(PR.co.nz) Pacific Island law students learn from top New Zealand lawyer.
DLA Piper has a longstanding pro bono commitment to supporting the rule of law in Pacific Island nations. As part of this, the firm develops the legal knowledge and skills of lawyers from countries including Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga to help them better assist their local communities’ access legal help.
In January, 21 Fijian (and Tongan) law students gathered at the University of the South Pacific (Suva) for a week-long seminar with Iain Thain, a DLA Piper litigation partner from Auckland, along with DLA Piper Sydney lawyers, Michael Gill (Pro Bono Consultant) and Catriona Martin (Asia Pacific Pro Bono Director). The emphasis of the course was on both pro bono work and improving access to justice, as well as legal ethics and working with vulnerable clients.
For many law students in the Pacific, their only opportunity to study law is online so these kinds of face-to-face seminars are invaluable. The students meet experienced practitioners from different jurisdictions and are given the chance to discuss social justice issues and practice legal drafting and interviewing skills in an interactive setting.
“There are always gaps in communities’ ability to access justice,” says Iain Thain, “and these young people were keen to fill them, to learn more and make effective contributions to their own communities.”
It is intended that these Pacific law students will take their enthusiasm for pro bono work back to their local and wider communities and, when they graduate, contribute to a generational shift as they change conservative attitudes in their local firms.
As a responsible business and large international firm, DLA Piper feels a deep responsibility to contribute to social justice in the Pacific and is currently the only law firm doing this.
In New Zealand, pro bono work is formalised within DLA Piper, to give it the status it deserves.
“Young graduates expect nothing less now,” says Iain Thain, “The personal satisfaction that comes from pro bono is immense. Lawyers have always done this work, but often privately. Sometimes in the past you would never know the scope of a lawyer’s pro bono commitment until you read their obituary!”
He says, “That ad hoc approach of the past meant that access to justice with pro bono legal help was often a matter of luck”.
“Now, by openly embedding and rewarding pro bono work at firms, it becomes a more important part of legal life, and by setting targets for it, as we do, you can measure the power of it as a force for good.”
Some countries – like Fiji – have had their legal processes interrupted in recent times; any initiatives that practically assist human rights and strengthen societies are important. Just as vital, for these Fijian law students, is being able to help individuals locally, in their own neighbourhoods.
“Pro bono publico” means “for the public good”, not just “free legal advice”. Thousands of New Zealand lawyers are seriously committed to that idea. DLA Piper is finding as many ways as possible to strengthen that commitment.
Political Roundup: Will the Government fix spying in the public service?
by Dr Bryce Edwards
The week before Christmas was dominated by what may actually have been the most important political issue of the year in New Zealand – revelations that government agencies have spied on New Zealanders through the use of private investigators. The matter ended up being somewhat buried in the end-of-year chaos, and perhaps conveniently forgotten about by politicians with an interest in the issue remaining unresolved.
Yet the story isn’t going away. Today, the Herald published revelations about how the private investigations firm Thompson & Clark was previously employed by government-owned Southern Response insurance to review Official Information Act answers about the use of the private investigations firm itself – see Lucy Bennett’s Megan Woods seeks answers on Southern Response’s use of private investigators.
Here’s the key part of the story: “In January 2017, when Woods was the opposition spokeswoman on the Christchurch quake recovery, Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd (TCIL) invoiced Southern Response $2070 for reviewing a response to an Official Information Act request from the Labour Party research unit on its use of TCIL.”
The article reports on how “TCIL also appears to advise Southern Response on how to circumvent public scrutiny.” For example, Thompson & Clark gave the following advice to Southern Response’s chief executive: “to get around disclosure, privacy and OIA issues, we normally set up a discreet email address for you – in Gmail or similar … do you want us to set up a discreet email account for you – or do you want to?”
The original “explosive” SSC report
Despite the State Services Commission report being released during the busy period just prior to Christmas – leading to what some see as a lack of media coverage and scrutiny of the issues – there have been some excellent articles and columns published about it.
