Politics inebriates dispassionate debate

Politics inebriates- Darren Hughes.jpgI am very disappointed that my attempt to take the politics out of the drink driving debate was totally undermined by the National Government’s determination to turn the issue into a party vote.

Every week, New Zealanders are killed unnecessarily on our roads. Many die in accidents caused by or contributed to by drinking drivers.

My Member’s Bill designed to lower the blood alcohol limit from .08 to .05g of alcohol per 100ml of blood was born out of two motivations:

Frustration at the Government’s insistence that we do not have enough evidence to show this is a good idea, despite the number of innocent Kiwis killed on our roads.

A conviction that many National MPs actually agree with me, and that they would be reassured by the comfort of Labour support for lowering the limit.

I was encouraged by Prime Minister John Key’s initial comment on my Bill that he believed National would allow a conscience vote if my Bill made it to the floor of the House. I was sure, in fact, that a conscience vote would mean that my Bill obtained majority support, and that a far-sighted piece of legislation would thus progress without the intrusion of unnecessary party politics.

An issue like Kiwis dying unnecessarily on our roads should not be political.

It should trouble all of us, irrespective of our political affiliation. Each of us or our loved ones could be the next one hit.

Sadly, the hope Mr Key provided was destined to be short-lived.

The National caucus over-ruled the Prime Minister, and decided that while votes on other alcohol issues could be conscience votes, those on drink driving would be strictly on party lines.

I still cannot understand the logic National has used, and find no explanation that is not political, and that is not related to a clash of wills between the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers prepared to challenge his authority.

If that is the case (I would be glad to hear any other explanation), what a sorry way to decide such an important issue!

I have no doubt that many would die or be seriously injured in accidents with someone who has a blood limit between 50g and 80g.

When National’s two years of research is completed, I am sure it will show a similar result. It will then be up to National to explain to grieving relatives just why it was so blind.

Darren Hughes is Shadow Leader of the House and Labour Party’s Chief Whip. The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink ©

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