The Nation this weekend is telling the story of family carers of disabled adult relatives and the pretty shabby way they've been treated over the years. And it looks like Sam Lotu-liga just doesn't want to talk about that.
[Make sure you see the update at the end!]
Back in 2013, after being told by the Court of Appeal that it was acting unlawfully, the National Government passed the Public Health and Disability Amendment Act 2013. Its purpose was to provide a statutory basis to allow for the payment of family members who look after their disabled adult relatives. But it also included a provision that tried to stop anyone who thinks that whatever policy the Government may create under that Act is unlawful from going to court to challenge it.
When this first was enacted, I wrote about it in a post titled "I think National just broke our constitution". That still remains, I think, the most read thing I've ever written in any format. What the government did - explicitly prevent the judiciary from ensuring that government policy is consistent with the laws of the land - was pretty jaw-droppingly outrageous.
But it wasn't the end of the story. Because as a mother who acts as caregiver for her disabled adult daughter explained here, the policy on paying family carers that the Government adopted under its new law just wasn't very good. A review of that policy carried out in April last year, for example, found that "only 191 adult disabled persons nationwide were accessing [the available payments] (compared with 1,600 forecast)."
What is more, the policy adopted only applied for the future - it didn't propose to pay family carers for the work they had been doing for past years. And so a Ms Spencer fought the Government back through the courts, arguing that nothing in the 2013 law prevented her from being paid for the years of care she'd given to her adult disabled son. The Court of Appeal emphatically agreed with her, leading to a subsequent High Court decision awarding her some $207,000.
Why am I now recounting this story to you again? Well, it's an important part of our recent political and constitutional history. I think the 2013 legislation was the worst law that New Zealand's Parliament has passed since (at least) the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004. Such things shouldn't be sent to the memory hole.
Furthermore, it's an issue that is still a live one today. There's lots of families caring for disabled adult relatives who either aren't accessing the payments the Government grudgingly made available because the policy doesn't work very well, or if they are accessing these, are being paid only a minimum wage for work that private providers get in excess of $20 an hour to perform.
And so I'm very glad that Newshub's The Nation is telling the story of this law and its aftermath this weekend (sneak promo teaser here). It looks like it features Sam Lotu-liga walking out on an interview rather than defend his Government's actions, and it just may also include me mounting my high white horse and waxing pontifical. Hard to know which is the more ridiculous, really.
So make a date to watch it - TV3 at 9:30am this Saturday, repeat at 10:00am on Sunday.
[Update: Or you can watch the clip here right now!]
[Update 2: TVNZ's Sunday programme has its own story on the struggles of another family carer, Cliff Robinson, here - it's a good companion piece.]