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Mr Speaker, it seems to me that all the pump and preaching, moralising and ranting, pontificating and sermonising, around this Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill is nothing but a wall of noise to hide the lack of information, and the dearth of quality research about the use and effects of BZP.
In fact, when I was able to finally peel back the noise, what I saw reminded me of a court case I was involved in back in 1981, where the prosecution had spent more than two years trying to stitch me up with what amounted to nothing more than insinuation and innuendo; minimum facts and maximum allusion.
The prosecution case was so bloody flimsy that I described their efforts in my summing up to the jury, with the well-worn cliché –
“if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance,
then bamboozle them with bullshit.”
And that’s what this Bill is all about – bamboozling people with bullshit, to cover up the lack of proper research.
Well Mr Speaker, I won my case back in 1983, and so should all the poor bloody kids whose health and wellbeing is being shamelessly trotted out as the basis for banning party pills.
CONTROL FREAKS? FORE-SHORE!
What this Bill does do though, is confirm the view that even when all the best advice says one thing, if government is set on another course of action, then government wins out every time.
Like the Foreshore and Seabed Bill for example: 2,171 submissions, 186 presentations, 10 consultation hui, and some 45,000 people marching on parliament - an unprecedented rejection of this government’s theft, and the extinguishment of Maori rights, and what does the Government go? They just plough ahead anyway.
And this Bill is similar – 80% opposed it, and government goes ahead with it anyway – go figure.
And if that’s not bad enough, even the supposed Jewel in the Crown of Youth Development, the much vaunted and widely promoted Youth Parliament 2007 - even their opinions have been completely ignored.
The Youth Parliament received submissions on the status of BZP, from the Ministry of Health, the New Zealand Social Tonics Association, the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Care NZ and the University of Otago, and their report, tabled in this House on 11 July 2007, said:
“The Health Committee has come to the conclusion that bzp should become legal with strong regulations surrounding party pills. We have decided on this, because due to little research having been done, there is insufficient evidence proving the long-term effects of this drug.
The Health Committee recommends to the Government that party pills should be legally available with heavy restrictions on advertising, on the age that people can purchase and use these party pills, and on who can sell the party pills and where”.
And yet – despite the majority of submissions opposing the Bill, and despite the strong recommendations of the Youth Parliament, this Bill is still before the House for approval.
So what do we do about it?
Well, back in the 80’s and the 90’s Nancy Reagan proposed a JUST SAY NO campaign against drug use, which later shifted over to just say no to premarital sex and a list of other vices that America was trying to steer their young people away from.
But that campaign was a failure because it tried to oversimplify the scope and the nature of the problem, and didn’t deal with the realities of drug abuse.
What we need to do is start looking at more comprehensive and meaningful approaches than merely focusing on users.
Mr Speaker, let me be quite clear …
The Maori Party is opposed to harmful drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, and we are equally committed to stopping substance abuse.
But we also want the best information available to make our decisions, and what we have found out is that over the last five years, our society has consumed some twenty million party pills – with no recorded deaths.
That’s not to downplay any of the harmful effects of BZP – the nausea, headaches, hot/cold flushes, the poor appetite, the tremors and the shakes – mind you, those are the same symptoms that Parekura Horomia tells me him and his mates in the Labour Party Maori Caucus have been suffering since the last Marae-Digipoll came out.
Still, it is a matter of concern that party pills have become such an entrenched part of youth culture, particularly given the young age of the Maori population, and their high risk of substance abuse.
But prohibiting the manufacture, sale, supply and use of party pills won’t actually solve the problem at all, ‘cause party pills, like alcohol, dak, and assorted other drugs, are drugs that people WANT to keep taking, and when drugs are made illegal, what actually happens is people keep taking them, but the street price jumps through the roof, and drug use becomes unregulated, unrestricted, uncontrolled, and unmanageable, as the black market takes over.
And what about cigarettes … well, unlike all those other drugs, 80% of smokers actually want to stop, so banning the manufacture, supply and sale of tobacco products will simply not have the same effect.
But the most effective way to deal with party pills is not prohibition, but a properly enforced, strongly regulated, harm-minimisation approach, and the evidence shows that when drugs are effectively regulated, drug use and drug harm drops.
Tighter regulations, health warning labels, controlled access, and quality and quantity controls, are proven to be way more successful than prohibition.
Youthline told the Select Committee that banning wouldn’t change anything, and other submitters also confirmed what we already know – that prohibition has no effect on the demand for drugs at all.
And in conclusion Mr Speaker, let me again say how hypocritical it is that this House can put all this energy into getting tough on BZP, while alcohol and tobacco abuse continues to maim and kill Kiwis in the thousands.
Remember what I said before? That we’d found out that over the last five years, more than 20 million party pills have been popped – with no recorded deaths.
Can we say that about alcohol and tobacco though?
Alcohol and tobacco use and abuse has been researched to death, and we know, this House knows, the people know, hell the whole bloody world knows, that alcohol and tobacco are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders every year, and yep, I’m going to say it again, alcohol and tobacco are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders every year, and what do we do?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
Where do we get off on banning the drugs that kids like, while condoning the drugs that our generations go for?
Is that what we call ‘showing leadership’ is it? Sounds like gutless and petty jealousy to me. Sounds like we don’t want young people to have fun, ‘cause we’re too old for it.
No issue with trying to come up with a decent answer on party pills, but let’s not kid ourselves that we’re banning party pills for the good of our youth, but we’ll turn a blind eye to the alcohol and cigarettes that are killing them.
Mr Speaker, they tell me I can’t use the word hypocrite to describe members in this House so I won’t.
But let me tell you that it would take a great dose of duplicitous, deceitful, and dishonest double-dealing for this Bill to go any further in this House.
The Maori Party says - let’s kill this bill and get on with reality.