Monday, March 05, 2007

A little Green on the inside.

I've always been someone deeply concerned about our environment, and in this regard have held some sympathies towards the greenie protestations coming from the Green Party. Unfortunately their few iotas of sense are mixed up with the likes of scaremongering (peak oil, and even more so an almost fanatical opposition to the wonders of Genetic Engineering) and their other extreme political viewpoints that are completely non-environment related, and often completely at odds with my perspective. Examples would include their considering the Treaty of Waitangi in almost gospel like proportions, leading them to positively discriminate towards maori - a concept that has gained in popularity with the emergence of the maori party as a force, their seemingly unmitigated desire to perpetuate the cycle of welfare dependency, and an addiction to increased social spending.

However, at the risk of being accused of authoritarianism or being a 'filthy filthy tory', I have found myself in the rare situation of agreeing with Metiria Turei and Hone Harawira. They back up the Cancer Society and OSH's desire to ban point of sale displays of cigarette and tobacco products. It's a very nanny statish call but it's one I would be in favour of. Smoking is a disgusting habit which leads to a plethora of health problems such as lung cancer, never mind the cigarette companies making huge profits from the addictions of the populace (especially from the lower socio-economic groups who are over represented in these statistics). These companies will naturally exploit any means of marketing their product (even at times in breach of legal regulations) - and no doubt these above the counter visual images increases their sales. Check out the Cancer Society article for further discussion upon this point. Smoking really is something we need to encourage youngsters not to take up, so we should do what we can on this score. Plus if there's anything we can do to drastically reduce the number of cigarettes people smoke we should try and do it. If something as simple as product placement even might make a difference then it's worth a go. It is rather ironic though that the Greens are strongly against cigarettes and yet would decriminalise (or even legalise) Marijuana - and have an avowed pot smoker amongst their ranks.

Another idea coming out of the Green Party ranks shouldn't be completely dismissed. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has suggested that those who sign up to Kiwisaver should be given a 'socially responsible' option as to where to invest, citing that "the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has investments in companies that manufacture nuclear weapons, destroy the environment and breach labour and human rights". I don't know the validity of his claims, nor how he defines destroying the environment - chances are he's spouting some extremist propaganda - but his comments do raise a question in my mind: when looking to invest - do we just look for simply the best financial return or should we try and balance this out a little with our moral and social concerns? I suggest the latter. Life shouldn't just be about more money at whatever cost.

Having stood up for the Green Party a little here, readers should be clear that overall I think their set of policies is one of the crazier in parliament, and one of the most out of tune with my perspective. But sometimes, just sometimes, there's a smidgeon of sense hidden away somewhere. Most of the time this is where conservation is concerned - but occasionally, sense crops up elsewhere!


andrewfalloon said...


Interesting points you raise. However, I disagree with them both.

Firstly, Russel Norman wanting a social responsibility clause on kiwisaver. I do have some sympathy for this plan, I don't think any NZer should be forced to invest in a company they find morally reprehensible. The unfortunate thing for Governments (and the Green Party) is that what one person may find abhorrent, another may be totally fine with.

An example- from your recent posts I take it you would be against investment of your money in whaling. Fair enough, that is your right. But, would you have a problem in investment in a pig or dairy farm?? Many wouldn't. But ask a Jewish or Hindu New Zealander the same question and they would have remarkably differing answers.

The solution?? It should not be up to Government to decide where our funds go, it should be up to the individual. It is not up to the Government (or the bloody Green Party for that matter) to make moral judgements on my behalf. My morality is my own, and mine alone to answer to.

Secondly, your thoughts on smoking. You're a non smoker, I know this and respect that. As you are aware, after a few drinks, or when I am particularly stressed (election '05 being a good example!!) I sometimes enjoy a quiet smoke. I know it isn't good for me, but it's something I choose to do anyway. There are many ways a person can harm their own bodies, whether it be smoking tobacco, marijuana, eating crappy food or drinking to the level of intoxication.

As much as the Government would probably like to ban these things, the simple fact is they can't. Instead, a move has been made to take it out on everyone but the consumer.

Let's focus on smoking. Tax is a pretty clear way that the Government has gone after tobacco product manufacturers, i'm not saying this is necessarily wrong, just that smokers well and truly pay their own way through the public health system.

Secondly, non-smoking legislation in licensed premises. As you may know, I used to be a Bar Manager. One of the reasons I left the industry was the implementation of this legislation. Had I continued working, in addition to serving drinks, looking after ten busy pokie machines, clearing tables, and making sure no drunks are in the bar, I would have to be checking all parts of the bar (including female toilets) every few minutes to make sure nobody was smoking. And if they were?? I would be liable for a $10,000 fine. Yup, ten grand. And the person smoking?? Not a cent. The problem this raises is, I walk up to a person smoking "please put that out sir", he replies "no". The only option I then have is to ask him to leave, and hope that in the intervening time I have not been busted by a non-smoking officer. In a busy bar, it's not inconceivable that a person could smoke an entire cigarrette without being noticed.

