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Posts Tagged ‘Katherine Rich’

Katherine Rich – resign!

16 September 2014 2 comments

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I reprint the following from the Herald, in full, as I believe it tells the story better than I could;

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Wendyl Nissen - Tuning out - Dirty Politics and the blogs

I don’t usually write columns about politics but I’m going to talk about smear campaigns and conflict because it involves me.

As you may know I write a column called Wendyl Wants to Know in the Weekend Herald every Saturday which looks at what is in processed food.

Most of the time the findings are not very good and involve additives or high sugar and salt levels you wouldn’t want near your family. Other times I am pleasantly surprised to find a producer making genuinely healthy food.

Earlier this year I was on the receiving end of a concerted effort, including legal letters, to get me discredited through my bosses at the Herald.

The person behind it was Katherine Rich, the chief executive of the Food & Grocery Council, which represents companies who produce soft drinks and processed foods, some of which I have written about.

According to their website, the “FGC promotes the role the industry plays in the health and nutrition of New Zealanders in making better diet and lifestyle choices”.

The management board includes representation from Nestle, Frucor and Mars NZ. Katherine was objecting to my role in highlighting many of the artificial colours commonly used in soft drinks and processed foods and the fact many had been banned in other countries.

Fortunately I work for editors who dislike bullying and I felt very supported by them. We dealt with the complaints to her satisfaction, I thought.

After that I noticed that right-wing bloggers Whale Oil (Cameron Slater) and Cactus Kate (Cathy Odgers) appeared to have begun a smear campaign against me. I haven’t read any of the blogs but I was alerted to them and their subject matter.

Please do me a favour and don’t go searching on the site for them. I believe they are invented to discredit me and if you click on them you’ll just give them the satisfaction that they are being read.

Since then the book Dirty Politics has been released and there are now allegations that these bloggers were paid money to conduct smear campaigns against people disliked by their clients. One of those clients is alleged to be Katherine Rich.

The regularity of the posts against me makes me think that someone had paid for them. Why else would they bother smearing someone who simply writes a few columns about healthy living when, according to Dirty Politics, they had much bigger fish to fry? I can’t prove this, I can’t say who might have paid for them and I will probably never know.

It has also been revealed that Katherine, while campaigning for the rights of food producers to put unhealthy additives in their food, was also on the government-funded Health Promotion Agency board – an agency designed to work for the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. The conflict of interest is so alarming that a group of 33 scientists and health practitioners signed a letter to John Key asking him to investigate.

I spend every day working for a better life for New Zealanders. I run a business which makes environmentally friendly natural cleaners and I give the recipes away for free; I write a weekly newsletter helping more than 11,000 people discover better, more natural ways to live; I write a column in the Woman’s Weekly with recipes and hints to live a greener life; and in the Herald I try to alert readers to foods which are too high in sugar or salt and contain additives which in many countries are banned for health reasons but are still used here. I wouldn’t have thought that these contributions were reason for a smear campaign.

Last week I resigned from my regular Friday morning slot on NewstalkZB, which I have been doing for 15 years, because I didn’t want to be on the same platform as Cameron Slater, another commentator on the station, while there are allegations that his views involve cash for comment.

I’m all for free speech when there are genuinely held views, but I believe that if you are paid to express them by big industry or politicians with an agenda, that is not fair.

Over the years I have been writing Wendyl Wants to Know for the Herald, I have been offered many incentives to write nice things about processed foods for food producers. I have turned them all down because my readers have to trust me. Objectivity is the first rule of journalism.

A friend said “this can’t be the New Zealand we know”, and I agree. As my husband says, “we need to be on the side of the angels”, and I try very hard to be.

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This blogger adds his voice to calls for Katherine Rich to resign.

Her activities and association with Cameron Slater makes her position on either the Food & Grocery Council or Health Promotion Agency  no longer tenable.

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Additional

TVNZ: Katherine Rich stands firm against calls to resign

NZ Herald: PR men say Dirty Politics claims don’t hurt

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: A brief word on why Wendyl Nissen is a hero

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Latest from Whaledump2 – Jordan Williams and Cameron Slater

10 September 2014 5 comments

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whaledump - whaleoil - jordan williams

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Despite Twitter trying to close down Rawshark/Whaledump2, the hactivist  has released emails between far right loony blogger, Cameron Slater – and lawyer, “Taxpayers Union” organisor, National Party apparatchik, and one of Slater’s cabal – Jordan Williams.

The first email, dated 24 January 2012, shows Williams approaching Slater and making enquiries about his fees;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (1)

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A thousand a week?!

$20,000 every three months?!

Dayum, cousin Jethro, whodathunk propaganda work could be so lucrative!?

Slater also writes that “some pay with advertising, some with product“.

Does that include Katherine Rich from the Food and Grocery Council paying Slater with as much sugar as he can eat?! As Rich is very much an advocate for maximising profit from unhealthy, sugary foods,

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich rejects outright the call for a tax on sugar. She says it has been tried overseas in different forms and failed to do more than collect more money from citizens for Governments.

“In the last couple of years some have advocated for sugar taxes while others have called for fat taxes. Add them together and all you get is more expensive food at the supermarket.”

She says tobacco taxes had cut rates of smoking because they were so high.

“Imagine what tobacco-style taxes would do to the price of food. Sugar taxes would seriously adversely affect those on low incomes and hit a lot of popular supermarket items such as jam and honey. Last year the University of Otago put jam and honey on a “Need not” list and received a lot of negative comments from the general public.”

