Before Brexit, when Boris Johnson was London Mayor, he colourfully wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “Let us suppose you are losing an argument ... Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate!’… The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”
Dead cats have masked crime, underperforming public services, truancy and a cost-of-living crisis. Compensation for the never-ending central Auckland Rail Tunnel is a sickening dead cat proving Ronald Reagan right. The 10 most terrifying words in the English language are: “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” How does a pedestrian crossing cost $485,000?
One dead cat we can put to bed is the work ethic of young Kiwis. They’re excellent. I cannot say that about the 3.9 per cent minority on the dole. When I’ve taken a punt, some don’t turn up and some others seem chemically distracted. The new Government has its work cut out to elevate work above the dole.
In October, Rural Contractors NZ, the Meat Industry Association and BusinessNZ called on Immigration NZ to lift its game. It hasn’t. After repeat triple shifts, I’m burning out and with no senior managers locally available, I’m forced to try overseas.
To recruit you must be an “accredited employer”. I don’t mind scrutiny, but what does a $740 accreditation fee cover, if Immigration NZ approved ratbag employers? An additional $610 “job check” was an added dead cat to mask mistakes leading to approval gridlock. I’m $1350 down, not forgetting GST, for someone I needed at least two months ago.
I have no idea when the Job Check Application will be processed and approved. Several weeks has morphed into six weeks and its now third month running and counting. Farmers say it’ll affect all-important harvests. Another harvest is the billion dollar tourism industry and we’re missing a vital summer one with unprecedented delays and underperformance from Immigration NZ.
(These hoops only get you to the start line too. I still need to recruit and get someone here, but Immigration NZ is oblivious to this employment reality. I’m unlikely to have someone before March, by that time NZ’s tourism summer season will be over for the year. Awesome.)
Another dead cat was Labour’s “ramraid offence” response to tearaway kids and the thousands of retail Crimes Act offences in the first five months of 2023. The public didn’t buy it given we have laws for dangerous driving and dangerous acts crying out for enforcement.
What dairy owners wanted was the ability to defend our property, but that needs reasonable force defined in law and repeal of a stupid law that prevents citizen’s arrests in daylight. These two practical measures were missing in action from the last government and are missing from the Coalition’s 100-day plan. Meanwhile brazen viciousness gets worse.
The Chapel Downs Liquor store incident this weekend and recent near murder of Suresh Patel at the New Windsor Dairy came just 13 months after Janak Patel’s death. The new Government must walk the talk and return to the pre-2017 Police model where retail was a crime canary and where arrests were made in half of every retail incident police attended. Comparing a bad 2021 to an even worse 2022 we saw retail intentional injury climb 22 per cent, sexual assaults increase 6 per cent, robberies grow 17 per cent while burglary soared 48 per cent — along with thefts (up 44 per cent). And 2023 is just as bad, so National-Act-NZ First, where are you?
Because on January 1, 2024, the cigarette excise tax increases 5.6 per cent, like a crime metronome, taking a kilogram of tobacco to $2038 with GST. That’s $500 more than a kilogram of silver. As we brace for impact, I can say this is why we’re so supportive of vaping. Far better to get our customers onto and mostly safer for us to sell.
Yet the boss of secondary school principals went unchallenged recently claiming vaping was killing babies. That’s a dead rat because HealthNZ says vaping has put no one into hospital. An underreported fact. The word “vaping” meanwhile masks a genuine epidemic of school truancy, a numeracy and literacy crisis and violence as the leading cause of school suspensions and expulsions.
All the while, dairies get casually blamed despite HealthNZ confirming they’re 94-97 per cent compliant selling smokes and vapes — including 100 per cent compliant just recently in Northland. Solving youth vaping starts with youth crime. Just where do people think the vapes stolen in ramraids ends up? The USA was first into this youth vaping “epidemic,” yet its 2023 teen vaping stats, completely unreported here, shows it fell 29 per cent on 2022 and has halved since 2018 to 10 per cent. That sort of quitting never happened with cigarettes but no expert is asking how young people can quit vaping, more easily than the smokes. That’s no dead cat either.
Sunny Kaushal is the chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group Inc who also has interests in hospitality.