Feedback: July 2, 2016by The Listener
Listener writer Rebecca Macfie named EY business journalist and features writer of the year; taxing times for smokers; and reinterpreting New Zealand history.
BUSINESS JOURNALISM WINNER
Listener writer Rebecca Macfie has been named EY business journalist and feature writer of the year for what judge Nicola Legat of Massey University Press said was a “typically outstanding portfolio”.
“She has the knack of humanising business and economics stories and pegging them to important, broader conversations about the structure of the national economy,” Legat said.
Macfie’s entry included stories about dairying and slum rental housing in Christchurch. She wins $1000 and a five-day digital journalism course at the University of California at Berkeley.
HERE COME THE MACHINES
What a supreme irony that the generations who paid for computers in schools, universities and government departments, are now consigned to the scrap heap because they are not computer-literate (“Work in progress”, June 25).
Now the older generation is paying again because we cannot go online to pay our bills or relicense our vehicles. We are told we will have to pay our taxes to Inland Revenue online or be charged extra.
Forget that old saw about not leaving debts for future generations. We have created additional charges for ourselves in the future.
Advanced technology, robotics – what’s the purpose? Are these brilliant inventions intended to serve us, support us and improve our lives? Or are humans unimportant and the machines the masters, toys to delight their designers and make the already wealthy richer?
House robots sound a fantastic idea, but how will they benefit those who can’t even afford a house? The potential effect on society is alarming.
I acted as Hastings City Council’s lawyer when Flaxmere was developed about 1968 (“Turning a town around”, June 25). Part of my brief was to sell the sections from the many subdivisions.
Those houses nearest to Hastings were of a high standard. But as you proceeded west along Flaxmere Ave, they were cheaper and not as well-built. Even the diameter of the plumbing pipes was smaller.
The irony, as pointed out in the story, is that the poorest residents of Flaxmere live adjacent to some of the best vineyards in the Southern Hemisphere.
It’s a pity few politicians visit Flaxmere. Its residents would reward any who did at the ballot box.
(Aro Valley, Wellington)
POLITICS IN THE BEDROOM
Last night I had a vivid dream. John Key was forced to sell his Hawaiian house and wait in line at the Winz office for his case manager to give him the accommodation benefit.
Paula Bennett, meanwhile, was opening a backpackers for the homeless at the rear of her property and Bill English, pregnant with triplets thanks to the marvels of modern science, had to apply for extended parental leave for 26 weeks.
Gerry Brownlee was conscripted to fight in Iraq and Winston Peters was last seen boarding an overloaded boat with desperate migrants for an unknown destination.
Andrew Little, for his part, had elocution lessons and a Hollywood makeover and formed the Now-In-Labour party. And then I woke up and had a cold shower.
(North Beach, Christchurch)
A recent TV news report said “taking water from rivers could be putting the future of some native species at risk” … “like trout, salmon and whitebait”.
But surely, if trout are at risk, that could only be good for native species, given that trout are an introduced apex predator, driving our fresh water fauna to extinction. Lucky for the fauna that salmon, also introduced, feed at sea.
Of the three, only the lowly whitebait, a menu item that stands for our wonderful galaxiids, are not just native but endemic. They’re also endangered.
Trout are underwater possums, as destructive in our rivers as their furry henchmen are in our forests. Yet Fish and Game patrols our rivers ready to pounce on any poor kid with a pole and a bent pin. The trout-protection racket is about the tourist dollar, abetted by misguided tradition, as far from fresh water-conservation as a mud plug.
Meanwhile, the Ministry for Primary Industries merrily waves off container-loads of endemic and endangered long-finned eels destined for pet food in California.
CASE OF BASS
God forbid Peter Griffin writing in support of the “extra bass” button (Technology, June 25). Except God wouldn’t do anything about it and neither will noise control.
Our suburban home was invaded by a pervasive, intermittent thumping that was so loud we could hear it over a raucous TV show and feel it through the furniture.
At first we thought it was the drilling rig from a local development, but it was after hours. Then we realised: it was coming from the party next door. That night we had to move to the furthest side of the house and wear earplugs to block enough of the sound so we could sleep.
Another day, with the bass booming but no party, I popped over to chat to the neighbours. I was surprised to discover that outside their home there was barely audible music and only a moderate bass beat. But the culprit was found: a new bass amplifier with an “extra bass” button.
Somehow, because both dwellings are on poles on a slight slope, the bass vibration expands as it travels through the earth and into our home. That bass beat could be travelling for miles.
Turn it down, please.
Letter of the week
Michael Morrissey (Letters, June 25) accuses historians Neil Atkinson and Paul Moon of “politically correct nonsense” and refers to “misguided Maori activists” disrupting the launch of his book Paradise to Come, which fictionally explored the possibility of the Spanish ship San Lesmes arriving here in 1526.
His assertion seems somewhat hollow given his non-appearance at a restorative justice conference organised to consider the book-launch altercation, which I wrote about in my 2013 PhD thesis.
The interpretation of history requires openness to possibility and preparedness to change personal viewpoints in the light of historical evidence. “Cultural fascism”, another term used by Morrissey, is not only grounded in political agendas pursued by historians, but also founded in a refusal to accept historical evidence and, accordingly, alter personal prejudices.
TAXING TIMES FOR SMOKERS
Your editorial (“Butting out”, June 18) on the next round of tobacco tax increases included predictable middle-class hand-wringing about the plight of female Maori smokers but failed to tease out the economic geography of smoking.
Globally, the price of a packet of cigarettes neatly equates to the degree to which a country embraces US hegemony – the higher the price (because of taxation), the more closely aligned.
In Australia, Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has come out with figures that show that Australian smokers pay about 17 times in tax what smoking costs the country, including the cost of all bush fires.
In New Zealand, the ratio is more like 20:1. Even the Treasury concedes the revenue from cigarette tax exceeds the annual cost to the health system from cigarette-related illnesses.
The National Government seems to have worked out how to get Maori to pay for their own Treaty of Waitangi settlements. Because the percentage of Maori who smoke is higher than the general population, it takes Maori smokers just under four years to pay $1 billion in cigarette taxes, which is in the ballpark of Treaty settlements to date.
UNITED WE FALL
As a closet smoker, I’d like to express support for Bill Ralston (Life, June 11). I began smoking in the 1960s as an act of cultural uniformity, a rite of passage into adulthood. Older people smoked on ferries, in schools, on buses and on film.
But the PC winds of change have blown. Yes, we now know smoking’s unhealthy. But history demonstrates you can always persecute a minority. And smokers are a minority, although not an ethnic one. Note how governments drag their feet on sugar taxes, alcohol taxes and the sale of junk food in tuck shops.
I am 71, have worked all my life and still do, pay taxes and have never been treated for a smoking-related illness. If I have to be, I have paid for it six times over and more. Pubs and restaurants lost my custom 15 years ago.
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