NZ Mental Health Will Worsen If Dope Legalised

Source: Family First

Media Release 14 February 2019 
Family First NZ says that the latest study on the effects of marijuana prove that New Zealand would be foolish to legalise marijuana in any way, and that the illegality of the drug and other drugs is vital as we fight the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general.

The study, published in the latest edition of JAMA Psychiatry summarised 11 studies comprising 23,317 individuals. The research said, “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern.”

This is consistent with the Christchurch Health and Development Study research which has shown that the use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users and could not be explained by social demographic and contextual factors associated with cannabis use. Regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.

Research led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, the study found.

Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since the legalisation of marijuana. This disturbing trend is, unfortunately, not surprising, as daily marijuana use among youth who begin before the age of 17 significantly increases the risk of suicide attempts.

“A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and mental well-being. People should always come before profits.””

If the government is in to a ‘well-being’ budget, legalising marijuana should be nowhere on the agenda.


Bold proposal puts people at the heart of vocational education

Source: Tertiary Education Union

Press release 13 February 2019

Bold proposal puts people at the heart of vocational education

Staff can turn their attention to opening doors for students and communities with creative teaching, learning, and research under bold changes proposed today for vocational education says the Tertiary Education Union.

Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, today launched a “Reform of Vocational Education”. The proposed changes are aimed at ending the market competition between education providers which has led to hundreds of courses closing, thousands of students missing out on learning opportunities, an unhealthy growth in management layers in the tertiary education sector, and $100 million in bailouts over the last few years for polytechnics unable to survive financially.

The centre piece of the reform package is ensuring that polytechnic teaching and learning is at the heart of vocational education, in the form of lifelong training and up-skilling for work, and local communities. The proposal is to set up a single institute of technology and polytechnic that would provide expanded in-work, online, and campus-based provision throughout the country.

TEU President Michael Gilchrist says union members have been at the forefront of debates about securing quality education for students no matter where they live or what their background is, and it was heartening that a government has finally heard their advice.

The union released its aspirations for the ITP sector earlier this month.

“There’s lots more planning and thinking to do if we are to really make sure that students, staff, employers, and communities are able to chart their own course when it comes to tertiary education but the Minister’s plan gives us a solid platform to get back to what we love doing – teaching, learning, and research.”

TEU Industrial and Professional vice-president, George Tongariro, is excited by the prospect that he and other lecturers and tutors around the country will be able to ensure courses reflect community needs. Tongariro notes that staff and students at Whitireia Polytechnic were facing losing distinct kaupapa Māori teaching and learning spaces due to the financial and competitive pressures the institution faced under the failed market-model of provision.

He says “The proposal for a single polytechnic to provide courses around Aotearoa is only tenable because there is strong recognition that we have diverse students and communities. This means staff being given the freedom to adapt collectively designed material to reflect local needs and opportunities.”

The TEU notes that the Minister’s bold approach to ensuring every New Zealander has access to education requires staff to have jobs which provide them the freedom to build relationships with students, local businesses, iwi, and communities.

Gilchrist notes “This means good jobs with secure futures, after all staff conditions are work are students’ conditions of learning. The minister is right when he says that ad-hoc approaches were never going to provide the life-long learning opportunities the country needs.”

The bold changes proposed for the sector provide some exciting opportunities, says national secretary Sharn Riggs, but also challenges that staff will have to face together. The Minister, TEC, and current employers need to ensure that staff are well supported through the consultation phase and the changes that will follow.

“Together this union will ensure the innovative and future-focussed ideas of staff keep being heard by the government, but this means being given the time and space to think, meet, and talk.”

We also have been clear with the Minister that having a single polytechnic provides a genuine opportunity to ensure long-term stability of jobs not just in both major centres but also in regional communities who have been the big losers under the previous government’s failed market experiment in tertiary education, Riggs says.

The union is convening a meeting of representatives from all ITPs next Tuesday to discuss the reform proposal, as well as setting up online and face-to-face meeting spaces for staff to collectively respond to the government’s proposal. More details are on the TEU website.

For more information

  • Michael Gilchrist, TEU national president, +64 27 8994256
  • Sharn Riggs, TEU national secretary, +64 27 4438768
  • George Tongariro, TEU vice president, +64 27 5709086
  • Sandra Grey, Political officer, +64 21 844176


Almost 84 Years Married – World’s Longest Married Couple In NZ?

Source: Family First

Media Release 12 February 2019
For the fourth year running, Family First New Zealand has presented an Award for the Longest Married Couple in New Zealand and the New Zealand couple who won the previous three annual awards may not only be NZ’s longest married couple again this year, but the world’s longest married couple.

