Condoms and democracy

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, September 14th, 2009 - 35 comments
Categories: democratic participation, labour, Media - Tags: ,

Have to disagree with Zet’s call for Labour to ‘just put it away‘ on the remit to conference calling for subsidised condoms in shops to help reduce unplanned pregnancies and our high rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

Sure, if Labour were putting it up as a policy priority there might be an argument. I’m completely in agreement that Labour needs to pick its battles and that right now those battles need to be on the economy. But let’s get some perspective, we’re talking about a bloody conference remit here.

We simply can’t have Labour going around censoring its own branches and limiting its members’ internal debate because our media act like a bunch of immature schoolchildren who giggle and scream at the slightest mention of sex.

Labour needs internal democracy. It needs robust debate. If the media can’t handle that, well, that’s just a price the party will have to bear.

Update: Changed ‘free’ to ‘subsidised’. That’s what I get for relying on Farrar’s culture war dog whistles for my information.

35 comments on “Condoms and democracy”

  1. Pat 1

    Except its such a dumb idea. So I asked my 16 year old daughter and her 16 year old friend as I drove them to school this morning. They both thought it was a dumb idea.

    And its so obviously dumb because price and availability of condoms is not the reason there are unwanted pregnancies.

  2. George D 2

    Is it a dumb idea? Well, the best people to ask would be sexual health professionals. And we could have a real debate.

    But as Eddie says, the media picks up on 3 lines of a 62 page document and runs round like a bunch of 8 year old boys. Oooooooohhhh!!! A condom!!!

    This is the level of debate in NZ. Such that Phil Goff himself is confused and starts apologising for things that weren’t even the case, but were circulated as snappy soundbites.

    So, how do you win this? I don’t know. But I do know that you never win a fight by giving up.

  3. Eddie 3

    The question is whether price is a barrier, not whether it’s the only barrier. I’d look at the studies on that one before relying on your 16 year old daughter as the world authority on price as a barrier to condom use.

    But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether Labour’s hierarchy (because that’s who it would have to be) should censor their own members’ remits out of fear the media might take three lines out of the conference programme and blow it up into a major issue.

    What are your views on that Pat?

  4. Pat 4

    Actually my 16 year old daughter was good one to ask, since she is a PSP Support person (one of 4) at her school of 2500 students. Peer Sexuality Support Program. So not only does she have first hand contact with boys and girls at her school who are thinking about having sex, having sex, or have fallen pregnant – but she also hands out the free condoms. She has a huge stockpile of them, wears a badge advertising the fact, and has made presentations to every class in the school about it.

    Still girls fall pregnant. So condom supply is not the issue, education is not the issue. Maybe being young and horny is the issue, just like it has been for centuries.

    So maybe Labours remit should have been on how to deal with the young and horny. It would have made more sense.

  5. infused 5

    Price has never been a barrier. Condoms don’t give the same feeling. You think drunken youth on a Friday night, drunk at a club are going to be looking for condoms? Think again.

    I’ve asked many people if they use condoms, very few people have. Price certainly hasn’t been a problem. Hell, you can get them from the family planning clinic for like $3.

    That’s why it’s a stupid idea.

    • Pat 5.1

      And everyone knows it but no-one ever says it – a big chunk of Maori and Polynesian boys don’t like using condoms.

      • marty mars 5.1.1

        Plenty of young people getting pregnant in countries without maori and pasifica people aren’t there?

        • Ari

          What does that have to do with condom use being less prevalent for certain demographics?

          • marty mars

            Is it less prevalent for certain demographics? Certain types who dislike the use of such barriers, cross all demographics – don’t they?Seems to be universal to me and not related to whether they are maori or pasifica peoples.

  6. Good post Eddie, I concur.

  7. It’s not a question of the importance of the particular issue and the broader context in which it emerges (both of which I freely agree are important). This is the type of issue that a government in power can deal with as a relatively straightforward policy intervention. What is at issue is, when we’ve decided to cede ground to the ‘nanny state’ accusation – and the current navel-gazing seems to have done so – we don’t then go and goad the beast that is feeding on us. The message that is needed from the conference is effective organisation building, good policy (economy, social inclusion – and I would add a strong international focus) and, for want of a better word, reconnection with a mainstream vote that clearly walked away in 2008. Any sidetracking will divert energy and impact. All of us with our own pet projects – and we all have them – have to accept the discipline that leads to power. The realpolitik is that clear. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have robust debates within the core issues, but, to repeat, every time we are portrayed as single-issue flakes, or social engineers, or anything remotely wacky, that elusive vote vote becomes all the harder to win over.

