Editorials 13 May 2010

May 13th, 2010 at 3:25 pm by David Farrar

The Herald is on the new rules:

One of the important principles of any liberal democracy is the political neutrality of the state service. For our system to function smoothly it is necessary for the public and political parties of all persuasions to have rock-solid confidence that the state service will behave professionally and impartially, no matter who happens to be the government of the day.

This is so basic that it almost goes without saying, and yet the State Services Commission has felt it necessary to take steps to clarify just what public servants’ obligations are under their code of conduct. Much of its 33 pages of guidelines for interpreting the code is good, common sense, but in one respect it seems to have broken new ground.

It now seems public servants need to be careful not just about their own political and pecuniary interests but also those of close family members as well. Not surprisingly, this has caused some raised eyebrows because, in political terms at least, it seems fundamentally unfair to judge a person by someone else’s allegiances.

I agree you should not be judged by a family member’s activities.

To apply such a standard generally would lead to endless and pointless complications, especially in a small country. What, for instance, would it make of a pair of brothers one of whom was the most senior public servant in the land and the other a leader of a political party?

In most cases a public servant will take a common sense approach and tell their boss that they have a family member politically engaged if it is relevant to their job. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but to protect themselves. However there is no need to codify it.

The Press looks at :

Speaking at a National Party conference on Sunday, Prime Minister John Key presented an optimistic scenario of improved race relations and he praised the contribution to his Government of the Maori Party.

Yet within one day Key had outraged the Maori Party and Tuhoe by scuppering a deal to give Te Urewera National Park back to that iwi, as part of its Treaty settlement. The real mystery here is why Key suddenly lost his nerve and intervened at the very last minute after months of negotiations.

This agreement was understood to have been due to go before Cabinet on Monday. It is believed it would have vested ownership of the park in Tuhoe’s ancestors to prevent its sale. …

The Tuhoe settlement would have come after New Zealand signed up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted the Whanau Ora policy of the Maori Party and agreed to replace the foreshore and seabed law.

And in my minds, that is probably what led to the Tuhoe deal having a limit placed on it publicly. It would have been too far too many “wins” within a very tight timeframe.

The question for Tuhoe now is whether they still try to make a settlement with this Government, or whether they hold off and hope they can get a better deal from a future Labour Government.

The Dom Post focuses on alcohol:

Neither an increase in the tax nor lifting the drinking age would have saved James. The vodka bottle from which he was seen drinking as if its contents were water had come from his grandmother’s drinks cabinet.

However, making more expensive and reducing its availability to teenagers might just prevent another youngster from making the same mistake.

Denying those old enough to vote, to marry and to go to war the right to buy a cold beer at the end of a hot summer’s day would be a draconian measure. So would putting up the price of everyone’s favourite tipple to make alcopops less attractive. But something has to be done. The evidence is incontrovertible that New Zealand’s unhealthy attitude to alcohol is spreading downwards to those least equipped to deal with it.

Again, I think a drinking age is the best option. It would be a clear message to both adults and youth that you should not be drinking when you are at an age (and brain development) unable to handle it.

Sixteen-year-olds are in no position to assess the dangers of binge-drinking. Fifteen, 14 and 13-year-olds even less so. If the industry cannot find a way to keep alcohol out of the hands of children, society must.

The industry did not supply the bottle of vodka. But I agree alcohol should be kept out of the hands of children. Make it an offence for a young person to possess or consume alcohol except in the company of their parents. And make it an offence for anyone but a parent to supply alcohol to young persons.

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14 Responses to “Editorials 13 May 2010”

  1. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    I agree you should not be judged by a family member’s activities

    I’d agree generally, but add a disclaimer: The parents of minors should be judged for the behavour of their kids. I have an open mind about whether that judgment should just be societal, or possibly judicial as well.

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  2. Yvette (2,745 comments) says:

    Alcohol.
    In all the discussion on alcohol and the young I have not seen anything which comments on the likelihood of some to abuse alcohol because it meets a psychological ‘need’ – such as loneliness, difficulties in connecting socially or other factors which predispose them to drink more than they should. For some drinking ‘feels good’ – better than they otherwise feel, until repeated and strengthening use takes over to become a drinking problem.

    I don’t see the current anti-drink tv campaign meaning much – how many people will tell a friend or acquaintance that they should kerb their drinking?
    I would suggest straight-out education would be better – just showing how many drinks over a certain period is on average the maximum for male and female, and equivalents in alcopops, beer, wine, and spirits.

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  3. Ryan Sproull (7,078 comments) says:

    I don’t see the current anti-drink tv campaign meaning much – how many people will tell a friend or acquaintance that they should kerb their drinking?

    I think what they’re trying to do with that campaign is to show you can have a concerned word about drinking to your mate without it being a full-on intervention. The guy in the one I saw is pretty casual about it, makes a bit of a joke about it, but it’s not like he’s saying “don’t come to any more of my parties until you stop drinking”. The guy who’s drinking too much is still invited.

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  4. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    New state sector rules on family members… a step to far.

    Tuhoe wanting the Te Urewera National Park… a step to far.

    Lowering the drinking age… a step to far.

    So why is only Tuhoe’s step to far stopped.. National White Voters.

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  5. m@tt (613 comments) says:

    Because although our PM does not eat babies, as some would claim, he is afraid that Maoris might eat him.

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  6. Yvette (2,745 comments) says:

    I can’t think of any acquaintance of mine who would take it well if I suggested he or she was drinking too much.
    I still think there should be a tv campaign which shows a recognisable measure to indicate one drink and straight forward information about how many you can have [of the various strengths] and still drive, AND how many you may have a day, every day, before you are drinking in a way injurious to your health.

