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Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

Written By: - Date published: 10:35 am, June 28th, 2012 - 50 comments
Categories: alcohol, health, national, scoundrels - Tags: ,

The Herald are using the ‘c’ word again to describe Nat actions around business interests and the risks to the vulnerable:

Nats accused of health agency cronyism

National is being accused of cronyism after three people closely affiliated with the party were appointed to the board of a new agency for promoting health programmes. The seven-person board of the Health Promotion Agency, announced on Friday, includes former National MP Katherine Rich and two National Party campaign leaders. …

Alcohol watchdogs have previously criticised Mrs Rich’s placement on the agency’s establishment board, saying she was the most outspoken defender of the alcohol industry and its right to sell booze cheaply and at all hours. …

National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said: “There is no conflict of interest if you ignore the relationship between health and the commercialisation of addictive products such as alcohol and recreational food”.

Putting the CEO of the leading lobbying agency and industry promotional group for companies promoting sales of sugar, fat and alcohol on the Board of the public health agency supposed to prevent harm to young NZers already suffering obesity and binge drinking you would think would be an outrageous achievement. Something lobbyists on K Street in Washington might achieve if Dick Cheney was running the show. But, it seems, no: they have done it here. And the PM, as he would, has gone out his way to defend it: albeit transparently poorly.

People who understand it are angry. It should become the latest outrage and backdown. It certainly removes any doubts I had about how far these guys might utterly sell out.

One stumble after another, and you’d wonder if they couldn’t see the pattern that’s emerging and try to stop it. But they don’t seem to be able to help themselves.

The recipe, which we should now expect to run out in multiple sectors, is this: an area where Big money and the public interest are potentially at odds. Power prices and private ownership of utilities. The TPPA. Housing developments and more urban sprawl beside holiday highways.

Actually, not just the public interest: the vulnerable. The young. The people public interest agencies are supposed to protect. Skycity pokies. Obesity. Alcohol abuse. Funding teachers in schools. People who haven’t got jobs, or are in their fifties and on ACC, and wont get jobs in the current context, but who still need to be culled from welfare rolls. People crowding and sleeping in the lounge because they cant afford to heat their homes…

An area where the Nats have personal connections, like Katherine Rich, conservative family organisations promoting ‘evidence free’ childhood programs, or Bob Browne and real estate developers (do some research!).. yep, maybe. But not necessarily.

Put these elements together in a room with a convivial Nat party host, let the powerful interests sort out who gets what resources, who gets on what boards, who makes the rules, and a certain kind of fusion happens: whether, it seems, you are trying to do it, trying to avoid it, or not.

The outcome, lots of enraged but apparently powerless people, plenty of helpless victims in the headlights, and few fat cats with cream on their whiskers.

As the Nick Smith affair shows, when one of the Tory’s own gets damaged along the way, special deals are available there too. Lord help the other poor and needy.

50 comments on “Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism ”

  1. Carol 1

    Entirely agree with the post, but… minor point, typo:

    An area where the Nats have personal connections, like Catherine Rich,

    Katherine.

    [Fixed, thanks — r0b]

  2. r0b 2

    National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said: “There is no conflict of interest if you ignore the relationship between health and the commercialisation of addictive products such as alcohol and recreational food”.

    Strikes me that Doug Sellman has rather a dry sense of humour. But it’s no laughing matter for the medical profession, or the health of the country in general. What an appalling decision.

    • bbfloyd 2.1

      I’m wondering just how many are going to “get” the joke…. I sometimes despair of ever hearing plain english used by people in positions to speak on issues like this…. language that “ordinary” people can understand without the need to utilise obtuse thinking…

      Maybe then, it might be possible to get people motivated to actually react accordingly… At present, it seems most of the people I come in contact with are oblivious of what the reality is in these actions…

      If things were spelt out simply, then the “average” kiwi would be in a better position to make decisions based on reality, rather than the “sound bite” information that the news media feeds them everyday…

  3. marsman 3

    Shonkey’s lot:- If they can do good they won’t , if they can do harm they will.

