Friday, 30 August 2019

30 August 2019

Thank you for all the Get Well messages following my three-week absence, hospitalisation and recuperation. I was very grateful to receive flowers from a number of sources, including with a visit from David. Flowers cheered me up and brightened an otherwise sterile, boring, hospital room. If anyone whom I didn’t like had sent me flowers, I might have still enjoyed them or given them away, but I certainly wouldn’t have tweeted about it. That’s just poor manners, and I would have thought a gentleman of his era would know better.


Spending time in the hospital made me observe the incredible work nurses and other hospital staff do. It led me to thinking about upcoming local body and health board elections, and how little we know about the candidates that are putting their hands up to make some of the very important decisions that health boards must be faced with in light of limited funds and so many competing priorities. I could not identify any obvious areas of saving but one thing that did strike me was the standard of hospital food.

When you’re really sick, the appeal of the food in front of you is the last thing on your mind. Either you have no appetite for it at all, or are grateful for a few mouthfuls of sustenance, especially when you would be too sick to prepare anything for yourself if you’d had to.

I witnessed well-fed families bringing in fast food to share with the patient they were visiting. Whether this was requested or brought in unsolicited I don’t know, but the food being consumed was non-nutritious fast food in every case. Say what you like about hospital food, obviously it's very basic due to budget constraints, but there is nothing wrong with it nutritionally. As a boomer I can say that the current generation – my own children included – are spoilt for choice with the variety food so readily available now, and turn their noses up at a simple meal of meat and three veg. This is what most evening meals in hospital consisted of. Breakfast was porridge, Weetbix or Ricies with stewed fruit, milk and yoghurt, toast and spreads; lunch was a sandwich, soup, and a piece of fruit.

This sort of food is very simple to prepare at home and very, very cost-effective. But somehow the art has been lost and children demand more salt and sugar-laden, flavour-enhanced, processed, and convenience foods, by preference. Could this be why some families are not providing their children breakfast and lunch? Would such simple meals be rejected? On the other hand, if hunger is preventing a child from learning, then anything that fills the belly will do. It will be interesting to see if the “nutritious” lunches that are likely to be provided through the meals in schools initiative will be gratefully received, or passed over.

As one of the meanest mums at my sons’ school, if they returned home with uneaten sandwiches asking what was for afternoon tea, those sandwiches went in the toaster and were served up again! On the other hand, a pie and chocolate milk on a Friday once a month or so for $2, organised by the PTA, was a novel treat.

I agree that it is not the child’s fault if they are not being provided with breakfast and lunch by their parents or caregivers, but any meals in schools programme needs to be targeted and accompanied by an education programme. 

If ACT’s education policy was adopted, then any school could choose to provide meals if they thought it would lift the educational performance of its students. This was already possible under the Partnership Schools policy. With bulk funding schools should have the flexibility to provide transport, uniforms and meals instead of, for example, fully equipped gymnasiums or arts faculties. Parents would exercise choice in being able to send their children to a school that best suited their needs, and schools would compete for students based on their ability to improve outcomes.


Bereft of original ideas, the National Party now seems to be adopting all of ours, one by one. First, it was a new-found support for Partnership Schools and tax bracket creep, now it is raising the retirement age, reducing regulations, and a turn-around on the gun buy-back scheme. While it’s tempting to continually go one better, and in many cases, we have updated our policies on education and introduced one on gun law reform, the real message needs to be: can we trust National to carry through with these promises? Only a party vote for ACT next year, to bring in more ACT MPs can ensure they do.


Trump may refer to himself as “the chosen one”, but in David do we have a future king?

“Why can’t we have more MPs like the ACT Leader? That’s a very good question. You can, actually, just vote for them.”  Mike Hosking

Last week former Minister of Finance Ruth Richardson had similar accolades in our Politics in Full Sentences podcast:

“He’s a man of principle… David Seymour brings courage, coherence, consistency, and clarity” - Ruth Richardson


One way to elect more ACT MPs is to have quality candidates waiting in the wings, having done the groundwork in campaigning and ensuring their values align with ACT’s. This is the purpose of the School of Practical Politics which is now open for enrolments.


While I’m in the middle of my own local body campaign in Rodney, the contests for mayor and councillor positions across the country are also heating up. In Auckland, I have not yet made up my mind which mayoral candidate I’m voting for, but “Fiona” is providing me with plenty of food for thought, although I’m not sure about her policy of putting $100 million into the Auckland wine industry – sounds like corporate welfare to me.

Beth Houlbrooke

Deputy Leader / Vice President