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Posts Tagged ‘Alcohol Advisory Council’

A Very National Coup?

1 February 2012 4 comments

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Stephen McElrea is also John Key’s Electorate Secretary and a Regional Deputy Chair for the National Party,

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The public debate quickly re-focused on Mr McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board, and how that impacted on that organisation’s impartiality.

NZ on Air has recently announced that it will not be seeking to influence broadcasting scheduling.

It is apparent that Mr McElrea’s position on NZ on Air’s Board has given the National Party a measure of influence within that organisation.

Today (1 February) an announcement was made that ACT  member;  former Party List candidate and former Party President, Catherine Isaac,  has been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch,

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Source

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Ms Isaac is a businesswoman but with no education experience.

John Banks defends her appointment by stating,

Ms Isaac is a well-respected, competent business person who was also a member of a school board of trustees for six years.” – Source

Really?!

Using that bizarre style of  “logic”, a member of a District Health Board is qualified to conduct surgery if s/he has been in that role for six years? Medical school experience is not a requirement?

I wonder if John Banks would be comfortable with an untrained District Health Board member doing a wee bit of brain surgery on him… as long as said-member has been on the Board for six years?!

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I can see an opportunity here for some cost-cutting: we obviously won’t be needing Medical Schools anymore.

Aside from Ms Isaac’s unquestioned ability to make money, and a strong ability to sit on a School Board and discuss acquisition of toilet paper and pencils – precisely what experience in education dores she have?

And do parents feel comfortable in an unqualified, inexperienced person effectively re-structuring our schools?

It beggars belief that the government has allowed Ms Isaac’s appointment to proceed.  Surely someone on the Beehive Ninth Floor must have their “spidey sense” tingling, and considering the issue more deeply,

Hang on, this is not a good idea. This could make us look bad in the public eye. And if she f**ks up, we’ll cop the flak…”

It appears that Ms Isaac’s sole attribute for this position – like Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board – is Party affiliation.

This is yet another naked positioning of power in our bureacracy. Like One Party states throughout history, National is maximising it’s influence by appointing Party cadres throughout the system.

This is comparable to the old Soviet Bloc, where people had to be card-carrying members of the local communist party before being appointed to a good job.

It appears that National is borrowing from those now-defunct systems?

We have also had the following appointees. Make of them what you will,

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Full Story

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Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.Ibid

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The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.

Health spokesperson Grant Robertson told Radio New Zealand while he holds Ms Rich personally in high regard, he believes her role with the Food and Grocery Council does clash with being part of such an agency.

“I think the linkage with her role supporting and advocating for the supermarkets is unfortunate and doesn’t sit well with the health promotion role that the future agency will have.”

However, in a written statement on Saturday, Health Minister Tony Ryall says Ms Rich, a former National MP, was appointed for her experience, balance and integrity.” Ibid

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol.,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“.

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

And then we had this little “gem”, back in September last year,

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Full Story

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One has to question why  the position was not advertised, as is common practice? The State Services Commissioner  did find that he was satisfied with English’s appointment.

If so, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

This Blog will keep an eye out for more political Party appointees.

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Postscript

ACT’s ability to oversee the implementation of it’s radical “Charter Schools” policy is questionable, when it cannot even keep it’s own website up-to-date.

Question: How many MPs does ACT have in Parliament?

Answer: 1.

But not according to their website, which still shows their muster of five MPs from last year. Oh dear,

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(And John Banks nowhere to be seen.)

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Previous Blog stories

Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

National: Northern Region

National: Helensville Electorate

ACT: Catherine Isaac

Radio NZ: ACT member appointed to oversee charter trial

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Advertisements

Jobs for the bro’s?

20 November 2011 1 comment

10 September 2011

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Is it me – or does this sound plain wrong

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Full Story

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Why was the position not advertised, as is common practice?

Is this an example of nepotism? (Silly question. Of course it is.)

And at a time when this government has thrown thousands of government workers out of their jobs, and onto the unemployment scrap-heap – how much is this “advisor” job costing the tax-payer?

As an indication, this case might give us an idea,

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Full Story

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And once again, the highly-paid “advisor” involves the English family.

Another case,

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Full Story

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So much for this government “cutting expenditure”. They are sacking ordinary workers – and rehiring “advisors” aid exorbitant amounts of tax-payers’ money?

What on Earth is going on here?