  4. Carol 4

    Does this sort of thing (Rich’s support for the alcholo and recreation food industry) make a bit of a nonsense of GDP as a measure of the economic health of a nation? i.e. short term turn-over in business profits boosts a country’s GDP. But the long term impact on health, social dysfunction, etc, undermines the economy in the long term?

    • r0b 4.1

      Yes, exactly. GDP is a nonsense measure, and all the incentives in our political system are geared towards short term considerations. That’s why we’re heading over the precipice on the economy, on the environment, and on social issues.

    • mike e 4.2

      rich bitch at it again National are receiving huge funding from this industry.
      Which Govt research is showing is costing New Zealanders $6 billion a year in lost productivity, crime family violence dysfunction child crime rates etc!
      Obesity NZ among worst countries!
      Nationals answer pay Con sultants (cronies) to con kiwis into believing nothing can be done!
      Corruption is what it is.

  5. Macro 5

    The sooner this sad, bad, lot are out of office and on the streets the better for us all.
    Regrettably I fear it will take something like a social revolution – an eventual awakening by the general population that they have been thoroughly screwed by a greedy avaricious lot – before anything will be done, and by then it will be too late. Take Greece for example.

  6. What about the many Board jobs undertaken by Mike Williams earning him a huge amount of money collectively ?

    • bbfloyd 6.1

      List them, or say something useful…. whichever is easier fartran…

      • Mike Williams board positions in July 2008:

        Auckland Regional Transport Authority
        Ontrack
        Genesis Energy
        Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences
        Transit NZ 

        • r0b 6.1.1.1

          Grand, now if you could add the conflict of interest in each case for Williams? No?

          Compare with the obvious conflict of interest in the Rich case here…

    • David 6.2

      Sorry Fortran: I am trying to imagine anything Mike Williams could do Boardwise that would involve anything like the conflict of interest Katherine Rich embodies here. Katherine currently runs the Food and Grocery Council, the major food industry lobby in the country.

      “The New Zealand Food & Grocery Council (FGC) represents New Zealand manufacturers and suppliers to supermarkets. Not only does it act as a forum to discuss and pursue issues of concern and interest to the wider industry, but it is also a strong advocate for its members”.

      Or, on another website of its own authorship “Not only …. but it is also a powerful lobby group. It makes representations to Government and other relevant organisations on matters that effect the industry in addition to liaising with many Government departments on food legislation, trade practices and environmental issues”.

      Behind the spin, these are the people who oppose among other things, the Traffic Light product warning labelling on food: and right now, between these guys and the health promoters, there is war:

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/latest-edition/6556052/The-new-food-wars

      “Traffic light labelling, by contrast, would let you swiftly pick a healthier choice in everyday foods, says Eyles, because it’s already been interpreted for you. Under the British system, for instance, that Milo cereal would carry two red lights (for sugar and fat), and two green lights (for sodium and saturated fat). Easy.

      [Helen] Eyles [a public health researcher from Uni of Auckland] says another reason to like traffic lights is that they provide a strong incentive for food producers to tweak recipes in a healthier direction. Already, the Heart Foundation is working with bakers to reduce salt in bread.

      “Used correctly, in the correct food categories, it will encourage food reformulation. We only need to make small differences to people’s sodium and saturated fat intake to bring down the number of cardiovascular events.”

      But that’s where Katherine comes in: “Rich says traffic lights are too simplistic, meaning products including Marmite, honey and cheese would all score red lights (for high salt, sugar and fat respectively) when they are all good nutritious foods when used in moderation.

      But Jones the insider paints a more ambiguous picture of industry attitudes.

      Quite simply, he says, the food industry “don’t want any labels. They want their brands to stand unencumbered. The Daily Intake Guide is a compromise in the middle. And hopefully, eyes glaze over and you move on”.

