Susan Ryder tries to take a day off. If only Nanny could.
Another Queen’s Birthday weekend has come and gone and it’s pretty much the same every year. The weather is usually awful and another batch of Kiwis are officially recognised for their various “services to New Zealand” in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. And then there is the official holiday road toll.
New Zealanders are tragically killed in motor accidents every day, but our electronic media is obsessed with long weekends and the road toll in particular. No sooner does a holiday weekend officially get under way on the Friday evening than the fever starts. Short of something like Al Qaeda getting up to its old tricks, every news bulletin is guaranteed to start with the toll, even when nothing has happened. “The long weekend has officially started and there have been no reported crashes as yet.” And should the fatalities be slow in coming, the newsreaders almost sound apologetic. “The official holiday road toll still stands at two,” as if it’s somehow a bad thing that the news hasn’t changed. Boring!
As the official period came to a close yesterday, TRN reported that last year’s QBW road toll was three in comparison with nine this year. All last week we were inundated with predictions of foul weekend weather, coupled with respective travel warnings. Saturday dawned beautifully in my neck of the woods but, as forecast, had changed its tune markedly by early afternoon. I had to drive down to the Waikato and the weather was lousy indeed. Thankfully, though, the travel authorities were there to warn me to “take care” and “slow down because of the wet roads” and “put my lights on.” And just as well, too, because after 30 odd years of driving in numerous countries in all conditions, I would never have thought to do any of those things. Thank God for the LTSA – or whatever the hell it’s now called.
For the last few years, we have been flooded with Nanny State advertisements “brought to you by the New Zealand Government” on both radio and television. You know them: they tell you what to eat and drink and how to behave. The latest cringe is the promotion of breastfeeding, featuring a couple of Polynesian rugby league players discussing the benefits. There’s a pun in there somewhere and more than a touch of irony, because the one thing in which New Zealanders need no education is how to suck on a mammary.
Somebody at TVNZ must have noticed something, because in May 2008 Close Up covered a story on the topic. I usually miss the programme, but had spotted the trailer so thought I’d tune in. The figures were astonishing and thinking they might come in handy one day, I kept them. I fished them out yesterday and, lo and behold, here’s what the Close Up team reported just over a year ago.
- The (then) government spent a total of $213 million pa, $98 million via television alone
- New Zealanders were subjected to an average of 63 x 30 second ads per day
- In the first quarter of 2008 there were nearly 6000 30 second ads
That represented an increase of 20% on 2007 figures and a staggering 80% increase from 2002. And by the end of 2008 we were to have been subjected to some 18,200 ads from 40 different government agencies, the LTSA alone accounting for one-third.
That’s not good television.
Back to the holiday weekend road toll. The stark reality is that the more traffic on the roads, the higher the risk of crashes. Add bad weather to the mix and the risk increases again. It’s not tricky. But common sense and bureaucracy are seldom synonymous. Nine tragic deaths will be seen as a “three-fold increase on last year’s figures” and, rather than can the bloody ads that anyone with half a brain ignores anyway, I can see the officials clamour for even more public money to waste. “Something, after all, has got to be done!”
Well, here’s a different thought altogether. Let’s tell John Key and Bill English that the $98 million spent on Nanny State television ads last year – ads that show no sign of abating, unfortunately – would neatly fund the first year of the recently cancelled tax cuts. That they could then keep two election promises at the same time: give us our promised money back and reduce government expenditure.
Not to mention treating us like the adults we are.
* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *
I am both delighted and proud to report [says Solway] that the police force in my hometown of Montreal, acting in the interests of public safety, recently handcuffed and fined an inveterate miscreant, a certain Ms. Bela Kosoian, for failing to grasp the rubber handrail on the subway’s escalator. The force is to be praised for its timely intervention in preventing what may well have been a public disaster of inordinate proportions. The horrifying scenario of said Ms. Kosoian hurtling down the escalator steps and setting off a chain reaction resulting in the maiming, crushing, mutilation, and deaths of musing innocents beggars the imagination. Although there is no record of such a catastrophe having occurred before, the servants of the state must nevertheless ensure that its citizens are protected against the whims and eccentricities of wayward individuals.
UPDATE 2: Nannys are everywhere. Fresh from nannying taxi drivers, announcing the bulldozing of people’s homes, and placing a ban on driving down a street more than once in an evening, National’s transport minister and inveterate busybody Steven Joyce is now about to announce a ban on using your hand-held cellphone while driving. And just to show he hasn’t got a clue either, National’s David Farrar suggests a nannying ad campaign instead . . .
Coming up soon: bans on nose-picking, conversations, changing the radio station and lighting a cigarette while driving.