both diabetes and obesity. These health conditions are on the increase in NZ and are both known to correlate to heart disease.I think it is irresponsible of the Heart Foundation to apply its market reputation to products (which is does so for a fee)that contribute to serious health issues, especially for children.

In fact, I would go further to say, that food products ought to have health warnings on the packaging. Is this to punish those companies? No. Its to better inform the consumer about the choices they make in respect of the food they purchase for themselves and or their children. If tobacco companies are to be held accountable for the harm they cause consumers,then surely food companies ought to be held to the same standard.

I’m not suggesting that food companies be subjected to ‘plain packaging laws’ only that they provide more information for consumers to make informed choices.

Media vs the Coroner

Section 71 of the Coroners Act 2006 is proving somewhat of an impediment to media who are anxious to report on the sudden death of high profile lawyer Greg King.

No person may, without a coroner’s authority, make public any particular relating to the manner in which a death occurred if the death occurred in New Zealand after the commencement of this section; and there is reasonable cause to believe the death was self-inflicted; and no inquiry into the death has been completed.

The resulting speculation from comments posted in the NBR article regarding a highly placed legal source suggesting that Greg King took his own life, is arguably in breach of this section, depending on how widely this section is interpreted. And my own reproduction of this statement might well be too. But I want to discuss some reasons that s71 of the Coroners Act 2006 exists. 
 
Depending on the type of post mortem directed, it can take a Pathologist up to 8 weeks to collate the final post mortem report for the Coroner. This is because often bodily samples and fluids are taken for further testing to determine any underlying or antecedent causes contributing to the death of the deceased person. There is an assumption that directly after a post mortem examination has been conducted that a cause of death is available. This is misleading. The only report available directly after the post mortem examination is a provisional post mortem result. It is provisional because bodily fluids and samples are often sent to ESR laboratories for toxicology and histology tests, which can take around 6 weeks before those tests, are complete.
 
So why is this important for the highly speculated Greg King case? Because, these are some of the reasons that Coroner’s are wary about making particulars of a death publicly available, there is not enough evidence to determine the cause of death at these early stages in the Coronial process.  
 
There is also some confusion about self-inflicted deaths and suicides. Note, not all self-inflicted deaths will be determined as suicides. There are many instances in which a self-inflicted death may be accidental.
 
I am going to list some examples but I wish to make clear that I am in no way suggesting that these examples are speculative in regards to the Greg King case. They are not exhaustive examples either but are for the purpose only of distinguishing where a death may be self-inflicted but not a suicide.
 
  • Aspiration of vomit – occurs when highly intoxicated persons choke on their vomit in their sleep.
  • Some recreational activities such as bridge jumping resulting in death
  • Self-administered illicit drug overdoses (or substance abuse in general) or medicinal overdoses
Suicides have a very high threshold. This means that there must be substantial evidence to show that the deceased person intended that their actions would result in their death. Some deaths that appear to have intended suicide are found to be accidental deaths; this is because there may be evidence suggesting that while the initial intention may have been suicide, at some point after the action but prior to death the person’s intention changed. An example of this might be when a person overdoses on medication intending to end their life, but then calls for medical assistance.
 
Again, because cause of death relies not just on physical evidence of the body but also the surrounding circumstances, it is premature and therefore irresponsible reporting to speculate on matters regarding an apparent self-inflicted death when someone is not privy to all the evidence available. This is part of the importance of s71. 
 
Of course, the restrictions made by the Coroner may be inconvenient for an anxious media, however, the family and friends of a deceased person are entitled to accurate reporting as anything else is likely to be highly distressing during such a sensitive and tragic time. Accurate reporting does not occur when all the facts and evidence are not available, it is an injustice to the family and to the process. 
 
 
***RIP Greg King “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King).
 
 
 

Dope smoking in teens and IQ

A study undertaken in Dunedin found that adolescents who used cannabis and became dependent on it or used it regularly may suffer a decline in IQ later on in life but there were no significant changes in the IQ of participants who started using cannabis in adulthood. The researchers noted a number of limitations including that they could not rule out that their findings may be the result of an ‘unknown variable’. 
The experiment carried out by researchers at the University of Otago sought to test the popular belief held by adolescents that cannabis use was harmless and specifically focused on whether there is a prevalence of IQ decline in cannabis users who start smoking during adolescence. Note a potential bias: the study was founded by the ex-Chairman of DARE  – a drug and alcohol resistance organisation targeted at adolescents and was funded by government institutions in both NZ and the US including other organisations whose objective was to reduce drug and alcohol abuse and organisations who sought to improve the wellbeing of children and young people. Arguably, the research may have been tailored to prove that cannabis use in adolescence was harmful. 
The study group initially comprised of 1037 people born between 1972 and 1973 but in the last wave of the study at age 38 only 96% of the 1004 living study members re-tested. IQ tests were performed in childhood every 2 years from age 7 until 13, prior to the onset of cannabis use with the final test occurring when participants were 38 years old. The researchers conducted the study in waves and split the participants into groups dependent on their level of cannabis use or dependence. Researchers compared the IQ of participants showing persistent cannabis dependence (PCD)** and persistent cannabis use (PCU)*** to those who had never used cannabis. Use of cannabis in the day or week preceding the test is unlikely but the researchers admit this may not be accurate because the participants were not lab tested. Other controls used included hard drug or alcohol use, schizophrenia and education.   
The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) found that there was a statistically significant decline in neuropsychological function and mean IQ test scores in the PCD and PCU groups, which was not apparent in the never used group. 
The never used group exhibited a positive effect size of 0.05 on average indicating an increase in mean IQ compared to the negative effect sizes of -0.38 and -0.35 on average for the PCD and PCU groups respectively corresponding to a decrease of about ~6 IQ points. 
It can be estimated with 95% confidence that the never used group showed a mean difference in their full scale IQ on average somewhere between 85.39 and 115.89 IQ points, in comparison to the PCD group who showed a mean difference somewhere between 80.61 and 107.25 IQ points on average. The study identifies that those in the PCD group improved in the arithmetic, block design and picture completion subtests, the areas where the never used group showed decreases. This could possibly correlate to the results that show some PCD and PCU participants would have the same IQ as some of those who have never used cannabis despite the general declines measured overall.
The researchers recommend that policy decisions focus on delaying the onset of cannabis use in adolescence, and suggested funding further research to provide definitive results in light of limitations documented in the study. 

