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Ninny state

Written By: - Date published: 3:27 pm, September 11th, 2009 - 44 comments
Categories: labour, phil goff, Social issues - Tags:

Phil Goff is quoted today as saying “we made mistakes” with policies that were perceived as “nanny state”:

Asked if he would apologise to the conference for the nanny state policies, Mr Goff replied: “I think we want to draw a line under the past and say, yes, we made mistakes, we didn’t listen.” Mr Goff said the Labour Government had policies that had made a difference to people’s lives, such as KiwiSaver and Working for Families. “But too often there were things – whether it was something as minor as lightbulbs or shower heads – where people thought, ‘You’ve taken your eye off the ball, this is not what we’re worried about’.”

I understand that Phil feels a need to break with the past and create his own direction for the party. But in my opinion this particular apology is a mistake. Labour is accepting the rabid right’s framing of the debate in seeing “light bulbs” or “shower heads” as minor irrelevancies. It wasn’t about light bulbs and shower heads, it was about energy and carbon emissions. Ultimately it was about the environment. I would have preferred to see Labour fight and win the debate on the real issues, not give in to right wing framing. Start by reading this:

‘Ninny state’ versus ‘nanny state’ in war of words

Every time Health Minister Tony Ryall and Education Minister Anne Tolley use the term “nanny state” to justify their new food policies, many public health researchers wince. They know the two words masterfully tap into the ideology that the state should stay out of matters like food consumption. So much so that public health workers and researchers have felt virtually powerless to respond. Until yesterday.

Now they are planning a counterattack against the use of the terms “nanny state”, “bureaucracy”, “political correctness”, “health nazi” and others by politicians and the food, tobacco and alcohol industries.

Professor Boyd Swinburn, of Deakin University in Melbourne, promotes the term “ninny state”, which he picked up from an Australian conference audience. Dr Thomson said “ninny state” was used to describe some current public health policies that were “stupid, weak and not protecting people”.

If we can’t accept laws that protect people and the environment we have a Ninny State. But perhaps we can accept them, as long as they come from National? National have stuck to their guns on the “smacking” debate, want to ban cell phones for drivers, are planning revisions to alcohol limits, and deciding which cold remedies we’re allowed to buy. Even The Herald is asking “Is National also guilty of ‘nanny-state’ policies?“. So Phil – where was the need to back down on this? Attack the “nanny state” rhetoric, don’t give in to it!

44 comments on “Ninny state ”

  1. ieuan 1

    Right or wrong it is the publics perception that matters.

    There were always much better ways to get the public to use energy efficient lights bulbs than to pass a law banning incandescent bulbs, likewise with regulating water use.

  2. vto 2

    The last labour govt did indeed become a nanny state r0b. But don’t worry, the nats are not that far behind. In fact it is simply part and parcel of the ever-growing bubble that is the state – and it is worldwide.

    Govts as we know them today just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. They are too big relative to the actual communities they are meant to serve. It is a bubble that will continue to grow for some time yet. Just watch out when it finally gets pricked and bursts – messy sticky goop all over the place.

    Have to say tho r0b that I have never seen such a staunch defender of Helen Clark than you. Do you think you see things from an objective vantage point?

  3. Herodotus 3

    There was far too much of this type of thing by Labour, and displayed to me that the longer the remained in power the more Labour were removed from the real world. As a body they were insular, and it is not this weekend that will display if there are any leasons learnt but what action follows the retoric. Time will only tell.

  4. Con 4

    The last govt failed politically with the light-bulb ban. They thought they could just regulate and be done with it. That was arrogant and politically naive, but it does not mean the ban was wrong.

    They needed to take effective political (not just legislative) steps to replace inefficient light-bulbs, and that’s where they failed. They needed to campaign; they needed to wage a god-damned political struggle over it.

    They failed because their heart wasn’t really in it – because they themselves felt it was “minor” and not one of their “core issues”. They’re a party of labour, after all, not greens, so it’s understandable that they weren’t really up to it. The lesson Goff should’ve learned from the mistake is to do it again – but next time do it right!.

