Paul Little: All that glisters in Oz isn't gold

The temptations of Australia are misleading. Photo / Supplied
The temptations of Australia are misleading. Photo / Supplied

The Prime Minister must have been tempted to stay during his visit to Australia this week, like all the other Kiwis who pushed transtasman migration numbers to a record monthly level of 3300 in May.

He would have been dazzled by Canberra's Parliament buildings and possibly would have been swayed by a voting system that demands less ability at arithmetic than MMP.

But perhaps he's not that superficial. As to those New Zealanders who are lured by higher incomes and better "prospects", I wonder how much thought they have given to the implications of their move.

They are leaving behind family and friends who will no longer be part of their daily lives. Their children will not have the sort of relationship with their extended family that is only possible when generations live in proximity.

They are going to a country which has not even begun to come to grips with what has happened to its indigenous population.

You will still find white Australians referring to "Aboriginals and Australians" - as though the former are not also the latter.

They will live in over-crowded cities or philistine suburbs. Their children will go to expensive schools which, from secondary level on, barely pretend to offer an education.

They will not hear their voices on radio, they will not see their writers in bookshops, they will not see their stories told on television.

They will have no turangawaewae - no place where they belong.

They will probably have more disposable income.

Cannabis and cocaine

Some years ago, I persuaded veteran musician Rick Bryant (Blerta, the Jive Bombers) to write film reviews for a magazine. And they were good, too, although nothing in them was ever as memorable as the day the deputy editor approached me holding out his latest review as though it had just left the inside of a cat.

"Rick dropped off his copy," she said. "It reeks of dope."

This week, Bryant, one of our best-loved musicians, was sentenced to a jail term at the age of 63. He was convicted of possessing cocaine and ecstasy, and possessing cannabis for the purpose of supply.

When he gets out, he'll be eligible for the pension. I was happy at the prospect of helping to pay Rick's living expenses in two years. I'm not happy about having to do it now. The sentences are a joke.

I have no taste for either cannabis or cocaine. But anyone who chooses to use such drugs are only risking their own well-being. And anyone who supplies cannabis is a criminal only because we insist on keeping this relatively harmless substance outlawed and thus making criminals of all who use it.

There is a growing body of opinion from those working on the health and justice frontlines that current drug policies don't work, and the so-called war on drugs is really a war on common sense. Meanwhile, in what we might call gossip-page society, class-A drug use is rife. Bryant's mistake wasn't using coke or selling dope. It was getting caught.

Loan sharks

Attempts to crack down on so-called loan sharks were signalled by Consumer Affairs Minister Simon Power to the Financial Literacy conference in Wellington this week.

But regulating the industry is attacking the problem from the wrong direction. People don't end up in debt pits because of unscrupulous operators - they end up there because they've been told happiness can be found inside an Xbox.

- Herald on Sunday

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