Andrea Vance produced some of the best coverage of the report and the aftermath. Her first report, Security firm spied on politicians, activists and earthquake victims, detailed the full extent of what had been uncovered by the report into government agencies using private investigators. Overall, she said that the “explosive report details a slew of damning revelations”.
Vance followed this up with an in-depth article, Public service bosses ignored warnings about Thompson & Clark for years, which revealed that “for a decade public service bosses ignored the warnings about Thompson & Clark. Their tentacles were everywhere. Dozens of ministries and agencies used their services – and yet no-one in the upper echelons of the public service questioned their reach or influence.”
According to Vance, “officials became drunk on the power of the information offered up by security firms like Thompson & Clark. It allowed them to keep tabs on their critics and stave off any reputational damage.” She also argues that “A cavalier attitude to personal and sensitive information, and a troubling disregard for the democratic right to protest, was allowed to flourish within the public service over 15 years and successive governments.”
Hamish Rutherford produced some excellent analysis, explaining: “In an age where the use of contractors is already under scrutiny, a string of government agencies have effectively outsourced snooping, in some cases for highly questionable reasons. In some cases this was done with a lack of clear contracts, creating a fertile atmosphere for mission creep” – see: Use of private investigators exposes carelessness about role of the government.
Rutherford writes about how remarkable it is that public servants weren’t aware (according to the report) that what was going on was unacceptable. He therefore concludes: “we are reading about public servants who appeared to be seduced by private investigators, who decided to make their job easier without considering the implications for democratic rights, or the need to remain neutral. Weeding out improper behaviour may take work, but it seems the report exposes examples where public servants need to be told what their job involves, which would be a far more fundamental problem.”
RNZ’s Tim Watkin also has some strong analysis of what occurred, saying that the report on the state snooping “is a bit of a page-turner and a terrifying read for anyone who cares about the integrity of the public sector” – see: Heart of Darkness in the public sector.
According to Watkin, the situation is perplexing, given the risk-averse nature of the public service: “My concern is what this says about the culture at the heart of our public service. How did leaders who are by the very definition of their roles meant to be servants of the public decide that this level of covert surveillance was a good idea? Government agencies are typically so risk averse these days that they have multiple managers signing off press statements and an inability to make a decision on which pencils or toilet paper to buy without first clearing it with the minister’s office. Yet they are willing to subject those ‘ordinary New Zealanders” to secret surveillance.”
Possibly, Watkin says it’s the very risk-averse nature of the current public service that has caused them to be more open to snooping on citizens: “there seems to be a deep-seated sense of butt-covering and paranoia”. This is the very point made by Gordon Campbell in his blogpost, On why Thompson + Clark are just the tip of the iceberg.
In recent years, according to Campbell, the public service has become politicised, meaning that public servants have become more sensitive to the political needs of their ministers rather than the public good. This means that snooping on citizens and protestors starts becoming sensible, and to dissent against breaches of ethics in the public service has become much more dangerous for your career.
Not surprisingly, some of the strongest condemnation of state snooping on citizens has come from those organisations known to be affected – especially environmental groups. Former Green co-leader, and now Greenpeace head, Russel Norman emphasises the anti-democratic nature of what has been going on: “The chilling effect of being under constant and intrusive surveillance for simply campaigning on important social issues, fundamentally corrodes what it means to live in a free and democratic society. We’ve learnt that under the previous government, no-one was safe from being spied on if they disagreed with government policy” – see: Rotten to the core: The chilling truth revealed by the SSC report.
Norman concludes: “The State Services Commission (SSC) investigation may well be one of the most important examinations into the inner workings of the state that we’ve seen in New Zealand. I’d go as far as to call it our Watergate moment.”
If that sounds like the expected complaints of an activist, then it’s also worth reading what former United Future leader Peter Dunne had to say in his column, Only a first step in the data battle.
Dunne explains what has occurred as being “a gross breach of that implicit covenant between the Government and its citizens”, and he raises serious questions about how much more privacy is being curtailed by government agencies. In particular: “Was any information provided, formally or informally, to the intelligence services by Thompson and Clark, and was any information gathered at the behest of the intelligence services?”