    • Pascal's bookie 4.1

      They needed to campaign; they needed to wage a god-damned political struggle over it.

      Right on. light fucking bulbs and shower heads are a distraction. The fight to be won wasn’t about light bulbs, but about energy conservation. If you are arguing about whether or not the bloody government should tell you what light bulb you are allowed, ur fucked. Get an argument going about whether or not we need to use energy more efficiently, and what benefits we get individually and nationally from that, and no one will give a dead rat about light bulbs being regulated.

      ‘No cellphones while driving’ isn’t an issue because road safety is seen as a Good Thing, that carries the issue and opponents have to make the case.

  5. Eric C. 5

    You have hit the nail on the head r0b. Labour failed to defend itself against the nanny state rubbish pushed by the Nats and ACT when they were in government and now they are apologising for what never was.

    The media have been goading them to do this for some time. I guess, Labour is going to give them what they want so they can move on, but some day soon Labour needs to get a strategy together that isn’t written by media commentators.

    • Leon Klarkski 5.1

      Labour needs to get a strategy together that isn’t written by media commentators.

      Labour need a strategy that wasn’t written by Karl Marx 150 years ago.

      [lprent: You might consider changing your handle. It will always go straight into auto-moderation. While you’re at it, it’d probably pay to read the policy of this site. For some reason I think that you might need to read it. ]

  6. Ianmac 6

    Rob: A good post. My eyebrows flickered on Phil’s “admission.” Perhaps he just wants to get over it and start his new path. It might have been possible to label Steven Joyce’s comment re drinkdriving laws as nanny state but last night on Close Up he was very clever to avoid pressuring the issue. In my opinion, (hate to say this!) his fluent matter of fact way of presenting himself was top notch. His presence runs circles around John Key. If Joyce is PM going into the next election, look out!

  7. r0b

    I think there is a valid point about the nanny state thing – compare for example how National has introduced the ban on cellphones without the same faux outrage.

    However, I think you’ve framed your post in a way that misses the key point:

    “We’d stopped listening to what people’s priorities were and seemed to be working on issues they thought were sideshows,” Mr Goff said yesterday.

    The problem (perception?) was that the party was simply not listening to the electorate. This was becoming increasingly clear leading up to the election.

    The combination of not listening and then prioritising what was important to a small clique of urban liberals (with respect) turned off a considerable part of the core Labour support.

    The interesting issue is how Labour can respond with Goff in the driver’s seat. It will be fascinating to see what steps are taken by at the conference to reposition Goff or indeed simply to position him before he sinks without trace.

  8. burt 8


    I’m absolutely stunned that you don’t think Labour made any mistakes, who would have guessed.

  9. Andy B 9

    I lost my faith in the Goff leadership today. That is all I shall say. I was very disappointed (I was actually yelling at the TV when I saw this on Breakfast). I think the party needs a new leader. Goff is too Right (in the political sense). The party should be sticking to its core values and re focusing the public and media’s view of the issues behind the legislation (such as the environmental issue behind light bulbs and water and the prosecution of child abusers with s59).

    If Goff doesn’t show himself to be better than this I will vote Green next election and I’m a member of his party.

    • burt 9.1

      Of course the party needs a new leader – a fresh set of ideas is exactly what is needed. A return to “Labour” values is bitterly required. The current Labour party has become no more than a self serving machine to keep otherwise unemployable people employed.

      I have deep “labour” roots, I have strong affiliation with the workers rights movement yet I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the current Labour party if my life depended on it.

  10. Tim Ellis 10

    I suppose Mr Goff’s days are numbers when even a diehard stalwart like you is criticising him r0b. I don’t think you’ve ever criticised Ms Clark, have you? It doesn’t surprise me that you might object to anybody renouncing her legacy as you’ve defended it to the hilt.

    • Pascal's bookie 10.1

      It amuses me Tim, how focussed you are on persons rather than policies, ideology, principle or anything else. It’s always about support for the leader with you, and reading the winds based on who said what about whom.

      You used to be quite the fan of Melissa Lee for example, but now, ye hardly know her. You’re all over the webs defending other individual pollies, (always nats but), and I’m sure that at the slightest misstep or if they fall from favour, that’ll be good bye from timmeh.

