Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Fiji Police’s fight against drug related harm

by Jake Quinn

A Kiwi living in Fiji examines the Fiji Police drug unit’s multi-pronged effort to reduce drug related harm in their communities, beginning with a brief history of drug use in the island nation

Setting the scene

Drug use is not new to the beautiful Fijian Islands. Alcohol, kava and marijuana are part of daily life for many Fijians. Illicit drugs are much less common, although Fiji Police believe their use is on the rise. Because of Fiji’s location as a major port in the heart of the Pacific, the country faces both illicit drug trafficking and increasing use, especially amongst the young.

Traditionally, ethnic Fijians – known as iTaukei – and indo-Fijians (who make up around 37% of Fiji’s 827,900 people), as well as the myriad of other ethnicities that form Fiji’s colourful, at times strained, multiculturalism, have used various forms of phycho-active drugs during their rituals and ceremonies. Indentured labourers and riley seafarers bought marijuana and hemp traditions from India and elsewhere to Fiji when they arrived to work the sugar plantations and to trade.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s time to come home

by Jake Quinn

Jake and Liv on Nananu-i-Ra, Fiji

Olivia and I are soon to move back to New Zealand. Moving home will conclude what has been a two-and-a-bit-year-long “OE” that didn’t involve living in London’s Clapham Junction. Rather, it begun in Kosovo, then shifted to Australia and Fiji. It’s been an incredible journey and I am so glad we did it. There really is no greater way to learn to appreciate your country like living aboard.

I have missed New Zealand. It is the things you miss that make you realise why your country is so special. Most of what I miss doesn’t have a dollar value. Much of it is simply about family, connectedness, a sense of belonging to a place and people. I care about my home, the places I have lived; The Waikato, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, I feel like I – in some way – own part them. You don’t get that anywhere else. Read the rest of this entry »

Contraceptives are great, but that’s *not* what we’ve just been sold

by Jake Quinn

Contraceptives are wonderful things. Oral contraceptives helped to liberate women when they were introduced to the public in the 1960s. They gave women significantly greater control over their bodies and their reproductive systems. They meant women had more choice about when and to whom they became pregnant.

Unwanted (I don’t mean unplanned) pregnancies are not wonderful things, children born into homes that don’t want them, or are not ready for them, don’t generally lead as full and healthy lives as those who were wanted and where the parents were ready and willing participants.

Contraceptives are particularly wonderful things in disadvantaged communities, where people are less able to cope with social and financial impacts of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.

Read the rest of this entry »

He’s your best friend and would die for you

by Jake Quinn

It’s not unreasonable to assert that West Wing character Leo McGarry was the finest presidential Chief of Staff that ever lived, real or fictional. It is with that in mind, and prompted by the ever mischievous posts of a Mr W. Oil, that I put forth the following passage, care of Wikipedia (tongue in cheek of course):

When President Bartlet is giving instructions to the one Cabinet member who is appointed the designated survivor during the State of the Union address, he asks the man if he has a best friend, if that friend is smarter than him, and if he could trust that friend with his life. The Cabinet member says yes on all counts, Bartlet then says “That’s your chief of staff”, not aware McGarry has heard him in the next room and broken into a smile, visibly moved.

Alastair Cameron to be the Labour Chief of Staff?

by Jake Quinn


Labour CoS Alastair Cameron

As you may have heard the NZ Leader of the Opposition’s Office Chief of Staff, former MP Stuart Nash, recently hung up his boots after just a few months in the job.

Today iPredict launched stocks on who would replace him. The candidates according to iPredict were Alastair CameronMarcus GanleyJon JohanssonConor RobertsJames Bews-HairJohn PaganiJohn Tamihere, and Gordon Jon Thompson.

Read the rest of this entry »

Zipper The Island Cat

by Jake Quinn

Grief is a funny thing.

A week ago my GF and I adopted a cat from another Suva expat who was departing Fiji for considerably less fare shores. The cat’s name was Zipper. She was about two and a half and absolutely charming.

She settled in instantly, was affectionate – but not too affectionate – didn’t meow too much. She was cute, friendly, and seemed to love us instantly. I kept her locked in the house for the first 4 days to get her settled in.

I was told she ate dry biscuits and “didn’t mind raw veal, from the cost-you-less”. Fancy that.

She was desperate to get outside from the moment she moved in. She was after all an island cat, not built for inside living. Read the rest of this entry »

Shearer finally hits his stride

by Jake Quinn

It’s been a big day for David Shearer who this morning delivered his first scene setting “vision” speech since being elected leader in December. “Finally” the crowds remarked. After all, we’ve waited for three long months for this.

(I will admit I was starting to get worried, especially after reading this strange rambling interview earlier in the week).

But it worked. It was a strong speech that began to paint a portrait of what Shearer would look like as Prime Minister. Moderate, down-to-earth, growth-focused yet compassionate, not afraid of tacking left or right when the moment called, ideological agile you might say.

