Mrs Grumble has just typed a letter for Alf to sign and send to the admirable Corrections Minister, Crusher Collins.
Alf was tempted to raise the matter of Crusher’s petrol expenses, but decided that would be counter-productive.
It would be apt to get her back up, and when Crusher gets her back up she can become more than somewhat shrewish.
But more of that later.
Alf’s purpose was to recommend the hiring of Paul Horton for a job in the Corrections Service, to look after our more dangerous prison inmates.
This Horton feller has looked after Wellington Zoo’s big animals for nine years.
According to the Dom-Post,
…if it came to the crunch he’d shoot them dead in a second.
Mr Horton is in charge of the zoo’s carnivores, and is one of a team of sharpshooters trained to deal with animal emergencies.
A lot of silly bureaucracy surrounds Paul’s duties.
The zoo must follow Agriculture and Forestry Ministry rules that list animals that must be killed immediately if human safety is threatened. Chimpanzees, baboons, lions, tigers, African wild dogs and Malayan sun bears are all in the firing line.
Zoo chief executive Karen Fifield said the chimps had been identified as most dangerous because of their immense strength combined with their inquisitive and adventurous nature.
Alf would throw away the list and instruct keepers to shoot any escaper.
The more important point, however, is that, when it comes to the crunch, in an emergency, zoo staff will shoot to kill.
This is a standard policy in many zoos
… as maiming or tranquillising is seen as unethical and often ineffective.
And so one trained sharpshooter is on hand at the zoo at all times, including this Horton feller, who lives on site.
General operations manager Mauritz Basson said he chose shooters based on their “strong demeanour”.
“It’s one thing to shoot a paper target, but it’s different when you are looking in the eye an animal that you look after day to day. So you have to pick people with strong demeanour who are going to listen to their brain over their heart. It’s like slaughtering the pet lamb for Christmas.”
A similar tough approach is long overdue in our prisons.
A Bill which makes offending against Police and Corrections Officers an aggravating factor at sentencing recently passed its first reading in Parliament.
As Minister of Police and Corrections, Crusher Collins, told Parliament –
“It’s appalling that officers are being viciously attacked while they are protecting the public,” Ms Collins said.
“An attack on a Police or Corrections Officer represents an attack on the community and the rule of law.
“Our Police and Corrections staff keep the community safe from our most dangerous people. This Bill sends a strong signal that the Government will do everything in its power to protect them while on the job.”
Obviously the Bill could be even more powerful in keeping the community safe by including a shoot-to-kill clause for dealing with escapers.
It’s all very well bandying figures that show assaults on Police officers have increased by nearly a third between 2005 and 2009 and assaults on Corrections Officers have more than doubled.
The danger to the public from escaped prisoners needs taking into account too.
And if we bump off one of the buggers during an escape attempt, or during the subsequent hunt, a bed will be freed up for another inmate.
The Bill has been sent to the Law and Order Select Committee for public submissions.
There is still time to toughen it.
Because toughening the Bill is Alf’s primary purpose, and because it would be counter-productive to piss off Crusher, Alf will say no more to her about her petrol expenses.
But he is bloody curious.
He has drawn his constituents’ attention to how she is guzzling gas and their taxes.
Police Minister Judith Collins has spent more than $11,000 of public money running her taxpayer-funded car for private use.
An investigation by 3 News has found Ms Collins has not broken any rules by spending that much, but it does come on top of her use of a chauffeur-driven limousine and a salary package of $264,000.
Ms Collins doesn’t like petrol heads, but the “crusher” has got a taxpayer-funded private car, and it turns out she’s been burning through plenty of gas herself. She has spent around five times as much as the other ministers.
Alf is aware that Crusher is very sensitive about this spending.
She is anxious not to do any explaining.
When asked why her petrol bills are so high, Ms Collins answered: “All my petrol bills are within the rules”.
According to press gallery hack Patrick Gower, those rules have seen Crusher spend $11,536.96 of taxpayer money on fuel since National took power. That’s about $220 a week from the public purse.
“If you look at where I live and the travel I have to do, that accounts for it,” she says.
But Ms Collins spends a lot of times in her chauffeur-driven BMW.
The rules say the “self-drive” car can be used “at the member’s discretion”. That means someone else can use it.
But when questioned on just who uses the car, Ms Collins reiterated – over and over again – “all the use of my vehicle is within the rules”.
Alf was fascinated to note that Transport Minister Steven Joyce has spent just $273.37 on fuel and Defence Minister Wayne Mapp just $232.22.
They say the cars do get used, but they pay for most of the fuel themselves.
“It is just something I feel I can do and it suits me to do,” says Mr Joyce.
“I use the car. I just tend to fork over the cash,” says Mr Mapp.
Splendid blokes both.
As for Crusher, Alf strongly suspects she is not fessing up to the real reasons for her gas guzzling because she does not want people to know what she drives.
TV3 reported it’s a Mazda 6.
Nah. One of Alf’s mates says Crusher favours something that enhances her image.
He reckons she is driving the vehicle pictured above, ducking down to the supermarket for the family groceries.