March 10, 2008
DOUBLE SPEAK: Mar 05
Killing us softly with their song
Cellphones kill 17 in road crashes”, screamed the newspaper headline, or something like it. I almost choked on the latte (come on, I live in Auckland). Seventeen people a year being killed because drivers are using cellphones, I thought to myself. Almost enough to warrant reconsidering my “yeah, right” attitude to the problem. And then I read on. It was actually 17 deaths over seven years. And on the strength of that, the Nanny-State brigade are calling for a blanket ban on the use of cellphones in vehicles, including a ban on the use of hands-free kits.
“It’s not the cellphone that’s the worst problem,” they wail to sympathetic, liberal, control-freak journalistic lap-puppies, “it’s the conversation. People can’t drive and talk at the same time. It’s not safe!” No. Apparently not. Not with a rampaging death rate of two and a half people per year. What’s next, a lead story in the Herald telling us, shock horror, “100% increase in cellphone-related fatalities prompts call for Government to introduce emergency regulations…”?
Ah, they’re a right little bunch of comedians, these.
It’s almost enough to make me think Darwin might actually have been right. Perhaps a segment of our population, mainly in the left-wing liberal camp, really are the natural descendants of apes and that’s why we’re fast becoming a banana republic. Buried, a week later, in a much smaller story in the paper was Matthew Dearnaley’s brave attempt to provide some much needed balance. He reported that the biggest distractions for drivers in road smashes were passengers talking and/or drivers reaching for or looking for something while they drove.
Add to that the third-largest factor in road smashes – fiddling with those pesky, all-the-bells-and-whistles-you-can-afford car stereos with the really really really small buttons and even tinier writing on the knobs – and you’ve got a whole heap of bigger causes of road fatalities than cellphones.
You are actually more at risk, in Auckland anyway because I’ve seen it happen, of being pinged in a cellphone drive-by where - either as pedestrian or fellow passing motorist – you’re clouted around the head as a result of another enraged driver throwing their malfunctioning phone with the fiddly buttons out the window.
Cellphones are a distraction for drivers, don’t get me wrong. They can, in some cases, lead to road accidents. But how many more accidents are caused by three year old twins Amanda and Timothy in the back screeching like proverbial banshees because one bit the other or you didn’t go the route they wanted or you just passed an icecream shop without stopping – need I go on?
Then there’s autocide – suicide by car. It’s a fair bet that a large chunk of our road fatalities each year are people who’d had enough of the screaming in the back seat, or anywhere else for that matter.
Frankly, I can’t see why the Government is even bothering with this half-baked plan to ban cellphones and headsets when Frau Clark could simply wave her dictatorial finger and get the thought police in Labour’s Cabinet to adopt the full-baked version and simply ban road accidents. Fullstop.
We could have the police officers currently manning speed traps reassigned to ride shotgun in ambulances, where they could sternly admonish and occasionally administer a jolly good kicking to victims of roadcrashes, and slap ‘em with an instant $500 fine before they even reach the hospital.
Because let’s face it: if the logic behind banning cellphones is to ensure drivers don’t get distracted by conversations, then we may as well ban passenger seats in vehicles. Only then could you reduce the likelihood of a conversation breaking out. Governments introduce stupid laws by first creating a climate of fear and then milking those fears for all they’re worth. And the biggest tragedy is that New Zealand’s Fourth Estate is complicit in the crime.
DOUBLE SPEAK: Feb 05
The love of the common people
Like an old Paul Young tune, the National Party has finally twigged to a vital fact – it needs the love of the common people if it is to ever regain the treasury benches from Labour’s Amazons. But how? Leader Don
Brash whistled a few notes of the new theme tune at last month’s Orewa speech, and at first blush it seems he may be on to something. Not in the grab-em-by-the-cojones style of his race relations circuit breaker a year earlier, but more in the style of a slow burner — a navigational change that doesn’t seem so big right now but come election time will offer voters a clear choice.
What Brash, and behind him National’s strategists like Murray McCully, has done is recognise that the Clark Government has massively polarized the country in a way not seen since the last Muldoon years. There is no “middle ground” in Labour support — Prime Minister Helen Clark’s supporters worship her like a heathen goddess, her detractors loathe her administration with a passion that few bother to conceal these days. It is hard to find somebody genuinely on the fence in this election year — while there are many professing to be on the fence, when pushed you’ll find they simply can’t agree on a viable alternative to Labour. It is said that Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them.
This year could be an exception to that rule if the centre right Opposition parties cannot convince the electorate that they have the mana to rule and rule well. More people loathe Labour than love it — that much is clear from National’s ability to surge dramatically into the lead in the polls on key issues. But forging an alliance among the disparate groups who oppose the Government is proving more difficult.
Hence Brash’s appeal to the average kiwi battler.
National knows that little and medium-sized punters on Struggle Street hold the key to this election. These are people who pay taxes, work long hours in honest toil to feed not only their own family but a rapidly burgeoning coterie of Labour Party hangers-on. There’s no truth to the biting rumour in some circles that Government-owned Air New Zealand will be introducing a new “Beneficiary Class” to cater for Labour Party supporters when the public funding trough is widened in this year’s budget.
The average Kiwi has traditionally been fairly tolerant and ready to lend a hand to those further down the rung, but Labour Government moves like The Artist’s Dole and $30,000 grants for Hip-Hop holidays and reunions in Las Vegas for NZ members of the Lesbian Patagonian/NZ Friendship Society and Birdwatching Club, or the mysterious leap in sickness and invalid beneficiary numbers while Labour crows about reduced numbers on the unemployment benefit, all of this adds up to some beneficiaries not only biting the hand that feeds but amputating it at the shoulder.
Increasingly, Labour has been showing signs of a party living it up like there’s no tomorrow, spending vast fortunes buying votes in immigrant and beneficiary communities so it can impose massive social engineering on a reluctant majority population.
If National can convince the bruised and battered battlers on Struggle Street that it’s time to stop rolling over every time the Labourettes in the Beehive hiss, then we could yet see a change in Government.