STEP DOWN: National & United Future MPs for failed ‘Legal High’ law
Heads should roll as a result of the National government’s irresponsible handling of legal high drugs according to NZ First MP Le’au Asenati Lole-Taylor.
“The two ministers, Todd McClay and Peter Dunne, responsible for the weak and ineffective Psychoactive Substances Act should do the right thing and resign from parliament,” she told Pacific Guardians in an exclusive interview. “They are one of the reasons why New Zealanders from Whangarei to Invercargill are marching today [Saturday, 5 April] because those two had the chance to ban these drugs in 2013 but they didn’t.”
She made the comment while walking amongst hundreds of people last Saturday calling for a blanket ban on legal highs.
“The law that was passed in 2013 has failed New Zealand miserably. Proof of that are these marches showcasing the grave concerns of the New Zealand public that the law and parliamentarians are failing them and it must be addressed urgently.”
Failure of the law, she points out lies squarely on the shoulders of the National government and the two ministers responsible.
“They failed because they had the opportunity since 2011 to make a law that will control or ban the drugs – but because of they subscribe to the cavalier, hand-off-the-wheel attitude this government takes to governing New Zealand, they have failed the people of this country once again.”
It is why she was shocked to find out Mr Todd McClay took part in the Rotorua protest march. He was quoted by local media as calling for a complete ban on legal high drugs.
“I want to rid our streets of this poisoning muck,” Mr McClay told local media.
Le’au shook her head in disbelief when she heard.
“That is shocking. I don’t have words to describe how utterly pathetic and disturbing that is. As the minister responsible for passing the 2013 Bill, he [Mr McClay] had the power in his hands to frame the law to ban these drugs, but he didn’t. And now he’s walking the streets calling for a ban – that is disgraceful,” she told Pacific Guardians.
“All I can say is Mr McClay did not do the right thing in 2013, well now he has a second chance to do the right thing and resign from politics. He has failed in his sacred duty as a law maker to protect the people of this country when he had the chance.”
She repeated her call for Mr McClay and Mr Dunne to step down.
“The two men must be held accountable for their lack of action in this case. Families have lost loved ones, a growing number of young people’s lives are wrecked by addiction, their jobs as well as businesses are suffering, all those things could have been avoided if Peter Dunne and Todd McClay as law makers did their job.”
She said their performances “are well below par of what’s expected from members of this country’s executive. They should stand down and remove themselves from running in the September election.”
But before that time, “they should pay a visit to every individual family that has suffered a tragedy from legal highs, and then make a national apology to all New Zealanders for having let them down miserably,” she said.
“Their performance in this debacle whether it is through lack of courage to push through what is right against opposition from their caucus; or perhaps, I suspect, they just don’t have what it takes.”
On Saturday, twenty-two grassroots communities, from Whangarei to Invercargill took to the streets calling for a complete ban of the drugs.
The mayor for Napier, Mr Bill Dalton called the Government as “absolutely wimped out on this one,” he told media.
“They tell us their regulatory regime is an experiment. If that is the case, then it is an experiment that is failing and resulting in a new wave of addicts in our country.’”
He did not accept the government’s explanation that it’s impossible to ban all synthetic substances as manufacturers continue to invent new mixes.
“Peter Dunne claims that because these synthetic drugs are based on a chemical formula that can be changed, he can’t ban them. That’s rubbish,” he said.
“Why can’t the Government put a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances and products and then exempt those that are covered by existing legislation?”
One of the major reasons the law is ineffective is the lack of priority accorded to it by the government said Le’au Asenati.
In August 2011, temporary ban notices got rid of products Kronic and K2. From them on, National had time to draft a new law into place.
“That was a good amount of time to consult communities about implementation and gain feedback for the select committee to really smith and fine-tune the bill,” said Le’au Asenati.
“But they just sat on it and didn’t introduce the new legislation until February 2013,” said Le’au Asenati. “But even then, it was still not a priority as they didn’t schedule the Bill for its first reading until April 2013. That meant there was only three months to get a law through before the temporary bans instigated in 2011 were to expire.”
The lack of in-depth consultation with communities is one of the major reasons for the failure of this law she said.
“And you cant argue with that as one of the really weak areas of this law are the aspects empowering local council to regulate legal highs. If there was more time, the select committee could have worked with local governments and really come up with a better way to implement the new law.”
It is why she’s not surprised that mayors and their councils are unhappy as government has dumped the responsibility to enact and enforce the location of stores on them without consultation.
“In fact, just one month after the law came into force last year, Todd McClay wrote to each and every local government authority around New Zealand explaining their powers under the Psychoactive Substances Act.
“He called on them to put in place local rules to control further the sale of ‘Legal Highs’. That tells me this law was rushed and a number of its core parts have been put together backwards. I mean if they had consulted with mayors and their councils, there would have been no need to write and tell them about their powers.
“What a wasted opportunity,” she said.
“These drugs could have been banned or a much stronger law put in place to eradicate these drugs. It is why Todd McClay and Peter Dunne should do the right thing and stand down.
“And for this Government need to listen to the people for once, and prioritise the move for an outright ban of legal highs,” she told Pacific Guardians.