Disability Advocates Need Not Rely On New Government

As many in the disability community celebrate the biggest change in politics since 2008, disability advocates and service providers alike cannot afford to put all their eggs into one basket… again.

Waiting and relying on the new Labour/NZ First/Greens government to make drastic changes to the disability space (particularly how it’s funded) is the worst thing Service Providers and advocates could do at this point.

When you break it down a little further; there are two sides to this conversation, and there is a certain amount of merit to having every faith in the new government. But, that comes with a potential cost.

Disability needs to be on the political agenda in a much bigger way than ever before. You could argue that with the System Transformation project, the Government is investing more attention and planning into the disability space than a lot would give it credit for. But outside of that System Transformation; not a lot has been happening on the political front as it pertains to disability.

Implementing System Transformation isn’t going to change the status quo either… at least not for those ineligible for DSS supports. That is the cost… putting all the eggs into one basket and having trust that it will benefit the majority of New Zealand’s disabled population (24% and growing). Add into that the growing rates of Maori with disabilities – constantly ranking higher than any other ethnicity in New Zealand.

This cannot be an area of solving that encompasses just one big egg basket. It’s going to take multiple egg baskets.

Investing In Advocacy That Actually Has Meaning & Context

I really feel that there is incredible potential in the advocacy space, but it needs to be done by people with disabilities, and not the establishment that represents them. We’ve been doing that for a long time now, yes it’s been people with disabilities speaking, but usually it’s under the umbrella of an organisation or a certain cause for a pre set agenda.

The narrative on what disability actually means needs to shift to one that tells the actual stories of peoples’ individual situations and stories. Those situations and stories often encompass issues caused by the real barriers in a society that largely still perceives disability to be abnormal, off-putting, and a situation that comes with a cost.

Don’t believe me on the “coming with a cost” statement? Just look at the education and employment space. That’s the ideology that exists.

Disability Advocates Need To Look At Themselves Before New Government

Phrases like “nothing about us without us” and “greater choice and control” is another area where more focus needs to be directed.

Both are very true, and both form a strong basis for what future models (some even currently) are and should be. But what exactly is the power behind these conversations and subsequent decisions? Again it varies, but when we are talking about funding models and support structures, the disabled person must be the one calling the shots on that front. If not, “greater choice and control” is under threat to become just another buzzword.

It sounds a little outlandish – but is the budget really a concern to people requiring support? Perhaps that is a question to be answered in another blog.

Medicinal Cannabis one step closer to being on the NZ market

The Ministry of Health now has the ability to provide medicinal cannabis for people with terminal or life threatening illness; but the process may not be any easier than it previously was.

Until now, the final decision over medicinal cannabis usage has rested with the Minister. Medical specialists will now be able to apply to the Ministry of Health on behalf of their patients.

But there is no confirmation that the process will be any less regulated than it has been before, even without the Minister being involved. Dunne’s announcement doesn’t clarify if medicinal cannabis will be available to everyone, nor does it speculate the price of the medicinal products.

Clearly, Dunne’s announcement is a direct answer to the promises that the Labour Party made earlier in the week. During a Facebook Live interview, Labour leader Andrew Little said that medicinal cannabis would be made legal “pretty quickly” in New Zealand if his party was elected this year.

In December last year, the Green Party said that it would legalise all cannabis for personal use. Today, the Green Party labelled Dunne’s announcement as “a step in the right direction”, while an Otago University professor warned the Ministry of Health to take a cautious approach.

Some argue that medicinal cannabis’ ability to relief pain isn’t convincing enough for a roll out, calling it an “emerging form of medicine”. For people with terminal illness, the benefits of medicinal cannabis are many, but there is a different discussion to be had for those who don’t fall under that category.


Stupid Waitangi Marae Committee forced PM into decision

Another build up to Waitangi Day has led to another example of stupidity all round.

Bill English, the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, has decided to distance himself from the Waitangi Day celebrations after he was told he wouldn’t be able to speak at the treaty grounds. Before we go any further, I want you to keep in mind what I said in the latter part of that sentence.

When questioned by the media today, English defended his decision, saying that New Zealanders “cringe” at the prospect of protests. English went a step further and said he didn’t think it was appropriate that the Prime Minister, himself, wasn’t allowed to speak at such an occasion.

The Waitangi Day celebrations have always been volatile affairs for the Government. Anyone who says that the same protests won’t occur in 2017 are kidding themselves.

Can we really deny what English says? The Prime Minister was right on the mark with his comments. Of course it isn’t appropriate, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to that conclusion.

We are talking about the Prime Minister of New Zealand here, and it’s time people came to terms with that. Waitangi is not the place for protest, at least that wasn’t what was intended. It has become that because of those who’ve come after history, those who feel entitled, and ultimately, those who have no respect for the traditions of a day that celebrates what New Zealand is.

That last point is key in this blog, the lack of respect and the timing is why you see the Prime Minister pulling out.

Like in 2016, the Prime Minister’s speaking rights were cut off. Nobody in their right mind could blame John Key for turning his back on it last year, and nor should they blame English. Let’s not forget that English specifically reached out to Waitangi officials to ask about the conditions of his attendance, to which English was told that the committee had decided her couldn’t speak on “their” Marae.

Apparently it’s their Marae, remember that. And people say that English is being disrespectful to the history of Waitangi Day?

Straight out of the oppositions’ playbook, Labour leader Andrew Little labelled the Prime Minister’s decision as a “black mark” on his leadership. This is entirely incorrect, and English not attending Waitangi will have absolutely zero impact on the 2017 General Election. The Leader of the Opposition doesn’t fully back his claims either, but the announcement today gave him an opportunity to criticise.

So as we head into Waitangi Day in 2017, it is clear that those certain people, so-called officials, are still very much on that hypocritical high horse. That is a big shame, for New Zealand.

Labour Party Free Education Only Applies To New Students

The Labour Party sure has made a splash in their State of the Nation address, promising New Zealanders free education for up to a three-year period.

Andrew Little says that the education system in New Zealand has to keep up with the changing nature of the workforce.

The policy change would apply to students in tertiary education and people working as apprentices. In what could be a big drawcard for younger voters in the next election, Labour says the eventual cost for the full implementation of free education would be $1.2billion.

The full implementation of the free education system would occur over a three-year period, starting from 2019.

Labour say that unemployment is getting worse in New Zealand, and also pointed to the rising cost of tertiary education with study fees having increased by 37% since 2008.

However, the new changes would only apply to those who haven’t partaken in post-school study prior to 2019.

National Fast-Track “Gateway City” Rail Link

$4.2 billion will be invested into transport in and around Auckland over the next three years – but some say that the announcement should have come a long time ago.

Auckland’s city rail link will get a $2.5billion kickstart.

John Key says that the Government will work closely with Auckland City Council to bring forward a business plan and formalise Government funding for public transport in a bid to make Auckland the country’s most liveable city.

Construction of the city’s rail link will begin two years earlier than originally planned, starting in 2018.

The Labour Party have accused John Key of being slow to commit, saying a deal should have been signed with Auckland years ago. Labour also said that National’s lack of ambition has cost jobs and strangled businesses in Auckland, a city that Key claimed as “New Zealand’s gateway”.