Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the Heather Roy coup, and the liquor vote

August 18th, 2010

Image & Audio: Hide Ducks Questions on ACT Leadership Coup

The entire Act caucus would fit comfortably into a small rowing boat. If Rodney Hide can’t manage an internal discussion among five people about the party’s leadership without throwing people overboard, what on earth is he doing trying to organise the biggest city in the country? If he can’t tolerate dissent within his own micro-party, what credentials does he bring to the table for managing the various communities of interests within the Supercity?

The more reticent Hide is about his reasons for dumping Roy, the less likely it is that her sins were major. Forget the whispers of her trying to ‘topple’ Hide. She can do the math. She knew her only ally was Sir Roger Douglas. That’s two. The other three were solid, and three can always outvote two. Her sin had been to voice concerns last November about a strategy based on populism when Hide had just been caught jaunting overseas with his girlfriend at taxpayer expense. Despite the later repayment and penitence, the damage has been indelible.

Then, in her now notorious speech in February, Roy warned against the party’s continued reliance on winning Epsom. In context – she was at a party conference and trying to motivate the troops – it seemed like a perfectly ordinary exhortation to the faithful to go out and evangelise for the cause, and not rest on their laurels. Only in the deep recesses of the reptilian brain of her leader could that speech be construed as mutiny. Was Hide being chaffed by his boardroom buddies for not keeping that young lady in line? Maybe the real reason Rodney Hide dumped Heather Roy was a fit of ‘roidal rage at her insolent inversion of his initials.

In the end though, it probably came down to the perks. In all likelihood, Hide was simply not willing to let Roy continue to receive her $204,000 Cabinet minister’s salary for the next fifteen months, and so engineered a way to give it to his ally, John Boscawen instead. Hang the impact on the party : these guys know they’re toast. Electorally speaking, can there possibly be a less attractive triumvirate than Rodney Hide, John Boscawen and David Garrett? They’re an interesting argument for the proposition that over time, you start to look like your own economic theories. Ugly, ugly, and bugly.

Roy by contrast, brought youth, gender diversity and genuine competence to her roles in consumer affairs and defence. Her fate will be a lasting indictment of the thugs who demanded her silence. After all, when by by comparison, you make Roger Douglas look like the fount of democracy and the free play of ideas, you’re really in trouble. No less than Hide, Roy now owes it to the saner members of the public who voted for her party to explain the reasons for her dumping. Silence only perpetuates the Stalinist aura surrounding around these events. She has done nothing wrong – and she would be doing a great deal that is right by speaking up.


The liquor vote

Conscience votes, to misquote the Bard, can make cowards of us all. There is no useful connection to be made between raising the age for buying alcohol – on, or off, licensed premises – and the culture of binge drinking. Experts like Professor David Sellman of the National Addiction Centre believe that the plan to raise the off-license age to 20 is not dealing with the underlying problems of binge drinking.

“There is a key strategy on the part of the Government to label New Zealand’s drinking culture as a youth problem.”Professor Sellman said. 92 per cent of “problem drinkers” were over the age of 20 and this is where the Government needs to put its attention.

What this “conscience” vote will be is an exercise in tokenism, one that treats the young as politically useful scapegoats. The Keep it 18 grouping (made up of the youth wings of Labour, National, Act and the Greens) is absolutely right in urging MPs not to hop on this particular bandwagon.

Despite their efforts, Parliament is likely to favour the so called “ split” option – whereby people can drink on licensed premises at 18, but not buy alcohol from off-license liquor outlets until they are 20. True, this is a lesser evil than the utterly barmy idea of raising the purchase age to 20 right across the board. That route would have major repercussions for bars, music venues and a whole swathe of youth culture – again, for no genuine reason, beyond enabling the politicians to look as if they are doing something.

The response to binge drinking has to be managed across the entire community. Given the place alcohol has within the habits of many of the MPs exercising their ‘conscience’ vote, their consciences should be troubled by any moves to crack down on the young, especially if they aim to vote for denying the right to purchase alcohol to 18 and 19 year olds, on or off license.

There is an alternative. Keep it 18 in the meantime. Vote the funds to tackle this problem properly and – especially – be willing to curtail the way the liquor industry peddles its drugs to the community. A fairer, less unequal society where people didn’t feel impelled to drown their sorrows in alcohol would be a help, too.


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    1. 14 Responses to “On the Heather Roy coup, and the liquor vote”

    2. By Stuart Munro on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      Heather Roy joins Katherine Rich and Laila Harre in the group of promising women candidates displaced by substantially inferior men. New Zealand politics is not so burdened by an excess of talent that it should have squandered theirs. I didn’t like her politics, but she was undeniably real. Jackasses like Rodney on the other hand, are a dime a dozen.