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+++ Update +++

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It appears that the ‘heat’ has gone on Tony Ryall in this matter.  He and his colleagures may have been hoping that Mervyn English’s appointment slipped in “under the radar” – but New Zealand is too small a country for that to happen.

Appointments of family and friends to jobs that are not publicly advertised is never a good look, and it is surprising that the government was silly enough to think they could get away with it. It reeks of corrupt practice.

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19 November 2011

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And yet more of the same…

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Full Story

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Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.Ibid

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The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.

Health spokesperson Grant Robertson told Radio New Zealand while he holds Ms Rich personally in high regard, he believes her role with the Food and Grocery Council does clash with being part of such an agency.

“I think the linkage with her role supporting and advocating for the supermarkets is unfortunate and doesn’t sit well with the health promotion role that the future agency will have.”

However, in a written statement on Saturday, Health Minister Tony Ryall says Ms Rich, a former National MP, was appointed for her experience, balance and integrity.” Ibid

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Source

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Stacking government and quango roles with party hacks (even if they are talented party hacks) seems to be a time-honoured tradition that National is loathe to depart from.

However, the Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol.,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“.

Thank you, Ms Rich. It’s nice to know where you stand on social problems that affect us all.

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse. In those 25 years, the free market system has reigned practically unchallenged and unchanged.

Somehow I think “Nanny State” has little to do with it.

Nanny is still nursing a hang-over from the last 25 years.

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Related

A kronically inept government

Community Needs vs Business Demands

New Zealand 2011AD: Drunken Mayhem and a nice Family Day Out

Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse

Govt’s consultants’ bill $375m and rising

 

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A kronically inept government…

9 September 2011 6 comments

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

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This research estimates the social costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use, excluding tobacco, in New Zealand.  Harms related to drug use include a wide range of crime, lost output, health service use and other diverted resources.  Harmful use has both opportunity costs, which divert resources from alternative beneficial uses, and psychological or intangible costs, such as reduced quality or length of life.

The report provides four broad answers.  It estimates the:

  • total social costs from harmful drug use in 2005/06.
  • potential level of social costs that are avoidable.
  • cost to society stemming from alcohol and other drug-related injuries
  • social costs from harmful drug use borne by the government

The study shows that harmful drug use imposed a substantial cost on New Zealand in 2005/06.

  • Overall, harmful drug use in 2005/06 caused an estimated $6,525 million of social costs.
  • Harmful alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4,437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare.
  • Harmful other drug use was estimated to cost $1,427 million, of which $1,034 million were tangible costs.
  • Joint alcohol and other drug use that could not be separately allocated to one drug category cost a further $661 million. If the joint costs are split proportionately, total alcohol and total other drug costs equate to $4,939 million (over three quarters) and $1,585 million (just under one quarter).
  • Using estimates from international research, this study suggests that up to 50 percent ($3,260 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use may be avoidable.
  • The research indicated that 29.9 percent (or $1,951 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use result from injury.
  • The costs of harmful drug use from a government perspective amount to an estimated $1,602 million, or just over one third (35.1 percent) of the total tangible costs to society. 

BERL project reference: #4577

Click here for the report.

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Add to that the non-dollar, unquantifiable terms of  human misery of injury, violence,  and deaths, and we have a perfectly legal product that is causing much grief in our communities.

Let me present to readers  a few recent headlines, to remind us of how this problem is affecting our community…

Public pressure has forced government to look at this serious problem and an Alcohol Reform Bill is currently being considered by Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee. It has been a slowly progressing Bill – first introduced in November last year. Thus far, over 8,000 written submissions have been recieved by the Select Committee.

The Select Committee was due to report back to Parliament in June. The deadline was extended to the end of August. That is now unlikely, and the report will probably not be presented or passed until after the election (in November). This means no action is likely until Parliament reconvenes next year.

Part of the problem has been heavy lobbying by the liquor industry, and associated business interests, to water-down any meaningful reforms.

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In fact, the liquor industry has been well co-ordinated in their opposition. Note the following from two different websites;

Hospitality Industry of New Zealand

Tourism Industry Blogsite

The sharp-sighted will note similarity in writing style – written by the same person(s)?

It is no great secret that this country – our society – has a considerable problem with alcohol. The financial costs; the social costs; the waste of police and Courts’ time in dealing with alcohol-fueled violence and crime; the injuries; and the deaths – all exacerbated by cheap, easily accessible alcohol, and promoted by ubiquitous million dollar advertising campaigns.

