There are three rules of New Zealand politics. Never criticise farmers. Never ask why cannabis is illegal and never, ever mention abortion. Ever. To everyone's surprise, two political parties this month found the courage to breach those last two rules.
Ever since the "anti-smacking law" fiasco, Labour has been terrified to promote any social policy that can be warped into politically correct social engineering gone mad. Amending Section 59 of the Crimes Act closed a legal loophole abusive parents exploited to escape assault charges by claiming discipline as a defence. Watching such a noble gesture get twisted into a narrative of the PC stormtroopers of Helengrad, kicking down the front doors of honest Kiwi mums and dads to arrest them for lightly tapping little Johnny on the bottom, shellshocked Labour into never mentioning social policy again.
This has depressed the quality of political vision for the left, which is why the Greens and Internet parties' policies on decriminalising cannabis and abortion are so welcome.
At last year's International Cannabis Policy Symposium in Auckland, Professor Richie Poulton pointed out that 10.3 per cent of users who smoke cannabis by age 15 go on to have psychotic disorders, whereas only 4.7 per cent of those who used cannabis by aged 18 went on to have psychotic disorders. The conclusion from the symposium was that cannabis isn't the major health risk it's been built up to be. If protecting adolescents from early cannabis use is the solution, prohibition is the problem.
Regulation removes tinny houses near schools, prohibition builds them. Between 2007 and last year, 890 New Zealanders were jailed for possession of cannabis and 737 more have been imprisoned for possession of a bong.
Our war on drugs has led us to the awkward position where the US is becoming more progressive on cannabis than we are.
Decriminalisation of abortion is needed now. It's not just the nonsense of Section 187A of the Crimes Act, whereby women must feign mental distress to get a basic medical service, it's the manner in which pro-life fanatics have managed to isolate and constrict access to abortions that desperately needs challenging by decriminalising it.
I'm 100 per cent pro-choice. Those attempting to tell a woman what to do with her body in the 21st century should be outed for the misogynistic medieval glee club that they are. Women have every right to safe, legal access to any medical procedure they require. An abortion is one such. What is worse than the 14,745 abortions carried out in 2012? Forcing 14,745 women to have children they didn't want. Ceausescu's Romanian orphanages are a horror reminder of that path.
The Green and Internet parties have shown vast courage to bring these issues into the open. Progressive voters should consider rewarding that bravery this election.