Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Consumer Affairs - who cares?

Actually a lot of people. But perhaps, a more pertinent question is: Who DOESN'T care? And the answer to that is, clearly, the current tory government.

New Zealand has a Ministry of Consumer Affairs. According to it's website, "Our main role is to create an environment that promotes good and accurate information flows between suppliers and consumers so that consumers can transact with confidence."

So it deals with consumer protection and the setting of the ground-rules by which businesses interact with consumers.

In the current government's first term, the Minister was from National's support party, the ACT sideshow. Now the ACT Party draws its name from the initials of the 'Association of Consumers and Taxpayers', so appointing as Minister, ACT MP Heather Roy seemed a sensible ploy. After all, her party stands for the interests of consumers, doesn't it?

After ACT began to implode, John Boscawen, also from ACT, took up the reins in mid August 2010.

By mid June 2011, National had taken control of the Ministry, appointing Simon Power to head it. But, when, later in the year, he stepped aside from the political life he was replaced by Chris Tremain.

A further re-shuffle was necessitated by the resignation of Ministerial warrants by Nick Smith, which has meant the the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is now headed by Simon Bridges.

Bridges is a Minister Outside Cabinet. So if we assume Key has a core group who comprise a 'kitchen cabinet' or inner circle, that puts Consumer Affairs at 3 removes from real power and influence.

Add to that, the fact that there have been 5 different ministers within the last 20 months, and that 2 of them were from the government's 'support party' (read: stooges), and it is clear that this government's attitude is one of lip-service to the interests and protection of the rights of consumers.

The Ministerial writ has been used as a sop for flunkies, as a disposable bauble for a support party, as a reward for good behaviour, and as a training ground for up-and-coming junior MPs.

So, yes, we can say the National Government looks after the interests of Consumers. Yeah right!!

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