Mutton dressed as lamb

Dr Rachel Hodder
Insights Newsletter
14 July, 2017

Politicians are often accused of trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. It isn’t often they try to pull the wool under the public’s feet.

Never a party to follow the flock, this week New Zealand First announced an innovative policy that will truly put New Zealand first in the world – banning the use of synthetic carpets in government funded buildings in favour of New Zealand wool.

Winston Peters announced during the regional campaign tour "New Zealand First will swing government procurement in behind natural, renewable and sustainable wool and natural fibres."

Peters was a tad sheepish about the cost of this policy, which the Taxpayers’ Union estimate could amount to around $120 million. There is nothing wrong with supporting the hardworking rural backbone of the New Zealand economy but it is a bit unfair that the burden should fall entirely on the taxpayer. At this price the public might feel they are getting fleeced.

Charity starts at home and so does support for the wool industry. Perhaps the politicians who think this is a good idea should start by seeing how they can support the industry themselves. Instead of carpets, support for the wool industry could help address another issue that some people have been bleating about: the dress code in Parliament.

The UK House of Commons recently dropped the dress code requirement to wear a neck-tie. Some politicians like Grant Robertson, Trevor Mallard, and Chris Bishop argued that the New Zealand Parliament should follow suit, so to speak.

I propose the dress code be changed to allow any attire as long as it is made from New Zealand wool. The Parliamentary dress-code should not just reflect modern professional standards but also strive to support hard-working Kiwi producers of natural, renewable and sustainable wool and natural fibres.

It is a “wonder product” after all, why would members of parliament want to wear anything else? Why should politicians be allowed to wear imported Chinese silk ties when a fashionable woollen tie would do just fine?

Some might argue that woollen jumpers are too scratchy and uncomfortable to wear instead of a shirt. But if Swanndri bush shirts are good enough for our hard-working farmers then they are good enough for those who want their votes.

The new dress code would give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘wolves in sheep clothing’.

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