Those at the coal-face have to pick up the human ‘wreckage’ of the over-indulgence of some;

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They have to deal with drunken, aggressive idiots like this chap;

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Mr Lett is one of 700,000 heavy drinkers in this country. It is by no means a “small minority” as some would insist – this is a considerable social problem. And it is not restricted to specific age groups or ethnicities; alcohol is being abused by young and old; male and female; pakeha, maori, Pacific Islander, et al – booze is non-discriminatory.

The alcohol industry’s marketting of RTDs (Ready To Drink) is, in itself insidious. These are cheap products and easily consumed in handy cans and small bottles. RTDs give considerable cause for concern to health professionals and the Police.

These RTDs are especially favoured by young people, with their high sugar content; pleasant flavours that appeal to an immature palate; and off course the alcohol-content;

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Last year, I found these products available at “Super Liquor Stokes Valley”, in Lower Hutt. They are an RTD, “William Cody’s Bourbon and Cola“. Price, $2 a can. Alcohol content, 10%. Amount in can, 150ml.

The cans are 9cm high. Just the right size for a small hand – like a young teenager, or a child. And at $2, are very accessibly priced for young people who do not have much money. They are cheaper than buying a bourbon & cola in a bar or restaurant.

These products should be banned, or a higher, minimum-pricing, regime introduced.

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"William Cody's Bourbon & Cola" Price: $2.00

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Stokes Valley Super Liquor receipt

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William Cody’s Bourbon and Cola” is manufactured by Independent Liquor – a company well-known for producing and marketting RTDs. Their website unashamedly promotes these RTDs.

The result of cheap, easily available liquor, is predictable;

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It’s becoming an urban “war zone”;  the injured and dangerously intoxicated; being patched up by para-medics; and then dashed to our ED Wards, for treatment.  But even our dedicated, over-worked, medical professionals seem to be be stressed to the point where some are wondering why they should bother anymore;

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Doesn’t it strike us as simply bizarre that we have ambulances stationed at “party hotspots” and our medical staff at public hospitals are abused, assaulted, and stressed by drunken fools – all on a regular basis? Is this acceptable to us, as the society we want to live in? Because it sure as hell doesn’t impress me as desirable or particularly sensible.

Since the heady days of de-regulation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, liquor has become easier to buy; outlets more prolific; and cheaper. Bars and liquor retailers can be open to the earely hours of the morning with many open 24 hours a day.

This has become a bone of contention in communities such as Cannons Creek, in Porirua, who are having to deal with the easy availability of booze, and subsequent abuse. It is simply outrageous that the liquor industry can make billions in profits, whilst local communities have to deal with the fall-out of alcohol abuse.

In what manner is this even remotely socially acceptable?

Or is it ok when it happens in socially-depressed areas such as South Auckland and Porirua?

Ironically whilst the  Alcohol Reform Bill is “stuck” in Parliament,

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“Among its more contentious provisions were a split drinking age of 18 for bars and 20 for off-licence purchases, alcohol limits for ready-to-drink beverages and reduced opening hours.

More than 8000 submissions on the bill were received and the select committee was granted two extensions, having originally been due to report back in May.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Simon Power said the Government intended to make progress on the bill, but whether it passed would depend on the legislative programme.” Source

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The Bill is unlikely to be passed before the coming election?  Yet,  Peter’s Dunne managed to get ‘Kronic’ banned in a matter of weeks;

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Number of deaths of young people due to ‘Kronic’:  1 (?)

Number of deaths of young people due to alcohol: 87 (!)

Obvious course of action: ban ‘Kronic’?!

Let’s not beat around the bush here. ‘Kronic’ is not a source of huge profits for liquor corporations and neither is it the drug-of-choice for Middle Class Baby Boomers. Hence it can be banned faster than anyone can say “moral panic”.

And yet, even the National Business Review called it, when they ran this article recently;

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Unfortunately, despite that NBR article acknowledging the problems caused by alcohol abuse, the author falls back on trite, libertarian cliches; it’s not our problem; alcohol restrictions are an over-reaction; and belittles those who advocate controls.  Calling alcohol the “new drug bogeyman” is not only unhelpful, but trivialises a $4.4 billion dollar problem in this country.

