Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the predator society

February 3rd, 2012

In these last few days before Parliament opens and the cycle of normal political life resumes, significant stories are gaining coverage that they might otherwise struggle to achieve. This morning, they included another example of consumers being treated as sitting ducks by supposedly “free market” forces.

Apparently, the retail price of a Steinlager six pack is $16 here where it is brewed, and only about $6 in the US and about $4 in Britain, even after it has been shipped almost 10,000 kilometres to market. As with milk and cheese, a big part of the explanation by the corporates in question for New Zealanders is that the price has to be in line with expectations that exist here, and that exist there. Or as Lion’s corporate flack put it in the Herald:

I guess overall you could say it’s a reflection of the different marketplace for beer pricing. It will be a whole lot of factors… Some of it will be tax, some of it will be making sure the pricing is in line with the other beers that it competes with in the marketplace….

Even after the tax element is removed, it seems, it still leaves the beer costing double the price in New Zealand, than elsewhere. Meaning: business will screw the consumer here because it can, but won’t do it over there because it can’t get away with it. Why, in New Zealand, do free market forces more often look like price fixing, cartel behaviour and monopoly rents? Because so often, they are. But we wouldn’t want to regulate against such practices, would we? Because that would mean more red tape, and business hates red tape.
ACC appears to operate with much the same predatory code of ethics, judging by this story of an Auckland woman’s nine year battle with ACC over compensation for an accident that began with her falling down some broken steps outside a Palmerston North café, and which (thanks to medical bungling) eventually required the amputation of her lower leg. ACC’s contribution has been to fight to deny and minimise her entitlements to care and compensation at every step of the way :

She successfully challenged ACC for entitlements, including that she had suffered a treatment injury, funding for a suitable car, for a kitchen she could use safely – and even to get access ramps installed in her home. When she sought ramps, an occupational therapist told her: “‘Your family can help you up. They can carry you’.”

In 2008, an ACC complaints investigator instructed a mid-level manager to apologise to Mrs Smith after finding various parts of the ACC Code of Claimants’ Rights, including the right to honest, open and effective communication, had been breached.

Even so, the harassment continued, with ACC trying – illegally – to influence the supposedly independent assessment of her case. As one of her advocates pointed out: “By law, rehabilitation needs assessments were required to be based on the claimant’s needs, “not a predetermined decision by ACC’s staff to deny entitlements”.”
This morning’s third cautionary tale is about a typically rosy assessment by the Ministry of Economic Development of New Zealand’s potential earnings from oil exploration. Allegedly, New Zealand can expect to treble its oil production and become a net exporter of petroleum by 2030 with no negative environmental downside at all… Such a wonder is possible, according to Energy Minister Phil Heatley because : .

Mr Heatley says the oil and gas industry is already the country’s fourth biggest export earner and there is real potential for growth. The oil industry in Taranaki has a good safety and environmental record and that could be repeated elsewhere in New Zealand, he says.

Except that… the environment elsewhere around New Zealand for extracting oil in such quantities is not at all like Taranaki. It involves deep sea drilling off East Cape and Northland, or in the turbulent conditions of the Great South Basin. These are regions vital to tourism and fishing industries, and to the migratory path of several endangered species. And – newsflash ! – the current oil industry best practice at such depths, and in such conditions, cannot prevent oil spills and major contamination . If that happens, New Zealand will have to shoulder the cost and will struggle to win anything that remotely looks like adequate compensation. The likes of Heatley and the local oil industry lobby groups would have a lot more credibility if they didn’t live in denial about such risks.

There is also little or no recognition that – in return for New Zealanders shouldering such risks – the royalty rates that we charge and our capacity to monitor the rate of extraction are both very low, by world standards. Surely, if we are to take such risks in extracting oil in our difficult conditions, we want to ensure we get the best return from the resource, and we want to know that we can adequately measure just how much of our precious resources the foreign oil company is extracting, on any given day, week or month. Instead, the MED review endorses a further review of the rules and regulations contained in the Crown Minerals Act, to ensure that nothing gets in the way of the oil multinationals.
So that’s one typical morning, and three typical stories of predatory behaviour by the private sector, an SOE and in a government report. No wonder that people feel as if they are living under siege. Literally, they soon will be – given the current plans to extend the surveillance society with the deployment of predator drones in the United Kingdom. Some people, at least, are feeling there may be something… a bit sinister about this trend. So, as the Guardian reports , a public relations campaign is soon to be launched in Britain to re-assure the public that this is a really, really good idea:

Companies seeking to enable the routine use of surveillance drones across Britain are planning a long-term public relations effort to counter the negative image of the controversial aircraft. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVSA), a trade group that represents the drone industry to the UK government, has recommended drones deployed in Britain should be shown to “benefit mankind in general”, be decorated with humanitarian-related advertisements, and be painted bright colours to distance them from those used in warzones….