Equally Rich does not favour regulations imposing labelling rules on the food industry. The council has been involved with a new transtasman labelling scheme, which featured a star system. “We’re sure it’s on the right track.”

On The Jackal’s blog, the blogger reports on a previous dump of emails, showing Katherine Rich’s relationship with Whaleoil associate, Carrick Graham. Theirs was  an orchestrated hate-campaign to undermine critics of the  alcohol, tobacco, bad food, and sugary soft drink industries.

As a Radio NZ report stated,

Newly released hacked emails appear to show that Ms Rich was in contact with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater and public relations executive Carrick Graham who were attacking public health advocates and critics of food companies.

Little wonder that Green MP, Kevin Hague has called for Rich to resign from the government Health Promotion Agency;

“Katherine Rich, Carrick Graham and Cameron Slater have all been involved in a systematic undermining of health promotion in New Zealand. She cannot tenably remain on the board of that organisation.”

Back to the emails. Even Jordan Williams  remarked on the amount that Slater claimed to be raking in from his “clients”;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (2)

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– though as the response from Slater immediatly following showed, Williams appears none-to-bright when it comes to sending a reply to the correct recipient! *Doh!*

Never mind, Jordan,  a self-deprecating *bugger* covers such stuff -ups;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (3)

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Now note Slater’s response below, where he refers to Mark Hotchin;

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cameron slater - jordan williams - potential work (4)

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This is obviously a sly reference to one of Slater’s clients – Mark Hotchins – which was referenced in previous Whaledump releases and covered by the msm at length;

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Whale Oil quiet on Hotchin allegations

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Note Patrick Gower’s statement-question;

The key question now is whether the campaign was funded by Mr Hotchin to help him escape charges.

I think that question has been answered – at least in-part.
In other words, when rich white men demand ‘utu’ and want some dirty work done – there are those even in our own quiet, little, ‘corruption free’ country, willing to get their hands dirty.

Reading the email exchange between Williams and Slater, another thought crossed my mind – I hope Slater has declared all his income to the IRD? Even payment “in kind” can be liable to be taxed.

If the IRD decide to sniff around, not all the Key’s Men and Horses will be able to save the Whale from being harpooned for (possible) tax evasion.

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References

Twitter: Whaledump2 – Jordan Williams

NZ Herald: PR men say Dirty Politics claims don’t hurt

NZ Herald: Time to end the weight

Radio NZ: Food council boss won’t resign

TV3: Whale Oil quiet on Hotchin allegations

IRD: Income and expenses

Previous related blogposts

Crony Watch – Katherine Rich

Other blogs

The Jackal: Who is Katherine Rich?

 


 

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Twitter Judith Collins John Key Oravida

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 September 2014

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A lesson in free market economics for ex-National MP, Katherine Rich

12 February 2014 4 comments

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Milo's Week Invisible Hand

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It seems that our Aussie cuzzies are taking matters in hand and implementing their own “Buy Local” policies. A few overly-zealous supermarket operators have even taken to removing New Zealand-made products from their shelves,

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Supermarket stoush sours CER

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According to Tracy Watkins’ story in the Dominion Post, Key will raise the problem when he meets Australian PM, Tony Abbott in Sydney, later this week.

Raise what, precisely?

This is capitalism/free market/whatever at work. Supermarket owners can stock whatever goods they like. If an owner took it upon him/herself to stock goods only from Outer Mongolia – that’s his/her call in a free market.

In fact, like the Scottish Shop in Dunedin, some retailers are very specific in what they stock.

Food and Grocery council CEO,  Katherine Rich, complains that this policy “undermined the spirit of CER and risked a backlash in New Zealand as well”,

‘‘It’s an issue we’re watching closely because both major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, have come out with a very pro-Australia stance. There have been some high profile delistings of some New Zealand brands for no other reason than that they are not Australian.’’

Which is supremely ironic as Ms Rich was a one time member and National Party minister from 1999 to 2008.

So she should know how the free market, capitalist system works. It’s a bit too late in the day to start whinging that another nation’s private companies have adopted their own, specific retail policies.

After all, this is something the “invisible hand of the free market” will work out. According to neo-liberal dogma, if consumers want to purchase New Zealand goods, they will go elsewhere, to other retailers. Or buy via the internet. Or hop on a flight to do their grocery shopping here in New Zealand, at a Pak N Save.

That is how the Free Market works, right?

In fact, as Ms Watkins correctly reported, CER binds governments – not private companies;

One option would be for the Government to lodge a formal objection but sources say the situation is complicated by the fact that CER is a government-to-government agreement, and it is not ‘‘straight forward’’ whether supermarkets are captured by that process.

Very astute.

After all, wouldn’t it be a form of “communism” to bind private companies to buy certain goods?!

On the other hand, free trade agreements such as the CER, or the China-NZ FTA, or the impending TPPA, do bind governments in the way they must purchase goods and services.

A New Zealand government wanting to implement a procurement policy that favours locally produced goods and/or services would immediatly be sued by other nations or foreign corporations, via the World Trade Organisation. (In fact, New Zealand sued Australia at the WTO, over the latter’s refusal to allow New Zealand applies into that country. We won.)

So free trade agreements bind governments – but not private companies (those Kiwi apples can be exported to Australia – but no law can force an Aussie retailer or chain-stores to stock them).