We come then to the current issue, blocking cigarettes from view. You may not be aware, but there are already very specific limitations on how and where tobacco products are situated, particularly in relation to other products. In many cases, for a small dairy owner, these requirements have led to pretty high costs for a small business owner to account for.

And now we see Government trying to enforce more restrictions?? And for what?? In the hope that a person quitting will walk into a gas station and magically feel over his addiction because he can no longer see tobacco products?? Gimme a break. Do Labour really think we are that stupid?? What happened to free will and personal responsibility??

I say, smoke all you like, just don't expect me to pay for it; just like I don't expect you to pay for the lifestyle (the occasional drink and smoke) that I enjoy. What I ingest is my problem and my responsibility, society at large (and certainly not those who have nothing to do with me- dairy owners, bar managers etc) should not have to pay for any of it.

right winger said...

SO what you are saying is providing it suits you you dont mind the government being a nanny state, but when it doesnt suit you, you will get up and arms about it. Sort out your beliefs fussdog!

In regards to Russell Normans idea, what a load of shit. The superfunds aim is to invest in companies that will make the best return on investment. If people decide to go for the "socially repsonsible option" it could cost tax payers millions of dollars.

William Fussey said...

Andrew you make some very good points. You should be aware though - from reading my post - that our perspectives on at least some of the issues I raise are actually fairly similar.

I didn't say I agreed with exactly what Russel Norman wants, I said the idea "shouldn't be completely dismissed". I simply made the point that moral and social concerns should play a part in investment choices (as opposed to merely the best return).

I agree that ideally it should not be up to the government to decide where our funds go. The fact of the matter is that the government does decide, and it is tough luck if it goes somewhere we don't agree with. Russel Norman's points at least go some way to addressing this situation. As I said, I have no idea of the validity of his claims as to where the NZ Super money goes, and if those companies invested in do what he says, but the idea to at least give us an option of where our money is invested should be applauded.

Now to discuss your smoking points:

First of all you say that the Government would no doubt like to ban smoking. Maybe they would. But I wouldn't. I think that if you want to ingest a cigarette that's fair enough - I would just like to see people discouraged (especially youngsters from starting in the first place).

Your point on the problems of the implementation of non-smoking legislation in licensed premises is one I agree with.

I am aware of the current restrictions on where tobacco products are situated. However these rules are continually flouted. I point you to the following paragraph of the cancer society article:

"A NZ survey show that most stores and retail outlets sell tobacco in breach of current point-of-sale legislation, particularly dairies and convenience stores in areas with a higher proportion of children. This survey, carried out by by medical students from Otago University’s Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences and funded by the Cancer Society of New Zealand, is the first of its kind. It surveyed almost 300 stores and retail outlets in the greater Wellington region. Dairies (76%) and convenience stores (82%) were the most likely to break at least one or more of the regulations for retail tobacco displays. The three most common violations were having tobacco products closer than one metre to children’s products such as sweets (24% of all stores), failing to display a ‘Smoking Kills’ sign within 2 metres of the display (30%), and having tobacco displays which were visible from outside the shop (25%). Over half (55%) of dairies and convenience stores in the areas with the highest proportion of children displayed cigarettes within a metre of children’s products. The researchers argued that the current point of sale regulations are failing to protect children from tobacco marketing, and that a complete ban on point-of-sale display of tobacco is needed."

I believe that it would be a step in the right direction if cigarette products were not visible. This is not because of the argument you try to place in my mouth that "a person quitting will walk into a gas station and magically feel over his addiction because he can no longer see tobacco products". Of course this is patently ridiculous. The whole point of it being below the counter is that a person can walk in and ask for what they want without impressionable youth being bombarded with tobacco marketing. People will still be able to get their cigarettes - there's no loss to the consumer except the ability to make a choice on brand by browsing the display cabinet - so why not give it a try? Besides, most cigarette smokers stick with their brand, and cigarettes being displayed similarly, and in relative close proximity to the likes of lollies make it seem like an easy consumer item.

William Fussey said...

right winger:

I have never said I believe in having no nanny state. I believe in limited nanny state. If I were to believe in no nanny state then I would be a pure libertarian. Even the Act Party acquiesces in some form to the concept of a very limited nanny state. There are differing levels of nanny state. And yes, I believe that you can argue issue by issue on whether (and to what extent) nanny state can intrude. This is called debating by issue, rather than simply crying the mantra "nanny state" all the time as if this negates everything.

So right winger, let me ask you a question. If the best return on investment was decided to be a company that groomed paedophiles, would you be happy for your money to be invested there?

andrewfalloon said...

Somehow I don't think that company would be legal Fussey. However, if it was, surely that is a decision for "right winger" to make, not Russel Norman and not you??

Andrew said...

Now is definitely the time to invest in Nuclear weapons, the groth in anti US sentiment among terrorist groups and crappy third world trouble makers like Iran and North Korea mean that supply can't meet demand. Its time for NZ to get a piece of the pie.