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Real issues - No 207

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 207
1 June 2006




Wednesday 31 May marked World Smokefree Day. Te Reo Marama, the Maori Smokefree Coalition, published large advertisements in several major newspapers calling Maori an "endangered species". The ads said: "Tobacco companies are killing Maori like you wouldn't believe". The Coalition called on New Zealanders to "... get rid of tobacco" and "... work together to save our most precious native species."

There is no doubt that the smoking rate among Maori is horrific. Research published by Auahi Kore points out that in 2002, nearly half (49 percent) of Maori smoked - a far higher proportion than other ethnicities. Quite clearly, something must be done. Controversial advertisements are an effective way to raise awareness, but noise is not automatically helpful.

In this instance, the ad paints Maori as passive victims, rather than as people empowered to take responsibility for their own health. However much one might dislike tobacco companies, they can only produce cigarettes; they cannot force anyone to light up.

The smoking rate must come down, and particularly among Maori, but the road to a smoke-free New Zealand lies in empowering people to take charge of their own lives and futures, not in positioning them as victims. Real change requires a variety of approaches, including a multitude of personal choices and the inward determination to carry them through.

More information on Maori smoking is available here: http://www.auahikore.co.nz/research/index.htm


Grandstanding abounds this week, as our main political parties trade snide remarks. Prime Minister Helen Clark has accused Don Brash of being "unpatriotic" for talking up Australia at the expense of New Zealand. Dr. Brash responded indignantly, parading his Nationalist credentials and pride in the country's achievements. The dispute raises the wider question: what is a patriot?

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, to be patriotic is to be "devoted to the interests or well-being of one's country". Patriotism is loyalty to a nation, not a particular government, political party or policy. To believe that New Zealand can do better, and to say so, is not unpatriotic. New Zealand citizenship has no ideological or political test, and is overlaid with no wider political allegiance, other than to a common Sovereign and common institutions, such as Parliament and the rule of law. They rightly have a claim on our allegiance; individual political parties and policies, of whatever stripe, do not.

Dr. Brash has been comparing New Zealand's performance economically (and our standard of living) with Australia's, just as all politicians do when it suits them. It is common for us to measure our performance against our Commonwealth allies. Dr. Brash might have said little else recently, but that makes him repetitive, not unpatriotic.

Dr. Brash believes that he has the country's best interests at heart. So, no doubt, does the Prime Minister. That makes both of them sincere patriots, albeit with contrasting visions for the country. That is what democracy and democratic debate are all about.


As East Timor teeters on the brink of chaos, the government has approved the deployment of up to 200 New Zealand soldiers to help restore order there. New Zealand is working in co-operation with an Australian-led force, which also includes Portugal and Malaysia.

Whether it is patrolling the streets of Dili, or reviewing policing in the Cook Islands, contributing to regional assistance missions is important because it recognises that a stable Pacific is good for New Zealand's security. Our interests are served when our neighbours, trading partners and friends in the Pacific live in concord.

Many small Pacific nations are vulnerable, so preventing and combating instability is important for sustaining the region's security over the long term. New Zealand has traditionally looked out for its closest neighbours, and we ought to keep doing our bit. Sometimes protecting the weak and upholding security requires force, therefore we cannot afford to be lax in maintaining our own defence forces.

In doing so, we will also often work in concert with our allies, who share our interest in a stable Pacific. Australia, the United States and Britain are high on the list, and the European Union has also signalled an interest this week in an even stronger relationship with the Pacific, including more development aid, and better security.

This is a positive step, but because of its even closer connections, New Zealand needs to make sure its voice remains strong in Pacific affairs. Our intervention in East Timor is a welcome and concrete demonstration that we are determined to take regional security seriously, and to help keep order on our doorstep.



The University of Auckland Business School recently received an endowment of $10 million towards its development project. Writing in the New Zealand Herald this week, Dean of the School, Barry Spicer, highlighted how philanthropic giving to educational institutes in New Zealand is uncommon, and is particularly low compared with the United States. He said: "US Government tax concessions undoubtedly provide a powerful incentive. Philanthropy - private giving - is the reason the US has developed so many great universities, with tremendous resources and huge capacity and capability."

In New Zealand, education is viewed almost exclusively as the responsibility of government and tax concessions for charitable giving are minor, with low thresholds for rebates. In this context, and with the recent debate about the need to create an 'ownership society', the sizable donation to the Business School is particularly noteworthy.

When the community takes ownership of its own future, it has a clear and direct stake in what is going on. This does more than just channel money, it connects people.


This week Finance Minister Michael Cullen highlighted the Doing Business in 2006 report, published by the World Bank Group, which compares the ease of doing business in different countries. According to the ten factors measured, New Zealand was ranked first out of the 155 countries included in the research, for ease of doing business.

It is good that New Zealand is an easier place to do business than many other countries, but the real test is in the ongoing success of businesses, and their impact on the domestic economy. New Zealand might be ranked fourth in the world for ease of starting up a business, but how many of our local start-ups are still going strong several years on? These important questions must also be asked.

To read the report; Doing Business in 2006, please visit: http://www.doingbusiness.org/


Consider what a current advertisement for Kiwi Bank says:

"The big banks put profits first, that's a foreign concept to us."

What message does this send about profit? And why does Kiwi Bank exist?


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