This is something that New Zealanders might consider as the issue of the TPPA nears resolution; signatory governments – like our government – would be bound by a TPPA. But private companies would not (or only in peripheral ways) be bound.

As for Katherine Rich?

Tough luck, lady. This is the capitalist system at work.

Suck it up.

Welcome to  the corporatisation of human civilisation.

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References

TV1: Sweet success after bitter battle over NZ apples

Fairfax media: Supermarket stoush sours CER

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Why I am a Leftie

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 February 2014.

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Crony Watch!

18 November 2012 22 comments

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Cronywatch*…

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…Keeping an eye on dodgy government appointees, crony-by-crony!

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In this on-going Thread, I will be reporting on blatant political cronyism from this current government. Considering that the NBR ceased their version of  “Cronywatch” in late 2008, I thought it would be helpful if folks knew what John Key and his government were up to.

Cronyism is when appointments to various quangos, Boards, organisations, departments, and even unofficial positions, are made for no other apparent reason than their membership, or close affialiation to, the National government. Governments do this for various reasons; to keep on eye on things; to try to influence decision-making; to ensure that their policies are carried out according to their agenda; and perhaps even a bit of  ‘pay back‘.

This sort of thing was/is verey commonplace under authoritarian regimes where democracy and an independent civil service are alien concepts. So it is more than a little disturbing when we find such occurrences here, in little old Godzone.

So every time I find a political appointee, I’ll report it here. With each up-date added to this Thread, I’ll ‘bump‘ it back up to the top of Recent Posts.

And now for some cronies…

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac,

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Despite having zero experience in the education sector, Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “I-Don’t-Know-I-Can’t-Recall”  Banks to chair the Charter School Working Group. Ms Isaac’s only tenuous links to educatuion is that she has served on a School Board. (In which case, I look forward to serving on a DHB and thereafter beginning  a practice in brain surgery…)

As most folk know, Charter Schools is an ACT policy. Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “What-helicopter-flights?” Banks.  And Ms Isaac is an ACT Party member, ex-candidate, and President.

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Belinda Milnes

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has appointed a former official from her own office to the board of the Families Commission.

Belinda Milnes, a former senior policy adviser for Mrs Bennett, has been appointed to the commission for three years.

The minister has been unavailable to discuss the appointment, but in a statement says Ms Milnes understands social policy and is the best person for the job.”

Source: Radio NZ – Bennett appoints former official to commission board

Interestingly, Paula Bennett made no mention of Ms Milnes’ connection with her office when she released this media statement,

” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today announced two new appointments to the Families Commission.

Sir Peter Gluckman and Belinda Milnes have been appointed to the Board of the Families Commission for a period of three years.

The Families Commission is currently undergoing a restructure to assume its new role providing independent monitoring, evaluation and research.

“We’ve appointed the best people for the job to oversee a major change programme within the Families Commission,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government is reprioritising a minimum of $14.2 million of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

“This unit will provide research and best practise advice to government and non-government organisations,” says Mrs Bennett.

This unit will independently monitor and evaluate programmes and initiatives in the social sector, a job currently done largely by Government Departments.

“I believe giving this role to an independent body will see more community organisations entering into robust evaluation and monitoring”. “

Source: Appointments to Families Commission

I wonder how much ” independent monitoring, evaluation and research” will be produced by the new “Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit ” when it is staffed by National Party appointees who have been functionaries within a Minister’s office?

At least the Minister will hear only what she wants to hear, with no pesky dissenting opinions upsetting her day…

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Richard Long

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Former National Party chief of staff Richard Long has been appointed to the board of TVNZ.

[…] He spent two years as chief of staff for National leaders Bill English and Don Brash after leaving the Dominion in 2002.”

Source: Former National Party chief of staff appointed to TVNZ board

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Katherine Rich (#2)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank  Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking

(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 latest cronyist-appointment is (again)  former National MP and CEO  of the Food and Grocery Council,  Katherine Rich, to the newly formed  Health Promotion Agency.

The Council  represents a $15 billion food and beverage industry and exerts considerable influence on food legislation and trade practices.

The Council was a vocal opponant, and campaigned against,   mandatory inclusion of vitamin B9 (folic acid) in bread (to prevent crippling  birth defects such as spina bifida) and  anti-obesity proposals such as taxing  sugar. It supports liberal trading policies for alcohol.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The Health Promotion Agency incorporates  the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council and other  promotion work by the Ministry of Health.

ALAC was an organisation tasked with addressing the growing incidence of alcohol abuse in this country. This increasingly destructive social  problem  has been calculated to be a $4 billion-plus crisis in our society, wasting valuable health, police, judicial, and ACC  resources, and impacting on employment and family life.

It therefore seems somewhat incongruous to appoint a person who  in deeply involved in the alcohol industry in a government body that has a role in identifying and addressing alcohol problems in our society.

In fact, one could see this as a conflict of interest. John Key’s bland assurances therefore sound rather hollow,

I’m comfortable that she’ll be able to manage any conflict….It’s important that a board has a range of different views.” – Source

Key’s views on the Food and Grocery Council’s emotion-laden campaign against folic acid was no less derisable,

The debate wasn’t around whether folic acid might or might not work. It was about people’s rights to have that put in every piece of bread. There’s quite a difference there.”

