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Alcohol distraction

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, August 30th, 2012 - 68 comments
Categories: alcohol - Tags: , ,

Today MPs will have a conscience vote on the drinking age.

That’s all well and good, but it is mainly a distraction from the fact that National will not be reforming where it matters.

National say they’re acting on the vast majority of the Law Commission’s recommendations, but they’re missing the ones that the Law Commission – and relevant academics – say matter.

Number one is price.  A minimum price for alcohol ($1/unit?) would be best, but if not, then at least some increase in the excise.  If it works for tobacco, it will work for alcohol (as it has in the past).

Number 2 is advertising – and there will be no added restrictions.  The alcohol industry will continue to make drinking look cool and sexy and then throw up their hands “blame-free” as to why young impressionable people over-consume their product.

Number 3 is availability.  There is some tinkering here, but nothing to scare the alcohol industry too much.  National’s policy is to not hurt the alcohol industry by reducing the amount that’s drunk, but to somehow magically reduce the harm that’s done by that drinking.  Alcohol doesn’t work that way.

The government even decided that the alcohol industry could “self-regulate” over RTDs.  Their idea of not having more than 2 standard drinks per beverage (even if all companies comply) will only result in super strong shots, encouraging even faster drinking…  A maximum strength needs imposing: all around the world the alcohol industry has cried “self-regulation” to get their way.

So yeah, I don’t think 2 years of “training wheels” in bars is a bad idea.  But the focus on 18- and 19-year-olds’ drinking is a sideshow to avoid the main event, when our society has the drinking problem.

[stuff for a good chunk of yesterday had only Labour MPs would have a conscious vote on the whole bill… it seems a bit harsh to suggest that all the other parties aren’t conscious…]

Update: And remain at 18 it is. Graeme Edgeler’s Alcohol Game Theory turned out to be a good prediction: the compromise got eliminated and MPs chose between 18 & 20, despite neither having majority support.


68 comments on “Alcohol distraction”

  1. Carol 1

    Yes I heard someone on RNZ a week or 2 ago, speaking on behalf of the alcohol industry, arguing that it was the responsibility of drinkers not to drink in a way that was harmful to themselves.

    Yeah, right!

    Especially young teenage drinkers – I can remember not always being “responsible” at that age.

  2. tc 2

    I’m expecting a few more controversial mumbles from Shonkey as a further distraction from their flogging off of public assets to enrich their mates.

    Doesn’t he have shares in alcohol interests, this is just another sham about caring when they don’t give a F about anything but their wallets.

    The RTD issue is alot more serious than folk realise, the alcohol content aside they are among some of the most nasty substances one can drink with the alcohol often not even coming from the alleged ‘spirit’.

    Fosters got done a few years back for using the brewing process to manufacture the alcohol they then ‘flavoured’ in RTD ‘spirit mixes’.

  3. Julian 3

    They, they, they……. all their fault eh!
    Take ownership adults of NZ, you set the example for your young, not the alcohol companies and our government!
    Geez, lets raise the price of food to get those fat obese kiwis to slim down. Alcohol is not the issue. The issue is whether you can teach and lead by example the youth of our country. Enjoy a beverage with food, enjoy the company with you, enjoy the beverage, enjoy!
    When the adults of our society continue to get plastered i.e. Zac Guilford, yet we still receive them with open arms and praise them, turning the blind eye to their disgraceful excess consumption.
    Grow up and enjoy a ‘good’ wine.

    • Carol 3.1

      Mate, I don’t drink, but I don’t see many young people following my example. Not that I want others to give up drinking alcohol altogether.

      They are more influenced by the advertising, marketing, and their peers.

      Get a clue about how consumer behaviour is influence!. The (alcohol and other) corporates know this, which is why they spend so much on marketing and advertising, drawing on research that shows how behaviour can be manipulated….. hypocritical of them to then say that the subsequent behaviour is all the responsibility of the consumer.

      The culture that is most damaging, resulting in problem drinking, is consumer culture.

    • Tracey 3.2

      alcohol doesn’t get drunk, people do… And who pays for all the back up services that are required? The alcohol companies with their offshore companies in tax havens or those of us who don’t drink or only drink responsibly, as adults?

      At 18 the young person’s brain is still developing, including the consequences part… still let’s put them and their long suffering parents up against

      cheap prices
      billions spent on advertising to surrepticiously move them to buy
      have it on every street corner

      I suppose you also think that advertising doesn’t “work”?