  8. Bright Red 8

    There’s an issue over whether this would even be a good use of money. The question is: would be additional use be worth the additional cost?

    You end up subsidising all existing use by a huge amount in the hope that a few people who are too irresponsible at the moment would start using them if they were cheaper. Seems unlikely to me that many would, I just can’t see cost as that much of a barrier, especially when you can get free condoms pretty easy as it is. And we’re talking an annual cost in the high tens of millions for this small, possible benefit. Think about what other uses that money could be put to. Without straining, I’m sure you could come up with half a dozen that would have a certain and signficant social or economic benefit.

    As for saying ‘stuff the media if they’re gonna be childish’. Sorry, but if you want to win the game you can’t ignore the playing field you play on.

    • Eddie 8.1

      if you want to win the game you can’t ignore the playing field you play on.

      Mate, I wrote the book on that.

      But there are some things that are more important, like democracy.

      Look at the bigger picture here. If Labour’s going to drag itself out of the rut it’s in then it needs an active and engaged membership and some serious internal debate. You allow the leadership to ban remits they don’t like and next thing you know the Rogernomes are in charge and they’re telling the unions to drop references to collective bargaining and the minimum wage.

      Party conferences aren’t just stage-managed media events, they perform a vital democratic function. If it means the occasional childish outburst from the media then it’s just something you have to cop.

      • Bright Red 8.1.1

        Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for remits and active membership.

        I just wish delegates would have the sense not to put up stupid remits that will make the party look out of touch and beholden to special interest groups… maybe the real problem is that it is (or at least part of it is)

        • Lew

          BR, freakishly, we agree.

          The issue here is that some idiots in the wider party membership didn’t get the memo handed out at the 2008 election, and still labour (heh) under delusions as to why they lost.


        • Eddie

          Bright Red – I’ve no problem with your suggestion that delegates should take the wider political implications of their remits into account. It’s the suggestion that the leadership should be able to censor remits they disapprove of that I have an issue with.

          • Bright Red

            Not sure anyone’s suggesting that old boy.

            • Eddie

              Well, that’s the logical conclusion if you think Labour should clamp down on remits to avoid negative media coverage.

            • Bright Red

              I’m not sure I wrote ‘clamp down’ anywhere.

              I’d like to think the solution to delegates putting up ill-thought out and politically damaging remits isn’t to censor remits but for delegates to engage their brains before submitting remits.

  9. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 9

    Eddie, not listening are you?

    ‘I’d look at the studies on that one before relying on your 16 year old daughter as the world authority on price as a barrier to condom use.’

    16 yr old girls are probably closer to the ‘action’ than you but you Lampoon them bc they are young. That is Labour’s problem, we always know best.

    • lprent 9.1

      Just as being obsessed about sex is the right’s prerogative?

    • Eddie 9.2

      Listening to who? You? Don’t be a fool. I’m disdainful of anyone who tries to pass off anecdotes as evidence. Anyone can make up an anecdote, and they usually do.

  10. lprent 10

    That’s what I get for relying on Farrar’s culture war dog whistles for my information

    Foolish. He always spins it and uses inaccurate language.

    Besides it was a small debate. But then DPF likes to flash the boobs around on his site, so it comes as no surprise that he takes a small debate about dicks and inflates it.

    Perhaps for his next moderation policy for the sewer he could try a free condom policy – to their mothers…

  11. Did someone say evidence? From a 2007 UK House of Commons Hansard:

    Condom provision must be free because, as with any consumer product, the higher the price, the lower the take-up. In the July 2004 edition of The Lancet the RAND corporation reported an interesting experiment that proves the point. The corporation distributed 13 million free condoms annually in Louisiana through almost 2,000 retail outlets and publicly funded clinics. After three years, there was an increase in condom use from 40 to 54 per cent. by men and from 28 to 36 per cent. by women. At the end of the three years, the corporation tried to recoup some of the programme’s costs by selling heavily subsidised condoms to retail outlets and letting them resell the condoms for just 25 cents each. Instantly, condom distribution nose-dived by 98 per cent. Free distribution was reinstated, and condom use rose again.

    As the author of the RAND report says:

    “The lesson: even in the world’s richest country, the right price for condoms is zero.’