Unfortunately,  Mr Key fails to realise that foetuses deprived of this critical vitamin B9; are born with spina bifida; and spend their entire (shortened) lives in a wheelchair, have no such “rights” to choose. Foetuses rely on adults to consume appropriate foods and beverages.

Way to go, Mr Key. The manipulation of public opinion on this issue  by the Food and Grocery Council was predicated on saving money for the food industry.

But it’s taxpayers who have to pick up the medical and welfare tab for people with neural tube defects (spina bifida).

That, plus the Food and Grocery Council’s staunch advocacy for the proliferation of alcohol retailing, makes Ms Rich wholly inappropriate for this new government body.

Ms Rich has neo-liberal views on the production 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

Final word to someone more concerned with social issues (rather than profits),

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.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture”. Source, Radio NZ

See:   Lobbyist appointment no conflict: Key

See:   BERL Report Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association: Folic acid and neural tube defects in New Zealand: a cautionary tale?

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Other blogs

The Standard: Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

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Roger Sowry

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Roger Sowry has been a National Party MP from 1990 to 2005 – five consecutive terms.  The first two terms were as MP for Kapiti, the latter three as a Party List MP.  He became Chief Executive of Arthritis New Zealand, and then worked at Saunders Unsworth,as a “consultant on Government matters” (ie; lobbyist).

Party positions held:

  • National MP 1990 – 2005
  • 1993, appointed Junior Party Whip
  • 1995, appointed Senior Party Whip
  • 1996, appointed Minister for Social Welfare
  • 1998, appointed Minister of Social Services, Work and Income; Minister in charge of War Pensions;  Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation; and Associate Minister of Health
  • Appointed Deputy Leader of  National Government from October 2001 to October 2003

Government appointments:

Prime Minister John Key said he would not describe Mr Sowry as a party hack and he was qualified for the job.   “We are not going to preclude people solely because they’ve been involved with the National Party. If we were to do that then the talent pool is going to be substantially reduced,” Mr Key said. – Source

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Wyatt Creech

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Judy Kirk

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Jim McLay

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Penny Webster

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

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Brian Neeson

Ravi Musuku

Ken Shirley

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(L-R) Brian Neeson – Ken Shirley – Ravi Musuku

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All three men were appointed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  All three have connectionas to National, or in Ken Shirley’s case, to ACT, one of National’s coalition partners.

Brian Neeson

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The appoint was made by the Minister –  without being interviewed, as is the usual process,

“It is the chair’s view that without interviews by an appropriately selected interview panel, the process will not provide an opportunity to properly assess the candidates suitability,” advice to Power in July last year said.

“The required skills cannot be evaluated without interview. He [Mr Hindle] has also expressed concern that the suggested appointment of member without interview would be at odds with the practice of past years“.” – Source

Which was unfortunate, as Neeson has a shocking record for anti-gay/lesbian beliefs that can only be described as homophobic.  He consistently voted against including gays/lesbians in protective Human Rights legislation and voted against legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender. (See ” National’s version of ‘human rights’ ” at Tumeke, for full details.)

It is difficult to understand how someone of Mr Neeson’s beliefs can contribute to human rights issues in NZ, unless his appointment is specifically designed to curtail human rights for women and minority groups?

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Ravi Musuku

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Ken Shirley

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Statement on Maori:

Graduation day at Te Wananga. Soon after the Labour Government came to office it started showering money on all things Maori. ” – NZ Herald

Soon after the Labour Government came to office, ushering in its flagship ‘Closing the Gaps’ programmes. It started showering money on all things Maori. ” – Ibid

Out of this Te Wananga o Aotearoa pocketed $5.8 million and said that would go a long way towards providing for its growth. ” – Ibid

But the Government went further. Closing the Gaps demanded even more taxpayer money be thrown at Maori. ” – Ibid

Despite its apparent concern, it has continued to shovel huge sums of taxpayer money to this institution – all in the name of the treaty. ” – Ibid

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioners have foreshadowed that the decision to allow the Maori Land Court to hear iwi claims to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds opens the way for similar claims around the country” ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

I now call upon Prime Minister Helen Clark to act consistently, and to declare such claims off limits -as she recently did in the case of the claim for oil and gas reserves. In this instance, it was made quite clear that oil, gas and mineral reserves were vested in the Crown by legislation in 1937.”Press releases on Court of Appeal decision on foreshores and seabed, Recreation Access

I am again calling on the Labour Government to act decisively. It must spell out the bounds to claims – in order to prevent undue anxiety for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, and to ensure that iwi don’t waste any more time and money pursuing claims that should be off limits.” – Ibid

Hopefully Mr Shirley’s anti-Treaty and knee-jerk anti-Maori  beliefs will not be carried over to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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.(Acknowledgement: David M. and Tumeke)

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Wayne Mapp

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Wayne Mapp (L) and John Key (R)

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Announced on 28 February 2012 by Judith Collins, the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission;  the appointment of  National’s  former Defence Minister, Wayne Mapp to the Commission.

Party positions held:

  • National MP from 1996 to 2011
  • Appointed as “Political Correctness Eradicator” in October 2005, by former National Party leader, Don Brash
  • Chair of National Caucus Policy Committee
  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister of Science and Innovation

Government appointments:

  • New Zealand  Law Commission

The Law Commission is an independent Crown entity under the Crown Entities Act 2004. It is funded by government and reviews areas of the law that need updating, reforming or developing. It makes recommendations to Parliament, and these recommendations are published in our report series.  The Law Commission helps to maintain the quality of New Zealand law to meet the current and future needs of our rapidly changing society. The Commission’s objective is to improve the quality, relevance and effectiveness of New Zealand law, by informing and supporting discussion on and making recommendations to Parliament for law reform.” – Source

I suspect that the Law Commission may have just become a somewhat less “independent Crown entity “.

