About this time thoughts turn to the end of an old year and the beginning of of a new one.

Once again we will be imagining that the advent of a new year will magically change something. Like all we need to do to make this a better place is change the flag, or become a republic. Somewhere a switch will flick, and life will somehow be better.

We know that our individual New Year resolutions tend to have a very short shelf life.

'We've marched, we've called for a political response, and nothing has changed. Children continue to die, generally at the hands of people who they were entitled to trust.'

Almost as short perhaps as those we make as a society. The fact is that nothing changes, and nothing stays the same.


There will be change in 2019, but it is unlikely to improve our lives. As in the past we will fall victim to political charlatans, and will allow the demands of everyday life to limit the attention span we need to effect real, meaningful change.

The emotions displayed in the wake of the murder of 22-year-old British backpacker Grace Millane is a good example. We've had vigils, marches, expressions of grief and national shame. We've had an open letter to the government, calling for an end to gender-based violence (whatever that is).

At least the signatories, including former prime ministers Helen Clark and Dame Jenny Shipley, and former Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, didn't pretend that Grace Millane was some sort of tragic aberration, but the political response was disingenuous.

Parliamentary undersecretary for domestic and sexual violence Jan Logie responded to the letter by promising that addressing violence against women, and other forms of family and sexual violence, was a priority for the government; no other government had made the safety of women and children such a central part of its programme, or appointed a dedicated undersecretary specifically to drive that work.

Good stuff. Meaning what? After all, tragic as Grace Millane's fate was, she wasn't the first visitor to this country to be murdered. And in terms of the public reaction, we've been here before, usually in response to the violent death of a child.

We've marched, we've called for a political response, and nothing has changed. Children continue to die, generally at the hands of people who they were entitled to trust.

Eventually their names retreat from the headlines — until another one dies, and their faces briefly reappear in the media and public consciousness. And nothing changes.

It will be interesting to see how Ms Logie plans to address the scourge of domestic and sexual violence now. Perhaps the government will set up a working group to look into it.


If it does, it will discover that the perpetrators of violence are by no means exclusively male, or the victims exclusively female, but for now she implies that men (and women) can murder men to their hearts' content. That's not the problem.

She might look at what the police and iwi are doing in Te Hiku with Whiria te Muka, but won't.

Meanwhile, January 1 will see the ridiculous campaign to rid the country of single-use plastic bags, a meaningless gesture in response to a genuine issue if ever there was one.

Removal of any plastic from the environment is a worthy goal, but the bags that have become the major villain are in fact a minuscule component of our problem, and banning them won't change anything. Never mind. The important thing is to be seen to be doing something. Ergo Jan Logie's promises re violence.

If the government, manufacturers and retailers really wanted to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment they would act on calls for a deposit on bottles. Make them worth money and they will disappear from our streets, parks, bush and beaches.

Trouble is, neither the government nor the people who sell their wares in plastic are interested, and not enough people are beating the drum to make them listen.


Politicians only pursue issues that will gain (or lose) votes. So a great chance to actually do something about plastic pollution has been spurned. The new year might not be any different.

And the old year is ending with no solution for Kaitaia woman Juliet Garcia, her employer or the 'industry' of which they are a small part. If that doesn't change in 2019 it won't be for lack of effort on the part of this newspaper and others, but there is still a mountain to climb.

The Aged Care Association's claim that immigration laws are putting the entire sector at risk, to the point where this year's closing of one rest home's hospital facility is unlikely to be the last, has so far fallen on deaf ears. In terms of Switzer Residential Care, that deafness is especially galling.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party, who lives in Kaitaia, isn't interested. The Minister for Regional Economic Development, who is from Awanui (and now lives in Kerikeri), isn't interested. The deputy Prime Minister, who claims status as a Far Northerner, isn't interested. The Labour list MP who lives at Pakaraka isn't interested.

National MP Matt King is interested, but not unreasonably prefers to fight battles he might possibly win.

Again its about numbers. The general populace, here and elsewhere, don't seem to have latched on to this issue either. Hopefully that will change in 2019.


The best thing Juliet Garcia and Co could do is go on strike. Why not? Everyone else is.

Half a day should do it. Trouble is, they won't. Christmas air travel is threatened by strike action and the country panics. Aged care is threatened and no one gives a fat rat.

And as the new year looms we are seeing the global movement against sexual harassment in all its various forms, from rape to inviting women out to dinner, morph into a campaign against bullying, to the point where supposed victims are being actively encouraged to spray allegations about like confetti, with anonymity guaranteed.

Not far short of a witch hunt, really, and while we're unlikely to see alleged bullies being dunked in the local pond, equally irrational and perilous.

This urge to expose bullies for what they supposedly are offers all manner of risks for society, not least that people will become afraid to express themselves honestly, or, more to the point, demand effort from those over whom they have authority.

The potential for being declared a bully, a label that clearly has the power to end careers, is patently providing an out for some who might well try harder, or perform better, but have no inclination to do either. Getting heat from the boss for doing a second-rate job? Cry 'Bully!' Problem solved.


So while the government is busy banning violence against women, we are to witness an official inquiry into bullying in Parliament, at the behest of a politician who might well be unique in that his contribution to our civilised society includes belting a fellow MP who accused him of hypocrisy. Takes one to know one.

The fact is that change starts with us, as individuals. The best we can do is live our lives by standards of which we can be proud, and care for those who depend upon us. And when it comes to communicating with politicians, perhaps we could take a leaf from the French book and begin expressing our dissatisfaction in a more tangible way than we tend to do.

Best wishes for a merry, safe Christmas and a happy, prosperous New Year. Love your kids, don't bully anyone, and don't drop anything plastic in the street or at the beach.