John Key got caught out on the blow out in costs of his nice to have diplomatic protection. So the Nats have been spinning a line about extra security for Key because “at least one person” (i.e. one person) has been “charged for threats” in “recent weeks”. Gordon Campbell at Scoop shreds that argument pretty comprehensively, his piece is well worth the read.
In the middle of Campbell’s piece is this telling observation:
When for instance, she was asked on Morning Report about the potential cost blowout for security during the Rugby World Cup she gave this extraordinary answer to interviewer Geoff Robinson:
The fact is, the Police have to make those decisions not worrying about the budget. We can’t have a situation Geoff, where we have peoples’ lives at risk because the Police are worried that they’re going to end up having to defend their budget and what they’ve spent it on. … Its not just acceptable. …
Isn’t that what doctors and nurses have to do almost every day of the week? Consistently, they are forced to balance the quality of care against the need to defend the health budget. Such decisions of course, affect only the lives of ordinary people though – and not the very important people who qualify for diplomatic protection squad care and protection. Just one more sign that this government believes some lives are more important than others.
Campbell’s rejoinder to Collins is spot on. Health care providers don’t get unlimited funding, and they must make decisions about people’s lives every day. To this example we might add health and safety provisions at work, spending on road safety, the cost of public education campaigns on smoking, drugs and alcohol, spending on the care of the elderly, spending on Pharmac and the availability of medicines, spending on the reduction of poverty with who knows how many lives saved and extended, and so on and so on.
There are any number of areas where risk to life must be balanced against a realistic budget. But Collins argues that “VIP” protection is not subject to the same constraints. In that case it’s open season on the tax payers’ chequebook, and anyone who asks questions is pathetic. Hard to argue with Campbell’s conclusion really. In the Nats’ eyes, some lives are more equal than others.