  4. Lanthanide 4

    I’m in favour of the minimum price change, since I don’t buy the cheap stuff anyway…

    • Augustus 4.1

      Yeah, me too. I like the $1 bit per unit. That would bring us in line with Scotland, where it’s 50p. In Labour they have been talking about $ 2 per unit, twice as much as the Scots. “We”‘re not twice as bad as them, are we?

    • felix 4.2

      Lanth, that makes sense as a reason to not be opposed, but in no way is it an argument in favour.

      It’s a bit like saying ‘I’m in favour of increasing speed limits on motorways to 200kph because I don’t drive on motorways.’

      • Lanthanide 4.2.1

        If they’re going to make changes to the pricing of alcohol, then:
        1. I’m in favour of the minimum pricing change, since I don’t buy the cheap stuff.
        2. I’m against changing the excise tax, because it will affect what I do buy.

        So that’s an argument in favour, however venal and self-serving.

        • felix

          Ah, so if it were a choice between those two options, you’d be expressing a preference for option one, which is not really the same thing as saying you support option one as opposed to the status quo.

          Why are we talking about it as if those are the only two possible options?

          • Lanthanide

            I refer you to the original article:

            “Number one is price. A minimum price for alcohol ($1/unit?) would be best, but if not, then at least some increase in the excise.”

  5. King Kong 5

    Anglo Saxons have been getting on the stitch for ever and in NZ the natives have shown quite an aptitude for it as well.

    The reality is that forever people have liked getting out of their box and there has always been those that tut tut and point to the social cost and there have always been those who say get fucked.

    Throughout the ages attempts have been made to put a lid on overt alcohol consumption and it has always failed. I do admire those who so stridently believe that their ideas will be succesful though.

    • mike e 5.1

      Primitive urges explained by primitive primate.

    • Lanthanide 5.2

      And yet other countries don’t have the same sort of drinking culture as we do.

      The question is, how do we move our culture to be more like theirs. Minimum pricing is a great way to moderate the fringe behaviour, and curtailing advertisement goes a long way in fighting the glamorisation of drinking.

    • Tracey 5.3

      Of course in the olden days it was because the water would kill you…

    • fnjckg 5.4

      learning. adaptation. teachable.

  6. belladonna 6

    Those who dont buy the cheap wine are more fortunate than those who have no choice but to buy the cheap version. Most people drink responsibly so why would you yet again hit the poor who enjoy a glass of wine at night. There are other ways to curb excess drinking, especially in the young. Raising the price of alcohol and a minimum price is just yet another tax.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      “than those who have no choice but to buy the cheap version”

      You can choose not to buy alcohol.

      • felix 6.1.1

        Is there some other form of self-medication you’d recommend? Because essentially you’re advocating for plugging up the stress-relief valve of a whole sector of our community.

        • higherstandard


          • felix

            What about khat leaves?

            • higherstandard

              Although it is fairly benign toxicologically there are still too many possible deleterious health effects for my liking in comparison to Kava.

        • Lanthanide

          belladonna’s comment implies people are forced to buy alcohol. They’re not.

          • felix

            Of course not, but people drink for a number of reasons. Let’s not ignore those reasons.

            Otherwise this entire effort is a massive waste of time at best.

      • vto 6.1.2

        “You can choose not to buy alcohol.”

        Oh so you do endorse free grown up adult decision-making rather than do-gooder interference from on high. Could have fooled me ..

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      Those who dont buy the cheap wine are more fortunate than those who have no choice but to buy the cheap version.

      They still have a choice – buy or don’t buy.

      Most people drink responsibly so why would you yet again hit the poor who enjoy a glass of wine at night.

      I really doubt if it will hit responsible drinkers that hard – even the poor ones.

      There are other ways to curb excess drinking, especially in the young.

      No, there isn’t. The young are looking for most alcohol content at the cheapest price so that they can drink lots.

  7. Enough is Enough 7

    A minimum price will punish the poor and have no affect on the binge drinking rich.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      A minimum price means that the $6 wine that no one would buy if it actually cost $16, will stop being produced because they won’t be able to sell it at the minimum price. Similarly all of the other low-end grog will stop being produced as there’ll be no (legal) market for it.

      I don’t see this as ‘punishing’ the poor: I suspect ‘poor’ people wouldn’t really ‘enjoy’ drinking this sort of alcohol because by and large it isn’t actually nice. They drink it because it’s all they can afford.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        No, that $6 bottle of wine will still sell – it’s just that it won’t be bought by the case load for binge drinking.

        • Lanthanide

          Not entirely understanding your point here. Have you actually tried $6 wine? It’s not really wine. No one would voluntarily pay $16 for it (hence why it’s priced at $6).