“New Zealand couple JERAM & GANGA RAVJI (below) who have won the award since 2016 will celebrate 84 years of marriage this April, and both will turn 103 years old in May and June respectively. That is an incredible feat. Based on a response from Guinness World Records, we also believe it is the world record for a married couple who are both alive,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

The longest married couple in the US celebrated their 83rd wedding anniversary in September 2018. Canada’s longest married couple celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary in 2016 before the husband died.

“This is an opportunity to promote marriage and honour couples who have done the ‘hard yards’. Marriage is a great institution but it requires love and commitment, hard work, and community support. We want to celebrate with couples who are setting the example for younger married couples just starting out. The Ravjis deserve to be honoured,” says Mr McCoskrie.

The NZ winners are being recognised on Valentine’s Day 2019, which coincides with National Marriage Week which is the second week of February each year. The award has previously included flowers, chocolates and a professional photo sitting with the Ravji’s extended family which includes 6 children, 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

We asked them how to make a strong marriage that lasts. Ganga said that in a long marriage there’s been lots of sacrifices, and she’s concerned that the young ones can’t tolerate anything and can’t make sacrifices. They have learnt to tolerate each other. She said that in every life, God’s given good and the bad and you have to work through it. They’ve had a long life and they’ve always had their ups and downs and it hasn’t been a bed of roses – lots of tragedies – but you have to live with it, and work through it. Their parents instilled in them ‘this is the way to do it and this is what you have to do’, and they listened to their parents – they never questioned them. The parents gave them advice and they just followed it, even if they didn’t like it. They knew that their parents knew better than them and wanted the best for them.

Due to personal circumstances, the Ravjis have declined any media interviews – which we are respecting.


Photo (below) shows Jeram and Ganga Ravji receiving their prizes from Family First NZ in 2016 – which included a professional sitting for a family portrait with their extended family.

84 years of marriage in April 2019.

They will both turn 103 years old this year in May and June respectively. In April they will celebrate their 84th wedding anniversary. Together they have 6 children, and 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren, most of whom are living in Auckland.


CTU supports improved laws on equal pay

Source: Council of Trade Unions – CTU

Today oral submissions begin on the Equal Pay Amendment Bill and the Council of Trade Unions is one of the first off the blocks to support this law at Select Committee.

“We all know that Kiwis believe in fairness. This Bill will make New Zealand a fairer place by making sure women are paid fairly,” CTU President Richard Wagstaff said.

Jeanette Wilkinson will also be making an oral submission today. Jeanette is a medical secretary, a role she has been in for over 18 years and she’s passionate that all working women should have a brighter future, “Every day I make a difference in people’s lives. I transcribe technical, complicated information about people’s bodies. The field I specialise in is complex. it’s my job to understand the medications and procedures being described so that sick people can get better. The doctors tell me what an important job I do and patients and their families value me but I have never earnt enough to save for my retirement.”

“I want anyone who works in a role which has been mostly done by women, to be paid a fair wage, a wage which finally values the importance of their work. A wage which allows them to support themselves and their families and allows them to save for their retirement,” Wilkinson said.

“The pathways for this legislation were worked through extremely thoroughly by the Joint Working Group on Equal Pay. Agreement was reached and the legislation reflects that process,” Wagstaff said.

“There is still more that can be done to ensure that equal pay becomes a reality and we’ll be seeking some important improvements to the Bill. But this is an excellent step forward. We will continue to work with government and business to break down the barriers which prevent gender equality,” Wagstaff said.


Billboard Campaign Encourages Nope To Dope

Source: Family First

Media Release 10 February 2019
A billboard campaign is warning families and encouraging them to think deeply about the possible legalisation of marijuana, and to vote against the proposal in the 2020 referendum. The first billboard has been put up in Christchurch, with further billboards to be used around the country.

Family First NZ has also released a 24-page Briefing for Families, and there are also 1-page Briefing Sheets on specific issues.

Topics covered include:

  • what are the known health harms of marijuana?
  • why is the referendum much more than just being able to ‘smoke a joint’?
  • the problems with statements like “the war on drugs has failed” and “it’s a health issue, not a legal issue”
  • what effect will legalisation have in the workplace, on road safety, with pregnant mums and young people, on family violence & child abuse, and will it really get rid of the ‘black market’ and gang involvement?
  • is growing marijuana ‘green’?
  • what’s the next step in this drug agenda?

“Evidence shows that marijuana – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana. Portugal has seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) in the last five years,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Families simply don’t want marijuana plants being grown next door by dope dealers in view of the children, tinnie houses on street corners and pot shops in local shopping areas, an increase in drugged driving, or marijuana being disguised as lollies and edibles as has happened overseas. Colorado, for example, has more marijuana businesses than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.”

“Legalising marijuana and the rise of Big Marijuana is the wrong path if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people. There are too many health risks including the effect of marijuana on cognitive ability, cardiac function and psychosis.”

