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News Worthy: Gossip is more powerful than truth

News Worthy

29 February 2008 - No. 239

Gossip is more powerful than truth

It is a widely held view in politics (and in the marketplace) that perception is more significant than reality.

Now we have a study reported by Reuters that gossip is more powerful than truth. The report suggests people believe what they hear through the grapevine even if they have evidence to the contrary.

Researchers, testing students using a computer game, also found gossip played an important role when people make decisions, according to Ralf Sommerfeld, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who led the study.

The researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that gossip has a strong influence even when participants have access to the original information as well as gossip about the same information.

Tagging and graffiti vandalism

From a media perspective Mr Owen Glenn, from Monaco, may have dominated proceedings in Parliament last week. In fact other more significant events were occurring - the Financial Advisers Bill was introduced, there was discussion about the future shape of the meat industry, events progressed to the signing of a free trade agreement with China and the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill was given its first reading.

The National Party supports the graffiti legislation with reservations. The Bill sits alongside a Manukau City Council local bill similarly dealing with the control of graffiti. That Bill however only relates to events within Manukau City. The Government Bill is intended to have application right through New Zealand.

Whilst graffiti may have had a proud history on the walls of ancient sepulchres or ruins in Rome and Pompeii, the Bill seeks to outlaw tagging and graffiti vandalism.

We are dealing with a world of jargon, where words like tag, throw-up, piece, wild style, and roller are in use.

There are significant costs associated with graffiti cleanup. Recent costs incurred by local authorities on an annual basis are:

* Wellington City $225,000

* Porirua City $200,000

* Hutt City $130,000

* Wanganui district $ 40,000

* Palmerston North $100,000

* Masterton $ 15,000

* Auckland City $750,000

A number of considerations at first blush spring from the Bill:

* There are other ways of delivering graffiti apart from spray cans

* The purchase of spray cans is limited to those under 18 years. That is a wholly arbitrary age-limit and the experience in New South Wales suggests that 18 years may not be the appropriate age bar.

* If the law is to have impact it needs to be enforced. So there is the issue of the readiness of the Police to prosecute in such cases including the available resources to mount such prosecutions.

* Whilst community sentences can be imposed which may involve the cleanup of the graffiti work by the offender, the legislation should go further and give property owners the right by civil process in the courts to recover the cleanup costs from the offender and his or her parent or caregiver.

Patient risks in hospitals

The Government continues to flounder and is ignoring the risks to patients of the growing chaos in our hospitals.

Top health officials have been forced to contradict the Health Minister's guarantee that the Whanganui DHB incident is an isolated case.

The Health and Disability Commissioner says severe workforce shortages led the Whanganui DHB to cut corners in employing competent staff. Mr Paterson says other DHBs face similar pressures and similar problems could happen elsewhere. He's recently described our hospitals as "unsafe".

The Government is in denial. Labour's third health minister in three years said on Tuesday 'What we have here is a very unusual circumstance. I'm not aware of anything like it around the country. So I would want to reassure New Zealanders in other regional areas that this is not something that we think is happening anywhere else in the country'.

The Minister's comments completely fly in the face of the Health and Disability Commissioner and the chairman of the Medical Council.

Professor John Campbell told media: 'There are a lot of doctors coming in from other countries to practise in New Zealand ... and the risks of something like this happening again are still there.'

And Dr Pim Allen, Southland DHB chief medical officer said: 'We do everything we can to take this really seriously and to do it responsibly. I can't of course give you an absolute guarantee because sometimes in the end sometimes people do leave things out of their CV.'

The Government needs to realise and recognise the gravity of the workforce shortage in New Zealand instead of ignoring it, and foolishly dismissing the risks to patients.

Political Quote of the Week

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." Thomas Jefferson - 3rd USA President

Dr Richard Worth National Party MP


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