Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

Newspaper Columns


19/12/06 Problems of Opposition since 2001
13/12/06 TIM PANKHURST Dominion Post
05/12/06 Nicky Hager and the Hollow Book
21/11/06 Greeks Bearing Gifts
07/11/06 Poor Policing in Auckland
24/10/06 Careless decisions on Auckland's Waterfront
10/10/06 The PC Clobbering Machine
26/09/06 Toxic Politics
12/09/06 Auckland's Robbers' Convention (NZ Herald)
12/09/06 Labour's Political Scandals
29/08/06 Corruption and Party Funding
14/08/06 War in the Middle East
01/08/06 New Zealand's Future?
20/06/06 Our Infrastructural Needs
20/06/06 Leave
06/06/06 Diverting the Public's Attention
23/05/06 New Zealand and Australia
09/05/06 The Maori Seats
11/04/06 Dogs and Priorities
28/03/06 Parliament's Size
14/03/06 Crime and Police priorities
28/02/06 Family Planning and Poverty
14/02/06 The Cartoon Furore
31/01/06 Greater Financial Understanding
03/01/06 Encouraging Economic Literacy
20/12/05 Immigration and Adaptation
06/12/05 Problems with Psychiatric Care
22/11/05 Maternity Services Gone Wrong
08/11/05 Political Correctness
25/10/05 MMP and the 2005 Outcome
11/10/05 A New Cabinet?
27/09/05 Social Divisions
19/09/05 Election Aftermath
13/09/05 Election Dirty Tricks
30/08/05 Election bribery
16/08/05 Reflections on New Zealand
15/08/05 David Lange: An Assessment by a Colleague
07/06/05 Facing the Electricity Future
07/06/05 ON LEAVE
24/05/05 David Benson-Pope
10/05/05 Three in a row for Blair
26/04/05 Press Accuracy
12/04/05 Hawkins and the Police
29/03/05 Lunacy Sightings
15/03/05 National's Predicament
01/03/05 Making Quality Decisions
15/02/05 Aid to Africa
01/02/05 Orewa Mark II
18/01/05 Asian Tsunami
04/01/05 Sir Apirana Ngata

Dogs and Priorities


The decision to microchip all dogs tells us much about the current Cabinet. They keep dealing with the symptoms of problems, never their causes. Thank heavens none is a physician or their patients would have died long ago! Yes, there is a problem with dangerous dogs. Too many people get bitten. The experience terrifies children. Adults too. I was bitten a couple of times by mongrels when campaigning in my electorate. What to do about them is the problem. We had a chance in the 1980s to stop the importation of dangerous breeds, but muffed it, and now there are too many.

Under Cabinet's new requirements, all dog owners will have the expense of microchipping, irrespective of the dog's likely danger. Yet, we have known for many years that the real dog problems come from owners in what the Australians call the feral parts of society. They don't bother even to register dogs, and certainly won't microchip them. Once more everyone will suffer because Labour can't come to grips with the problem end of society that their social policies continue to create. Instead, they are engaged in a form of political escapism. Ministers want to look as though they are doing something useful about dogs, when in reality they aren't even applying a band-aid. Even the microchip itself, if the ferals could be persuaded to register and chip their dogs, is worthless when it comes to stopping them savaging kids. It's crude placebo politics at its worst.

We've seen lots of this sort of nonsense over the years, and it hasn't been confined to Labour. Random breath testing is another substitute for real policy. The Police stop cars everywhere, most often at times and in areas where they know they won't encounter the section of society that is most over-represented in road fatality statistics. The ferals get caught here and there, but when served with fines, don't pay. When stripped of licences, still drive. When given community service to work off, don't turn up. When seen on cameras breaking into cars, aren't arrested. When specifics are provided to police about burglaries, and who perpetrated them, know that nothing will happen. When they openly admit they are the authors of graffiti that costs millions to remove each year, there's no penalty. A friend told me he was recently cleaning graffiti off a fence in South Auckland when he was threatened by someone with the words: "Hey. Bro, why you smash my art?" The people with the most menacing dogs won't be writhing in bed at the thought of Cabinet's microchip policy, of that you can be absolutely sure.

What we seem to be dealing with these days is a government that is paralysed by its outdated 1970s student agendas. These prevent them from getting to grips with the ferals, and facing up to why their numbers keep growing. Nor can ministers deal with arguments for tax reform that would give New Zealand a fighting chance to keep economically and socially abreast of Australia. Less taxation, of course, would mean less government expenditure, but our student politicians think they are better custodians of your money than you are. They waste large sums on welfare, only making worse the problems they claim to be fixing. And they want to spend more on education and health, when a careful reassessment of current priorities is more urgent. The Cabinet prefers that their rapidly expanding bureaucracy "improves" citizen's lives, rather than trusting the choices people make. An 11% increase in public health expenditure last year produced no lift in hospital outputs; huge increases in educational funding for poorer areas have seen no detectable improvement in student attainment. Not surprisingly, the country's welfare hotspots, Northland, South Auckland and Waikato, where huge additional sums have been spent since 1999, were the areas where last week's crime statistics were worst. Have ministers stopped reading and thinking?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to firmer dog-control. A crackdown on graffiti would be welcome too. A suggestion in last week's Herald that there should be greater controls on paint spray cans used by perpetrators could even be a moderately effective band-aid. But until such time as the great welfare recruiting ground for under-achievement and consequent anti-social behaviour is faced up to, nothing offers more than temporary relief. Microchipping dogs is a pathetic political distraction to disguise the paralysis that afflicts this government, preventing it from doing anything worthwhile.