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Posts Tagged ‘BERL’

Finally – mainstream media is catching up…

9 November 2012 4 comments

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Full video

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In an extraordinary development, TV3 launched a full scale criticism of National’s failure to meet it’s Budget Day promise, last year, to create 170,000 new jobs.

Bill English at first tried to dismiss the horrendous rise in  unemployment (7.3%, from the previous 6.8%) as,

You could call it a blip. There are slow patches but we are on track for 2 to 3% growth.”

But he was eventually pressured to admit,

In the past two years, [there are] 26,000 people in new jobs, but in the last quarter no new jobs – which is why we want to crack on. We are behind the 170,000 track.”

Which  is as close as we will ever get to a National politician conceding that they and their neo-liberal, free market, hands-off, approach has failed.

Every other country on this planet is actively engaged in proactive management of their economies and social policies. Only New Zealand – ‘governed’ (and I use that term loosely) by  a Party that is slavishly pursuing a thirty year old dogma – is standing back as our economy goes down the proverbial toilet and will end up flushed out somewhere in the Cook Straight.

The economic realities;

  • Unemployment: up from 6.8% six months ago, to 7.3%
  • Export sector: in crisis as our over-valued dollar makes selling our products overseas barely worthwhile, losing profits and ending up with staff redundancies
  • A critical housing shortage
  • A growing poverty-wealth gap
  • and thousands more New Zealanders heading overseas

This is in stark contrast to John Key’s vision of the  ‘Bright New Future’ that he promised us last year, and the many fine-sounding speeches he made before that  in 2008 and since. Unfortunately the rhetoric doesn’t match National’s deeds or results – not by a long shot.

Faced with trenchant criticisms from all direction, English lamely replied,

We think we have the balance about right.”

God help us.

TV3’s handling of the story left the viewer in no doubt that National was being hauled over the coals. And with a critical analysis not seen for a long time during Dear Leader’s reign.

The steep rise in unemployment was the final signal that National has had an Epic Fail, and from now on it is “gloves off ” by the mainstream media.

As BERL’s economist, Ganesh Nana said bluntly,

You have a seven in front of unemployment, you have a five in front of dairy forecast payout, a zero in front of inflation and export growth – how many warning signs do you need on the dashboard until you do something different?

Without changes to our policy settings, the short term picture is not pretty, with our models projecting even further rises in jobless numbers.

Only a year ago, centre-left bloggers  had come to this same conclusion when,  after the last election, it quickly became apparent to the likes of Tumeke!, The Jackal, The Standard, Bowalley RoadWaitakere News The Dim Post, et al, that National was reliant on a failed neo-liberal agenda to ‘govern’.

National was not going to govern with pragmatic common sense – it was going to govern from an ideological stance, and nothing was going to change it’s direction.

Since last year’s election, New Zealand has been at undeclared war with it’s own “government”, as unpopular policy after unpopular policy was dumped on us.  Coupled to Key’s unhealthy, blind support for the corrupt Member for Epsom;  the lies that followed from both men;  and this was a “government” we were losing faith in.

TV3’s Duncan Garner simply repeated what bloggers and other commentators have been saying for the past year,

Key says now is not the time to change course. But economists are all largely saying the economy has gone into a fragile state.

[…]A change of course is urgently required if New Zealand is to avoid yet another damaging recession.

The Government was shell-shocked by yesterday’s numbers, but it’s praying with its fingers crossed that things come right.

It’s risky. The expensive tax cuts from three years ago have had little impact.

Christchurch needs to be rebuilt fast and Auckland has alarmingly softened, although its house prices haven’t.

That’s seriously concerning, especially when your second largest city is in rubble.

Forget gay red shirts, comments about ‘batsh*t’ and what Key knew or didn’t know about Dotcom.

This blows all that away in terms of importance. This is fundamental. This is the serious stuff.

It’s people’s lives, their jobs, their mortgages, their families, their hopes, their dreams and their security.

It’s the economy, stupid. It wins and loses elections.

The Prime Minister’s sole focus needs to be the economy.

If he can’t turn this around or halt the slide – National will likely lose the Treasury benches in 2014.”

See:  Opinion: Is our economy collapsing?

“Is our economy collapsing” askes Duncan Garner? The answer, Duncan, is yes; it is. You just needed to pay closer attention to what the rest of us were saying all along.