Newspaper editorials have also condemned what has been uncovered in the public service. The Otago Daily Times has a strongly-worded editorial about the dangers to democracy uncovered in the report: “It blasts a warning about the insidious nature of state power and the need for vigilance and protection. Those who would disregard civil liberties for what they might think is the greater good should think again. Big brother and big sister are an ever-present threat. This is even more so in the electronic age. It was first thought the internet might lead to more freedom and more opportunity for dissent. But the massive losses of privacy, the ease with which data is collected and modern data analysis all hand more potential power and surveillance ability to big business and big government” – see: An ‘affront to democracy’.
In Christchurch, The Press has been asking important questions about what the report has revealed – see the editorial: More questions about spies and the public service. Here are the concluding questions: “The public needs to know more about this scandal that is so contrary to the way we expect our public servants to behave on our behalf. The public wants to know who approved of this surveillance, why it was considered necessary in a democracy and, perhaps most important of all, how much was really known about it by the ministers in charge.”
Will anything actually be done about the spying scandal?
The biggest risk to arise out of the controversial investigation into government agencies’ misuse of spying on citizens is that nothing further will now occur. So despite new stories being published about the state surveillance, there’s a danger that we are coming towards the end of the scandal, with no significant reform being offered to correct the problems.
Although the Thompson & Clark firm has been discredited by the scandal, many are arguing that they are not actually the real problem. For example, Andrea Vance says: “although they took advantage, Thompson & Clark aren’t responsible for public service culture and the undermining of democratic rights. That lies with Peter Hughes. For public confidence to be fully restored, the public service must demonstrate accountability and accept culpability, starting from the top down.”
Perhaps it’s time for a proper official and independent commission of inquiry into the spying problems in the public service. Security analyst Paul Buchanan has been arguing for this. And Gordon Campbell agrees: “given that the Thompson+ Clark problem is a by-product of the politicisation of the public service, security analyst Paul Buchanan is dead right in calling for a public inquiry. Only a wide-ranging investigation can address the attitudinal issues and power relationships between ministerial staff and public servants, of which Thompson + Clark are merely one of the end results.”
Tim Watkin has also argued that more needs to happen: “The proper response to this report is not a few hours of tut-tuting, the Prime Minister expressing formulaic concern that the spying was “disturbing” and the symbolic resignation of a single chair. No, the proper response is a change to the public sector culture. So who will lead that?”
Other activists – especially those affected by the state spying – put forward proposals for reform in Jessie Chiang’s article, Environmental groups call for change after security firm revelations. For example, Russel Norman calls for prosecutions of those involved, and for the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment to be broken up. And Kevin Hague from Forest and Bird says: “I’m encouraging state services to go back to [learning] how to operate as a state service… and your obligations to the public and not just to the government of the day”.
For more thorough reform suggestions, also see blogger No Right Turn’s A private Stasi. He says “Businesses like Thompson and Clark, whose service is explicitly anti-democratic, need to be made illegal and put out of business.”
Finally, there’s the issue of the breaches of rules by Crown Law when working for the Ministry of Social Development – which Andrea Vance has described as “one of the most shocking findings”. The chief executive of MSD at the time was Peter Hughes, who of course is now chief executive of the State Services Commission, and therefore in charge of the whole of the public service. There will therefore be suspicions of conflicts of interest in terms of resolving that issue, and Hughes has handed the ongoing task to his own deputy at the SSC. For the best discussion of all this, see Aaron Smale’s Hypocrisy at the highest levels.
Political Roundup: Should rodeos be banned in New Zealand?
by Dr Bryce Edwards
The Summer rodeo season is in full swing. And so protesters are, once again, drawing attention to what they regard as the cruel and archaic nature of this “entertainment sport”. This is leading to clashes between rodeo supporters and protesters.
A few days ago, the group Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) revealed that two animals had recently died at a rodeo in Gisborne. Rodeo organisers had already acknowledged that a bull had been killed, but a whistle-blower alerted the animal rights group to the fact that a horse had also been killed at the event – see Karoline Tuckey’s Second animal death at Gisborne rodeo ‘freakish’.