(Acknowledgement: David M.)

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Kerry Prendergast

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L-R: John Banks (obscured), John Key, Maurice Williamson, Kerry Prendergast

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Best known as Wellington’s mayor from 2001 – 2010, Prendergast is also a member of the National Party.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Sir Wira Gardiner

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Full Story

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

1. Background

2. Background

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Stephen McElrea

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Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

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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.

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.

***Update***

It appears that Stephen McElrea was part of a working group that has committed NZ on Air funding to a “documentary” on Whanau Ora.

Whanau Ora is a government department created under the National-Maori Party Coalition arrangement after the 2008 General Election.

NZ On Air states that the “documentary” will  look  at “how successful this new initiative will be in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” and that it would be  “a behind the scenes look at the roll out of this new initiative that seeks to deliver positive social outcomes for Maori“.

It is somewhat difficult to see how a documentary could determine that Whanau Ora  can be a “successful… new initiative … in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” when it is still barely operating. There have been no assessments or measured outcomes yet (to my knowledge) that would merit a “documentary” on Whanau Ora’s “success” or otherwise.

The fact that Stephen McElrea was a participant in the decision-making process to fund this “documentary/propaganda” is clear evidence that NZ On Airs  independence has been compromised.

This is the result of  government cronyism.

Source:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

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Catherine Isaac

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An announcement was made on 1 February that ACT  member;  former ACT Party List candidate, and former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac,  had been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch. Ms Isaacs has no formal experience in the education field.

John Banks defended Isaac’s appointment was stating that she has sat of a School Board of Trustees for six years.

In which case, if I sat on a District Health board for a similar period of  time, would that qualify me to carry out  thoracic open-heart surgery? Well, I guess that would be one way to “train” our doctors on the cheap and get rid of that pesky, expensive Med School in Dunedin.

Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

It seems abundantly obvious that Isaac’s appointment is to ensure that ACT’s Charter School policy is implemented without usual critical oversight, and to further ensure that results are presented in a “positive light” to the public.

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Katherine Rich (#1)

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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 National-led Government is defending its appointment of the Food and Grocery Council chief executive to a board which will set up a new health promotion agency.

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.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture.”

The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.” – Source, Radio NZ

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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,

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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

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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.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Mervyn English

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Full Story

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Though the State Services Commissioner  did find that they were satisfied with English’s appointment, one has to question why  the position was not publicly advertised, as is common practice?

Even if the SSC is satisfied of no inappropriateness, 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.

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Jenny Shipley

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Party Positions held:

  • National Party MP 1987 – 2002
  • Various ministerial portfolios
  • Prime Minister 1997 – 1999

Government appointments:

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Carried on at Frankly Speaking: Crony Watch

* Carrying on, where the National Business Review left of, in November 2008. (Which, by sheer coincidence, is when National took power.)

 

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Folic Acid vs Vitamin B9

2 September 2012 10 comments

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Folic Acid

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Definition

Folic acid is a water-soluable vitamin belonging to the B-complex group of vitamins. These vitamins help the body break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars to be used for energy. Excess B vitamins are excreted from the body rather than stored for later use. This is why sufficient daily intake of folic acid is necessary.

Description

Folic acid is also known as folate, or folacin. It is one of the nutrients most often found to be deficient in the Western diet, and there is evidence that deficiency is a problem on a worldwide scale. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas and lentils, liver, beets, brussel sprouts, poultry, nutritional yeast, tuna, wheat germ, mushrooms, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupes. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched bread and grain products to boost intake and to help prevent neural tube defects (NTD).

Purpose

Folic acid works together with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to metabolize protein in the body. It is important for the formation of red and white blood cells. It is necessary for the proper differentiation and growth of cells and for the development of the fetus. It is also used to form the nucleic acid of DNA and RNA. It increases the appetite and stimulates the production of stomach acid for digestion and it aids in maintaining a healthy liver. A deficiency of folic acid may lead to anemia, in which there is decreased production of red blood cells. This reduces the amounts of oxygen and nutrients that are able to get to the tissues. Symptoms may include fatigue, reduced secretion of digestive acids, confusion, and forgetfulness. During pregnancy, a folic acid deficiency may lead to preeclampsia, premature birth, and increased bleeding after birth.
People who are at high risk of strokes and heart disease may greatly benefit by taking folic acid supplements. An elevated blood level of the amino acid homocysteine has been identified as a risk factor for some of these diseases. High levels of homocysteine have also been found to contribute to problems with osteoporosis. Folic acid, together with vitamins B6 and B12, helps break down homocysteine, and may help reverse the problems associated with elevated levels.
Pregnant women have an increased need for folic acid, both for themselves and their child. Folic acid is necessary for the proper growth and development of the fetus. Adequate intake of folic acid is vital for the prevention of several types of birth defects, particularly NTDs. The neural tube of the embryo develops into the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, and the skull. If this tube forms incompletely during the first few months of pregnancy a serious, and often fatal, defect results in spina bifida or anencephaly. Folic acid, taken from  one year to one month before conception through the first four months of pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs by 50-70%.It also helps prevent a cleft lip and palate.
Research shows that folic acid can be used to successfully treat cervical dysplasia, a condition diagnosed by a Pap smear, of having abnormal cells in the cervix. This condition is considered to be a possible precursor to cervical cancer, and is diagnosed as an abnormal Pap smear. Daily consumption of 1,000 mcg of folic acid for three or more months has resulted in improved cervical cells upon repeat Pap smears.
Studies suggest that long-term use of folic acid supplements may also help prevent lung and colon cancer. Researchers have also found that alcoholics who have low folic acid levels face a greatly increased possibility of developing colon cancer.

