Hard News by Russell Brown

25

Housing NZ keeps digging the meth hole

Housing NZ sharpens focus on meth reads the headline on a brief news story published by the Bay of Plenty's SunLive yesterday. It declares that Housing New Zealand "has sent the strongest possible message to state housing tenants warning of its zero tolerance to illegal activity on its properties. And that especially includes the use and abuse of methamphetamine."

The basis of the story is an interview with Charlie Mitchell, HNZ's manager of chemical programmes, who frames the corporation's expensive foray into testing for "meth contamination" as a matter of fairness to tenants.

“While the issue of methamphetamine is high-profile right now, we have never tolerated illegal activity in homes,” says Housing NZ's manager of chemical programmes, Charlie Mitchell.

“Our tenants are well aware of this. It's not a new policy. To ensure we are fair to all tenants, we cannot make exceptions to this policy around meth use and cooking.”

Housing New Zealand's zero tolerance approach to illegal activity on its properties includes drug use of any kind. And it's sending a warning to tenants who might be participating in, or allowing, illegal activity in state homes.

In other words, if HNZ retreated from its "contamination" crackdown it would be unfair to all the other criminal tenants.

Mitchell says HNZ has been "selected to sit on an important new committee created to improve standards around meth management". This is over-egging it a bit.

Standards New Zealand announced in March that it had "contacted a wide range of stakeholders in January 2016 inviting them to nominate representatives for consideration" for the committee which will develop NZS 8510, the proposed (and first) standard for the testing and remediation of meth-contaminated properties. As the country's largest landlord – and more particularly, a landlord evicting hundreds of tenants, boarding up their homes and spending tens of millions of dollars on probably unnecessary remediation – HNZ was never not going to be invited on to the committee.

It's a given that the new standard will make a distinction between properties in which meth has been manufactured and those where it has merely been consumed. And extremely likely that the benchmark for continued occupation of a property will be higher than that cited in the widely-misunderstood Guidelines for the Remediation of Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratory Sites published by the Ministry of Health in 2010.

But if the "zero tolerance" policy really continues to apply, what happens if testing of a tenant's property reveals a level of meth residue which falls below the NZS 8510 benchmark but is greater than zero – say, the level of residue on a random $5 note?

HNZ has already rejected the option of benchmark-testing all properties before occupation as too expensive. Will it really fall back on its multi-step process (in which most of the steps amount to "gossip from the neighbours") to decide who's to blame for the residue? And terminate tenancies where the official standard says there is no meaningful health risk? I rather doubt it.

Will it further, under its "zero tolerance" policy, expunge tenants suspected to have smoked a joint? Will there be testing for cannabis residue? No, of course there will not. And the idea that there has always been a zero-tolerance policy simply isn't true either.

HNZ did introduce a suspensions policy in November 2011, suspending tenants  from applying for a state house for one year after their tenancy ended "as a result of serious breaches of their tenancy agreement". Of the first batch of 75 suspensions, seven were on the basis of "unlawful activity". All of those were in Auckland and included "supply of drugs and possession of an unregistered sawn-off shotgun". Simple possession or consumption is not recorded as a reason.

The current HNZ tenancy agreement says the corporation may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for a 21-day termination if you, the tenant "have used or allowed your house or flat to be used for illegal activities" and if you were dealing from your house you were always likely to be kicked out.

On the other hand, one of our former HNZ neighbours managed to get himself convicted of manufacturing homebake heroin in his home in 2002 and, given his record, was lucky not to receive a custodial term (letters of support from several neighbours, including us, probably helped). His tenancy continued, as did his cooking of homebake. It ended only when his life did, of an accidental overdose.

There may have been an element of compassion – our neighbour used a wheelchair and the property had been modified for his use – but there has clearly not always been a zero-tolerance policy, even for drug manufacture. And the claim that things have always been thus is contradicted by Social Housing minister Paula Bennett's words to journalists in March ("Housing New Zealand is taking a much stricter approach to detecting and dealing with serious drug use in its properties").

It begs an explanation of how else HNZ's costs have suddenly ballooned to the point that it has had to budget $22 million for meth testing and remediation this year and will blow way past that cost. Why else did tenancy managers start complaining that there were so many boarded-up properties that they couldn't meet their KPIs? Why else would the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have started asking questions?