SAFE accused the rodeo of a cover-up over the death and claimed that, in general, it “highlighted a lack of transparency” in rodeos. But the president of the New Zealand Rodeo and Cowboys’ Association (NZRCA), Lyal Cocks, explained the silence over the death, saying that his organisation “has understandably become cautious [about] speaking out in an environment of extreme negativity towards rodeos, which appears to be promoted by most media organisations.”
Cocks also explained the horse’s death at the rodeo: “After it competed it went out into the yards out the back, and for some inexplicable reason it went into a post and died, it was instantaneous – it was very strange, freakish.” Similarly, when another bull died at a Martinborough rodeo last year, after breaking its leg, at the time Cocks described this as “freak accident”.
Latest rodeo protests
Tensions are rising between supporters and protesters of rodeos, with an altercation taking place a few days ago at a Whangarei event – see Esther Taunton’s Protesters ‘assaulted like the animals’ at rodeo, animal rights group says. Some of this tension revolves around animal welfare activists attending rodeos and filming events, with organisers trying to ban the use of cameras.
One of the organisers of the Northland rodeo, Dianna Bradshaw, explained: “The camera ban was due to the possibility of footage being used out of context”. She added: “These people have an agenda, they’re not coming to these events with an open mind.”
According to one of the activists, Josh Howell, “There was particular emphasis on not being able to film the roping event – the calf roping event – because they acknowledge that it’s particularly controversial… They said we don’t want you filming at all even on your phones the calf-roping because one image can be taken out of context” – see RNZ’s Rodeo protesters consider police action after supporters confront them at event.
A number of other rodeos and protests have occurred in recent weeks. For example, about 24 people from the Queenstown Animal Activist group picketed outside a Wanaka event at the start of the month, calling for an end to “legalised animal abuse” – see Michael Hayward’s About 5000 attend Wanaka Rodeo despite protests.
Call for a rodeo ban
Animal rights activists are demanding that rodeos be outlawed in New Zealand. However, this demand has already been considered by the current Government and rejected. Until she was sacked for alleged mistreatment of staff, Meka Whaitiri was the minister responsible for animal welfare (as the associate Minister of Agriculture), and she made a decision not to introduce a ban on rodeos.
The decision was announced in March of last year, with Tess Nichol reporting that “Whaitiri didn’t believe rodeos were harmful enough to justify a ban” – see: Government won’t ban rodeo, animal welfare Minister says. According to this report: “She acknowledged public concern, but said rodeos were popular in many communities. The Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Māori electorate MP grew up on the East Coast of the North Island and said rodeos were common there – she had attended several herself.”
In lieu of a ban, the minister announced that she would work to strengthen regulations, and said she had asked the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee “to fast track further advice on rodeos this year”. It’s unclear, however, if this came to anything, and after Whaitiri was dismissed as a minister the Prime Minister decided to leave the ministerial portfolio of animal welfare unfilled.
Animal welfare organisations have been unimpressed with the Government’s lack of action on rodeos. The SPCA has responded by saying that “more needs to be done” and reiterated its support for a rodeo ban. The SPCA has also reminded the Government that it promised to do more: “They need to take this very seriously and uphold their election promise, which was to ban the use of animals under 12 months, flank straps, rope burning and the use of electronic prods” – see Newshub’s Govt won’t ban rodeos but will look into improving animal welfare.
This article also draws attention to corporate sponsors pulling out of involvement with rodeos: “Foodstuffs, LJ Hooker New Zealand, Saddlery Warehouse, Stuff, Meridian Energy, House of Travel, Bayleys, and Harcourts, all withdrew sponsorship in relation to the animal cruelty claims made by advocacy groups.”
There has, however, been some reform of the rules and regulations governing how rodeos treat animals. According to Michael Hayward, reporting in September, “The New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association announced four key changes to improve animal safety, which were confirmed at their recent AGM”, and he details these – see: New rodeo animal welfare rules ‘crisis management’, critics say.
