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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary


Waitangi

I experienced my first trip to Waitangi last weekend and my first Waitangi Day ceremonies and celebrations at the site where the Treaty was signed 166 years ago. The weather was great, the scenery magical with the frigate Te Mana anchored in the harbour, the people friendly and the atmosphere peaceful and carnival like. My previous impressions - mostly from television coverage - were of protests throughout the weekend by angry Maori. Undoubtedly this was a good year at Waitangi but I saw none of that. Tariana Turia told me to expect a great carnival and she was right. The general consensus was that the protestors are now in parliament. Maori have their own independent voice. The ACT caucus looks forward to working with the Maori Party in the areas where we have commonality - property rights and devolution of social spending but especially in tackling Welfarism. If this is a sign of future race relations in New Zealand we should feel very encouraged. The message from the kiwis Rodney and I met at Waitangi was "thanks for coming". It was our pleasure.


The Danish Cartoons and Free Speech

In September last year Denmark's biggest-selling daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, printed twelve cartoons of the prophet Muhammed in various poses. The newspaper's stated issue was self censorship; a Danish author had written a children's book on the life of Muhammed but was unable to find an illustrator. Most Muslims believe it is offensive to depict the Prophet and the artists feared retribution from Muslim zealots. The fact that the artists were imposing censorship on themselves because of fear, worried the Jyllands-Posten who asked 40 Danish arists to submit a likeness. Only twelve responded and those were the cartoons that were published. They were of variable quality and some were offensive.

Given that most Westerners have never heard of Jyllands-Posten and very few speak Danish the matter would have been quickly forgotten had it not been for an hystrical reaction in Muslim countries. The Danish embassy was burned down in Lebanon and in Afghanistan a British Army contingent had to go to the aid of a beseiged Nordic Unit. As usual there have been anti-American riots although the USA is not involved.

As a result the cartoons have been big news and many papers including The Dominion Post and The Press have reproduced them. Websites featuring the cartoons have had many visitors. I find that nothing makes me want to read something more than being told I'm not allowed to. The only reason I bought "Spycatcher" was because the British government banned it.

Helen Cark's response has been to say that she believes in "free speech but……" Readers may recall Helen Clark's vitriolic attacks on the Exclusive Bretheren at election time when she declared them a "weird cult". Labour Minister David Parker likened them to the Taliban. Quite why it is OK to make very disparaging comments about a small group of law abiding, tax paying citizens who may have different religious beliefs to most New Zealanders but not about a huge religion when there might be trade implications is not clear. While the Prime Minister preaches tolerance she practices selective tolerance. The controversy surrounding the cartoons is an issue of "Freedom of Speech" but to have real freedom of speech there must be no conditions beyond the bounds of the law - equality before the law. Information should be readily available so that each of us can form our own opinions. For this reason we should be grateful to the editor of the Dominion Post for his courage in reproducing the cartoons.


Apples and Core Issues

It's not quite official but a proposal by FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) will mean that foods cannot be labelled and advertised as healthy if one serve contains more than 16 grams of sugar. This cuts out big apples and big bananas will also be maligned. The future for cherries is uncertain. They are "sweet" but the number of cherries in one serve and therefore the exact amount of sugar per serve is, as yet, undetermined. To the best of my knowledge apples and bananas are still good for you and 5+ a day (the recommended 5 servings of fruit and veg) is the basis of a healthy diet. In typical 'big government' fashion there is already talk of an amendment to the proposed regulation - natural sugars may be given an exemption. My suggestion is that government should forget about giving dietary advice and stick to core issues. Issues like providing defence and security for its citizens or tax cuts - that would be a real treat. For more detail on "An apple a day is bad for you?" as published in The Rural News on 7 February 2006, go to http://www.act.org.nz/news-article.aspx?id=27512.


ENDS

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