It's possible to take a position of sympathy for HNZ: to say that is has been forced by the Tenancy Tribunal to inappropriately apply the existing meth guidelines. But that gets harder when it chooses to do this kind of press. And there's a deep irony that in a week when the idea of a "wet house" to provide shelter and safety for alcoholics is being well-received, we get this kind of chest-beating about denying shelter to people who may have other substance problems. We know that security and shelter are hugely important in addressing drug and alcohol problems. That's what the evidence says.

I do understand – from personal experience – that socially unacceptable behaviour by HNZ tenants can make life difficult or dangerous for neighbours, and that can rightly result in termination of tenancy. But demonising people and writing cheques you'll never cash doesn't help. Underneath the SunLive story there are already comments declaring that these "culprits" should be denied social support for the rest of their lives for their "bad decisions". That all HNZ tenants should be forcibly drug-tested. That's where all this goes.

Indeed, Poor Foundations, my story on the "meth contamination" panic for Matters of Substance (the print version is out now), revealed that HNZ's meth team discussed drug-testing prospective tenants as a condition of shelter, and rejected it not on the basis of the striking human rights and political implications of such a move, but because it would be expensive and might not catch everyone.

Under the circumstances, it might be a good idea if HNZ and its managers spent a few months shutting up and breathing through their noses.

105

Obscuring the News

A man went to the supermarket and bought some cheese. It was sliced cheese. After he got home with the sliced cheese, he opened the packet and saw that the cheese had mould on it. The man probably thought about taking the cheese back to the supermarket, but he didn't.

For some time last Wednesday, this was the second-lead story on the award-winning website of the New Zealand Herald.

The man had, as it transpired, taken several photographs of the cheese with the mould on it and posted them on a Facebook page, whereupon they were discovered by the Herald. In the post, he urged the supermarket to "lift your game". While it's easy to sympathise with the man – he probably had the crackers out and everything, maybe even a beer –  that seemed potentially unfair given that the cheese, as his photographs clearly showed, had a best-before date of November 2016.

The Herald did do some reporting on its Facebook scoop. It called the supermarket company, which, wholly unsurprisingly, said that if the cheese was brought back it would be replaced as a matter of policy. It called the cheese company, which said the same thing. Both said that the return of the cheese would help get to the bottm of the matter.

There are a number of scenarios under which this apparently ordinary tale might have been newsworthy. If the supermarket company had brazenly said it would not replace the cheese. If someone had eaten the cheese (which would have been stupid) and subsequently felt unwell. Or if there was evidence that this kind of manufacturing fault was widespread. None of these scenarios applied.

The Hibiscus Coast Facebook page, where the original post was made, is a closed group and I frankly couldn't be bothered requesting admission in order to see what kind of discussion took place under the cheese post – but I'm guessing it was of the order of "you should take that cheese back bro".

Was it the opportunity to make a clunking pun in the headline the reason for the moudly cheese story's giddy elevation not only to the website, not only above the fold, but to the second lead spot? (It should be noted that strictly speaking, that's not how you pronounce "gouda".) 

Well, no. There's something broader going on here. Look again at the screenshot above, to the "Latest" column. It's a mix of stock news and the kind of thing your stupid friend insists on sharing on Facebook. But at the top of the box, you may notice that there is a second tab, marked "News". The next time you visit the Herald website, try clicking the "News" tab. What happens next will move you to tears.

I confess, I literally only thought about the second tab while I was writing this blog post. I guess I just assumed that a newspaper website would carry news as a matter of course. But I'm guessing that that "News" tab is automatically populated straight from the news service feeds to which the Herald has rights: the headlines are the wordy, overly descriptive giveaway. But the stories are definitely news, from all over the place.

I presume that those stories, after they drop out of the box, still exist somewhere on the Herald website. But good luck finding them. This is the 'World' section of the Herald earlier today:

Not one of these top-ranked stories is important international news, although the Tromp story has been big in Australian media and is odd and intriguing enough to warrant notice. Several of them aren't news at all. One is a column about returning to New Zealand by Jack Tame (whose work I enjoy) and another is being billed in the 'World' section because a Japanase restaurant in Auckland has paid for it to be published.

Well, you might say, it's 2016 and the internet is a thing: surely we can read all the international news we want on the websites of The Guardian, the New York Times and countless others. But that's not really my point. My point is that news is being systematically obscured.

It's a point made in some style in a column by former Herald editor Tim Murphy in a column on Stop Press last week:

Fairfax’s stuff.co.nz was first to put being biggest ahead of best. It now boasts more than 2 million uniques a month, is bigger than the NZ Government site and Trade Me and sits a confronting 400,000 readers/viewers ahead of nzherald.co.nz on 1.6m.