Rodeo debate heating up this summer
This week Green Party MP Gareth Hughes has written an opinion piece making the moral arguments against rodeos: “Do this to a companion animal like a cat and a dog and you would be jailed. Do this on a farm and you could be investigated and prosecuted. Do it in front of a crowd at a rodeo and it is called entertainment. This summer in New Zealand, animals are being terrified, hurt and killed for fun” – see: Rodeo is animal cruelty dressed up as entertainment.
There is a growing sense of inevitability in much of the debate about rodeos being eventually consigned to history. Much of this escalation of concern started towards the end of last summer, with plenty of articles and opinion pieces forecasting a rodeo-free future. For example, the Hawkes Bay Today newspaper ran an article last February reporting on the growing activism following on from animal deaths at rodeos – see: Rodeo in the spotlight: Could Hawke’s Bay incidents be the beginning of the end?
In this, SAFE campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald is quoted saying “Year by year more and more people are speaking out strongly against rodeo. It’s really not something that New Zealand, in 2018, wants. It’s something that really needs to be consigned to the history books.” She adds: “Rodeos are banned in the UK, the Netherlands and parts of Australia, the United States and Canada. It’s time for New Zealand to make a change.”
In contrast, however, the Rodeo Association’s Lyal Cocks points out: “Judging by the increased crowd sizes this season… there are many more people who would like to see rodeo continue as a sport in NZ than those who would like it banned.”
In fact, the Rodeo Association estimates that about 100,000 people attended events last summer. And the sport has been fighting back against bad publicity, even employing former MP Michael Laws as a spokesperson, and getting Government MPs and ministers along to events – last February New Zealand First MPs Ron Mark and Mark Patterson were special guests at rodeo events.
This escalating ideological battle was well covered last year by Philip Matthews in his feature article, Cowboys and injuries: The end of rodeo? In this, he points to changing societal attitudes to the use of animals in sport, and cites survey evidence: “a Horizon Research survey commissioned by Safe and the SPCA found that 59 per cent of people wanted an end to animals in rodeo, 63 per cent wanted calf roping banned and 66 per cent wanted an end to use of flank straps, which cause animals to buck.”
Last year, newspaper editorials also weighed in on the issue – with the Dominion Post asking “Is this really how we want to have fun in a supposedly civilised country in the 21st century?” – see: Rodeos pitting humans against animals belong in the past. In contrast, the Otago Daily Times sat on the fence on the issue, pointing out the right to protest and right to participate in rodeos, and emphasising that both sides need to acknowledge the rights and concerns of the others – see: The rights of rodeos and animals.
For an indication of the turning tide on rodeos, it’s well worth reading Rachel Stewart’s mea culpa on the sport, in which she declares that “As a kid, I rode steers at my rural district sport’s day” but “we all know in our hearts that rodeo is wrong” – see: Rodeo doomed to bite the dust.
Stewart concludes: “Rodeo is on the way out. It’s on the wrong side of history, and the likes of Michael Laws won’t save it. In fact, unwittingly, he’s likely the best thing to happen to the anti-rodeo movement. Because “the truth of the matter is” that rodeo is toast. Yee-ha!”
Similarly, another columnist from the provinces, Tom O’Connor, says “In my brash youth I rode bulls at various rodeos around the country” but “I have come to question the attitude of my youth” – see: All the fun of the rodeo not worth any animal’s pain. He concludes “Like bull fighting, rodeos belong to history, as enjoyable as they might have been.”
For a counter to all this, writing a year ago, Michael Laws argued that concerns about rodeo animals are misplaced: “The science suggests animals suffer no long-term harm. And rodeo injury rates for participating animals are less than for many other animal events. Therefore, NZ Rodeo believes that animal activists are fundamentally misinformed and misguided” – see: Rodeo’s critics ignore findings that it’s not cruel.
Finally, for those wanting to enjoy the rodeo, or to protest its existence, the Rodeo and Cowboys’ Association has listed its upcoming events here: 2018/2019 Rodeo Dates.