There was an outburst of common sense from National leader John Key last week but, as usual, the Government quickly moved to quash it.
The wealthy beach community of Omaha is to Auckland what the Hamptons are to New York. The rich and famous get a little churlish when it becomes more like Amity, of Jaws fame, and they run the risk of having prehistoric predators nibbling their toes when they go for a dip.
A lifeguard's inflatable got chomped by Jaws' 4m long cousin, another lifeguard decided the water was not the place to be when she noticed a big bronze whaler wanted to go surfing with her and Omaha beach closed for the afternoon when several more sharks were seen lurking just behind the breakers, licking their sharpened chops.
Key, a summertime resident of Omaha, speculated that the presence of around 40 bleeding, offal-filled crab pots just off the beach might be acting as "human berley" and luring the sharks shorewards. He suggested the Ministry of Fisheries should consider limiting high-volume crab pots near popular beaches during summer.
Now that may sound to you and me like a perfectly reasonable suggestion worthy of investigation but, in a typical knee-jerk reaction, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton replied that his experts tell him there is no evidence crab pots attract sharks. The Seafood Industry Council quickly backed Anderton. Now, the Seafood Industry Council is not exactly a disinterested party here. Its stated aim is that it "promotes the interests of all sectors of the fishing industry, providing economic advice and coordination of industry resources". It was never going to say anything that might restrict the use of crab pots and Anderton was never going to concede that someone might be right if they came from the Axis of Evil that is the National Party.
When confronted by common sense, the Government and interest groups automatically assumed entrenched positions to block it.
To solve the debate, I suggest that Jim Anderton, his experts and the worthy members of the Seafood Industry Council be placed in lifejackets and tethered to the suppurating crab pots for 24 hours to test whether or not they attract sharks. If they survive, they were right, if not, then they posthumously owe John Key and the bathers at Omaha an apology.
One of the few in Parliament who eschews the usual trench warfare of politics, regularly thinks outside the square and voices opinions that are not predictably mainstream, is Green MP Nandor Tanczos. Of course, he has just announced he's quitting at the end of the year. He says he wants the freedom to voice more radical ideas than being an MP allows.
What is wrong with today's political system when a politician cannot advocate radical ideas? Once our Parliament was a place where MPs could voice wild and crazy opinions such as votes for women, pensions for the elderly, welfare benefits for the poor, free education, public healthcare and a whole host of really dangerous ideas like those.
Admittedly, Nandor is a dreadlocked, dope-smoking Rastafarian and his ideas might seem a little radical to some. His Waste Minimisation Bill would probably see him sent to Guantanamo Bay if he was in the United States.
Frankly, the Greens need more radical stances of the kind Nandor provides. His stand on legalising marijuana won enough votes in 1999 to put the hard-pressed Greens across the 5 per cent threshold.
These days, dope aside, the mainstream parties have absorbed many of the Greens' environmental policies, making the Greens appear little different from Labour or National.
A youth advocate last week suggested to me that New Zealand parties could take a lesson from Barack Obama's startling success in the United States and come up with policies and approaches that pitch directly to the youth vote. Obama does not speak or act like a traditional politician. He advocates "radical" positions such as opposition to the war in Iraq. He avoids jargon and sound-bites and treats his audience as if they have a brain while talking directly to young voters through their home turf of New Media.
The prevailing opinion in the US and here is that "youth" are apathetic, impossible to reach and likely to not vote. Obama not only has them voting, he has them actively working on his campaign.
The Greens have always relied on a big hunk of the youth vote but now they could lose it to an unexpected quarter. I suspect part of John Key's overall success in the polls is that he, too, often sounds less like a politician and more like a real human being. He doesn't need to roll a joint or grow some dreads to capture that youth vote. All he has to do is keep talking natural common sense.