MP tries to ban water

By Megan Gnad

Otago MP Jacqui Dean felt like a bit of a "wally" yesterday, after it was revealed she tried to ban North Otago's most precious commodity - water.

Mrs Dean has confirmed she was caught in a hoax by an online blogger asking for her help in banning dihydrogen monoxide - which, it turns out, is the chemical name for ordinary H20.

The blunder is a long-running hoax that seeks to trick gullible MPs into calling for the eradication of water.

A letter, signed by Mrs Dean, was sent to Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton last month, asking if the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs had a view on banning the "drug".

A Blogspot.com blogger, Michael Earley, of Auckland, published the original letter to Mrs Dean yesterday.

On Tuesday's first reading of the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill, Mr Anderton took the opportunity to rub Mrs Dean's nose in it.

Mrs Dean responded with a note across the house that said "touchi - you got me".

When contacted yesterday she said she realised she had made a mistake, but could see the funny side.

She had been in email contact with a constituent, who said he had a bachelor of pharmacology, but despite a Google search by one of her colleagues, Mrs Dean could find nothing to verify it was not a lethal substance.

"I have been well and truly set up - they were trying to catch me out," she said. "When I got the letter back I laughed out loud - I think it's quite funny."

Mrs Dean said everyone had been "pointing the finger" at her.

"I have been taken for a ride - I just hope it does not detract from the real issue," she said.

Mr Anderton said he would not be banning dihydrogen monoxide or asking for the experts to consider it.

He responded saying: "Thank you for your letter of 23 August, 2007 about your constituent call for the ban on dihydrogen monoxide, (but) dihydrogen monoxide is water," he said.

"It may have been described to you as colourless, odourless, tasteless and causing the death of uncounted thousands of people every year...(but) I had to respond that the experts had no intention of (banning water)."

It is not the first time MPs have had a brush with the hoax.

In 2001, a staff member in Green MP Sue Kedgley's office responded to a request for support saying she would be "absolutely supportive of the campaign to ban this toxic substance".

A quick call around the phone book proved Mrs Dean was not on her own in believing the technical name sounds like a lethal substance.

Oamaru woman Bronwyn Shallish had no idea what it meant either."It sounds like a chemical - it's a long word, but I probably could have worked it out," she said.

Whiterocks resident Atholea Shanks found the name "fascinating" and thought it sounded like a gas rather than a party pill.

A retired Oamaru woman, who declined to be named, thought it must have been a peroxide-type chemical.

- OAMARU MAIL

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