The Herald has in the past 18 months also targeted being number one. It has mimicked Stuff, shadowed it, copied it and now forced Stuff to do the same in return. They have both lifted what commentators call their ‘digital metabolism’ and cannot be faulted for the number of pieces of content produced and highlighted daily or the colour, pace or cutesiness of their menu.

Within these sites, beyond the homepages or the top half of the homepages, and not so often directed out via social channels like Facebook and Twitter is so much good journalism.

It perhaps isn’t so much the death of journalism but a big cover-up. Sweeping the journalism under the fluff of the carpet. And here is the worry. If the audience is constantly presented the sugar and not the protein or greens, there is a risk that an obesity crisis of information develops. People are left dulled and de-energised.

It doesn’t have to happen. Excellent news organisations, general and mass market ones, which have inspired executive leadership are finding a third way between clickbait and earnestness.

Tim talks about the past 18 months, but my feeling is that there has been an additional lurch in the past month or two. The website has become more crowded than ever with lifts of heavily-contrived Daily Mail stories, what Tim describes as "foreign stories ... paraded with a geographic anonymity that dupes and frustrates readers who bother with that click", things pillaged from social media and the kind of trivia your stupid friend insists on sharing in their Facebook feed.

There are various problems with this. It degrades the paper's reputation. (I'm often found explaing that the printed version of the Herald is still actually pretty sound, that the Herald employs some of the most badass investigative reporters in the country, is doing great things with data journalism, etc). Actually obscuring the origin of a story to deceive the reader is an act of contempt for that reader. And, perhaps most of all, it's really demoralising for the journalists.

And they are demoralised by it. When you report something you think matters, you want to see that reporting reach an audience. And that's often simply not happening. Senior journalists and even section editors are having trouble getting the paper's own reporting "above the fold" on the Herald's home page, or even anywhere prominent. There seems to be a problem in the other direction too: one reporter told me that it seemed impossible to get the "kids" in digital to act on social media tips that were genuinely newsworthy. They're not even stealing the good stuff.

The problem isn't entirely new or unique to the Herald: I've seen a One News reporter complain about "digital" bodging together a story from multiple third-party reports – and ignoring the organisation's own reporting on the same story. There's your disconnect in one anecdote.

In my chapter in the new book Don't Dream It's Over: reimagining journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, I talk about the odd disconnect between "digital" – a layer now common across the respective media platforms – and the rest of the editorial enterprise. There are no media awards for most of the work in "digital" (although frankly it might help if there were), but it does require a range of skills and, done well, knowledge, wit, and a firm reciprocal connection to the rest of the internet. Also, inevitably, the ability to work very quickly.

I do understand the demand to constantly be feeding fresh content to a website and to maximise clicks, now matter how empty an experience clicking may turn out to be. I know that there are too many interests involved – including those of readers other than me – to complain much about celebrity "news". I am aware that the day the Herald – encouraged onward by the stats as they came in – put 13 Bachelor-related links on its home page was the website's second-biggest day ever.

But what's happening at the Herald seems particularly screwy and unbalanced. It's happening in pursuit of a low-quality, high-volume model that may well be unsustainable (the exemplar of the model, the Mail Online, the world's most popular news website, was revealed this year to not really be making enough out of digital advertising). It's entirely possible that it's not even a matter of editorial decision-making so much as the constant feedback loop of live analytics.

There are, as Tim points out in his column, better ways to address the challenges. They're also ways that pay better heed to what newspapers are meant to be for and to the reasons any of us got into journalism in the first place. And they're ways that don't treat the readers like rubes.

25

Friday Music: Bombathon Begins

The 2016 95bFM Bombathon fundraising week officially kicks off on Monday, but you can already get in a sneaky donation here. And if you've ever been moved, touched, informed, amused or induced to dance by the b, I reckon you should.

I've been involved with 95bFM and its predecessor stations since I used to do the odd show in the early 80s – and of course, this blog right here has its roots in the 11 years (1991-2002) that Hard News was a weekly radio rant. That rant, in which I used to explain complex social and economic issues, swear a lot and get mistaken for Bill Ralston, is the basis of most of what I do now. I wouldn't be here, now, doing this without the b – and there are a hell of a of a lot of other people with a similar story.

The deep history of the station goes back a lot further than I do, all the way back to the first capping week broadcast from a boat in 1969. But there's a period after that in which Radio B created all kinds of useful mischief, made headlines and helped shape New Zealand broadcasting. That's a story that's almst been forgotten, but I tell it in two new Audioculture features to be pubished next week, naming names and revealing secrets that have not been told before.