“It remains highly ironic that at the same time as we tear the labelling off cigarette packets, price them out of existence, and ban them from being smoked within breathing space of any living creature, supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed for far too long about tobacco – that marijuana is harmless. But of course, a new business market is all very exciting – especially one based on addiction. Could our current mental health services cope? They can’t even cope now.” will inform families about the attempts to legalise marijuana, and to help them speak up in the public debate.


Taxpayer Should Not Fund Sex Change Operations – Poll

Source: Family First

Media Release 10 February 2019 
Independent polling by Curia Market Research has found strong opposition to taxpayer funding of sex change procedures.

In the poll of 1,000 New Zealanders surveyed, respondents were asked “Do you think the taxpayer should fund surgery and hormone treatments for people who wish to change their sex?”

63% opposed taxpayer funding, 27% supported it, and a further 11% were unsure or refused to say.

The strongest opposition came from males, younger people, those in high deprivation areas, and NZ First & National voters.

“Taxpayers seem to be strongly of the view that the health budget should be focused on hip operations, unilateral mastectomies, treatment of endometriosis, cardiovascular disease, and prostate cancer procedures, amongst others,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“As stated in the recent reportChildren Transitioning: Childhood gender dysphoria – A paediatrician’s warning to New Zealand” written by Professor John Whitehall who is Foundation Chair and Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Sydney, there is no scientific evidence in medical literature to support the massive interventions of the medical pathway. To the contrary, there are multiple expressions of the need for evidence, and lamentations about its lack. The medical pathway is based only on ideology, and claims of ‘success’ reflect beliefs, not science. Even worse, these beliefs are not negotiable: they have become coercive. And the government appears to have become a victim of this ideology and its coercion.”

The government recently lifted the cap on gender reassignment surgery. Under the previous National government, the state funded three male-to-female surgeries and one female-to-male every two years. Associate Health Minister and Green MP Julie Anne Genter announced that this will now be the minimum number of surgeries to be performed every two years.

New Zealand’s chief medical officer has said there were 111 people waiting for surgery: 84 male to female, and 27 female to male. Ministry of Health figures put the average cost of male-to-female surgery at $53,382, with individual surgeries costing between $25,587 at their lowest up to $81,975. The costs for female-to-male surgery are higher, averaging $218,892, with a range of $45,169 to $525,034.

The nationwide poll was carried out during December and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.



Living Wage for Westpac

Source: Council of Trade Unions – CTU

SThe Council of Trade Unions is welcoming growing awareness in the business sector that lifting incomes is a priority, with today’s announcement that Westpac will be an accredited Living Wage employer.

“It’s good to see that at least some parts of the business sector are recognising that low wages are a problem. Employers have the power to improve wages. Paying a Living Wage alongside other important initiatives like Fair Pay Agreements, equal pay and ensuring that working Kiwis have healthy and safe workplaces, are all elements of what will make work future proofed in New Zealand,” said CTU Secretary, Sam Huggard.

The move follows yesterday’s release of proposals to establish Fair Pay Agreements to lift pay across industries by the committee’s chair Sir Jim Bolger.

“Simon Power, another former senior National Party figure, has today also called on other employers to lift wages. We hope that fair minded businesses, and indeed the National Party, will move beyond their unfathomable opposition to working as a country on a plan to lift wages, rather than just leaving it to chance, which has clearly not worked.”

“The number of employers who are enthusiastically engaging in the living wage movement is increasing, a sign that real momentum is building, change is happening. Our congratulations to Westpac, to the bank workers’ union FIRST Union and to the Living Wage movement,” Huggard said.


Labour statistics show more effort from government required

Source: Council of Trade Unions – CTU

The Council of Trade Unions is welcoming signs today, in the Labour Market Statistics, of stronger pay rises coming through but says there is a long way still to go.

“It is good to see a strong rise in the average wage over the last year, and that more Kiwi workers are getting pay rises, but more must be done to deliver for all working people,” said CTU President Richard Wagstaff.

In the private sector, the average wage rose 3.7 percent over the year but in the public sector, despite the effect of the nurses’ settlement, the average wage rose only 1.8 percent. Many working people are still not getting pay rises, and those who do get rises are too often not getting enough to meet rising housing costs and to get ahead. The Labour Cost Index showed the rate for the job was rising only as fast as price rises at 1.9 percent.”

“There is much more to do to ensure workers are getting a fair share of the income they generate. Fair Pay Agreements and improved collective bargaining are urgently needed as the implementation of these will have a real difference on people’s lives,”

“This Government must step up the urgency and resources it puts into supporting people out of work, to help them into work, and into support for industry to develop good high value jobs that pay decent wages,” Wagstaff said.


