Monday, June 30, 2008

National's pork for sport

National has announced a policy - yes I know it's astounding really. Quite simply it wants to force you to subsidise one form of entertainment, one type of pastime, indeed one that is responsible for a remarkable number of ACC claims every year - it's sport.

Now I've nothing against sport, I mean what sort of person would do. It is the ultimate free choice, it is engaging in competition, it typically involves some combination of skill, physical agility, physical strength, endurance and tactical ability. People almost always do it because they enjoy it, the single biggest exception is when parents make kids do it, or schools do. In fact sport is so popular that once upon a time the All Blacks played for fun not money - yes really!

So something people enjoy, that attracts thousands upon thousands to volunteer their time to coach, tens of thousands to play and millions to watch and encourage, shouldn't need forcing people to pay for it, should it?

Well the Nats think so. Instead of giving you a bit more of a tax cut, they'd rather spend your money to prop up a sports club that has done alright without Nanny State, or to increase the price of sports equipment for schools (you see suppliers see Nanny State coming when they can make money from her).

So how does John Key justify this? Let's take some choice quotes from his speech:

"It's no great revelation that New Zealand school children could do with a bit more sport in their lives. Research shows that one in three of them are obese or overweight." Well John you could say they could do with a bit less KFC, or could simply walk to school or bike, they don't need sport per se. John gets worried easily though "(Parents) tell me their kids would rather sit in front of a computer than practice down at the nets. That's a real worry. It's something our country has to change." Well John we could always have a country full of software engineers who can pay to go to the gym from their 20s and 30s, or a country full of aspiring All Blacks - wait we have a lot of the latter already.

So basically he's worried about health - he could encourage more by cutting subsidies for public transport so kids walk and cycle more, but I doubt he'd say that of course.

So what will he do?

The key plank of his policy is to give schools more money for sport "We will ... give them sports funding to use as they see fit – be it buying equipment and uniforms, hiring sports co-ordinators, or paying for service contracts with local sports clubs. We will simply ask schools to ensure that any extra dollars we give result in more students actually taking part in organised sport." So in other words, schools will want to get bang for their buck - though you do have to wonder what organised sport is? How many kids actually play physical games of some kind that aren't really sports? If so, what's wrong with that, or do schools need to organise them! Don't you four kids be playing with a ball on your own, you must be organised! Organised!!

Hmm.

Then he wants to subsidise sports clubs to take on kids - after all it's better to do that than take less tax off the members isn't it?

But wait, John Key reckons he can spend existing money better, he goes on about how much money SPARC wastes now - which of course is a reason to stop taxpayer funding of it.

What's more disconcerting about National's proposal is that it has that tinge of Nanny State about it -the kind that authoritarian regimes like Nazi Germany, Maoist China and the like did with physical exercise. Nationalism, strength through joy and the like. Statements that sports means kids are "learning about teamwork and co-operation, about playing fair, and about winning and losing." really is quite nauseating. Teamwork and co-operation? Yes of course comrade, far better than individualism, hard effort, striving and competition. Though sport could be about all that too. Now there is a point of truth in saying "I think we can make a significant difference to troubled young people if we can get more of them playing sport." Well yes, but that's light years away from subsidising sport nationwide.

Yes I know it is light years away from that motivation, but really why the hell is it the state's business how people enjoy themselves? If the entire country gave up sport and started playing computer games or cooking well, reading and playing musical instruments why should it be the government's business?

You see sadly John Key has come to a similar conclusion as Labour, he just argues about the detail of government funding, but he says explicitly "it's clear that government has a significant funding role to ensure more Kiwi kids get hooked into sport"

No it's not John, just another reason to not vote National. Frankly I'd rather more kids got hooked on reading, and respecting the bodies and properties of others than wanted to whack a ball around.

Oh and National has more policy on subsidising entertainment, John Key said "I am not going to talk to you today about National's policy on high performance sport. Having medal winners as role models is a critical part of motivating young people to participate themselves." Frankly John, if you're going to tell the bulk of taxpayers that you want to force them to subsidise people who live their lives in professional sport and all of the glory and wealth that that brings, I doubt most taxpayers would want to listen, but if you want to adopt the Chinese, East German and Australian approaches of subsidising Olympic athletes, then why don't you do it with your own money?

As Lindsay Mitchell rightfully says:

"Look. Those children who want to be involved in sport already are. Those who do not can do without the brow-beating. This is just the worst confirmation of National being a bunch of socialists. The state owns you. You will be fit."

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