Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Protesting - Is it still allowed in New Zealand? Are we still a democracy? Are the media the Spanish Inquisition?

You are probably now very familiar with the dildo throwing incident at Waitangi on Friday 5 February 2016, where a female protester, Josie Butler, threw what we now know was actually a squeaky dildo shaped toy at Minister Steven Joyce's face.  To his credit, Joyce took it on the chin and joked afterwards that someone needed to alert John Oliver from the comedy media show Last Week Tonight so the incident could go to ground faster.

Josie Butler was arrested, but no charges have been laid.  She stated that the NZ Police were professional and did their job appropriately.  Steven Joyce doesn't want to delve into it further, but John Key stated on TVNZ's Breakfast yesterday, "I don't buy the argument that she's some hard-working nurse that we should feel sorry for - I'm sorry."

And here in lies the kicker.  Yes, Josie Butler is a nurse.  A nurse who following the Christchurch earthquakes five years ago received an award from then mayor, Bob Parker, for outstanding service.  Butler has held grave concerns about the TPPA for several years, after being alerted through her union, NZNO (Nurse's Organisation) about the implications to Pharmac, medicines and our health system. 

Butler is not the only person in the health system to share these concerns.  The concerns go right to the top of our medical hierarchy with high ranking medical specialists signing a document expressing their concerns about how the TPPA will impact Pharmac and our health system.

So Butler did not stand still.  She was part of a team in Christchurch that raised awareness of the TPPA, lobbied the city council and protested the TPPA at each opportunity.  This year she took the time out to travel to Waitangi as this offered another opportunity to protest.

Her protesting colleagues did not know what she had planned.  They are divided over the course of action she took.  Some have remonstrated her.  Ms Butler apparently has apologised for any offense caused and has been invited back to Waitangi for 2017.

But the media do not like to let a story go.  And this is what got my juices running hot this morning:

Exactly Helen!!!  You can read the latest version of this article here.  But this sentence stood out for me:

Canterbury District Health Board general manager of people and capability Michael Frampton said the DHB would not comment on whether Butler faced any disciplinary measures.

Was this protester protesting while she was at work? Was she wearing any clothing that showed her workplace? Did she do anything to promote her workplace apart from stating that she was a nurse who opposed the TPPA on grounds of how it will affect our health system (in the first place)?
Apart from the fact that she threw a squeaky toy shaped like a dildo at a Minister of the Crown, how was her protest against the TPPA any different than the tens of thousands of others who, like me, marched down Queen St last Thursday.

Does the media intend contacting every employer or educational institution these people work for/belong to find out what disciplinary action (if any) they will be taking against people exercising their democratic right to protest?

Over the last few years we have seen a number of people hounded out of their jobs, some for people doing something totally appalling in their job (think Paul Henry's removal from Breakfast after his comments on the then Governor General's birthplace) to those who did something outside their workplace that had nothing to do with their job (think Tony Veitch and his appalling domestic assault on his then partner). 

The media and the growing impact social media has a huge part to play in this, but when is enough enough?  When should media leave the job a person has out of it?  How much should our employers have a say over what we do, who we associate with, where we go and what we say when we are not at work?

And I say this with knowledge of how much an employer can interfere with our individual freedoms.  Currently, teachers are able to voice their opinion and protest against government on education policy and other matters.... but not for much longer.  The new version of the Teachers' Council, the Education Council aka EDUCANZ, wants to implement a Code of Conduct to replace the current Code of Ethics we operate under. 

The Code of Conduct, much like the one other state sector employees are subject to, does not allow a teacher to voice their opinion and protest.  Already this applies to our special education colleague who are directly employed by the MOE and therefore come under the state sector Code of Conduct.  They have not been able to voice the systematic gutting of special education services over the last seven years and how many children are now missing out on basic assistance to access education.

So as a teacher, will I, in future still be able to participate in a protest as I did last week against the TPPA by walking down Queen Street?  Will I still be able to be an active unionist who vehemently opposes GERM in education?  Will I still be able to be the educated professional that I am who opposes GERM based on how I know children learn and best practise teaching?  Will I still be able to publish this blog?

I believe that there is an epic failure in our society today when our democratic right to protest or to point out that a policy is fundamentally flawed will endanger our ability to work, that it gives an employer a right to dictate your private actions and thoughts.  Even more so, it is an epic failure that the media thinks they have the right to push into a workplace and demand to know what action an employer will take when everyone knows that that is a violation of the Employment Act to make such actions common knowledge.

So media, in my opinion, you have failed the standard.

How about you end your Spanish Inquisition on Josie Butler and actually do your job - get some answers out of John Key, Todd McClay, Steven Joyce and Bill English about the truth of TPPA.  While you're at it, ask Hekia Parata to be up front and truthful on how the TPPA will effect education and get Dr Jonathan Coleman to stop pussy footing around on how the TPPA will actually affect Pharmac.  Because our government has sold NZ down the road, and the media have failed the standard on doing their job of finding the truth on the TPPA.

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