OPINION: The staff of legal high shops up and down the country might suddenly find themselves contemplating a change of career. Can we suggest they consider trying for a National Party candidacy somewhere?
It worked for Todd Barclay.
Hard on the news that all legal highs will be off the shelves in a couple of weeks, what with them being so harmful and everything, the Nats have chosen for one of their safest seats, Clutha-Southland, a man whose job it was to represent the interests of the tobacco industry.
The one that kills about 5000 of us each year.
Not that Barclay's employer, Philip Morris, is denying any more that tobacco is a dangerous product. It now openly acknowledges as much.
The thing is, this oh-so-slowly dawning self-awareness hasn't stopped the company defending, as best it can, its right to keep making money from the stuff anyway.
Because, after all, it's legal.
Can we at least muster a sharp intake of breath, perhaps followed by a wheezy cough, at the audacity of this candidacy selection?
To be fair, Barclay has come and gone from Philip Morris in short order. He had his tobacco job for eight months and says he joined the company to learn about corporate politics. In fact, he says he doesn't condone smoking. (Small point: if you don't condone something you really shouldn't make money in its service.)
There are things that an eager-to-learn young man should want to know about the tobacco industry even before he gets into it. And one of those, surely, would be the legitimacy of that whole "millions of dead people" kerfuffle. Was he really untroubled by that? Does he know something reassuring the rest of us don't?
Before this, Barclay was a Beehive insider. A 24-year-old who grew up in the south, he has worked for Cabinet ministers Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Hekia Parata. Make what you will that after those three Big Tobacco seemed an agreeable next step.
The extent to which his electorate will be willing to set aside this poisonous background remains to be seen. It's up to Clutha-Southland voters to determine what significance, if any, to afford the fact that Barclay chose that career move, however temporarily. But it must be said that for a man barely in his mid-20s, he has a past to live down.
In the meantime that hoary old line that a gumboot could get elected in Clutha-Southland if it was a National gumboot should be revisited on the basis that a gumboot would have a more benign public safety record.
As for Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne's announcement that, come to think of it, by golly it would be better if all legal highs were taken off the shelves and returned only once their safety was proven -- that's a case of better late than never. But not nearly as good as getting it right the first time.
The grace period that had allowed 41 legal highs to keep being sold before the new testing regime was in place was far too long and intense public unhappiness resulted.
Dunne's insistence that had his hand not been forced by Opposition pressure the law change would still have gone ahead, but without warning and therefore without stockpiling, may be true. But the Opposition can hardly be blamed for preparing its own policy to do something the public wanted but the Government had not displayed any interest in doing.
And something, we might and, that it had previously portrayed as pretty much impossible. Turns out where there's a will, there's a way.
- The Southland Times
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