A series of presentations given by industry figures in recent months show public opposition is considered a major hurdle. UAVSA has discussed how it could use the media to disseminate favourable stories, creating a narrative that presents the introduction of drones in the UK as part of a “national mission”.

Paint the drones in cheery colours. Of course. Maybe there’s a lesson here for ACC.


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    1. 12 Responses to “On the predator society”

    2. By Elyse on Feb 3, 2012 | Reply

      Thanks for this, Gordon. One wonders when Kiwis will wake up. Those beer stats are outrageous. Makes our national mascot, The Drunk, look even more foolish.
      Drones are already being used in the USA to help local police departments make arrests. Coupled with the ability of the US govt (enhanced recently by Obama who signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act) to arrest and imprison its own citizens without trial, it makes the Land of the Free but a memory if it ever existed at all.

    3. By Joe Blow on Feb 3, 2012 | Reply

      I wonder how the price of Stienlager overseas compares to the prices of other premium beers sold in the UK and US. If they sell it too cheap then the poms and yanks will think it’s just cheap piss with a taste to match. The funny thing is that it does actually taste like cheap piss, we’re just used to it.

      We should stop paying premium prices for cheap piss just because it’s from New Zealand. I think it tastes terrible and it leaves one with a terrible hangover to boot. Stienlager Pure was mildly better in terms of the consequences the next morning, but still tastes cheap. Try telling the rest of NZ that though!

      Tsingtao is way better and it’s reasonably priced. I think I’m turning Chinese! I think I’m turning Chinese! I really think so!

    4. By RobertM on Feb 4, 2012 | Reply

      Really we should reduce the tax on booze and smokes. Offer subsidised lap dances and ladies of the night. Such policies might ease the pressure and tension in society. The current PC, do gooder and medical view that alcohol is an addictive evil, ignores the fact it is a necessary evil and probably less addictive than stress and psych drugs.
      Alcohol is regarded as the source of social trouble and illness. In reality to a degree excessive drinking almost always involves an element of concious choice and lack of alternative outlets. Good healthy sex lives and booze are alternatives as much as compliments and enablers.
      Ultimate determinants of behaviour are largely intelligence and age. Class and race are lesser if difficult to acknowledge secondary factors which reflect temperament, ability to concentrate and attitude. The influence of genetics is always vastly overstated outside rare aberations.

    5. By pclarebu on Feb 4, 2012 | Reply

      Though I do have concerns about the price of beer in NZ it is mainly bar prices. To paint those beer price discrepancies, they would have had to find the most expensive way of buying Stienlager in NZ and compare this against the cheapest way of buying it in the UK. Generally you can buy a 15 pack of stienlager for about $20 or less at a supermarket. That is $4.50 or less – so quite comparable. As my daugher keeps telling me re sales – the more you spend the more you save. Go to Aus and a 6 pack of anything is about AUD18.00. Still totally agree with the privacy issues – I work in Business intelligence and what we can get from trawling through billions of records is amazing. Certainly don’t want any drones flying around. I too am worried about deep sea oil drilling – would be good to have the money though! and certainly lets ensure royalties are way bigger if we do want to contemplate allowing it.

    6. By Miriam on Feb 5, 2012 | Reply

      ACC corruption
      ACC is in the business of practicing medicine illegally in NZ.
      A nine year battle and losing a leg are typical stories of victims of ACC ( and ACC’s contracted minions .ACC will continue to violate laws without judicial intervention.

      New Zealanders go over to India and are shocked by the corruption/the open bribes, NZ’s has corruption its behind closed doors , so until we clean up “gotham city “it is remains our national righteousness delusion . NZ use to be a less corrupt place.

      Gordon ACC did “paint the drones in cheery colors” but
      just until someone needs medical treatment then you see ACC’s real colors.

      @Robert having to pay prostitutes for sex is a not healthy sex life, and there are always choices and alternatives for people -ie self restraint and self control. Paid for sex with a prostitute is not love. For you its just a habitual tension reliever that works only for a short time and its effect to relieve your tension is less and less noticeable.
      Behavioral determinants are many and they are not always static, experience can change a personality considerably .

