Kevin List's A Week Of It Speeding Special
A Week Of It Speeding Special
This week every two-bit columnist seemed to have decided that they personally were an accomplished expert on the subject of road safety. The assistant editor of the NZ Herald, John Roughan's diatribe on Saturday was a typically poorly thought out piece which espoused the right of smug middle-aged men to drive as fast as they darn well liked.
" It is sad to see fully trained police having to make pests of themselves to people driving well within reasonable bounds of caution and safety, if not strictly by the book - who are driving much as the officer knows he would probably drive in similar circumstances," wrote Mr Roughan.
Needless to say Mr Roughan completely neglected to include any figures for the road toll over the last ten years. Also in this week's major Listener cover story which somehow managed to intertwine road safety with the current 111 issue, Denis Welch also neglected to mention the fact that the death toll has been falling steadily over the last 10 to 15 years.
Last year 435 people died on New Zealand roads, which was 26 fewer than in 2003 but still seven percent more than in 2002, when the road toll reached a 40-year low of 405.
As recently as 1990 there were 729 road deaths in New Zealand. Given the increase in cars on the road this statistic the fact the road toll has been reduced to the level it is today shows that the policies introduced by both National and Labour governments have been working. This tougher approach to road safety has not met with universal approval. ACT's Muriel Newman last week railed at the increase in traffic fines, which have assisted in their own way in cutting the road toll.
“These figures are damning proof that Helen Clark has turned our hard-working police into revenue gatherers, rather than crime fighters,” Dr Newman said.
Perhaps Ms Newman has been seeking road safety advice from former ACT Leader, Richard Prebble. When not busy selling Telecom for a 'song', Mr Prebble was overseeing New Zealand's worst ever years of road carnage in his roles as Minister of Transport and Police in the ill-fated Fourth Labour Government.
In Denis Welch's Listener article, Tony Ryall "admitted" that it would be drawing a long bow to blame 111 failures on increased road safety spending. However in a press release from last week Mr Ryall was willing to stretch his bow and see if he could dupe a few gullible journalists:
"National Party Police spokesman Tony Ryall says the more than three-fold increase in officer issued speeding tickets is more proof of Labour’s ‘traffic first’ policy….“Police Minister George Hawkins must move urgently to change Police priorities to reduce the risk of more 111 failures."
New Zealand's own 111 system has come in for something of a thrashing in recent months following the Irena Asher fiasco. However it was only five years ago that New Zealand's entire 111 system was subjected to rigorous parliamentary scrutiny in the form of select committee inquiry.
Part of the reason for the 1999 inquiry was the dogged hounding of the then National government by theLabour opposition following the death of Auckland woman Claire Hills. Ms Hills died in her car in Mangere as a result of a fire on 28 April 1998.
The Police took 40 minutes to respond to a 111 call about the incident. Minister of Police at the time of the inquiry, Clem Simich expressed concern about the delay in responding to the 111 call and said in a letter written in September 1998 that " a call taker in the Police Communications Center did not appear to have responded to information received…"
Whilst the Hills case was the most notorious 111 failure, it was by no means an isolated incident. Other 111 bungling that occurred during the late 90s included:
June 1998 – Police do not respond to a 111 call from a woman in Papakura following the theft of her car in her presence September 1998 – 20minutes for Police to respond to an incident in Porirua, three *555 calls and one 111 call were abandoned October 1998 Police were sent to an address in Vivian Street, Wellington rather than its namesake in New Plymouth.
It comes as little wonder that Tony Ryall and Ron Mark, members of the National-NZ First coalition, then in power and presiding over this bungling, are so au-fait with 111 botch ups. Of course both politicians should take heart from the fact that the situation has improved somewhat since 1998 when Telecom concluded that the answering service at the Auckland call centre was "abysmal".
Even the shoddy performance during the late 90s was probably an improvement on the situation in 1996 when Telecom provided performance reports to the Police, which indicated 7800 calls were either abandoned or lost due to systems failure.
In a surrealist skit from the 1999 Havoc show, Mr Havoc and Mr Newsboy travelled to then Minister of Justice, Tony Ryall's electorate looking for Mr Ryall's "secret smile." Whilst Mr Ryall was no doubt busy dealing out justice 'Batman style' in Wellington, Mr Havoc harangued Mr Ryall's ageing electorate secretary and Mr Newsboy wandered around in the background sucking a lollipop. It was hard to understand what the skit was about -–however one thing is certain – if Mr Ryall had a "secret smile" it would have been somewhat broader given the media coverage achieved from another of his tired attacks on the Tampa refugees.
Mr Ryall stunned the media by assuring them that taking the Tampa refugees had amazingly enough cost taxpaying New Zealanders money.
“The whole process is costing the taxpayer millions of dollars and all the time the situation in Afghanistan is improving. If Helen Clark had waited a week or so, these Tampa people could have been sent back to their homes instead of coming here." railed the Enoch Powell styled press release from Mr Ryall.
Given Ryall's logic, the situation in Poland is looking pretty good now, so perhaps all those cute little Polish orphans that clogged up New Zealand in the mid 1940's could stop pulling pensions and go and enjoy the benefits of living in the European Union. Surely this sort of immigration policy would find favour with Mr Ryall - after all it'd help save taxpayer dollars.
Despite Mr Ryall's assertions that if New Zealand had waited "a week or so" the situation in Afghanistan would be stabilised, documents obtained under the Official Information Act by Scoop show the situation in Afghanistan was considered too unsafe for any New Zealand officials as recently as 2003.
New Zealand Immigration Service missions aimed at selecting refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan were abandoned in 2002 and 2003. According to a NZIS = briefing to then Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel.
The security situation [in Afghanistan and Pakistan] is not expected to improve in the near future and the mission has already been deferred for over a year. A final decision on staff travel will be made by the Service once assurances about the relative risks and security measures are confirmed. NZIS Briefing Report 6 October 2003
Of course Mr Ryall may not trust these officials briefings. Possibly the only way Mr Ryall's mind can be set at rest is by visiting Afghanistan himself and enjoying its safety and stability. If Mr Ryall is able to get in touch with globe trotting businessman Alan Gibbs he may even be able to arrange some accommodation with Mr Gibbs' latest friend - Afghanistani warlord Roshid Dostum.
It seems every time the Ministry of Social Development institutes a new policy, former boss Christine Rankin is dragged out by Newstalk ZB and immediately slams the whole process as being un-workable. Ms Rankin never seems to be able to offer anything constructive to the process other than fondly advocating her failed policies from the 1990s that surely no-one else remembers fondly.
Ms Rankin seems to be a big advocate of tough-love although it's not immediately certain where the love part is to be found. Given Ms Rankin was jilted by the Ministry of Social Development five years ago it'd be nice if she could just get over the relationship break-and move on. Surely that would be the advice she'd have dished out to the poor broken hearted letter writers desperate enough to write in seeking her advice on now defunct TVNZ 'Hows Life' programme.