Maxim: Real Issues - No 228 26 October 2006

Published: Fri 27 Oct 2006 09:54 AM
Maxim: Real Issues - No 228 26 October 2006
No Magic Bullet For Drinking Culture
Cheap Labour Or Regional Partnership?
Students First?
In The News: No More Sweet Treats?
Filming The Bonfire Parliament Open To The Public
No Magic Bullet For Drinking Culture
As the country grows increasingly concerned about alcohol-fuelled violence, the Law and Order Select Committee have reported back on the Bill to raise the drinking age. The Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction: Purchase Age) Amendment Bill, would return the purchase age for alcohol to twenty, instead of eighteen.
No-one, including the strongest supporters of the Bill, thinks that returning the age to twenty will be a magic bullet. They do however suggest that lowering the purchase age was a mistake and that in fact, having a more liberal environment has only made the problem worse. Figures derived from the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) show a proliferation of alcohol outlets. Some researchers and lobbyists have also pointed to an increase in injuries, hospitalisations, driving accidents and disorderly behaviour. Research also shows that underage drinking is associated with increased promiscuity and violent offending.
New Zealand's unhealthy binge drinking culture needs an overhaul, especially among the young; and organisations like ALAC are working hard to see this happen. But ALAC is equally clear that raising the age will not be a panacea, especially as much of the alcohol consumed by teens is bought legally. Family responsibility, community responsibility and social responsibility are all needed to address youth attitudes to alcohol.
At the same time, there is a role for law; to protect the vulnerable from the ravages of alcohol, and to make sure that the limits are strictly and fairly enforced. Jim Anderton is right to say that raising the age, absent enforcement, will not work. It is also pleasing to see a review of alcohol advertising and more emphasis on rehabilitation. Raising the age is a positive step towards making sure our streets and our children are not awash with alcohol, but it is only a step. To move forward, we need law, community and most of all, parents, to walk together.
The government has announced the extension of the seasonal workers initiative, which would allow 5000 workers from Pacific Island countries to come to New Zealand for seasonal work in horticulture and viticulture. The initiative will assist employers who cannot find New Zealand workers for their farms and vineyards to find workers in the Pacific Islands.
The employers would pay half the air-fare and they must show that they have attempted to find New Zealand labour before being permitted to bring in workers from the Pacific. They must also pay the minimum wage and employers
could be fined if their workers overstay. The temporary permits last for seven months, with the possibility of the worker returning the next season.
Interest groups are already stating the obvious; that the success or otherwise of the scheme will depend on the level of enforcement. Given the number of over-stayers already in this country and the reputed trouble the Immigration Service seems to have enforcing existing regulations, the priority the government puts on enforcement will determine whether it is a triumph for regional partnership or a disastrous move that tears holes in the immigration law.
Several criteria are necessary for a sensible and viable immigration policy. Immigrants must be needed; they must be willing and able to serve the country they come to. If New Zealand employers are not able to find an able-bodied work force among the local unemployed, they must look elsewhere; although it is worth asking why the unemployed are so unskilled that they cannot pick apples. Immigrants also ought to assimilate; they should be willing to
accept the basic values of the country they come to. While different races and cultures are a welcome part of our country, there must remain a basis of union and a bond of citizenship based on common values; things like respect for the law and human dignity. Lastly, immigrants ought to be welcome; the individual and corporate contributions they make to society ought to be acknowledged and valued. This is certainly the case with the Pasifika communities, who have added immeasurably to our common life.
The seasonal workers initiative fills a gap in the labour market and allows Pacific people the chance to earn money and build a future. The conditions should be strictly and fairly enforced, and not become either a haven for over-stayers, or an excuse for employers to exploit cheap labour.
The idea of children being at the centre of learning may sound innocuous enough, but child centred learning is a force with the potential to strip education of any meaning or ability to prepare children for the real world. The release this week of Students First, the first report in a series from Secondary Futures, a New Zealand education initiative, sets a dangerous precedent for education.
The report candidly sets out its vision: "Schooling will be less about the transfer of factual knowledge and more about developing a capacity to process information in a critical manner." The report goes on to assert: "There is no single benchmark against which student outcomes should be measured nor is there a single prescription that can apply to all students." In this way the initiative buys into one of the most obvious trends of postmodernism; a rejection of objectivity.
The likely consequences of such a philosophy providing the foundation for education are obvious. Once we reject the notion that a teacher has knowledge to impart to a child and throw out the idea that education is about providing a child with an understanding of the world, we are left with 'education' that simply allows a child to construct whatever world they like.
Whilst engaging a child and their particular character and interests is helpful in teaching effectively, it should not be the start or the finish of education. The discipline of learning about the world initiates us into it, and enables children to grow into functioning adults and citizens. Child centred learning may be the fashionable fad of our time, but it is a dangerous and destructive one.
To read the Students First report, please visit:
The Health Ministry's latest Nutrition Monitoring Report threatens to hold employers responsible for what their employees eat. The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 states that employers are responsible for the health and safety of their workers. The report said: "This could easily be interpreted as covering the food and nutrition environment" including such things as high-fat food in vending machines. While no-one is yet suggesting that such a ruling could be effectively enforced, the idea of the government monitoring the workplace nutritional environment has drawn strong and justifiable reaction. Food Industry Group Executive Director, Robert Bree, is right to say that employers have enough to do without policing what their employees eat.
The BBC have reported this week that a rugby club in England is resorting to holding a "virtual bonfire" for Guy Fawkes as it cannot afford to meet the multitudinous health and safety requirements of the local council. The Ilfracombe Rugby Club in North Devon will film a bonfire and then show the footage on a large screen that will hang between the goal posts. The club's president has said that there will also be heaters underneath to give "a real sense of a fire". Such ersatz celebrations look to become increasingly common, as the obsession with safety and the decline of personal responsibility drive the fun out of life, and put it on film.
On Sunday 29 October, parliament is throwing open its doors to the public, with lectures, displays, interactive media, and tours from 10 am to 3:30 pm. You can sit in the Prime Minister's chair, watch DVD's of Question Time, bring the kids to the new education centre to win prizes, and see the new Beehive visitors centre. New Select Committee rooms and historical displays of original beehive furniture and artifacts of interest will also be on show.
To find out more, please visit:
Several organisations have written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act which allows parents to physically discipline their children in a reasonable manner. They write:
"The purpose of law change is education not prosecution"
Do you agree? Should the law be used for education? And how much re-education will a parent get in the dock of a criminal court?
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