Most media enterprises are feeling revenue pressure these days and for various reasons, 95bFM feels it more than most. The marvel is that it's still there doing things like the brilliant live streams for Orcon IRL. Last year, having fetched back the Bombathon from the 1990s, the station set a target of $45,000 and exceeded that. This year, the target is an ambitious (and numerically resonant) $95,000.

The station will be broadcasting next week from St Kevins Arcade on Karangahape Road, the spiritual home of b culture. There are various special activities around that, but I'd like to draw your attention to one in particular: next Saturday, the 10th, you can dig my crates.

From nine till noon, I'll be one of a select group selling at a mini-record fair at Southbound Records, 132 Symonds Street. The shop will donate our market fee to the Bombathon (if I do at all well, they'll get more than that). There'll be sexy sevens, tasty twelves, alluring albums – and the odd rare gem from the household New Zealand vinyl vault. If I get around to it, I'll post a partial list next Friday.

Meanwhile, you can bung a little in and be able to tell everyone you were into donating to Bombathon when it was still really obscure.

Because we can never allow what happened yesterday to happen again  ...

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The Others Way festival takes over K Road for the second year this evening and there are more artists playing more venues. There are still some tickets left at Under the Radar and the Flying Out store at 80 Pitt Street. The lineup includes David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, The Phoenix Foundation, Anthonie Tonnon, Nadia Reid, Salad Boys, Yoko Zuna, Yumi Zouma, Ghost Wave, Kane Strang and more ...

You'll also note a special comeback from those rascals King Loser.

Andrew Moore is shooting a documentary around the comeback show (and the short tour to follow) and he reports that King Loser have been "on fire" in the practice room. He sent me this picture of Celia Mancini:

I'm involved in a small way this year too – interviewing Roger Shepherd at 7pm in one of the new venues, the old Samoa House fale. It's part of the festival, but entry is free. At the conclusion of the session, Roger will sign books and I will streak out the door to catch the rest of Nadia Reid's set at Galatos.

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This evening's chat will be a reprise of Saturday night's In Love With These Times event as part of WORD Christchurch. A capacity crowd packed Blue Smoke in Woolston and maintained a level of attention that was remarkable for somewhat old folks obliged to stand up for two hours.

But there was plenty to maintain for: not least the performances that punctuated the panel discussion. First of these was Jay Clarkson covering the 3Ds' 'Spooky' – something you might never see again. Happily, Mr Willy Biscuits got some video:

Next, Graeme Downes played the title track from The Verlaines' forthcoming tenth studio album, Dunedin Spleen (there's a double live album recorded in 1986 on the way too):

Then contemporary Flying Nun artist Hollie Fullbrook (aka Tiny Ruins) stepped up to play the title track of Hurtling Through, her collab with Hamish Kilgour.

And finally, all three convened to play JPSE's 'Shiver', in tribute to the late Jim Laing. It was special.

There doesn't seem to be any video of what happened next: which was a spontaneous one-for-one set by Hollie and Graeme after the scheduled event. That ended with Graeme breaking out '10 O'Clock in the Afternoon', which was amazing. But I did get a photograph of the moment:

Graeme reckoned later he'd been driven to greater heights by having to follow Hollie each time. Jay reckons she told him to play it.

Other things to emerge from the evening: The Bats are still working on that next album. Paul and Kaye were in the crowd and said they put the band's almost-unseemly continuing creative vitality down to the fact that "Bob lets us do what we want." (Personally, I'm sticking with the theory that they have sold their souls to some southern devil.)

Another Tally Ho! concert with the Dunedin Sinfonia is in the works and will feature Graeme's arrangement of the "Mozartian" 'Sugar in the Petrol Tank' by his former student, Anthonie Tonnon.

And David Pine shared that Sneaky Feelings have been quietly convening over the past three or four years – and currently have 20 new songs recorded!

Further information elicited over whisky at the hotel later: Jay says she taught Paul Kean to play bass and Graeme says he gave Shayne Carter his first guitar lesson. I love musicians.

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It's a very busy music weekend in Auckland. A bunch of indie luminaries are in town for the Going Global industry symposium, which includes  a public showcase tomorrow night at Whammy and the Wine Cellar, featuring Tami Nielson, Anna Coddington, Gareth Thomas, Bailey Wiley and more.

