Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Pinocchio component in politics

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In the film Liar, Liar lawyer Fletcher Reede, played by Jim Carrey, falls victim to his son Max’s wish that his dad won’t be able to tell a lie for 24 hours. For the sake of the plot, the wish comes true. The moral of the story is that we all lie constantly, and not to do so and be brutally honest instead, would get us into a lot of hot water.

And so we have seen politicians of all persuasions tell porkies over the last few weeks which the electorate appear to reluctantly accept, but I’m going to try and sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Have we really got 287,000 starving kids in this country? One in four we are told. Even one child going hungry in this land of relative plenty is one too many, but 287,000, if true, is surely a catastrophe. Assuming that parents would feed their kids first before they fed themselves that means we have upwards of 574,000 starving adults. And yet obesity is one of the biggest problems facing our health services.

I wonder if the counts are taken from some of Auckland’s poorer areas, where it is said, perhaps with equal exaggeration, that one in four shops is a liquor store. Suburbs where English is often a second language, and where drug abuse is rife. It could be that this distressing but selective situation is extrapolated to encompass the whole nation.

Then we have David Cunliffe saying that research from America has shown that raising the minimum wage has no effect on unemployment. First off, I doubt if there has been any “research from America.” If there was, it is flawed. When the Labour government abolished youth rates some years back, unemployment among our school leavers went through the roof.

This should be no surprise. Why would employers take on a kid just out of school if they had to pay him or her the same rate as a more mature and experienced person?

No one in their right mind would argue that increasing the minimum wage from $14.25 to $25 an hour would not create more unemployment. Going from $14.25 to $14.75 an hour probably wouldn’t, but going to $18.80 an hour most certainly would.

Any employer worth their salt would want to pay their staff the highest wages possible, but small business owners have to contend with rapidly rising costs and falling business activity due to competition from GST-devoid internet stores and offshore wage structures where our hourly rate can look like their weekly take home pay.

The NZ minimum wage is already the highest in the OECD compared to the median wage. Increases beyond the 66 per cent level which it’s currently at would undoubtedly have a negative impact on employment.

And then we move on to the environment. Ex-Aussie, righteous Russell Norman, wants the world to know that our clean green image is a crock and our rivers are the dirtiest in the world and are getting worse. And yet a summary of fresh water river conditions issued by the Ministry of the Environment in July 2013 stated: “Of the parameters we monitor, all our rivers are either stable or improving in most monitored sites. Four of our parameters show stable or improving trends in 90 per cent of sites.”

NIWA’s Dr Davies-Colley had this to say about our improving water quality: “The fact that some of our heavily polluted rivers – mostly in dairying areas – have turned the corner in recent years gives us cause for optimism for the future.”

Meanwhile a recent OECD survey measured the major rivers that flow through farmland in OECD countries. Out of 98 rivers surveyed worldwide for cleanliness the Clutha came in first, Waitaki was second and the Waikato was fourth.

And yet on TV 3s current affairs programme The Nation last Saturday the Green co-leader said “John Key will just accelerate the pollution of our rivers.”

Dare I say liar, liar Dr. Norman.

Fibs and straight out untruths are considered fair game during elections, but what long-term affect might they have on our way of life? The Greens have said they want to cap dairy farming at its current level, despite the fact that this industry is the country’s biggest earner and the loss of precious export income would not allow us to afford better hospitals, better schools and a cleaner environment.

Farmers have already fenced off 45,000 kilometres of rivers and streams and are doing more fencing and planting all the time. There are river care and land care groups on all the main rivers and many of our smaller rivers and streams across New Zealand. They are spending millions of dollars to improve water quality. They include farmers, Fonterra, Dairy NZ, NZ Beef and Lamb, Landcare NZ, Federated Farmers, iwi, fertiliser companies, universities and regional councils.

By loudly exaggerating problems with our “Pure” marketing brand the Greens have wittingly sabotaged New Zealand’s international reputation. What voters need to remember is that farmers made us a rich country, not the state.

Pinocchio had a big nose because he lied too much.

I was born with mine.

“Our environment is being sold down the river” - David Cunliffe


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