Excellent developments, from my similarly agile, generally left-leaning, centrist point of view. Read the rest of this entry »

Farrar hits the nail on the head

by Jake Quinn

David Farrar nails it in this blog. The blog relates to comments by Labour activist, candidate and political commentator (and wife of David Shearer’s political advisor, John), Josie Pagani, made on Radio New Zealand and then online, in regards to the POAL dispute.

Pagani’s moderate, non-fundamentalist view, where she accepts a certain inevitability (that some industries need to be more flexible than others) but expresses concern about how to manage that process, is quite likely shared by millions of New Zealanders. Read the rest of this entry »

Hey bloggers, stop blaming the staff

by Jake Quinn

The Standard guest author Jimmy Reid writes about the struggle by Labour parties around the world to formulate and articulate their vision. He says they have “no communications strategy or narrative.” 

Some interesting points are made in the post about the lack of a cohesive vision, both here and elsewhere. It seems that Labour parties the world over understood what they used to stand for, but are now struggling to find an effective space between the centre and the left that makes sense to both voters and membership.

Jimmy goes on to attack David Shearer’s staff, saying he “is being let down by an inept communications team and by useless advisors. We really have to stop assuming that because someone is a journalist they get campaign and political communications. There is more to it than boozy lunches with Duncan Garner.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on Labour’s review

by Jake Quinn

So Labour’s launched its internal organisational review. I don’t think the review should be a public spectacle, only political hacks and journalists care about an internal party review. It’s never going to be a vote winner, it shouldn’t try to be one.

What should the review be? The first thing I’d ask would be “how would National do this?”. Their review under Michelle Boag, following their devastating 2002 loss, was highly effective for them. It brought in swaths of higher-than-the-usual-calibre candidates and set them up well for 2005 and 2008.

A big part of National’s renewal process was getting in fresh candidates from outside the usual channels, and this needs to be a focus of Labour’s renewal process too. Labour should be focusing on constant MP renewal. Read the rest of this entry »

Political blogs, like other party coms, require oversight

by Jake Quinn

What is the point of having a media unit if they cannot filter and influence what messaging makes its way into the public from your organisation? This is a question that political parties need to ask themselves when deciding on how to manage their MP’s media releases, blog posts and media interviews.

It is common practice for media staff, most of whom are ex-journalists or at least have developed understandings of how media works and how issues will likely play out, to coordinate interviews and press releases.  So why would you leave them out of having input to (and more importantly, oversight of) a party political blog, that you’ve set up to communicate political messages and to engage with interested voters and journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »

We need to talk about inequality

by Jake Quinn

Letter to the Editor of the New Zealand Herald submitted earlier this month. Unsuccessful I believe, but I haven’t been following the letters section. 

We need to talk about inequality as it’s something we can choose to manage

Martin Robinson (5 January) mischievously tries to link the salaries of All Blacks to the debate about the social consequences of increasing inequality.

He claims redistributing AB’s salaries to all other NZ rugby players would ruin the team – sure it could, but no mainstream commentator is suggesting that, nor are they suggesting a purely equal society, which is the ‘strawman’ Robinson is arguing against. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer reading: The Political Brain

by Jake Quinn

My summer reading list, last week purchased for a crisp US $10 a piece and whispernetted onto my Amazon Kindle includes The Political Brain by Drew Western. It’s an interesting read for centre lefters struggling to understand why the right, particularly in the US, seem to have an easier time of it, in terms of winning the argument (and elections) in much of the last 40 odd years.

I’m about a third of the way through it. I’m also reading Infidel the autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and planning on getting stuck into Island by Aldous Huxley and Portfolios of the Poor (which examines how the poorest people in parts of South Africa, Bangladesh and India draw on extensive small-scale financial instruments to manage their finances, it’s essentially a book about the possibilities of microfinance) by Daryl Collins et al.

Oh how I love three-week holidays in the Coromandel with nothing much to do but sleep, fish, swim, walk, drink and read. Read the rest of this entry »

We could solve poverty, if we wanted to

by Jake Quinn

The current government in New Zealand has no real interest in poverty eradication, so it is not surprising that they turned down Labour leader David Shearer’s offer to take part in the government’s poverty group. His ideas might have actually helped, and that wouldn’t be helpful.

Poverty eradication, especially during times of limited economic growth, is – surely – most effectively addressed through redistributing existing wealth.

National’s answer to poverty is to remove welfare. There are very few jobs for people on welfare to take these days, so removing welfare is highly unlikely to remove people from poverty, it is, rather, likely to do the exact opposite. Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes you just need to ask your girlfriend

by Jake Quinn

Focus group of one, my lovely girlfriend, had some interesting things to say about the Labour leadership tonight as we wandered around a few leafy blocks for our evening walk in the blaring sunshine, 30 degree heat and solid humidity.

Birds were chirping, puppies – that didn’t appear to have homes – hovered nearby with their tails only half wagging between their legs in a completely rational display of happiness and fear (ex-pats tend to pat dogs, locals not so much).

A family of mongooses ran across the street in front of us.

My girlfriend is not particularly interesting in NZ politics – she’s seemingly got bigger fish to fry. Read the rest of this entry »