Preparations

To correct a folic acid deficiency, supplements are taken in addition to food. Since the functioning of the B vitamins is interrelated, it is generally recommended that the appropriate dose of B-complex vitamins be taken in place of single B vitamin supplements. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for folate is 400 mcg per day for adults, 600 mcg per day for pregnant women, and 500 mcg for nursing women. Medicinal dosages of up to 1,000-2,000 mcg per day may be prescribed.

Precautions

Folic acid is not stable. It is easily destroyed by exposure to light, air, water, and cooking. Therefore, the supplement should be stored in a dark container in a cold, dry place, such as a refrigerator. Many medications interfere with the body’s absorption and use of folic acid. This includes sulfa drugs, sleeping pills, estrogen, anti-convulsants, birth control pills, antacids, quinine, and some antibiotics. Using large amounts of folic acid (e.g., over 5,000 mcg per day) can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency and thereby risk of irreversible nerve damage.

Side effects

At levels of 5,000 mcg or less, folic acid is generally safe for use. Side effects are uncommon. However, large doses may cause nausea, decreased appetite, bloating, gas, decreased ability to concentrate, and insomnia. Large doses may also decrease the effects of phenytoin (Dilantin), a seizure medication.

Source:  The Free Dictionary

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Overdose risks

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The risk of toxicity from folic acid is low, because folate is a water-soluble vitamin and is regularly removed from the body through urine.

Source: Vitamins and minerals: efficacy and safety, U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Folic Acid. Folate. Vitamin B9. Vitamin Bc. Folacin. Pteroyl-L-glutamic acid.  Pteroyl-L-glutamate. Pteroylmonoglutamic acid. Take your pick.

All different names to one of many naturally occurring compounds which our (and other animals) bodies need to survive.

Before western society decided to process the hell out of our foods, we ingested Folic Acid/Vitamin B9 in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, lettuce, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, beans, peas,  lentils, bananas, oranges, peaches, Sunflower seeds, and meats such as liver and poultry, etc.

See:  Foods rich in folic acid and vitamin B12

So it’s not exactly some weird concoction, brewed up  by a mad scientist slaving over bubbling beakers and arcing electrodes in Victor von Frankenstein’s basement,

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When the issue first arose in 2009, the debate whether to add Folic Acid/Folate/Vitamin B9/Vitamin Bc/Folacin/Pteroyl-L-glutamic acid/Pteroyl-L-glutamate/Pteroylmonoglutamic acid to all breads,  was lost on Day One  when the vitamin was referred tro as “Folic Acid”.

This blogger will be the first to admit that  had never heard of “folic acid” or “folate”.

Folic acid… Sounded suspiciously like hydrochloric acid… sulphuric acid… hydroflouric acid…  Nasty chemicals which have no place in the human body.

Except that the unfortunately-sounding apellation – folic acid – had nothing to do with any of the above tissue-damaging chemicals above. Like ascorbic acid – aka, ascorbate or Vitamin C.

Like most  people, the substance was more recognisable with it’s more benign label; Vitamin B9. A quick googling soon informed me that folic acid = Vitamin B9.

*whew*

Panic over.

Visions of a nefarious government secret agency lacing our food with ACID were dispelled.

But… how many other people failed to make the connection? Most folk have only a basic understanding of  Nature and science. Fears arise easily – especially when things have gone terribly wrong in history…

Atomic power… asbestos… pesticides… thalidomide… chloroflurocarbons… human-produced atmospheric CO2… History is littered with triumphs of science and technology – only to learn later that there were unintended consequences.

Heck, the Ancient Romans used to store and  drink wine from urns made from lead. Wine is acidic… and it leeched lead from it’s vessels. The consequential lead poisoning must have been horrific.

The 21st century version of lead-poisoning in antiquity is plastic bottles containing BPA (bisphenol A) – which has been discovered to have nasty effects on the human body.

See: BPA Chemical Leaches From Hard Plastic Drinking Bottles Into The Body, Study

When humans are unfamiliar with something, they are naturally cautious and wary. (A survival trait, no doubt, when our ancestors had to cope with poisonous plants, big nasty  insects, hungry sabre-tooth tigers, and other perils of  Paleolithic Earth.)

The reality  of Vitamin B9 was  simple and straight forward; it was a natural compound that could reduce the incidence of Neural Tube Defects. But even that term – Neural Tube Defects – meant nothing to the average Bloke and Blokette.  It was a vague medical term that  99% of us had never heard before.

