Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Influenza revisited

Wellingtonians will be familiar with the case of Bahati, a young chimp from Wellington zoo, who recently died of human influenza despite the best care that vet or doctor could provide. By contracting human influenza he demonstrated what is meant by influenza "jumping the species barrier". For unknown reasons when influenza does this the resulting infection tends to be particularly severe.

Bahati's case does not mean that the bird flu pandemic has reached New Zealand because he suffered from ordinary human influenza. Overseas bird flu has spread to Europe causing heavy casualties amongst birds, but so far H5N1 (avian influenza or bird flu) has not established itself amongst humans.

For the moment there is no human epidemic and there have been no reported cases of the bird flu virus in New Zealand. Sometimes it is an advantage to be a long way from the rest of the world. There is also another advantage in being "down under" as we are currently moving into summer. Influenzas tend to be much worse in winter so we have a six-month period of lower risk during which we can monitor events in the rest of the world.

The question that most people ask is "What can I do to be ready for an epidemic?" The simple answer is that the response has to be coordinated by the authorities. A recent "Time" magazine article commented on responses to the 1918 epidemic in the USA. The authorities worried excessively about population panic. However, if people have risks explained to them, most won't panic and many will volunteer to help. In 1918 the authorities in San Francisco were unique in being up front with their population. Volunteers trained for ambulance duties and nursing auxiliaries were also trained. Many of these people took huge personal risks but at the end of the day San Francisco had the lowest mortality of any major city in the United States. We don't have to worry about the people panicking - we only have to worry about the people in charge panicking.

Identity Confusion Disorder

New Zealand First MPs seem to be suffering from a new condition - Identity Confusion Disorder. Last week there was much discussion about seating in the debating chamber - in particular about whether Winston and the New Zealand First caucus would sit on the government side of the house or on the opposition benches. The general feeling was that if Winston is Minister of Foreign Affairs and has an agreement to support the Labour government on matters of confidence then it was more appropriate for him to sit on the government side of the house. New Zealand First however didn't agree.

The latest edition of the Economist has an article about "Helen Clark's creative government-making" entitled 'A beast with several backs'. The Economist asks if it is possible for a party to join a government and stay in the opposition at the same time - a very good question. The article goes on to say that Helen Clark has "entered into peculiar agreements with two smaller parties" and comments that "Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First, will be foreign minister - probably the only one ever anywhere from outside cabinet". The highly respected Economist obviously thinks Labour's arrangements are decidedly odd.

Media releases put out this week by other New Zealand First MPs clearly show they consider themselves part of the opposition, indicating that they are most unhappy with their Leaders commitment to supporting the Labour led government.

I can't help wondering if Winston Peters in his new role of Foreign Affairs Minister is attempting to model himself on Germany's longest standing Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. His party - the FDP (Free Democratic Party) - famously switched sides in 1982 from its coalition with the Socialist Democratic Party to support the CDU/CSU (Christian Coalition) in their Constructive Vote of No Confidence to replace Helmut Schmidt with Helmut Kohl as Chancellor. The switch created great controversy but Genscher retained his foreign minister and vice chancellor posts until he stepped aside in 1992. Winston Peters has shown his ability to switch sides but he has some way to go in meeting Genscher's free market credentials.

Investigation underway

New Zealanders can rest easy today in the knowledge that a Ministry of Consumer Affairs investigation is underway into Dummies/Pacificers. A discussion document has been produced and consultation invited with submissions closing on 9 December. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs reports that 15 complaints about pacifiers have been received since 1988 and "maintaining the status quo is not considered a desirable option as the potential injury risk remains". The concern is around small parts breaking away - what the discussion document doesn't say is who is to blame if small parts attach to a dummy when it falls out of a toddlers mouth then is reinserted and results in inhalation of these other foreign small parts


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Mayor of Auckland: Alert Level Change Welcome News

Mayor Phil Goff says the government’s decision to move Auckland to Level 2 from 6am on Sunday will be welcome news for all Aucklanders.
“Moving strongly and quickly to contain this outbreak has once again proved effective in stopping the spread of community transmission and I thank all the Aucklanders who have followed the rules of Level 3 over the past week,” he says... More>>


Earthquakes: Tsunami Activity – Cancelled

The National Advisory issued at 2:48pm following this morning's earthquakes near the KERMADEC ISLANDS REGION is cancelled.
The advice from GNS Science, based on ocean observations, is that the Beach and Marine threat has now passed for all areas... More>>

Joint Press Release: Dirty PR Exposed In Whale Oil Defamation Trial

Three public health advocates are relieved that their long-standing Whale Oil defamation trial against Cameron Slater, Carrick Graham, Katherine Rich and the Food and Grocery Council has finally concluded and they are pleased that the truth has come out... More>>


Government: Next Stage Of COVID-19 Support For Business And Workers

The Government has confirmed details of COVID-19 support for business and workers following the increased alert levels due to a resurgence of the virus over the weekend... More>>


Government: Balanced Economic Approach Reflected In Crown Accounts

New Zealand’s economic recovery has again been reflected in the Government’s books, which are in better shape than expected.
The Crown accounts for the seven months to the end of January 2021 were better than forecast in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU)... More>>

Covid-19: Auckland Back To Alert Level Three After One New Community Case Revealed

Auckland will move to alert level three for a week at 6am tomorrow morning after two new Covid-19 community cases announced this evening could not be directly linked to earlier cases, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
The rest of the country will move to level two.... More>>

NZ Initiative: New Report Highlights How Our Housing Crisis Could Worsen If We Don’t Act Now

If New Zealand politicians thought the housing crisis in 2020 was bad, the worst is yet to come, warns a new report by The New Zealand Initiative. In The Need to Build: The demographic drivers of housing demand , Research Assistant Leonard Hong ... More>>

Parliament: Kiwi MPs Among The “Most Educated In The World”

New analysis of MP qualifications reveals New Zealand’s Parliament is one of the most educated and highest qualified in the world, and significantly more educated than Australia’s. The research, by Mark Blackham of BlacklandPR and Geoffrey Miller ... More>>




InfoPages News Channels