As for John Key – I suspect he’ll be avoiding other media from now on, and not just Radio New Zealand.

Dear Leader’s bunker awaits, as critics close in on him and his harried Party.

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A job! A job! My kingdom for a job!

27 February 2012 5 comments

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“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

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Despite John Key’s election-pledges in 2008 to see wages rise in New Zealand, the opposite seems to be happening; wages have either mostly stagnated, or, in some very public instances, are being actively driven down.

The maritime workers in Auckland and meat workers for meat-processing company, AFFCO, are facing an unprecendented attack on workers’ right and conditions which would see many (if not all) of them casualised and suffer a cut in wages.

This is hardly an “unrelenting… quest to lift… economic growth rate and raise wage rates“. It is, in fact, more akin to Bill English’s remarkable admission on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 10 April last year that having wages 30% lower than our Australian cuzzies was a “a good thing if we can attract the capital, and the fact is Australians- Australian companies should be looking at bringing activities to New Zealand because we are so much more competitive than most of the Australian economy.

Unions representing various  groups of workers have had a gutsful, and are asserting their right to strike,

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Full Story

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The casualisation and reduction of real wages is not just a threat to the families of working men and women – but a threat to our economy as well.

National and ACT voters might care to reflect that just recently, BERL released a report outlining the value of blue-collar workers to the economy,

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Full Story

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We simply cannot afford to lose  skilled blue-collar workers heading of to Australia, or elsewhere in the world. Australia already has plenty of our doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, etc.

As Berl chief economist Ganesh Nana said,

If you reduce the amount of trained and skilled labour out there, not only are you reducing the quantity available to businesses, you are also increasing the cost of the labour … because it’s in short supply.”

Global finance and accounting firm Robert Half director, Andrew Brushfield, said recently,

 “Where there is currently a need for skilled people in Australia, that need is just as prolific in New Zealand.” – Source

So let’s be clear about this;

Instead of short-sighted, selfish,  employer-driven vendettas against their workers – which achieves nothing except a form of reckless  economic self-sabotage – this country should be looking at ways to increase wages, which then leads to increased business turn-over; generating greater economic growth;  and ultimately, a more prosperous society.

I do not believe – not for one micro-second – Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell, when he said,

Frankly, I think most employers would like to pay more if they can, I don’t know any employer who genuinely wants to pay less.” – Source

That is 100%, unadulterated crap.

It is crap because many employers can pay more,

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Full Story

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They just choose not to.

Once again, from Mr Key,

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"The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes." - John Key, 21 December 2011

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And as we all know, John Key is a Man of His Word. Right?


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Booze – it’s time for some common sense

12 December 2011 3 comments

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Full Story

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I sympathise with Newtown residents. This country has a glut of alcohol outlets, and most folk have had a gutsful.

The ready availability of cheap booze satisfies heavy drinkers; liquor companies; and naive libertarians, none of whom care greatly about communities – but I think it’s time that NZ called “time” on our growing liquor problems.

Enough is enough.

The “liberal pendulum” has swung too far to the “rights” of drunkeness and crime, and we need to get back to the simple notion of community responsibility.

No one is suggesting prohibition or returning to 6PM closing, but as a society it’s time we returned to moderation, balance, and a sense obligation to create safer communities.

It’s time that communities were allowed to regain control of their own neighbourhoods.

And it seems that many communities are doing precisely that,

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Full Story

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When 88 submissions were lodged, opposing the relicensing of Fantame Liquor Store, and people are sufficiently angry and galvanised  to take to the streets in protest – then that should be a clear indication that the community has had enough.

The growing community resistance to liquor outlets is cropping up throughout the country, and sometimes all it takes is for one courageous individual to take a stand and show leadership,

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Full Story

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Good on you, Mr Hawker. If New Zealand had more gutsy people like you, politicians would have to take heed of communities crying out for common sense decision-making  that make safer neighbourhoods – not create a preponderance of liquor outlets, selling cheap booze to hard-core drinkers at all hours of the day and night.

Jim Anderton, MP for Wigram (ret.), made an impassioned speech on this issue. I think he summed matters up quite nicely,

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Enough is enough – liquor outlet community protest

– Jim Anderton’s speech at liquor outlet community protest

20/08/11



Another liquor store is the last thing we need. Public drinking is a serious problem for this area. It’s got worse since the earthquakes closed the inner city. Just two weeks ago, four students were arrested, cars were vandalised and police were pelted with bottles in Riccarton.