Another way to explain Neural Tube Defects is spina bifida (one form of NTD),

The human nervous system develops from a small, specialized plate of cells along the back of an embryo. Early in development, the edges of this plate begin to curl up toward each other, creating the neural tube—a narrow sheath that closes to form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. As development progresses, the top of the tube becomes the brain and the remainder becomes the spinal cord. This process is usually complete by the 28th day of pregnancy. But if problems occur during this process, the result can be brain disorders called neural tube defects, including spina bifida…

… Spina bifida, which literally means “cleft spine,” is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). It is the most common neural tube defect in the United States – affecting 1,500 to 2,000 of the more than 4 million babies born in the country each year.

See: MedicineNet.com – Spina Bifida (Neural Tube Defect)

Whilst many with spina bifida can walk with assistance-devices, others will be confined to wheelchairs for their entire lives.

Many will have problems with urination, having to use plastic catheters inserted into their urethra/penis to urinate. Some will need hygiene pads to contain uncontrollably excreted faeces in their underwear. Others have other surgically-enhanced techniques for relieving themselves.

A number will require ongoing surgery to address complications caused by their condition,

Some children will need subsequent surgeries to manage problems with the feet, hips, or spine. Individuals with hydrocephalus generally will require additional surgeries to replace the shunt, which can be outgrown or become clogged.

Some individuals with spina bifida require assistive devices such as braces, crutches, or wheelchairs. The location of the malformation on the spine often indicates the type of assistive devices needed. Children with a defect high on the spine and more extensive paralysis will often require a wheelchair, while those with a defect lower on the spine may be able to use crutches, bladder catherizations, leg braces, or walkers.

Treatment for paralysis and bladder and bowel problems typically begins soon after birth, and may include special exercises for the legs and feet to help prepare the child for walking with braces or crutches when he or she is older.

See: How is spina bifida treated?

For people  with spina bifida, in wheelchairs, they will need ongoing assistance until their final day.  The way they overcome they restricted mobility and challenges  is nothing short of heroic.

There are many things they will struggle with, and many that will be beyond their abilities without varying degrees of assistance.

For  many of us, visiting a friend who happens to live a few dozen steps up from the road is something we do without much consideration. Not so for a person with spina bifida.

Imagine the degradation of being lifted up stairs to enter a building, and being carried up by others. (Not all buildings have electors or ramps, contrary to public perception – and 99.99% of private homes certainly do not have elevators.)

If you’re in a wheelchair, you will most likely never journey through New Zealand’s wilderness.

And going to a beach will most likely involve being carried bodily onto the sand. (Unless they can afford an expensive, specialised, wheelchair.)

A home for a person with spina bifida has be be totally adapted to his/her needs; wheelchair ramps (both front and rear door);  bathroom adapted to be a “wet area”; modified cabinets, benches, oven, sink, in kitchens; lowered light switches, etc.

The State has to provide ongoing assistance in many areas of a wheelchair bound person’s life and home.

Relationships can be more difficult to form, as many people do not see past a wheelchair or crutches.

I encourage an able-bodied person to try to spend 24 hours in a wheelchair. You probably wouldn’t  make it past 30  minutes.

I write this not for pity for people with spina bifida – they don’t need our pity – but for understanding that for every decision we make, there are consequences.

Not adding vitamin B9  to bread will have consequences; women giving birth to babies afflicted with spina bifida.

Critics of fortification use the cliche of  “mass medication” and insist that pregnant women take vitamin B9 supplements to assist their unborn child.

“Mass medication” is a mis-nomer. Vitamin B9 is not “medicine”. It is a natural occurring compound like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, etc, etc, etc.

And if folic acid/vitamin B9/folate/whatever was so harmful – why are bottles of B9 supplements available in every single supermarket, chemists, health-food shop in New Zealand?

No one has ever suggested that adding Vitamin C to our fruit drinks is “mass medication” – it would be ridiculous to suggest so.

And by the time a woman discovers that she is pregnant, it may be too late to take Vitamin B9 supplements,

Folic acid, taken from  one year to one month before conceptionthrough the first four months of pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs by 50-70%…”

Source:  The Free Dictionary

Where did the campaign, along with the “mass medication” meme, originate? Like many of these fear-campaigns, it’s a matter of ‘following the money‘,

The Bakers’ Association has labelled the compulsory introduction “mass medication” of the population, and warned that bread containing folic acid will be less safe than it is now. “

The Bakers’ Association “mass medication” rhetoric was followed by ex-National MP, and neo-liberal,  Katherine Rich, who was now leading the NZ Food and Grocery Council,

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said there was no good reason to medicate an entire nation without clear benefits and known risks.

“They are embarking on a medical experiment of grand proportions,” she said. “If there are long-term effects and the Government is keen on adding folic acid, they should indemnify”.”

See: Bakers furious at ‘mass medication’ of NZ’s bread

See previous blogpost: Crony Watch!

The same Katherine Rich who opposed liquor controls for supermarkets and has been a staunch defender of  light-handed regulation of the alcohol industry.

See: Big Alcohol‘s Global Playbook: New markets, reduced regulation and lower taxes

Interesting how two separate business organisations were using similar fear-tactics; “mass medication” (Bakers’ Association) and “medical experiment” (NZ Food and Grocery Council ). And note that the NZ Herald in which those comments were reported is dated 17 May 2009 – one of the very first references to “mass medication”.

These fear tactics were unsupported by any hard facts, and relied on dubious “experts” and dodgy “science”. It was all very convenient for commercial interests that were more concerned at cost – than the health of this nation’s children.

