Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

16th July 1999 - Winners and Losers

Copyright © 1999 Russell Brown

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it was weird. I woke up and it was like the Winebox hearings were still on. Winston Peters was there and everything. What? Oh. They are. And he is. Do the words "get over it" mean anything to you, Winston?

Actually, I'm thinking of leading a class action suit against Winston for inflicting Tuariki Delamere on the country. And Deborah Morris. Does "conspiracy to grossly annoy" consitute a cause of action, m'learned friends? It bloody well ought to.

Anyway, Winston's old party, National, was saved from the indignity of having to own up to the worst trade deficit in our history last weekend by the fact that it had a party conference and everyone wanted to see what, if anything, it could pull out of the hat.

It fell to the Prime Minister to deliver the pitch - that National was "a party of winners".

It may or may not have been aimed at cashing in on the All Blacks' 28-0 demolition of South Africa, but I don't think it's really going to stick. Not least because the leader who delivered the pitch didn't actually get the weekend's best ovation.

That, by some measure, apparently, went to that sizzling son of Southland, Bill English the Treasurer. It rather defeats me to imagine how anyone could jump to their feet and applaud after being honked at for half an hour by that voice, but applaud they did. Because Bill had brought them a tax cut.

Not much of a tax cut, in fact rather piddling one that delivers nothing to anyone earning less than $20,000 and less than $10 a week to most people. It's not a particularly logical or elegant change, but it is a positioning statement - or an election bribe, depending on who you listen to.

The Herald certainly did its bit for National, running a front page graphic comparing the two major parties' tax policies and claiming that Labour's would see someone on $75,000 a year pay $43 a week extra, and someone on $100,000 pay $71 extra. Quite scary. If it was true.

The next day, at the bottom of page five, the paper of record admitted it couldn't do its sums, and that Labour's increase for someone earning $75,000, or $1440 a week, would be $17 - or one third of what the Herald told its readers. The $100,000 earner will pay an extra $46.

But hold on. One principle of news journalism is that if you make a mistake, you endeavour to correct that mistake with something like the prominence of your original story. Does a paragraph at the bottom of page five fit the bill when the original was a front page lead? Hardly. The Herald has bottled out badly here.

But I did come across something much worse this week. The worst publication I've seen in a long, long time. Yes, even worse than the Sunday News. It's called 'GM Foods: Answers to your questions' and it's published by the Grocery Industry Council. You may find one sitting at your supermarket checkout. I got mine at St Lukes.

Where should I start? With meaningless tripe like "Mankind has always eaten genes without danger, as most foods contain them"? Or with the highly misleading claim that "Genetically Modified Foods are among the most extensively tested foods ever sold in the history of mankind"?

Or perhaps the very existence of a section in a purportedly neutral booklet titled 'Why do we need it?' It's always been my impression that I do not need GM foods at all.

It's not me that needs to make plants Round-Up resistant so I can sell even more herbicide. It's not me that wants to establish intellectual rights over basic foodstuffs and to pretty much co-opt the basic practice of agriculture by prosecuting farmers who save seeds from my plants. No, that'd be Monsanto, actually Ö

Oddly enough, RoundUp-readiness does not appear among the benefits of GM food listed in this booklet. It does however maintain that GM will produce "foods better suited to the nutritional needs of both humans and animals".

Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but I was under the impression that our nutritional needs have evolved in response to the environment over millions of years. If we had nutritional needs that were seriously out of whack with what the environment could provide we'd be evolutionary duds and would presumably have become extinct quite some time ago.

Then there's the wilful muddling up of food and medicine.

I could go on at some length about this shabby little effort, but I'll conclude by questioning the ethics of Professor Sir John Scott, president of the Royal Society of New Zealand in agreeing to endorse it. I'm appalled, basically.

While I think of it, thanks to those expats in the USA who emailed me strongly endorsing what I said last week about National's ACC reforms. Basically, we only have so much to get off the slippery slope before we're stuck with managed care, HMOs and all the evil they bring. I'm serious.

On a personal, but no less disturbing note, a shout of sympathy out to my friend Nat, who got burgled this week. The creeps took the TV and the video and rifled through the drawers, as usual - but they also stole his CD collection. The guy spends half his adult life building up an irreplaceable collection of hundreds of dance and reggae CDs and a lousy little bunch of creeps with no concept of the love that it took walks out with it. Fuck them.

What do we do here? When and how can we resource the police so they can actually address the burglary problem? Or even turn up at the scene? How do we bring people up to have even an ounce of respect for others? Or do we settle for a society where nobody really has anything worth owning - that is, something other than a readily-substituted commodity - because itíll just get stolen? Anyway, it happened on Wednesday night in Avondale. If anyone knows anything about it, please do the right thing and get Natís music back to him. bFM has his number.

And that's it from me this week. Short and sweet, because I have stuff to do before I fly out to New York for Macworld Expo. It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it. What I can't quite get my head around is the idea that I'm going somewhere where it's really, really hot. Anyway, I'm off to pack my shorts and I'll try and call Mikey on breakfast one morning. Till then Ö


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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