      …”Shortly before the Clark administration was turfed out, a reworked Public Health Act began its passage through parliament, containing a clause allowing health officials to ban or regulate a food if was considered likely to have a negative health impact on the community in terms of “non- communicable diseases” such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

      “That scared us,” says Jones [a ‘food industry insider]. “That was the thick edge of the wedge – when the government tells people what they can eat under the guise of health.”

      Rich knows exactly what’s happening in govt, as you’d expect: “Katherine Rich, head of the Food and Grocery Council, which represents most of the country’s big food producers, says traffic lights are currently “off the table”, and alternative systems will be considered by the Ministerial Council in December”.

      Like all good lobbyists, she plays close in, away from the electoral process, as she did all through the Alcohol debate, which, when half concluded, she announced satisfaction with the Government’s ‘pragmatic’ approach. “We look forward to playing our part in the debate as these reforms continue through a select committee process”. http://www.btob.co.nz/article/pragmatic-approach-alcohol-welcomed-food-grocery-council

      • higherstandard 6.2.1

        I can’t stand governments sticking their cronies on boards, in this case I think it comes down to whether you believe there should be an industry representative on this particular board and if so who that should be ?

        I must admit I tend to agree with Chris Hipkins who said ‘ political involvement should be a barrier to Government appointments…’

        • McFlock 6.2.1.1

          “industry representative”. lol.
               
          It’s health promotion, not hospitality or whatever. Closest “industry” to be represented would be marketing, not off-licenses. 

          • higherstandard 6.2.1.1.1

            Isn’ t this health council a mix of ALAC and a few other bodies ?

            As I said I’m not sure if an industry representative is appropriate, although I can see slightly more of a rationale in this case than say an industry representative from the tobacco industry on the smokefree board.

            Not sure about the other two people accused of cronies I didn’t read that far.

            One things for sure where you have governments you have cronyism.

            • McFlock 6.2.1.1.1.1

              Well let’s look at the ALAC council:8 members, 5 health practitioners (drs/nurses), a public information marketing specialist, an insurance broker/life education trust chap, and a business consultant with air ambulance and other health areas.
                     
              I don’t see a single rep from Lion Nathan. 
                     
              Health promotion has nothing to do with liquor distribution. No matter what I’d love to be able to tell my doctor.

          • David 6.2.1.1.2

            For ‘industry representative’, read “regulator capture”, “lobbyist’s potent entre”, or “purpose of the whole organisation stymier”.

            Actually none of those are really very funny. Leave as “Industry representative”; it’s more transparently brazen.

      • fmacskasy 6.2.2

        Indeed, Ms Rich has neo-liberal views on the production and retailing of alcohol,

        “The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

        Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

        Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

        Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

        But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking” .

        It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”

        Source: http://m.nbr.co.nz/article/liquor-law-report-sparks-polarising-debate-122138

        And further in my blogpost on this (and other crony-issues); http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/crony-watch-2/

        I’ve no doubt whatsoever that, like Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s board, this is purely and imply a stacking of government organisations with Party apparatchiks, to push the official National Party line.

        • David 6.2.2.1

          well said.

          Actually, the ability to see the difference between jobs for the old boys board stacking and a deliberate (and successful) attempt by industry to capture their regualtor seems to me to be an important one.

          As is the ability to see when you are just preventing ideological dominance of an organisation by a group, and deliberately suppressing the science of eg obesity and all (as seems rather to be the case here).

          As is the ability to see the difference between a good old school tie rollick, and doing something which impacts on the life chances of the most vulnerable NZers.

          Hmm: I see some differences (though clearly, the two arent unrelated: jobs for the boys is dangerous, this shows). If I couldnt see them, I’d be sending in the moral compass for a checkup.

    • mike e 6.3

      Farton he is not pushing NZ,s most dangerous drug.

  7. Dv 7

    Sort of like the chair of the ‘association of porn producer’s, being put on the censorship board.