    • r0b 11.1

      Imagine a world where government policy was determined by evidence…

    • gargoyle 11.2

      Are you making the point that if you increase the price after a period of free supply there is a decline in usage .. who would’ve thunk it ?

    • Bright Red 11.3

      strawman Russell.

      No-one is arguing against provision of free and subsidised condoms to targeted groups, which is what happens in Lousiana according to your quote and is what already happens here.

      The problem is that subsidisation of all condoms would mean putting $70 million or thereabouts in the pockets of people who are using condoms already in the hope that it might make people who are not using them now use them.

      Is price a barrier for non-users?

      Not from what I can see on my brief look through the info online. Take this study of why women who had protected sex resulting in unplanned pregnancy didn’t use contraception:

      – Of 7856 respondents, 33% felt they could not get pregnant at the time of conception, 30% did not really mind if they got pregnant, 22% stated their partner did not want to use contraception, 16% cited side effects, 10% felt they or their partner were sterile, 10% cited access problems and 18% selected “other.’ …. “cost will be a subgroup of ‘access problem'” –

      So, it would be a large expense subsidising a non-target population to change the behaviour of a relatively small part of the target population.

      I can think of better things to do with $70 million a year.

      • gargoyle 11.3.1

        Why are people arguing about free condoms when they are already …. I repeat already free from your GP/Sexual Health Clinic.

    • The bit that is missing from this debate is how many AIDs cases could be averted and how much this would be worth to the State. Expressions of incredulity should be held back until that information is ascertained.

  12. ben 12

    Ah yes, the dog whistle, that bs meaningless term to use when you have no evidence of anything in particular. It’s just a big conspiracy, eh?

    • felix 12.1

      Meaningless? It has a very specific meaning.

      It refers to the use of language designed to carry a strong message which resonates with the intended audience but which will be understood in a more innocuous, less offensive sense by most people.

      It’s called a dog whistle because dog whistles are designed to resonate at frequencies audible to dogs but inaudible to humans.

      It’s a very, very simple analogy.

  13. Quoth the Raven 13

    Good post Eddie. It’s good to see that some here still has some sense. You should stand up for what you believe is right. If the party wishes to censor you tell them to go fuck themselves and don’t censor yourself. If this is what Labour’s come to it’s more degenerate than even I thought. It shouldn’t matter if it is not popular or the media, with the intellegence of a retarded monkey after a three day bender, will make high pitched squeals. Posts like Zet’s show a lack of principle, a willingness to play duplicitous games, a belief that all that matters is attainment of power and with that prinicples and ideals can go out the window. I say fuck that. Leave that to the corrupt, venal, debased conservatives in the National party. Stand up for what you believe in.

  14. Gus 14

    Interesting post Eddie, I usually like reading your posts although there are times I wish you would hop off the soap box and tune into the atmosphere a bit more down here in the playground. Here is some advise, yes probably unwanted and definitely not requested, from a swing voter: I care about democracy but not enough to join your spirited defense of party remits. I really care that the Conference has picked up the message it was sent last year. Dont water that down, it was a collective message from enough Kiwis to roll Labour. Hey look subsidized condoms may, or may not be a workable partial solution, who knows. I would encourage my son to take up that offer. But is that the issue you want fumbled around the Country but an immature media ? I reckon (yes speculating a bit) that I am pretty close to your typical swing voter and as such this is how my mind works when I am supping on my Speights on my home built front porch after a long day’s work … I switch off … because it just confirms in my mind the Party still hasn’t learnt yet. Stay on message … keep it simple … its the economy … and it will be for a while yet. Keep those posts rolling Eddie.

  15. nic 15

    Since this thread has moved towards a discussion of whether the actual policy makes sense, I will add my two cents:

    1) Farrar’s costings are nonsense. There is absolutely no way Pharmac will (or is) paying $20 for a box of condoms. They will (and do) get them for a heavily reduced price. $70 million? I reckon a $15 million bulk condom purchase would be enough to bury the whole country in free condoms.

    2) Obviously existing users will be subsidised. But because we live in a country with a social welfare system, everyone pays for the consequences of one person’s poor decision. So even if you have to give away thousands of condoms to prevent one HIV infection or unplanned pregnancy, it’s still a good deal for the raxpayer.

    I’m not saying this policy will make sense. But I think it’s certainly worth costing to see if the benefits do in fact outweigh the harms. I’m guessing they will.

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