    3. By Matt on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      I wonder if Heather Roy is contemplating Hamlet’s great soliloquy today?

    4. By andin on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      “A fairer, less unequal society where people didn’t feel impelled to drown their sorrows in alcohol would be a help, too.”

      Hear hear

    5. By andy on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      Difference is that when under 20’s get on it – it often results in fighting, drink driving or teen pregnancy … they simply are not equipped emotionally to handle large amounts of sugar loaded alcoholic drinks. I would say that I fall into the category of a ‘moderate drinker’ but exercise my right to do so without impacting on anybody else other than myself ..

    6. By James on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      the drinking culture has to be targeted. one of the best ways to do this is to remove the idea that heavy drinking leads to a good time. one way to do this is to encourage sociable drinking. at the moment some people, especially students, buy a slab or a bottle and get loaded at home — simply because it is the cheap option. they then head off to a party or bars etc. if drinks were cheaper in bars (eg tax was lower) then more sociable drinking habits could be encouraged. atm a beer in nz is about $7 in a bar — vs $1 in a supermarket. in the US it is about $2 vs $2 etc…

    7. By Cheryl on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      I don’t agree with her politics necessarily but I do empathise with Heather Roy – another target of bullying in the workplace … Anyone who has been, or has been close to someone in that siutation will recognise in her story a classic set of behaviours from Rodney Hide. Unfortunately there is no law in NZ to protect Heather from bullying by her “boss” but at least in her case she can get media coverage to expose the bully. Hopefully it will raise awareness and help other targets too.

    8. By James on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      This is just the kind of delusional stereotyping that got us here in the first place!

    9. By kaisern on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

      Just point out there james that our beer on tap is 10x better than american now

      I strongly believe NZ should keep it 18- an age change will not affect me but there seem to be some fallacy that raising the age will mean no more tragic under 18 deaths…some caused by them stealing their parents liquor and not fake id or older kid… quite simply it’ll mean 20 yr olds will get double their clientèle and an underground market will be established, we will saying to kids that it is alright to be responsible enough to smoke, solicit and pimp but not enough to buy a 6 pack or the like
      Simply, better alcohol education in form 3/ year 9 is what is needed, get it at the source with less of a scare tactic- that hasn’t worked but an actual campaign to introduce responsible drinking- for a start making a drinking age proper in NZ would be a start- we have a de facto one of 5 i believe as a criminal offence of parental negligence or something but unless we raise that to 12 at least there will be no change.

    10. By Elyse on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

      “A fairer, less unequal society where people didn’t feel impelled to drown their sorrows in alcohol would be a help, too.”

      Gordon, surely you jest? There are many countries where there is far more inequality than in NZ, and less of a problem with drinking. USA for one.
      And how do you explain the alcoholism of celebrities, young and old, who have enjoyed more than their fair share of “equality”?
      Alcoholism is the result of several factors, including the gene of addiction and deep psychological issues related to parenting.
      Exterior forces such as hard times might provide an excuse, but they don’t cause it.
      I am married to an alcoholic who gave up alcohol 30 years ago with the help of AA. We moved to New Zealand from overseas and from the day we arrived he was ridiculed at social gatherings for not drinking. This is common with anyone who doesn’t drink. Until alcoholism ceases to be a dirty word in NZ, and until drinkers stop blaming the booze, the drinking age, the easy access, the hard times, youth culture, we will have a major problem which costs us, the tax payers, and funders of the health system, far too much money which could be spent on creating a more “equal” society.

    11. By Jo on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

      Whatch the Act space! Odd stuff has been going on for a while with Rodders – girlfriends, slagging off the PM, dancing with the stars… sounds like we are finally getting a glimpse of the murky reality behind the facade.

    12. By Rosalind on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

      “They’re an interesting argument for the proposition that over time, you start to look like your own economic theories. Ugly, ugly, and bugly.”

    13. By roderick on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

      Gordon – I think you mean to say “she can do the maths”.

    14. By Harold Land on Aug 20, 2010 | Reply

      Gordon – I think you mean to say “she can do the maths”.

      The yanks won the war, may as well surrender the English language to them too.

    15. By Tim on Aug 21, 2010 | Reply

      I’ve had the opportunity to observe 17-21 year olds in a university hostel environment for a good number of years, and to compare that with my own cohort in the early ’90s. I do think the lowering of the age of purchase was a mistake, and especially off-licence, as – while we all imbibed once upon a time – it was with nowhere near the frequency or access as today. Raising the age alone certainly doesn’t solve the binge-drinking issue, but could (and should) be part of a suite of responses.

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