Today also sees the announcement of an alliance with its roots in introductions made at last year's Going Global. Digital Rights Management (DRM), which handles digital music services for many New Zealand independent artist and managers, has announced a strategic partnership with the Europe-based digital distributor Believe Digital. I asked Believe's Asia-Pacific sales chief Sylvain Delange a few questions:

What does Believe do that an aggregator like DRM doesn’t or can’t do?

This is really a question of scale on many aspects: international setup, technology, analytics ...

The main objective in this partnership is to leverage Believe’s international on-ground presence to enhance the reach in key markets. DRM has a very strong expertise on the local market, where Believe has the same expertise in more than 30 territories with direct access to all key international and local stores in each area. The digital landscape may be different in each territory, so we are here to build up a tailored strategy based on the local landscape and the artist potential.

On top of this local expertise, Believe is also bringing a robust technology and supply chain to guarantee a quick delivery on all platforms and an integration with the latest stores in each region, including complex digital landscapes like China, India or Japan. Real-time analytics is also key to be able to react quickly where we see traction happening somewhere.

Believe is also one of the leading Music Multi Channel Networks (MCN) providing high-end expertise on video platforms, such as YouTube. Our team is constantly up to date with the latest features of each service to make the most of them.  

What’s the agreement mean for New Zealand artists?

This mainly means that the New Zealand artists will have a global partner to open doors for them, increase their visibility on stores and optimise their assets online. They will benefit from the knowledge of marketing and music experts in each market and the technology that goes along with it. 

Are we seeing the true shape of a global digital music business now? Are we there yet?

I think it’s still very early to talk about a global digital music business even though we’re definitely going in this direction. What we have realised over the years is that all markets are different. You will always find similarities, but the way people consume music in New Zealand, in Brazil, in Germany or in Japan can be totally different. I think this is partly due to the fact that music consumption remains mainly local. Music has been profoundly rooted in everyone’s culture for centuries. Even though we live in a globalised world, most tend to listen to music made in their own country, with their own cultural references and in the local language. This is why it is so important for Believe to be physically present in all those territories. It gives us a deep understanding of each market that no data feeds or analytics can replace.

The other reason is that streaming is yet to reach mass-market adoption. Looking at all the figures, streaming is currently reaching only a very small fraction of the population. There’s still a vast majority of music consumers that have not yet come to experience or even heard about what streaming is all about. Once this happens, we will see a consolidation in the global digital music business, but I believe music consumption will still be different in each country. 

Independents have been at a disadvantage in most of the big digital licensing deals so far. Is the balance starting to be redressed?

This question is in the core of the Believe DNA. Believe is a fully independent company which is fully dedicated to independent artists and labels. When gathered together, the independent music scene can be as powerful as any other major player. Our global size allows us to negotiate deals that labels and artists alone wouldn’t be able to get on their own. It could still be better, but as the market grows we think it’ll become fairer. 

How well do artists, management and labels understand the new world?

Difficult to answer without dropping a boring “it depends”. Overall, artists are very digital-savvy nowadays and understand tools, platforms etc. However, they don’t necessarily have a full understanding of digital deals, royalty splits, business models that are also sometimes very complex. So much of everything and anything has been written online about the digital music business. Some claim it’s the worst thing that ever happened to the music industry, some say the exact opposite. 

Obviously, a greater transparency is needed. Managers should be well-versed in this, so they can advise their artists properly, and it’s also a labels duty to uphold a certain level of transparency. Our system is fully transparent for all royalties received, for all forms of music consumption. The objective is to help artists understand how to better navigate this fast changing landscape.

This is something Believe is really committed to: transparency and pragmatism so that artists, management and labels can make an opinion for themselves.

It’s interesting to see that part of the alliance with DRM involves physical distribution. How important is physical distribution?

DRM allows us to extend our global physical network, which we see as a very important service to offer. With the growing popularity of vinyl, being able to offer this on key projects globally is important to Believe.

We don’t think physical will completely disappear, we want the audience to have the choice. Most of the time, the people who buy physical are also subscribers of streaming services. You want to be able to play your favorite tunes from your phone, and once you reach home, play it out loud with your vinyl player on your big speakers – at least that’s what I do!.

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The only time I saw Grace Jones play live she was a little too busy rushing off stage to do another line of coke to perform (the evening in question is recorded in Simon Parkes' brilliant Live at the Brixton Academy: A riotous life in the music business). But she seems to have been in top form  at FYF Fest in Los Angeles this past weekend:

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Tunes!