      In your various scribbles about Mr English’s rort, for another example, it’s always some lame and inaccurate allegation that Goff is doing the same thing, you never actually support English’s actions. perhaps we should take this as a signal that should events unfold in a way not helpful to Mr English’s career, he too shall be abandoned by the nats most slavish netizen. Afterall, you’ve never defended his actions per se, just tried to deflect criticism.

      It’s fckn funny mate.

  11. r0b 11

    I suppose Mr Goff’s days are numbers when even a diehard stalwart like you is criticising him r0b

    Ahh Tim – when I don’t criticise Labour I’m a sycophant and when I do Goff’s days are numbered? I think I prefer your outright lies to your continued sniping.

    And as for Clark yes I’ve criticised her too. I think she was too timid, and squandered the chance for a truly left reforming government by allowing the right to take too much control of the agenda.

  12. Herodotus 12

    As time goes on the 1999-08 Labour government in my mind will go down as a very average government. They had a great opportunity to make this nation great again (Like the post war) but personnel agendas did not allow for the potential to be achieved. No great reforms, no great leadership in anything, education,health, social welfare all was just redistribution taking from Mr/Mrs Average who are just coping. Just a wasted opportunity.

    • burt 12.1

      Indeed. Well said.

    • r0b 12.2

      What little people you Clark haters are. Her government brought visionary long term planning like KiwiSaver, the Cullen fund, KiwiBank and the ETS. It retired massive amounts of government debt, strengthened the economy, brought unemployment to 30 year lows, lifted children out of poverty with Working for Families – and much more. A legacy so strong that Key hasn’t dared to touch it – preferring to screw you lot with his tax cut broken promise than cut WFF. Clark has moved on to the UN, but Key is still frightened of her shadow!

      • Herodotus 12.2.1

        Cullen also promised tax cuts But that is a side issue.
        Retired debt by transferring the debt from public to placing the stress onto everyday workers with tax creep, additional taxes both direct and indirect. Have a look at total NZ debt over the years of HC reign,
        Much of the succes was based on right time right place no policies can be attributed to the worlds & NZ’s (apparrent) good times. Remeber Cullen that he had put away for a rainy day, the cubboard was already empty before he had cleaned out his office.
        ETS for both Lab & Nats are untried to its success and if a gas tax would be more appropiate for NZ. As I said before a wasted opportunity for the last 3-4 years.

      • burt 12.2.2

        Well any muppet minister of finance could spend like a drunken sailor and still have a surplus using a tax policy that classified 75% of high school teachers as rich and whacked them with the highest income tax bracket.

        This top tax threshold will only be paid by the top 5% of all earners…. I don’t mind paying a few more cents tax to fix health and education… Well they did something to health and education and it did start with “F”…..

      • burt 12.2.3


        Her government…

        Yes it certainly was exactly that unfortunately. For the people by the people – f-off it was Helen’s govt wasn’t it.

  13. Goff is right, Labour didn’t listen, they were too busy trying to dictate to the public.

  14. illuminatedtiger 14

    One of the greatest achievements of the previous Labour government was it changed the political landscape such that many of its crowning achievements – things that were introduced for the betterment of our society, could never be touched by successive governments. This is why it seems weak of Phil Goff to now give into National’s petty politics and accusations when they should be making an effort to challenge it head on.

    I’m getting tired of the silence whenever National puts one of their assholes (or “political commentators”) on television or in the papers to spout their right wing knee jerk bullshit. I’m also getting tired of those morons who’s entire dialog about the New Zealand political scene is “political correctness” this and “nanny state” that. I wonder how many of these types actually know what political correctness means? National spent up large to get these attitudes and phrases into the kiwi lexicon – I think it’s high time Labour started to challenge this rubbish and by not doing so the voting public will fast have to choose between National and National-lite in the coming elections.

  15. gobsmacked 15

    Goff is right. It is the correct strategy to win the 2011 election.

    I agree with the frustration about how these issues are framed. It is not fair. Perhaps we could reframe them. That would help win the 2021 election. God knows what state NZ would be in by then. The 51st state, probably.

