How to deliberately misread your opponents motives


First, we frame the debate.

Yesterday, the goverment ruled out raising the alcohol excise tax. Today, they’ve thrown the House into extraordinary urgency (which means they sit as long as it takes until the bill is passed) to immediately raise the excise tax on tobacco. The reasons given are the obvious ones – to make smokers pay the social cost of their actions, and discourage use. But those reasons are equally applicable to alcohol.

Then, we apply conspiracy theory.

The hypocrisy is astounding. But this is National we’re talking about. And all that matters to them is votes. Thanks to years of campaigning and stigmatisation, few people smoke. But lots of people drink. You can target the small group, but not the bigger one. Its that simple.

But there’s no conspiracy here. There’s no need to paint National as pandering to their voters. Because the two drugs are not the same.

Alcohol, if used correctly is actually slightly beneficial. Tobacco is bad no matter how much you use. It’s the danger of tobacco which has lead to stigmatisation.

As anyone who’s listened to the news knows, the Maori party wanted Tobacco tax increases (think they were talking about it some time ago actually) because smoking kills a disproportionate number of Maori. The recommendation to increase the tax on booze came from outside parliament, and the government chose not do pursue that option.

I neither smoke or drink and I’ve got no problem with that – once all the facts are on the table. My preference would have been for both or neither, but I do understand that the Maori party’s concerns have a legitimate basis, and I hope the law change decreases deaths from smoking. (It won’t increase the tax take, given the last increase reduced it – that’s why it hasn’t been raised for so many years.)

I suspect that Idiot’s line will change once he realises that it’s not “big bad National” who pushed for it.

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