          • mike e

            Lanthe wine snob blind tastes have proved expensive wines can not be detinguished from cheap wines.Besides wine isn’t the problem its cheap RTD’s and beer thats the problem and the price hike your trying to put foreward is ridiculus.
            maybe you should try the dog whistle brand of whine and start moaning .
            Alcohol is $6billion a year problem user pays is the only way.
            So i don’t like subsidising alcoholism and our binge drinking to the tune of $6 billion a year You are obviously happy to have 75% of police time wasted on alcohol related crime!
            Have our under funded A&E depts ambulances mental health etc using up valuable resouces on Drunks!
            Work place loss of productivity and Accidents caused by alcohol.
            NZed has a major problem with alcohol and is in major denial as with any addictive substance time to do something about it as we are borrowing billions while subsidizing alcohol .
            Yes I drink ocasionally now I was a binge drinker and not proud of it.

            • Augustus

              You do have a real thing about these $6b. Have you read this?

              • Carol

                I don’t have much faith in the way conventional economists measure (or don’t) social costs of anything – especially not after having attended some talks by Marilyn Waring.

            • Lanthanide

              Yes, I know that expensive wines can’t be distinguished from cheap wines by wine experts.

              I repeat what I said: “It’s not really wine”. As in, it is not fermented grapes. It might be scum off the top of fermented grapes, made up with grape juice and some pure ethanol mixed in for the alcohol content.

      • Rich 7.1.2

        Did you know that a lot of the wine that we pay $6 for gets foisted on ignorant foreigners (Brits, mostly) at maybe $16. There’s an “understanding” in the NZ wine industry that sets a floor on our export product.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      Binge drinking will be effected the most as the people who engage in it won’t be able to afford to do it any more.

  8. captain hook 8

    hey we are a nation of sophisticates now.
    we can self regulate the amount of booze we drink.
    the tories have created a really civil society.
    haven’t they?

  9. Roy 9

    A couple of things that seemed to work quite well when I lived in the US were (1) making public drunkenness illegal and (2) requiring recidivist DUIs to have orange number plates that marked them as recidivist DUIs.

    • Lanthanide 9.1

      #2 sounds really good. A hell of a lot cheaper than the alcohol breath locks they’re talking about putting into cars. There was a ridiculous figure that they would charge people $100/month to have them fitted in their cars, and then talking about the government having to step in because most of the drink-drivers wouldn’t be able to afford that.

      • Roy 9.1.1

        Problem here is that the number plate goes with the car rather than with the registration to a given driver. Still, maybe orange number-plate surrounds, clear orange number-plate covers, or something like that? There is something quite comforting about putting a large distance between your own car and a car with orange plates, and hopefully there is a shaming effect for recidivists who see people avoiding their vehicle. If they are capable of feeling shame, that is.

        • Lanthanide

          Good point.

          We’d have to make sure OCR numberplate readers, more frequently being used for traffic and toll management, were compatible as well.

  10. vto 10

    The whole minimum pricing thing can fu@k off.

    Bloody school teacher / nosybody / do-gooder approach.

    Why punish those who have nothing to do with the issue? Wankers

    • felix 10.1

      Totally agree v.

      If they were really concerned about people getting fucked up all the time then they’d be trying to create a society where people didn’t feel like getting fucked up all the time.

      Instead it’s just more of the same, blaming the victim, attacking the symptom, and amputating the foot because they can’t figure out how to trim a toenail.

      • fatty 10.1.1

        “If they were really concerned about people getting fucked up all the time then they’d be trying to create a society where people didn’t feel like getting fucked up all the time.”

        True…the binge drinkers I know are the people (of all ages) who are on minimum wage, and who have about $10-20 left per week after all bills are paid. So saving money, other entertainment, or investing in other interests are out stupid options. Come the weekend they make the most of their meagre spare change by getting munted, and trying to forget that they have to go back to their underpaid, dead-end, temporary job

        • felix

          Yep, stress relief. Or maybe stress avoidance, but either way getting munted is a big safety valve for a lot of people in our increasingly stress-inducing society.

          Now I’m not saying it’s the best way of dealing with stress, or even that it’s not creating more stress in the long run, but nonetheless it’s how people are dealing with their shit right now and it seems to me it would be really dumb to remove that option without some sort of plan to address the underlying problem. Cos it won’t just go away.

  11. vto 11

    The pricing thing is a complete jip. It is well known in Chch that the “rich” schools and housegholds are the ones with the out of control drug and alcohol problems.

    So how will minimum pricing solve that, mr big brains?

    • Enough is Enough 11.1

      Not just a Christchurch problem.