Arguably, some further limitations might include the possibility of participants practicing IQ tests prior to testing, for instance, if the participants knew they might be IQ tested they might have wanted to improve their past IQ results. Additionally, occupation could also be a factor in the results, such that those who use higher-level problem solving and verbal comprehension skills on a daily basis – some of the main skills tested, may perform better on these tests in comparison those who have low skilled or unskilled roles or who are unemployed. The sampling frame was very narrow involving only participants from Dunedin, so with a larger and more diverse sample the results may differ. Finally, comparative studies with populations known to be persistent users such as those identifying as Rastafarian, could provide a valuable insight into the neuropsychological functioning of different ethnicities in response to cannabis use. 
In my view there are multiple limitations in this study and I am therefore not convinced that it is cannabis use in adolescence which led to the results found by the study, but other variables not considered by the study. However, in saying that, the study does show that there is at least a risk that cannabis use in adolescence may lead to IQ decline later on in life.  Results for adult onset cannabis use were insignificant leading researchers to conclude that the IQ decline was not prevalent among the adult onset group. 
*The graph was composed based on the results in Table 1 of the actual study and is not an image from the study itself. The error bars in the graph indicate the standard deviation of the mean IQ scores on average.
**Persistent cannabis dependence was defined according to the number of waves at which participants met the cannabis dependence criteria. For the purpose of this article, the 3+ group are the focus.
***Persistent cannabis use was determined through regularity which was defined as 4 or more times per week. For the purpose of this article the 3+ group are the focus. 
This information in this post was predominantly sourced from an assignment I completed for Uni that has yet to be graded. 

Drug Testing Beneficiaries: Part III

What is the effect on employers in respect of the compulsory drug testing of work-tested beneficiaries?
Employers may become subject to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) under section 3 which provides that the Act applies to any person or body in the performance of any public function, power, or duty conferred or imposed on that person or body by or pursuant to law.  
Irrespective of how a compulsory drug testing provision is written and then enacted it will either directly or indirectly empower private bodies to carry out a public function of compulsorily drug testing work tested beneficiaries, therefore, it could potentially give beneficiaries a right to litigate any breaches of the NZBORA in relation to that function  a right that does not currently exist. In effect such a provision would give the NZBORA horizontal effect, which is simply rights against private bodies where that body performs a public function.
It is likely that the public function of drug testing beneficiaries would be severed from the general business of the employer so only actions in relation to the drug testing would be litigious under NZBORA.
Another issue here is that, employers to avoid this risk may in fact choose not to even consider work-tested beneficiaries for any role, which does not address the issue of welfare dependency or assist those receiving welfare into jobs. In fact, it may even create a larger welfare dependency problem, since employers will not want to risk litigation and work-tested beneficiaries will be less likely to get jobs if they cannot even reach the interview stage.

What about inequality?
Work-tested beneficiaries are treated unequally under the proposed testing because they are the only group of persons who will be subjected to compulsory drug tests whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe they are taking drugs by virtue of their economic position. Effectively, they have certain rights taken away – a right that every other person in society has under the law, the right to refuse to take a drug test without consequence of worsening their economic position.  A job applicant that is not on a benefit can apply for a job and refuse to take the drug test and their economic position does not change from before they refused to take the test.

This is arguably a law that will discriminate against a group of already disadvantaged persons. Section 19 of the NZBORA prohibits discrimination on any grounds and in this sense it is not limited in the same way as the Human Rights Act 1993 which specifies prohibited categories of discrimination.  If employers are brought under the NZBORA then individuals may be able to bring a claim against the employer that the compulsory drug testing is discriminatory since a job applicant that is not on a work tested benefit does not have to undertake a drug test and may in fact refuse to undergo the drug test without it affecting their economic position. So if an employer only compulsorily drug tests beneficiaries then beneficiaries could potentially bring a claim under the act of being discriminated against by virtue of their economic position.

The remedies available under the NZBORA are currently non-monetary, but this could change to redress a breach of a person’s rights since a declaratory judgment is unlikely to provide adequate redress to the breached right.
Treaty of Waitangi
In tikanga Maori, the body (including all its contents) is sacred and it belongs to the family, the ancestors and future generations to come. Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi protects taonga and for Maori this includes their tikanga.  Compulsory drug testing of Maori will compel the submission of sacred bodily specimens and could potentially give rise to a Treaty claim. Currently, a private body is not subject to claims under the Treaty, but this could change if they come under the NZBORA as performing a public function and in relation to the exercise of that specific function because they become an arm of the state.
Please note, that I am not saying that individuals will be able to litigate against employers or that they will be able to make Treaty claims, my opinion is that the proposed law to drug test work tested beneficiaries may enable these actions in certain circumstances where a prima facie case can be made out.
The main point of these posts on drug testing beneficiaries is to show that such a policy has many implications and is not as straightforward as it appears. It is clearly not well thought through by the policymakers and has more holes in it than the gaps its proposed to fill. Each of the points raised requires much more research and consideration, my goal was simply to raise the  issues that I could see as potentially problematic.