How much of this behaviour do we have to take before we say it’s too much? It’s too hard for communities to oppose liquor outlets when we feel there are already too many in our neighbourhoods.

More places selling alcohol, a lower drinking age, and longer opening hours – it all adds up. It adds up to more alcohol abuse. It adds up to more harm to communities.

Communities are in a good position to judge for themselves whether there are too many places in an area to buy liquor.

Residents are good at gauging for themselves whether there are enough places.

But the law doesn’t give local communities enough say. The result is that it is too hard for a community to respond to increasing alcohol abuse.

You don’t have to be a wowser to say the rules are too heavily weighted in favour of alcohol. But ‘wowser’ and ‘zealot’ and the labels that the alcohol industry puts on anyone who expresses concern about the harm caused by alcohol – Sensible people like Doug Selman, from the National Addiction Centre at the University of Otago, and Ross Bell, from the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

Liquor lobbyists like the Hospitality Association say drinkers should take personal responsibility for their own actions. That sounds reasonable. But it is the opposite, and it’s just as cynical as the arguments the tobacco industry used to use.

Those who are addicted to alcohol or affected by it are generally the least well equipped to deal with it responsibly. The hospitality industry knows this only too well.

I often ask myself what some of those same people would say if their own children or family members became addicted to an illegal drug such as methamphetamine.

Would they blame the children alone, or would they put some responsibility on the dealers.

The same goes for the alcohol industry.

We have a serious alcohol problem in New Zealand.

Sixty per cent of criminal offences are committed when the offender is under the influence of alcohol. There are 1350 violent physical assaults which take place in New Zealand homes each week fuelled by alcohol abuse.

If we want less crime and safer streets, we need to make alcohol less available.

This community is taking action. Everyone here today is taking personal responsible for making this community safer. We deserve to be listened to. We are entitled to say enough is enough.

We don’t need more drinking nor more places to drink.

What we need are safer streets and more respect for the wishes of this community to control the number of liquor outlets in our neighbourhood. Source

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And just to put this issue into monetary terms (for those who give no credence to concepts of community), a BERL report on alcohol abuse revealed the following costs to tax-payers,

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Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

– Adrian Slack

Client: The Ministry of Health and ACC

Authors: Adrian Slack, Dr Ganesh Nana, Michael Webster, Fiona Stokes and Jiani Wu

Date: July 2009

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.  Source

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At least $4.4 billion lost in harmful  alcohol-related incidents. That’s $4.4 billion in tax-payers money. The cost by now is probably much higher.

Meanwhile, liquor companies continue to make huge profits selling their products.

Let’s be  honest; this country has a serious problem with alcohol abuse. The ready availability of cheap booze; late opening hours of bars; heavy advertising to promote a drinking culture – all contribute to problems of violence, property damage, lost productivity, added stresses on families; and preventable injuries and deaths.

This is not about peoples’ freedom to drink. This is about returning power to ordinary citizens and communities to say “enough is enough”; we don’t want our streets unsafe because of drunken idiots; our hospital A&E Wards filled with people who are half-dead with alcohol poisoning, or injured in fights; police resources stretched to the max dealing with drunkeness and alcohol-fueled crimes; and billions wasted on this problem.

We can curtail alcohol abuse in this country and still buy a bottle of wine to drink with our meals. Or go out on a Friday night for a quiet druink at our local. In fact, it may even be a safer, nicer experience.

But not if we’re going to continue down our current road of excess.

Meanwhile, Peter Dunne has been a ‘busy’ lad, suppressing surveys with damning data,

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Full Story

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Peter Dunne – the same minister who passed an amendment to legislation to make “kronic” illegal within a matter of weeks.

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I guess we know where his priorities lie, eh? (Clue: not with alcohol abuse.)

Peter Dunne, and others like him in this National Government are irrelevant.

It’s up to communities to reassert their values and protect their neighbourhoods.

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Additional

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Full Story

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Perhaps this should be a case of Three Strikes – Permanent Loss of Licence?

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Source

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Additional

Dunne accused of keeping alcohol survey quiet

Stay away from our city, Croatian tells Kiwi drunks

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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

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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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