      Look at the issues that repugnant breeding ground of elitism Kings College has had over the past 10 years with the booze. Or the recent Sacred Heart College Saint Kents rugby semi final.

      It is about leadership. Punishing the poor is not the answer.

    • mike e 11.2

      A combination of measures such as raising the drinking age acessability reducing outlets what the alcohol advisory group recommendedafter years of research.
      We have a $6 billion dollar ayear problem here I’m not a wowser but Alcohol is a very Dangerous Drug.
      Doing nothing is not a solution.

      • vto 11.2.1

        “A combination of measures such as raising the drinking age acessability reducing outlets what the alcohol advisory group recommendedafter years of research.”

        Well its a bit of research that has clearly not examined the issue of the acceptability of such stupid blunt instruments that discriminate so indiscriminately. And surely research into the effect of pricing shouldn’t have taken years to work out. Any goose knows that. The research sounds like it was looking in some wrong directions and a bit lacking.

        “Doing nothing is not a solution.”

        Neither is the minimum pricing component.

        And notwithstanding all of that, in most parts of NZ the youth drinking culture is concentrated around the upper income levels. How does this component become a solution to that?

  12. Julian 12

    “it was the responsibility of drinkers not to drink in a way that was harmful to themselves”.

    So true. We must take responsibility for our actions in life. Stop the culture of blame and look in the mirror. What we need is strong leaders!

    “Especially young teenage drinkers – I can remember not always being ‘responsible’ at that age”.
    That is because teenagers brains are in the developmental stage of decision/risk taking assessment. It is us, society and families to reaffirm values and provide boundaries to keep safe.

    Raising taxes/prices does not solve the ‘real’ issue.

    • Lanthanide 12.1

      “Raising taxes/prices does not solve the ‘real’ issue.”

      Alcohol is cheaper now (and in the last couple of decades) than it has been at any other point in human history.

  13. captain hook 13

    every addiction has as its primary goal to prevent the addict feeling their true thoughts and feelings.
    Ann Wilson Shaeff
    Alcholism is a defense against paranoia which is itself a defense against passsive unconscious homosexuality.
    Dictionary Of Psychoanalysis.
    chew on that.

  14. BM 14

    I’m enjoying all the cheap wine you get these days.
    Long may it continue.

  15. captain hook 15

    another cheap drunk.

  16. Wychbych 16

    As long as piss is the sacred cow of NZ, nothing will change. It’s the elephant in the room, shitting everywhere, yet nobody wants to talk about the elephant, just play in the crap… Three things need to happen, imo:

    Raising the drinking age to 20 right across the board, and educating people that drinking is an ‘adult’ flavour (as I do with my son, he can’t stand the taste of the sips I’ve let him have!) and a bit of a privilege. Not a rite of passage at 16, 17, 18.

    Education about alcohol, in that it’s not normal to ‘relax’ every night with a glass/bottle in front of you. It simply isn’t! Yet in NZ, that’s what happens. Thousands of kiwis ‘relax’ every night with it. And remember, kids don’t do what you SAY, they watch you very carefully, and do what you DO. The normalisation of piss as a daily occurrence is one of our biggest problems, and can tip regular drinkers over into booze hounds.

    Take it out of supermarkets, local stores, and place it back into bottle stores. Make it difficult to get a hold of, coupled with a slam on advertising it.

    Like any of THAT’s going to happen with Shonkey Johnkey in charge. The piss lobby has deep pockets, and vehement lobbyists.

    • Draco T Bastard 16.1

      Education about alcohol, in that it’s not normal to ‘relax’ every night with a glass/bottle in front of you.

      Actually, the societies that do have this as a norm don’t have the same binge drinking culture that we have. In other words, the children grow up with responsible drinking as the example rather than the going out and getting drunk once or twice a week example that we have in NZ.

      • SHG 16.1.1

        “Actually, the societies that do have this as a norm don’t have the same binge drinking culture that we have.”


        • wychbych

          Yes, yes, French, Italian society has the normalisation of piss as a way of life. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a drinking problem.

          It’s simply a different type of alcoholism to our binge culture! 😉

  17. RedLogix 17

    Sure we know that binge and abusive drinking results in an absurd amount of harm. And we also know that wowser-ism and prohibitions are not very useful responses either. We all know this, so lets quit rehashing the obvious. We won’t have an intelligent conversation about this until we openly face the question of WHY people use these drugs.

    The ONLY useful way to address this is for us to clearly understand the root causes, because once you have a rational grasp of why you have the emotional need to get smashed, it then becomes possible to direct the conscious self-discipline to avoid the harm.

    It is also true that most adolescents have yet to develop this ability to self-regulate their behaviour and need protecting from booze baron predators who profit from this.