Staff are the foundation for the future of tertiary education

Source: Tertiary Education Union

Education Minister, Chris Hipkins is reminded today by the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) that the success of his planned reform of institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITP) will depend on the extraordinary skill, knowledge and experience of the people working and studying in the sector.

In its report Changing Lives, published this afternoon, the TEU emphasises that staff conditions of work are student’s conditions of learning. Unless the Minister puts the relationship between staff and students at the centre of a reformed ITP sector, his reforms are bound to fail. It was timely reminder from the TEU, coming just one week before the Minister announces radical plans to restructure ITPs and change the vocational education and training system.

Changing Lives makes clear that these reforms must guarantee a significant increase in funding for the sector, and an end to the broken competitive system put in place under the last Government. It also say the reforms must ensure a nationwide network of provision that reaches into every community, ensuring all New Zealanders have access to tertiary education through a range of delivery options.

Michael Gilchrist, national president of the TEU, said:

“ITPs and vocational education more broadly provides life-changing learning opportunities to thousands of New Zealanders. Whether it’s a young person figuring out their path, changing careers later in life, learning new skills or finding their passion, ITPs are there to support them on their way. A priority for the Minister must be to make sure ITPs stay broadly and deeply connected to the communities, both regional and urban, in which they are placed.

“More than this, the hard-working teaching and support staff in ITPs play a crucial role in helping us develop the practical and intellectual skills we need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. The Minister would do well to remember when he makes his announcement next week that ITPs and their connections to local communities and industry, provide a vital link between what this Government has promised and what it can deliver. Without the skill, experience and dedication of the staff in the sector, we simply cannot train future house builders, nurses, and social workers.”

Other recommendations in the TEU’s report Changing Lives call on the Minister to:

  • Demonstrate the reforms proposed for the ITP sector foster the Tiriti relationship expressed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • Allocate funding on a secure and equitable basis so we can finally pay a Living Wage to all staff directly and indirectly employed; eliminate any and all gender pay imbalances; and stop the proliferation of casual, insecure and fixed-term employment agreements.
  • Preserve and enhance the regional distinctiveness of all campuses and courses, without exception
  • Ensure every campus, regardless of its location or proximity to other campuses, must have an academic leader appointed who will work with staff to make decisions that will improve teaching, learning and research
  • Guarantee all regions will have access to tertiary level learning opportunities, including ensuring the provision of levels 1 – 4 in every community
  • End all competitive funding and adopt the recommendations in the TEU’s recent report Funding the Future


1 in 3 Support Families Opting In, Not Out, For Sex Ed

Source: Family First

Media Release 7 February 2019
A third of parents have expressed support for children only being given sex education at schools if the parents specifically ‘opt in’ to the programme. Currently, parents have to notify schools if they want their children excluded, but many families have complained that they have not been aware of the programmes taking place until after it has been presented, and have been concerned by its content.

In the independent poll of 1,000 New Zealanders by Curia Market Research, respondents were asked: “Some schools teach sex education. Would you prefer that the law be that this is to be taught to children unless their parents opt out, or that it only be taught to children whose parents opt in?”

34% said they wanted parents to “opt in”, just over half of respondents were happy with the status quo, and 11% were unsure or refused to say. Those in low socio-economic areas were almost evenly split on whether parents should be able to opt in or out.

This poll follows on from a poll in 2016 that found that almost four out of five parents are confident of their ability to teach their own children about sex and sexuality issues, and 2/3’rds believe that parents should be dictating any school-based teaching, not the government or groups such as Family Planning and Rainbow Youth.

“Parents have rightly been horrified at groups coming in to schools and undermining the role and values of families with sex education resources targeted at children as young as five which fail to take into account the emotional and physical development of each child and the values of the family. We believe that the number of parents wanting the right to opt-in will actually be much bigger when offered the opportunity,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“There seems to be a basic and ironic assumption that parents know nothing about sex and that only groups like Family Planning and Rainbow Youth do. This is a myth and is rejected by Kiwi parents – and it seems that an increasing number of parents are wanting a default setting of not having sex education for their children.”

“The state is promoting a curriculum where children are indoctrinated on ‘gender identity’ ideology and the harms of gender stereotypes, and given dangerous messages that they’re sexual from birth, that the proper time for sexual activity is when they feel ready, and that they have rights to pleasure, birth control, and abortion. Most schools, along with parents in that school community, are rejecting the extreme elements of the new sexuality education guidelines released at the end of 2015.”

“Studies show that the biggest protective factors for coping with puberty and sexual involvement are married parents, family values, parental supervision, and parental expectations for behaviour. What happens at home is the greatest determinant of the outcomes for the young person.”

Family First released a report in 2013 “R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand – A Critical Review” by US psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman which warned that the sex education resources fail to tell the full facts and compromise the concerns and wishes of parents, and the safety of young people.

The nationwide poll was carried out during December and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.