My internet buddies RocknRolla Soundsystem are back with two crazily-funky edits of Sly and the Family Stone's 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)'. They've posted some snippets:

And you can buy both for less three near-worthless British pounds at Juno Download. I like these a LOT.

The crew also have a Mobb Deep edit available as a free download on Soundcloud:

Some lush shizz from Auckland's Prince Purple:

And a couple of things from the might Bill Brewster. Firstly, the latest DJ History podcast, a catch-up on a variety new tunes (including a new one from Wrangler, the project of Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire) released while he was off touring South East Asia:

And a four-hour show from that tour, as The Observatory in Saigon. Free download, as is the podcast:

Righto, this post has to end somewhere! Get out, enjoy the music – and do pop in and see our lovely sponsors for your quality home (and elsewhere) audio needs ...

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The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant

22

LATE: From #Slacktivism to Activism

This coming Monday evening, I'm chairing the next in this year's season of LATE events at Auckland Museum. As the title, From #Slacktivism to Activism, suggests, it's something of a reprise of the LATE I chaired two years ago, The Age of Slacktivism.

How far has the culture and practice of change come since then? Some way, I think. "Hashtag activsm" is still with us, but I believe we're now seeing a clearer and more important role for advocacy media – and that seems important given the pressures on journalism. It seems notable to me that Tim McKinnel, the former cop and private investigator who played a principal role in the freeing of Teina Pora, now works as an investigator for Greenpeace.

ActionStation, the local participatory-democracy platform, was only a few months old when its director, Marianne Elliot, appeared on the panel in 2014. Its reach and sophistication have grown markedly since and Laura O'Connell Rapira, who appeared in 2014 as co-founder of RockEnrol, returns as director of campaigns at ActionStation in 2016.

She's joined by Steve Abel, senior campaign advisor for Greenpeace New Zealand, and Toby Morris, whose 'Pencilsword' cartoons for The Wireless and Toby & Toby collabs with Toby Manhire have done a remarkable job of illuminating complex news and political issues for audiences that might otherwise consider themselves outside the traditional political conversation. The fourth panelist is Sina Brown-Davis (Te Roroa, Te Uri-o-Hau, Fale Ula and Vava’u), a vocal activist (including as a member of the Māori women’s group Te Wharepora Hou) and a prolific commentator on Facebook and other platforms.

It strikes me that information is at the heart of activism and advocacy in our era. Look at the way that TransportBlog has radically raised the level and quality of information in the public sphere around its issues. And on the other hand, I know I wasn't the only one who had qualms about both the TPP and some of the crankery and conspiracy theorising in the broader campaign against it. For all the efforts of researchers, protest vox-pops revealed that many of the people marching did not know a lot about what they were opposing, and believed some strange things about what the treaty portended. Is it enough to merely get people fired up?

Anyway, I think this will be a lively and interesting discussion. Tickets are $20, there's good food and drink and there will be entertainment.

You can book for LATE here. Don't be, er ... late.

25

Medical cannabis: a polling experiment

Yet another opinion poll has reflected a public mood for change in our laws around cannabis – and this one has an interesting wrinkle.

The new poll was conducted by UMR for the reform group Start the Conversation between July 29 and August 17 – and although the sample size was 1000, half the respondents were asked one question about medical cannabis and half another. It washed up like this:

The key to the first question is "when prescribed by a licensed doctor" ("registered doctor" would have been more accurate, but the meaning is clear). It's not quite at one end of a spectrum – the most conservative framing would have been to ask only about cannabis products or even pharmaceutical-grade or approved products – but it offers a clear enough contrast to the second, which implies a significantly more liberal approach. It suggests that cannabis and cannabis products would fall under the endlessly-gestating Therapeutic products regulatory regime if used therapeutically. You'd theoretically be able to buy them in a supermarket.

I confess, I'd have been given pause if asked about the issue in terms of "herbal remedies", but the surprising thing is how little support was shed on the second question.

Even National voters went, by majority, for the "herbal remedies" concept. I'm not suggesting that concept is a likely reform option, but it's an interesting illustration of the extent of public support for some action on medical cannabis.

But there's something else there. Look at the demographics. Younger respondents (18-29) were by far the most conservative on both questions and over-60s showed the highest support for the more liberal option. When you're facing age-related pain and infirmity, perhaps things look different. You're not seeing a recreational drug, but a solution.

In general, the responses demonstrate, again, that the public takes a substantially more favourable view of medical, rather than, recreational cannabis, for a range of definitions of "medical". If things do change in the next few years, it's reasonable to suppose that Grey Power will have more to do with it than Generation Zero.