    • weka 17.1

      What are the reasons exactly?

      I think getting out of it is a fairly normal human activity, whatever the substance used. It is fun after all.  It’s the degree to which we do it in NZ, and how we do it, that is the problem.

      I agree with your last sentence, and lowering the age from 20 to 18 was adults who should have known better abandoning young people instead of protecting them.

      • SHG 17.1.1

        The only human society not known to have a cultural history of “getting out of it” from time to time is that of the Inuit (Eskimo) people. It’s hard to grow hops and grapes to ferment when you live above the Arctic Circle.

  18. xtasy 18

    Well the best friend is at the top, aye? I wish more responsibility, but until this country grows up and gets some really needed checking up to do with cultural, social and other improvements, and instead all being run like a PC right-wing, controlling dictatorship, I see NO hope to improve things.

    You may “control” alcohol, but other substances and drugs will replace it, as they already are. NZ is not a cultivated, educated society, that only applies to an “elite” few, many fall down and through the net, so this is the problem. You are NOT adressing the bloody problems, only trying to address the bloody “symptoms”. That makes for a bloody poor doctor, aye.

    No hope no trust and f off is my answer to this discussion!

  19. xtasy 19

    LET us NOT forget, according to Bennett’s top Principal Health Advisor, many of us are also BENEFIT ADDICTS, as benefit dependency is the same as “drug dependency”. So while alcohol is a legal drug, we must be aware of the whole, complex picture of “addiction”. Many that may feel they have no issue with, nor ever “met” addiction, they will now learn, that they themselves are highly “addicted”, simply due to depend on “a benefit”. Dr David Bratt, Principal Health Advisor to MSD and Bennett proves this:

    http://www.gpcme.co.nz/pdf/2012/Fri_DaVinci_1400_Bratt_Medical Certificates are Clinical Instruments too – June 2012.pdf or


    See page 3, 16 and 33 for enlightenment about “addiction” and “drug addiction” that benes have!


    So you may try to be so bloody smart to judge about alcohol and related issues, maybe you yourself are a bloody addict (in hiding)?

    But who cares? I am still waiting on feedback from Labour and the Greens on this kind of propaganda. Maybe the public words we get from them are just to get votes, but in secret, they go along with this crap? Let us know, please, I am thus far not convinced.

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  • A good night for Labour’s local government candidates
    It has been a good night for Labour in the local government elections. In Wellington, Justin Lester became the first Labour mayor for 30 years, leading a council where three out of four Labour candidates were elected. Both of Labour’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More contenders for fight clubs
    Allegations of fight clubs spreading to other Serco-run prisons must be properly investigated says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister runs for cover on job losses
    Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s refusal to show leadership and provide assurances over the future of the Māori Land Court is disappointing, given he is spearheading contentious Maori land reforms which will impact on the functions of the Court, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Kiwisaver contribution holiday not the break workers were looking for
    The number of working New Zealanders needing to stop Kiwisaver payments is another sign that many people are not seeing benefit from growth in the economy, says Grant Robertson Labour’s Finance spokesperson. "There has been an increase of 14 ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Fight Club failings
    The Corrections Minister must take full responsibility for the widespread management failings within Mt Eden prison, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Rethink welcomed
    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Speculation fever spreads around country
    House prices in Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga are going off as a result of uncontrolled property speculation spilling over from the Auckland market, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Speculators who have been priced out of Auckland are now fanning ...
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand lags on aid targets
      The National Government needs to live up to its commitments and allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on development assistance, says Labour’s spokesperson on Pacific Climate Change Su’a William Sio.  “The second State of the Environment Report ...
    3 weeks ago
  • War on drugs needs more troops
    The Minister of Police must urgently address the number of officers investigating illegal drugs if she is serious about making a dent in the meth trade, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “Answers from written questions from the Minister show ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Doctors strike symptom of health cuts
    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government starves RNZ into selling Auckland asset
    Just weeks after TVNZ opened its refurbished Auckland head office costing more than $60 million, RNZ (Radio New Zealand) has been forced to put its Auckland office on the market to keep itself afloat, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government must be more than a bystander on the economy
    Despite what he might think John Key is not a political commentator, but actually a leader in a Government who needs to take responsibility for the conditions that mean a rise in interest rates, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori Party all hui no-doey on housing
    The Māori Party should stop tinkering and start fixing tragic Māori housing statistics in the face of a national housing crisis, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesman Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour committed to eliminating child poverty
    Labour accepts the challenge from Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft to cut child poverty and calls on the Prime Minister to do the same, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 weeks ago