Suggesting that “proposal[s] to give greater discretion to local government in liquor licensing, hand over authority to people and bodies whose views tend to be less liberal” is actually not a reason not to address this growing community crisis. In fact, giving local people control over their communities is precisely where we should be heading. After all, who better to determine local needs than local people?

If it was good enough to de-volve power from the old Ministry of Education to local schools, and implement “Tomorrows Schools” – which allowed local communities to elect their own School Boards – then why shouldn’t communities make determinations when it comes to other issues? Especially issues involving, literally, life and and death problems?

Interesting, Ben Thomas’s article in the NBR was written in June 2008 – during the previous Labour administration. The “catch cry” of Labour’s political opponants was “Nany State! Nanny State!”.

I wonder if Mr Thomas has changed his views now that National is in power and confronted by the very same social problems that Labour faced?

The problem that our society is facing is brought into harsh focus by the deaths of young people like David Gaynor, Michael Treffers, James Webster, Frank van Kampen, et al. (I am mentioning only white, Middle Class New Zealanders, as they are the ones that the  White, Middle Class Baby Boomers seem to take notice of.)

The growing crisis of alcohol abuse, though, is much, much wider than most folk realise;

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Babies born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome should give us particular cause to worry. Such brain-damaged babies grow up into brain-damaged adults. Adult females with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can exhibit brain damage through low IQ. They may become pregnant themselves; drink whilst pregnant; and the cycle perpetuates to the next generation.

Each person with FAS often requires high levels of medical intervention and ongoing community support from tax-payer funded services.  In other words, my fellow Middle Class Baby Boomers: we are paying for it. Hence BERL’s estimation of the high costs of alcohol abuse in NZ.

Am I getting your attention now?

Associate Health Minister, Peter Dunne,  had his “urgent legislation pass through Parliament last month. Urgent legislation to ban ‘Kronic’ – not control alcohol. ‘Kronic’ was simply “inserted” into the pending Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill that was proceeding through the House.

Amazing how politicians can move quickly on some problems, but not others?

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That’s how quickly it took, folks. A matter of a few weeks, and ‘Kronic’ was consigned to illegality.

I emailed Peter Dunne on this issue,

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To date, I have not received any response from the Associate Health Minister’s office.

As for the Alcohol Reform Bill, some up-dates;

Alcohol Reform Bill – Press Release: The Alcohol Advisory Council

Parliament

130 changes to alcohol reform bill given tick by Govt

Let’s hope that no one dies between now and the Bill being passed into law, next year.

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Additional Reading

Violence increases in Wellington

Vicious assault in central Wellington

Assault victim’s rehab ‘one to two years’

 

 

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Just what we need…

12 August 2011 2 comments

… more promotion of liquor.

Because here in New Zealand,

Ø  We don’t have 700,000 problem drinkers…

Ø  We don’t have kids drinking themselves into a stupor or  to death…

Ø  We don’t spend $4.4 billion dollars on alcohol-related abuse…

Ø  We don’t have 3,000 children in New Zealand  born every year  with fetal alcohol syndrome

Ø  We don’t have growing problems with public drunkeness, which now requires ambulances to be stationed at “trouble spots”…

Ø  We don’t have increasing violence and vandalism, related to easy availability of cheap booze…

Oh no, we need to promote alcohol as “sexy”, because we’re not consuming enough of the stuff. Thank you, North Otago Rugby Union, for showing us that problems with alcohol is someone elses’ problem and you don’t have to do your bit.

One question, though, if I may, Mr Jackson – how do you define “social responsibility”?

History, seems to repeat…

“Reducing the number of government agencies, where it makes sense, will improve the delivery of services to the public, reduce duplication of roles, and allow reprioritisation of spending to where it will have the greatest impact,” State Services Minister Tony Ryall said.”

I hope no one actually believes that nonsense. National has an apalling track trecord  in undermining agencies and damaging their ability to provide services. It’s a shame that many folk seem to have forgotten the bad state of public services when National was finally voted out at the end of 1999.

For example, ex-psych patients were reduced to living in streets and public toilets – having no where else to go, and not having any support.

In another example, on 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. His condition was listed as “life threatening” – but was still on a waiting list when he died.

We are fast returning to those Bad Old Days.

And there will be a heavy price to pay.

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On Colin Morrison (1998)

Widow says little improvement seem

GP hits out at health reforms

Died waiting for by-pass

Word today on heart list

Anger on heart op delay

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