    7. By Bazza on Feb 5, 2012 | Reply

      George Orwell got his dates quite wrong.

    8. By RobertM on Feb 5, 2012 | Reply

      Miriam I consider your response offensive, overly personal and illegitimate. The Hamilton anti sex industry groups you are associated with are wrong and deeply undesirable.
      I do not think the assertion of fundamentalist religious views in society are legitimate. In fact fundamentalism is basically about protecting the right of unintelligent working class men to get and hold on to women who would not want to stay married to such men if they had real sexual freedom.
      In my view the differences in sex attiudes of women and men only reflects socialisation and the pressures of a small isolated society like NZ. In a totally free society women would want far more sex than men and would choose their partners on the basis of looks, sexual potency and niceness without any consideration of job and income status. Financially assured and sexually free women would not marriage at all and at about 40 would just get themselves a hotter body from surgery, desire and fittness and go after young guys.
      Men seek sex workers and strippers often for conversation, a quiet time with an attractive naked women and to give the fingers to the idiot conservative society represented by people like you. I believe fundamentalist, moralists like for should be silenced and those of fundamentalist religion and strong moral views banned from the police and armed services. As far as I am concerned people like you are as much the enemy of the west as the Taliban and Al Qaeda. My stand is just as much political opposition to your kind and NZ provincial conservatives as much as any personal need.

    9. By Miriam on Feb 5, 2012 | Reply

      @Robert I am not associated with any such group.
      I am sorry I offended you though I think that it is a case of the truth hurts and I have said nothing but truth .
      Sex is a personal topic & you’ve make it impersonal.
      *I am also sorry that you have to pay for sex and feel so tense and lonely all the time.
      You are your own worst enemy .

    10. By RobertM on Feb 6, 2012 | Reply

      Miriam its is very difficult to know how to reply to the sort of stupidity and simplicity you display. Feeling sorry for somebody is an act of cruelty and and an attempt to impose superiority and control. Most people over 25 pay for sex one way or another. Deep down most intelligent people want to sleep with people aged 16 to 25 whether their straight, gay, bi a cougar or whatever.
      The truth is people pay for sex to sleep with beautiful intelligent women and engage with them. Most NZ courtesans are groomed professional women of exceptional looks many are students, post graduate students, young women of staggering looks from the US and USSR.
      Magnificent creatures of high education and IQ. That certainly was the nature of most of my sexual partners. They were no different from most of partners of JFK, Max Mosley, Packer, Brierly or any of the leading British and American politicians before Chappaquadick, Profumo and Tailhook wrecked it for the politicians if the not the staff of most political cities who continue to swing all night in the great capitals of the world.
      Actually for most of my life I have been perfectly happy. In terms of gaining sexual partners and mates for somebody like me it really depended on the public profile in being involved in forms of journalism and top university courses. Meating high quality people really depends on being involved in professional activities of having a high profile. I would also say this unlike most men in their 40s or 50s I had plenty of beautiful women who made real passes at me. So I think your terribly illinformed and wrong. But as I’ve said your sort of vicious simplicity is hard to combat. Most of the people engaged in NZs sex industry are engaging in a high class sport for beautiful, intelligent people. Possibly its a bit dangerous but that and the beauty increases the exccitement and point.

    11. By Leon Henderson on Feb 10, 2012 | Reply

      Cheerfully painted drones over Pommieland!!! As for ACC, they could have Ronald MacDonald “fronting” their propaganda for an ever-increasingly privatised ACC: “Ronald” could wear a tee-shirt with a picture of Henry Kissinger on it and the words: “I Am A Good War Criminal And Terrorist!!!”

    12. By nznative on Feb 12, 2012 | Reply

      Levi’s & jeans

      Toyota’s & cars

      IBM & computers

      Alcohol & drugs …..

      The tax ( and price ) on the drug booze is too low.

      The drug Alcohol costs our country Billions.

      It should be taxed at a rate that covers the costs of its consumption.

      Because at present the manufacturers and sellers of this drug get a free ride from the government that they donate so much money and perks too.

      I see it as a form of “drug corruption”.

      At what point does a donation become a bribe ??

    13. By nznative on Feb 12, 2012 | Reply

      I thought Gordons article was about the price of booze and predatory corporate behavior towards New Zaelanders.

      So heres my not so cryptic point again.

      Nike & running shoes

      BP & oil companys

      Levi’s & jeans

      Alcohol & drugs

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