Richard Long writes:
Sir Paul Reeves, our new campaigner for tougher drinking laws, should have learnt a lesson from the ill-fated Citizens for Rowling campaign. Sir Paul was a leading member of that gathering of the great and the good who coalesced in 1975 with the aim of trying to keep Labour prime minister Bill Rowling in office by blocking the rabble-rousing National Party leader Rob Muldoon.
Mr Muldoon was indicating the combative style he would bring to Kiwi politics when he said of Rowling on the hustings: ”I can see the cold shivers moving around his body looking for a spine to run up.”
As for Labour’s Maori affairs minister, Matt Rata, Mr Muldoon declared: ”The five happiest years of Mr Rata’s life were those he spent in standard two.”
But in spite of such raw provocations from Mr Muldoon, the Citizens for Rowling group sank in the mire of Kiwi egalitarianism.
Even though the list included such national heroes as Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, the overall view was that a bunch of elitists were presuming to tell average Kiwis how to vote.
Citizens for Rowling ended up probably doing more harm than good to Labour’s cause. As Mr Muldoon said at the time: ”The average chap doesn’t want to be told how to vote.”
I agree it did backfire. Likewise the efforts to have an Australian Republic backfired because it was seen as the elite telling the commoners what to do.
Now Sir Paul has been named as a leading member of another 15-strong group presuming to tell us what is good for us – or more precisely what is bad for us – in terms of laws governing the demon drink.
The eminent persons group is an eclectic mix, ranging from churchmen to Maori and Pacific Island spokesmen to sports stars, including the wonderful Evers-Swindell twins.
They back higher alcohol prices, reduced outlets, more restrictions on advertising, tougher drink driving limits, and an increase in the purchase age from 18 to 20 – in effect the prescription written by Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s Law Commission.
And yes, you do recall correctly: Sir Geoffrey was also a member of Citizens for Rowling.
Maybe it should be called “The Wowsers Strike Back”
Some of the most tragic cases of liquor-induced deaths have been among under 18-year-olds. They were able to obtain and misuse hard liquor in spite of the legal purchase age. In some cases accompanying friends did nothing while they drank themselves to death.
We have heard heart-tugging pleas from relatives seeking action as a result of these tragedies, but penalising the entire community with higher prices and other restrictions will not relieve the underage drinking problem.
At some stage it has to be acknowledged that there are parental responsibilities in this as well as community responsibilities.
There are problems with alcohol abuse in NZ. Response to that problem should seek to target those who cause harm when drinking, not the entire population.Tags: alcohol, Richard Long