Tuesday, 2 June 2009

LIBERTARIAN SUS: Road Tolls & Tax Cuts [update 2]

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 * *

UPDATE 1: Nannies are everywhere. Jeff Perren sent through this astonishing report on Canadian nannying he picked up from David Solway at Pajamas Media:

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.


  1. ust reading about the cellpone ban mentioned in your update. "Something has got to be done"ism at it's finest.

    We have careless driving laws. Enforce them, you pack of useless pricks, and quit it with your nannying think-of-the-childrenist bollocks.

  2. This is where I'd normally compliment you on another good post, but it contained far too much common sense. Given that drunk driving arrests have actually increased since they started the ads, you'd think that someone, somewhere in the LTSA would think: "Maybe we need to try something different." But instead, they think: "Shit, the ads aren't working, we must need different ads. We'd better spend some more money." It's as if our own government departments are falling for ad-reptiles' sales pitches!

  3. Great post SUS. Really warms my heart to see such words written. I have railed for years at government using mainstream media to shape public thinking on issues. It is so Soviet Socialist Republic.

    Another unwanted outcome is that this expenditure has underpinned the finances of TVNZ, that decrepit and despicable edifice of the socialists that should have crumbled into financial ruin decades ago.

    This financial support has given legions of scumbag left wing politicians and their thousands of brain dead acolytes a platform to promote socialism at every opportunity.

    Brian Edwards, Paul Holmes, Linda Clarke, Susan Wood, and so many other socialists propagandists have been paid outrageous rates to preach their poisonous doctrine.

    And all of this has in the main only been kept afloat by government funded "public good" advertising.

    Defenders of TVNZ like to combat criticism with the claim that it is a private company. It isn't of course. It is a state owned entity with majority government share holding, and as such, it is an organisation more akin to fascism than private enterprise.

    The road safety campaign is a farce. Not only a threat to liberty, it has failed, (and will go on failing), on the simple grounds that you cannot make people better drivers by making them frightened to drive. Any sports coach will tell you that self confidence is the most important factor in performance.

    Endless road safety commercials have turned NZers into a bunch of incompetent nervous nellies on the road. They think they're about to be killed or maimed every time they get into a car.

    "Drive safely" they parrot as you leave them, in a sad example of how this advertising has so deeply penetrated the national psyche.

    I spend some time in Indonesia,and it is fascinating to observe the difference in the driving in Jakarta to NZ cities. The Indonesians drive with spirit and confidence and ability, while the NZers are limp wristed shilly shallyers too frightened to make a decision. If there isn't a red light or a green light, they're in a white knuckle quandary as to what to do.

    National should stop this advertising on the grounds that it is an affront to the dignity of NZ citizens. They won't tho.

    Since when have National ever understood they're meant to be the opposition, and therefore ideologically opposed to socialism? They're socialists too. Just the same old scum in different suits.

    I loathe them. Almost every one of them. Never more so than when they endorse and fail to protect us from the kind of incremental assaults on liberty that issue from the desks of the odious fat arsed fascists running the Ministry of Transport.

  4. "Drive safely" they parrot as you leave them, in a sad example of how this advertising has so deeply penetrated the national psyche.


    That would have to be one of the biggest load of bollocks I've heard - there are only two real problems with the ads. They're paid for with our taxes, and they're proving ineffective in reducing crashes.

    And the headlines in the Jakarta Post today are concerned today with their high holiday road toll - choose a better example.

  5. Yes and no, Marcus.

    Yes, in that your two reasons are correct. No, in that Red's overall sentiments are on the money.

    These ads are short bursts of 'state-think' for the population, deliberately presented very carefully over and over again, several times an hour, all day every day.

    "This is how we all must eat/think/live/behave/drive/raise kids/drink/exercise" blah blah -- and always for our own good, of course.

    It's a very slick process, neatly keeping bureaucrats occupied and media coffers ticking over with our money. That $98 million on TV ads was divvied up between a handful of grateful recipients who are hardly going to bite the hand that feeds them.

    It's gradual brainwashing - and that's insidious.



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