  8. tracey 8

    am shaking my head (but no surprise, just sadness at our “system”)

  9. Kotahi Tane Huna 9

    Katherine Rich has an obvious conflict of interest. The Ombudsman’s office is very clear about this: she must withdraw from voting on any matter where her conflict of interest could create a perception of bias, and if not, be investigated by the appropriate authority.

    It’s long past time to take the gloves off when dealing with corruption.

    • McFlock 9.1

      Can’t wait to see her position on whether alcohol should be advertised on TV…

  10. I think she seems like a lovely lady. She has a young family so she is probably aware of all the issues on the table.
    Really people just need to stop shoving food in their own gobs – that’d solve the obesity crisis. Or put the plug in the jug when it comes to alcohol.

    • higherstandard 10.1

      Nah, once a political trougher always a political trougher.

      • mike e 10.1.1

        hs+10 standard drinks to that.
        alcohol is the most destructive drug we have in our community .
        Laws have been liberalized and the results are that every non drinker and moderate drinker is subsidising alcoholism.
        Rich bitch where is your neoliberal user pays here nowhere to be found.
        not while Nactional are in the alcohol lobbies back pocket !
        $6 billion reasons to fix the problem.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 10.2

      “…people just need to stop…”

      So to help people stop, the government has appointed a booze shill with zero expertise, who has a career in telling lies for money, to the health board. “Personal responsibility” means it’s always someone else’s fault.

    • Vicky32 10.3

      Or put the plug in the jug when it comes to alcohol.

      Or, I dunno, maybe, stop advertising it in prime time? The  mute button on my remote stopped working some time ago, and top of my most infuriating adverts (along with the Aah bra) is the idiot from Outrageous Fortune banging on about MILFs giving him a woody…
      That advert works on 20-somethings, I assure you! 
       
      PS – Katherine Rich, a lovely lady? WTH?

      • insider 10.3.1

        By 20somethings you mean adults with brains and probably jobs and maybe even families and homes and cars and degrees. But strangely too stupid to resist the voodoo magic of some cheap sugar water infused with cheaper alcohol.

    • Murray Olsen 10.4

      The lovely lady should stay at home and look after her young family then, instead of making bad decisions for everyone else’s. The only issue for her will be to maximise profits for the industry she represents, and maybe Monique could go and tell Gerry Brownlee and Paula Bennett how to solve their obesity crises.

    • fmacskasy 10.5

      Life is very simple for you, Monique? No addictions; compulsive behaviours; etc, where you come from?

      We might as well legalise ‘P’ and Heroin. After all, “Really people just need to stop shoving heroin in their own veins – that’d solve the drug crisis.”.

      Damn. Why doesn’t the US Government realise that instead of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars, fighting Mexican druglords?!

      Any other gems of wisdom you care to share with us?

      • Well actooally “Fmac”, I used to be a bulimic anorexic who couldn’t sober up. Like my entire community.
        So I maintain my position. Shut one’s gob, open one’s ears and get your ass out and earn an honest crust. That’s my recipe for success.

        • mike e 10.5.1.1

          I can see you have not lost your naivety.
          Now your addicted to superiority.

  11. David 11

    For ‘industry representative’, read “regulator capture”, “lobbyist’s potent entre”, or “purpose of the whole organisation stymier”.

    Actually none of those are really very funny. Leave as “Industry representative”; it’s more transparently brazen.

  12. Jenny 12

    This is a government determined to gift everything they could possibly wish to the rich and powerful, and on behalf of this greedy sector force onto the rest of New Zealanders.

    More Pokies

    More drilling

    More fracking

    More booze

    More junk food

    A fire sale of public assets

    More pollution

    More corruption

    More scandal

    Less sovereignity

    Less civil liberty

    More toadying to foreign powers

    More toadying to foreign corporates

    More spying snooping and videoing of New Zealand citizens

  13. Hami Shearlie 13

    More drug testing of beneficiaries – now including ALL beneficiaries – new policy courtesy of Bill English!!

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