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  7. RightNow (6,844 comments) says:

    “The industry did not supply the bottle of vodka” – they most certainly supplied it at some point in the supply chain, and a profit was likely made at all points of the supply chain. The ‘industry’ is profiting from selling poison, it is that black and white. They are not innocent even if they didn’t sell it directly to the now deceased child.

    [DPF: By your logic the knife manufacturer is guilty of the stabbing of the teacher by the 13 year old.

    And vodka is not poison - it is a very pleasant drink]

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  8. Ryan Sproull (7,078 comments) says:

    I can’t think of any acquaintance of mine who would take it well if I suggested he or she was drinking too much. I still think there should be a tv campaign which shows a recognisable measure to indicate one drink and straight forward information about how many you can have [of the various strengths] and still drive, AND how many you may have a day, every day, before you are drinking in a way injurious to your health.

    That’s fair enough. I agree.

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  9. Farky (7 comments) says:

    The worst thing about this “drinking debate” is that we don’t even know what the kid died of, though presumably it is related to his drinking. One recurring comment is that we need to change our attitude towards drinking in NZ…I don’t think that will ever change because we as NZers love alcohol and it will always be a problem in our society no matter the purchasing age or the expense – it is the most socially acceptable way of altering your mind after all.

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  10. Yvette (2,745 comments) says:

    I think certain people drink because the altered state seems more desirable than their normal condition. Repeated use of this nature can become unhealthy. Doing anything about these particular people amounts to solving many social problems, which isn’t going to happen. So I figure drinking guidelines, amounts and measures tv campaigns, are about the only useful immediate thing that can be done to help people to knowingly drink within reasonable limits or feel they have a problem which THEY need to do something about.

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  11. kiwi in america (2,486 comments) says:

    We have a huge stastically significant real world database on the effect of lowering then raising the drinking age here in the US. When the age was lowered to 18 in the 1970′s across many (but not all) states, the level of alcohol related harm went up, alcohol violence in the age cohort climbed and the numbers of alcohol related traffic injuries and deaths went up. When all states increased the age back to 21 in the 1980s, these negative trends were reversed. The National Transportation Safety Administration estimate that the change in the drinking age has saved 900 young lives per YEAR.

    I agree that NZ needs to make the consumption of alcohol by underage minors illegal. Raising the drinking age to 20 and changing the purchase age to the drinking age so that underage drinkers are breaking the law where ever they may be drinking. Right now it is only illegal for under 18 year olds to be on licensed premises and to procure alcohol.

    I refer you to an excellent interview given by Dr Abercrombie who works at a Manakau Youth Health Clinic – her son goes to Kings in Auckland where James attended. She wrote an excellent letter along the same lines as my suggestions to the PM and Catherine Ryan interviewed her on 9 – Noon. http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/20100511

    The methods currently being used to curb teen binge drinking are an abject failure and how many more deaths or near deaths from alcohol poisoning will it take for NZers to realise that our defacto drinking age is too young and our overall drinking culture is harmful to young people. The amounts of alcohol per session are climbing, the age of onset of drinking is falling and teenage girls alcohol consumption has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

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  12. edhunter (523 comments) says:

    As a 16 yr back in good old 1986 when the legal age was 20, we went to partys nigh on every weekend, & every weekend we’d do a run down to the local & the 1 or 2 of us who thought we looked old enough would go in & buy a shitload of grog, I mean seriously sometimes there would for eg 12 doz beer for the lads 6-8 bottles of chardon or marque spew for the gals, does anyone remember screwdriver a vodka & orange drink 22% alc, purple death anyone? We were white middle class kids brought up in white middle class NZ. One weekend I was asked to buy a bottle of rum for a mate of a mate, that mate died later that night by suffocating on his own vomit he was an epilyptic who had a seizure while asleep, needless to say the rum was a huge contributing factor to his death. The police were involved & I was interviewed but that was as far as it went. It did not make the 6 o’clock news every night for a week it did not make front page of the herald or the Western Leader. The response from the school was muted to say the least.
    I tell this story because I don’t see the kids today doing anything that we/I didn’t do for a short time in my teenage years, sure they drink alco-pops now, so would I if I was in their shoes, but then as is now it always came down to price & bang for your buck.. Raise the price of alcohol to make it less inviting to them is to only make illegal currently more expensive drugs more inviting, more tempting, more bang for your buck. Teenagers need to experiment it’s what growing up is all about, there will always be tragedy’s, always be lessons to be learnt, but we can not live their lives for them.
    I voted for a (ha ha) right wing govt to get back some liberties that Helen took away not to see even more eroded.
    This story is nothing but a beat up on a slow news week, & all the changes proposed would not & will not stop this happening again.

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  13. edhunter (523 comments) says:

    Young people aged 15–24 years are at a far higher risk of death from motor vehicle crashes than any other age group. Death rates for 15–24 year olds are more than double those of the population as a whole. The risk of dying in a crash is relatively low in middle age, then increases at older ages, partly because the very old are more fragile.

    The death rate for all age groups has fallen steadily over the period since 1986. The decline has been particularly marked among 15–24 year olds, who had an average annual rate of 21 deaths per 100,000 in the period 2004–2008, a big improvement on the average annual rate of 45 deaths per 100,000 for the 1989–1993 period

    Again just more prove that we are beating up our teens without justification

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  14. Comrade MOT (59 comments) says:

    I still agree with you on having a drinking age DPF, and keep on pushing the idea.

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