Bomber Bradbury, from the ‘Tumeke’ blog summed it up nicely when he said,

” There was also a torrent of anger about ‘putting stuff in my food, personal choice blah blah blah’. I’m all for the heavy hand of Government regulation if it means avoiding 70+ children each year (abortions plus live births) being born with deformities. I don’t buy into the ‘personal choice’ stuff at all, we all concede certain choices to live together and if putting folic acid into bread reduces deformities, what’s the problem? The issue HAS to be based on the science, and right now there is science that suggests a connection with cancer – if that science is as weak as some have posted here, and is as weak as Gluckman thinks it is, then it should be a 6month review tops to explore that and make a call. Kicking for touch with a 3 year moratorium is weak by Key and means 200 kids + will be born with deformities in those 3 years.

The irony that many claimed this was the ‘nanny state putting medicine in my food’ misses the point that it will be the nanny state who will have to provide for the deformed children.”

See: Folic Acid U-turn wrong call

Bomber Bradbury has hit the nail on the head when he says,

The irony that many claimed this was the ‘nanny state putting medicine in my food’ misses the point that it will be the nanny state who will have to provide for the deformed children.

Bingo!

Profits from bread: privatised.

Massive financial costs of 20+ children born with spina bifida: socialised.

How many times have we heard that?!

Concerns over “increased cancer” fears were dispelled in a discussion on 8 July, on TVNZ’s Q+A, with Andrew Marshall from the Paediatric Society of NZ,

GREG BOYED

First and foremost, a couple of hundred more cases of cancer per year – what are your responses to that?

ANDREW MARSHALL

Completely false. If we look at the United States where they introduced mandatory fortification in ’98, there’s been a reduction in all cancers since that time. So it’s not true it will increase cancer. It reduces cancer overall.

GREG What are your thoughts on Dr Smith’s science, because, as he said, he’s done extensive studies on an extensive number of people.

ANDREW I’ve reviewed his studies. He is very selective in the studies he chooses. He talks about a meta-analysis of 38,000. There’s a different meta-analysis using a similar population – some of the studies overlap – of 35,000, which is much stronger. It shows no relationship with cancer, no increased risk, no statistical risk. So he’s selective in the studies he chooses, and he’s chosen a weaker study which showed a borderline. Even the writers of that study said there was no definite increase; it was borderline.

See: Q+A: Transcript of Andrew Marshall interview

On 2 September 2012, “Food Safety” Minister, Kate Wilkinson was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A. Greg Boyd asked why National had decided not to opt to add vitamin B9 to nearly all bread.  In a breath-taking example of ignoring real research and common sense, Wilkinson said,

The decision that was made was really based on consumer choice rather than the science, because, as you know with science, you can have scientists arguing black and scientists arguing white. At the end of the day, the consultation went out. The submissions were clearly in favour of voluntary, so people can make up their own mind whether they want folic acid in their bread or not. “

As Q+A producer, Tim Watkin,  said on the ‘Pundit’  blog,

So the baking industry won the day over the medical folk, not by the strength of their arguments or superiority of their science, but by the weight of numbers.

Bizarre.

We’re an anti-intellectual enough country at the best of times, but to be so cavalier about science is a terrible signal to send.

See: Q+A: Interview with Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson

For Wilkinson to state,

The decision that was made was really based on consumer choice rather than the science…

The clear message is that people want choice.”

… means we have abandoned common sense and policies made for social good,  and allowed commercial interests and the paranoia of a few individuals, to determine the health and safety of our children?!

One must also ask that if National was swayed by “the submissions were clearly in favour of voluntary” – why have they not taken heed of the vast number of submissions opposing state asset sales.

See: Hundreds beg committee to stop sale of state assets

Selective much?

Executive director, John Forman, from The Organisation for Rare Disorders was also  obviously disappointed by National’s decision,

“Up to 20 babies every year will die or be seriously disabled by neural tube defects (NTD) in New Zealand, thanks to the Government’s decision today to keep the fortification of bread voluntary.”

See: Folic acid to remain voluntary

Indeed, whilst we enjoy our “choice” – unborn children do not. Their future lives will be blighted by the choices that we adults have made for them.

Spooked by back-room dealings and manipulations by vested interests, we have allowed ourselves to be panicked and corralled like a bunch of sheep. The food industry maintains its profits by not having to pay for vitamin B9 to be added to bread, and National maintain’s it’s slavish adhrerence to the mantra of “personal choice”.

Another example of the Cult of the Individual, with it’s nasty, self-centered “Me First” attitude, and all it’s dreadful consequences.

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Additional

Bakers furious at ‘mass medication’ of NZ’s bread (May, 2009)

Q + A: Paul Holmes interviews Sue Kedgley and Kate Wilkinson about folic acid (July, 2009)

Minister sides with bakers on folic acid (July, 2009)

Will bill make food safer or be a form of control? (February, 2012)

Folate fortified bread back on table (May, 2012)

Australians beating us over meat labelling (May, 2012)

Folic acid to remain voluntary (August, 2012)

Q+A: Interview with Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson (September, 2012)

Previous blogposts

Crony Watch!

Other blogs

Tumeke: Folic Acid U-turn wrong call (July, 2009)

The Pundit: National’s folic tangle (July, 2009)

Corporations & Health Watch: Big Alcohol‘s Global Playbook: New markets, reduced regulation and lower taxes (December, 2011)

The Pundit: The folate debate – no easy choices (July, 2012)

The Pundit: Get foliced! Now science is just a ‘nice to have‘ (September, 2012)

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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.

Source

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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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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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