Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 28 March 2008 - 28 March 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully

MP for East Coast Bays

Health Nazi Heaven on the Way

Having satisfied themselves for years with slagging school tuck shops, tormenting McDonalds and administering sanctimonious lectures about unhealthy food, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, the Health Nazi Fraternity has suddenly decided to get serious. Why go nibbling around the edges of the issue when you have a government in place that is prepared to deliver full-on Health Nazi Heaven?

The new Health Nazi Nirvana comes in the form of the Public Health Bill currently before a select committee. And a key provision in the new Bill is to be found in clause 374. The clause provides that ”The Governor General may, by order in Council, make regulations at any time for all or any of the following purposes.”

One of those purposes, according to clause 374 (r) is “the prohibition or regulation of the importation, manufacture, packing or sale of anything likely to introduce or increase a risk to public health."

And another, according to clause 374 (x) is “reducing or assisting in reducing risk factors (within the meaning of S79) associated with or related to non communicable diseases.”

Now casual observers of the parliamentary process over the years will recall that at pivotal periods in our history Parliament has paused to conduct lively, even passionate, debate on such conscience issues as the availability of alcohol or cigarettes, and sponsorship or advertising of such products. On these occasions Parliament has sought to reconcile the competing interests of the freedom of the individual with a desire to relieve the health budget of the costs of unhealthy lifestyles. Well, according to the provisions of this Bill, such debates will, in future be redundant. In place of the consciences of the assembled Members of the House of Representatives, and the detailed consideration of both Parliament and the select committees, will be substituted the whim of the public health bureaucrat.

But it goes much further than the traditional debates around alcohol and smoking. Anodyne references to non-communicable diseases are in fact references to such afflictions as obesity or diabetes. And what the Health Nazis have designed is a Bill that will give them carte blanche to go on search and destroy missions against anything they deem to be a cause of these or similar public health targets.

Just think about it: the power to ban anything at all at the border by regulation if it is deemed to be a risk to public health. The power to ban the manufacture of anything that falls foul of this same elusive criterion. The ability to tell supermarkets that certain goods can only be displayed in particular areas or sold to people over certain ages - all without the benefit of any Parliamentary debate.

And if Parliament loses its senses sufficiently to pass the Bill, look out McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut. The faceless grey public health bureaucrats, unrestrained by Parliamentary scrutiny, will have all manner of new regulations as to how and where they might advertise their products, age restrictions as to who they might sell them to, restrictions on hours they will be able to open, and requirements that all products be sold in plain black packets with appropriate health warnings prominently displayed. And that’s not all. Surely the nation’s children would be much healthier if all fish and chip shops were required to close at 7.00 pm on week nights and all day on Sundays? No problem. This new law gives the Health Nazis the power to regulate precisely that.

Too far fetched, do you think? Well, if they don't intend to exercise such draconian powers, why have they dished up a Bill and asked Parliament to pass it?

Mark our words. The worldwide headquarters of has been studying the insidious, self-serving Health Nazi brigade over many years as they have pocketed millions of dollars of taxpayers’ cash in the promotion of their politically correct causes. Now, they have spotted the opportunity in the dying days of their favourite Government to write themselves a blank legislative cheque for the period ahead. Anyone who takes this Bill cheaply will surely live to regret it.

No Decent Tax Cut, but New Trains for Dr Cullen

The most reluctant tax cutter in the western universe was on the case again this week, dampening down public expectations of a decent tax cut for hard-working New Zealanders. Stung by rising interest rates, higher petrol prices and larger supermarket bills, this is precisely the time that New Zealanders need to hang on to a little more of their hard-earned cash. But eight and a half years of bad habits are hard to break. So having reluctantly accepted the instruction of his caucus colleagues to deliver tax cuts, Dr Cullen is now busily (and shamelessly) chiseling back the scale of his concession.

How very very unfortunate that, at the same time, Dr Cullen is assertively pursuing the purchase of the Toll railway assets from the reluctant sellers who currently own them. Not satisfied with having purchased the tracks back in 2003, Dr Cullen now wants the whole train set to play with. And he is clearly shaping up to spend around $750 million of taxpayers’ cash to do so.

All of which is difficult to understand. Because the $750 million that Dr Cullen is absolutely bursting to spend on his new train set is about half the $1.5 billion he is prepared to allocate to tax cuts. The $1.5 billion that he insists it would be absolutely impossible to increase. What an interesting set of priorities he has.

And the Exodus Continues to Grow

If ever reinforcement was needed, the behaviour of Dr Cullen this week will have reinforced the decision of 78,563 New Zealanders who left this country for good in the year ending February 2008. This figure is up from 69,305 for the year ending February 2007 – an increase of 13.5%.

The Government Statistician tells us that 43,175 of those departing Kiwis headed to Australia, a whopping 21.9% increase on last year’s departures (35,412).

Even more alarming is the conclusion from some studies that 25% of all of the students ever to graduate from a New Zealand tertiary institute now live overseas. For Australia, the comparable figure is a mere 2.5%.

And Dr Cullen doesn’t think we have a problem.


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