Thursday, March 18, 2010


Tonight I witnessed an absolutely shameful scene in the House, in the voting down of Winnie Laban's Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Amendment Bill. The bill would have amended existing mental health legislation to expand upon and reinforce the current requirement of clinicians to consult the family or whanau of patients about their treatment, where it is reasonably practicable, in their interests, and with their consent. The bill was supported by mental health service providers, psychiatrists, support groups, the Families Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, and families of those in care. It responded to a definite need - despite the law, families and whanau were not being adequately consulted or informed on how best to support their loved ones.

This is the sort of non-partisan member's bill which could have brought out the best in our politicians. In the past, similar bills, such as Sue Bradford's Corrections (Mothers With Babies) Amendment Bill, have been debated in good faith and passed with broad consensus. The bill at least deserved to be sent to select committee, so that mental health patients, their families and whanau, providers, and other interested groups could formally have a say on it. Instead, National simply voted it down. Regardless of the merits, regardless of the support, regardless of whether it was a good idea or not, it wasn't theirs, they wouldn't get the credit for it, so it had to go. It was that simple.

This is a shameful example of the toxic partisanship of the National government. Once upon a time (not that long ago, even), they were a better party than this. But power corrupts, and the absolute power of an easy majority has corrupted absolutely.