    The firefighters who protested at John Key today might vote Labour for jobs, wages, work rights, or a whole range of social democratic issues from public assets to public health.

    Or they might reject Labour because of showers and light bulbs and pies. I guess it depends whether Labour want their votes or not.

    In short: Core issues, core message, 24/7 for the next two years.

    For an alternative approach, see the UK Labour party, from 1979 onwards. Lots of worthy policy remits, lots of talking to themselves, and 18 years in opposition. No thanks.

    We’ve got MMP. Purists can vote Green, and get their gains in coalition negotiations. Trouble is, Labour will need to provide the other 40%. Not 30%. This was a good start.

    Well done, Phil.

  16. jabba 16

    where people thought
    mmmm people “thought” .. The Goff used this phrase with Paul Hendry this morning .. that says to me that our “thoughts” were wrong. Phil, we didn’t think you (Helen/Cullen) stuffed up, we KNOW

  17. jabba 17

    another thing .. Helen refused to admit mistakes .. under pressure, she once said she could have tried harder in the 80’s when Rog went mad but she sat back and said nothing.
    After saying that, she dominated everyone in her party BUT did not over turn any of Rogers policies

  18. burt 18

    Perhaps Goff didn’t read Helen’s txtda property when he delivered this message. He’s a bit all over the show at the moment isn’t he – perhaps he has been reading her txtda’s out of sequence or smthng.

  19. Scott 19

    Nanny state my arse.

    At least Helen never told me to brush my teeth.


  20. Hilary 20

    I see those old type 100 watt lightbulbs are now banned in Europe and it is even illegal to import them. (So they will be dumped on countries like NZ). Australians are horrified at our water wasting showers. NZ was a leader in such issues until last year.

  21. Quoth the Raven 21

    I think this little gem could eaily apply here:

    Corporate liberalism functions via a façade of opposition between a purportedly progressive statocracy and a purportedly pro-market plutocracy. The con operates by co-opting potential opponents of the establishment; those who recognise that something’s amiss with the statocratic wing are lured into supporting the plutocratic wing, and vice versa. Whenever the voters grow weary of the plutocracy, they’re offered the alleged alternative of an FDR or JFK; whenever they grow weary of the statocracy, they’re offered the alleged alternative of a Reagan or Thatcher. Perhaps the balance of power shifts slightly toward one side or the other; but the system remains essentially unchanged. (Which explains, for example, why the recent much-trumpeted power shift in Congress has resulted in precious little policy change.)

  22. Laughable. Basically saying “We are sorry that our policies were perceived as “Nanny state”.
    “Its not that the policies were wrong”
    Perceived. We would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling voters.

    Social engineering. Replacing personal responsibility with Government dependency, for all things – worst of all, moral considerations.
    Ruining our lives, our communities and bringing our nation from its knees and onto its back, palms outstretched.
    John Key in a frock and his diet Labour is just as sinister.

    People, left right politics, such as it is, isn’t working.

    Why can New Zealand not once again lead the world? This time into political and individual freedom and prosperity?

    We could be so great. It is within our grasp.

  23. re ninny state, nanny state….

    at least New Zealand isn’t into the idiotic ban on the popular ordinary light bulbs
    (even if they needed targeting, they could be taxed…)
    — that’s what’s started over here now

    about the unpublicised institutional and industrial politics
    that led to the ban in Europe

  24. Rodel 24

    No apologies!
    I was proud to be part of the labour party and the things the Clark led government did.
    Full employment, good education and social systems, help for those on modest incomes, senior citizens looked after, sensible civil union laws instead of 19th century bigot laws, strong independent foreign policies- not following stupid GWB into slaughtering Iraqis for no reason,sensible policies on Afghanistan and attempts to protect kids from violent adults.

    Labour was (and is) a progressive party for the 21st century and we had a good team with a proper leader- not like the present government-a bunch of self centred morons taking us back to the 20th or maybe the 19th century and a vaccilating PM who’s like a fart in a fan factory.

    No f***ing apologies whatsoever!

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