TDB Guest Blog Project – Louisa Wall: ‘The most pressing issue in NZ right now’ –



When National came into Government in 2008 it did so decrying a “Nanny State” and the evil of state intervention in citizen’s lives.  That campaign was scathing in its criticism of  programmes like healthy eating in schools which then Health Minister Tony Ryall immediately halted.  And then he reduced spending on anti-obesity initiatives by 10 per cent.  The National Government refused to regulate for placement of food in supermarkets and for advertising food to our children.  And today they refuse to implement a tax that, based on scientific evidence, could reduce the consumption of sugary products.

How ironic then that, eight years on, this Government intervenes in citizen’s lives at an unprecedented level by making extensive use of urgency to pass laws concerning employment and health and safety, passing laws to oust the jurisdiction of the Courts and excluding access to the Courts for environmental matters in Canterbury.  Couple those with surveillance and GCSB laws, erosion of prisoners rights and the myriad of social obligations placed on beneficiaries and we have experienced state intervention, or “Nanny State”,  at a level that impinges on basic human rights.

But what of intervention in those areas where there is an issue of harm.  Alcohol, gambling, smoking and obesity are all areas where this Government has been called on to intervene for the public good. Statistics continue to highlight the detrimental consequences of consumption of some products based on addiction and over-supply in some communities and to some vulnerable populations, all often linked by the challenges of poverty.

And despite the ease with which they erode democratic rights, the Government takes the least steps possible to deal with harmful health issues.  Tackling obesity is the latest example.  This Government makes no meaningful intervention on one of the single most pressing issues.  Instead of introducing a sugar tax recommended by the WHO and health and academic professionals advising governments world-wide, and taking steps aimed at encouraging better and more healthy eating, this Government offers dieting advice, with little evidence to support its efficacy, to those identified in B4 school checks as obese.  And which groups are disproportionately represented in the childhood obesity statistics? The same group that are poorly represented in B4 school checks, namely Pacific and Maori children who then won’t have an opportunity to experience these interventions that the Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, a pediatrician, says will not work anyway.

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As with the inability to take effective steps with addressing alcohol, so too has this Government fallen well short of interventions necessary to address obesity.  And what is the common denominator?  Protection of  industries and companies that lobby the Government to protect their position, regardless of the harm that is done.  Interventions by this Government protect businesses that support them and advertising agencies that promote them. And ultimately there is a lack of care and commitment to reducing inequalities which requires an understanding of how and why the poor are disproportionately affected by the creation of environments that exacerbate issues such as alcoholism and family violence, smoking and high breast and cervical and other forms of cancer, gambling and obesity issues.

And given the concerns around plain packaging for cigarettes and our commitment to TPPA, the ideal of a smoke free Aotearoa by 2025 seems less likely given the investment priorities of tobacco companies and the protections they have under TPPA at the expense of our smoke free commitment.

We do not live in a free society.  Constraints on freedom to do what we like is placed on us every day.  But those constraints or interventions should be for good.  They should be necessary in order for a state to protect and minimise harm to its citizens.   They should not be applied for middle class people at the expense of those in need nor for corporations at the expense of citizens.

This Government has intervened in ways that benefit its own purposes and its own supporters and falls well short where intervention is required for the health of its citizens.

How this government governs and who it governs for is I believe the most pressing issue in Aotearoa New Zealand right now. What are we going to do about it New Zealand?


On the last day of each month TDB will ask a range of progressive voices in NZ to write a guest blog on what they think ‘the most pressing issue in NZ right now’ is. This month our guest progressives are, Labour Party MP and Marriage Equality champion Louisa Wall;  Unionist and human rights activist Tali Williams; and regional champion for the Labour Party, Stuart Nash. 


  1. 100%. I wonder if this government is trying to get rid of the benefit bludgers, and the low income earners (after all, they are the root of all our counrty’s problems, according to jonkey), by limiting what care they get, and restricting the food they can afford.

  2. Well Ms Wall might I suggest that the Party you represent in Parliament clearly loudly staunchly and honestly oppose the TPPA? Look out though. You will earn the respect of ordinary New Zealanders but also the hatred, malice and murderous opposition of those who would serve corporate wealth rather than people. Is Labour up for it? You have the Green Party and NZ First to stand beside you….the courage to act? We wait….

  3. Everything you say is true, but what is Labour doing about it?

    It is no good attacking the government if Labour are actually enabling their tactics by flip flopping on surveillance and TPP.

    If we had a strong opposition with different policies in particular on TPP and surveillance then the government would be gone by lunch time next election.

    Instead there is a reluctance for Labour to take a strong position on foreign policy independent from National and closer to NZ First and Greens policy.

    • Absolutely.
      It appears as if Labour takes its positions in relation to transNational and is constantly referencing against them. Time to create their own agenda. Yes, air time is a problem but surely their comms team is smart enough to know how to coordinate between MSM, alt media and social media. If not, they need a new team.
      Labour has to start framing the arguments – once the frames are ceded to transNational they are battling on their terms.
      Tough reality but in opposition they have to work harder.

      One place to start is the Labour Party website. It’s shit. Looks like it was copied from the National website and then put a red skin/branding on it.

      Let’s take a look at the Policies page.

      All of Labour’s policy is currently under review.
      To view the 2014 Election Manifesto, click here. (hyperlink under click here).

      “Click here?” – its 2015 on the interweb not 1995.
      All policy under review? What I read is that you’re so uncertain of your past policy development that it’s all changing. Really? it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.

      it needs a complete re-work – a don’t use some idea of what a political party website should look like, or copy anyone else’s. Do something original!

      But – I did discover something – Megan Woods is the spokesperson for Climate Change. Apparently she has written stuff and you can find stuff if you Google but why isn’t she constantly hounding Groser & Key? They are so weak on tackling CC that Labour should be hitting hard – or is Labour weak on CC too?

      Don’t mean too dump on you Louisa – but I get a sense you might listen unlike his nibs.

  4. I am not at all surprised about the National led government’s actions and priorities, supported by ones such as David Seymour.

    They cater for vested interest business parties, and we are already seeing the radical change that has occurred in the media landscape, which is often blamed on the new force of the internet.

    Yes, the internet has changed the landscape of providing information and sharing it, but that alone is not the reason. There are many countries in Europe and some other places, where they still have strong public broadcasting media.

    Not so in New Zealand, under National hidden and not so hidden agendas of privatisation are the rule. So they have abolished TVNZ 6 and 7, put pressure on Radio NZ, TVNZ and Maori TV, and seen to it that through “friends” in right places the more favourable media people have been rewarded with top jobs on the news and entertainment front, while those causing too much trouble have one by one vanished. Needed “reforms”, restructuring and so are the frequent excuses.

    But it is business and the vested interested by the mostly privileged that counts under National, so they also go soft on junk food, on alcohol and gambling and what else there may be.

    They made compromises to exempt farmers and other employers from health and safety law changes, they favour employers when loosening meal break rules and employment contractual frameworks, they do deals with Sky City and other large corporations, to advance the interests of the strong and powerful, with deep pockets of money.

    It is time we get firm, strong and decisive opposition, that is heard and taken note of, that exposes the rot in our society, or we will soon have all in our lives dictated by business, day in and out, we are sadly already half way there.

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