EMMA PERKINS AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3071

Council Meeting: JULY 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Columnists Opinion
Comment and Fact
Discrimination

Overview

Emma Perkins complains about an opinion piece by Damien Grant, published on 11 July by Stuff, headlined: We should be entitled to buy codeine without a prescription.

Mr Grant complained about the decision to make codeine a prescription-only drug and discussed his difficulties in accessing the drug for a dental problem. He said: “I was fortunate. I’m a white, greying assertive chap in a business suit. I know how to get past objections and, if necessary, up the social ante to get what I want. And I did. If I’d been a scruffy brown kid, or even someone just less pushy, I’d have walked out without a script.”

Ms Perkins complained under Principle 4: Comment and Fact, and Principle 7: Discrimination and Diversity, about what she saw as racism in the article. Codeine was now prescription-only due to the abuse of codeine, she said. It had nothing to do with race. The paragraph about the “scruffy brown kid” was horrible, she said. “Just think about how the Māori and Pacific people felt about that comment,” she said.

Damien Grant’s column was clearly marked as an opinion piece, so it is his right to express the opinion that the move to prescription-only status for codeine is unreasonable. Balance is not required and the fact that Ms Perkins does not agree with his opinion is not grounds for complaint. Regarding the paragraph cited by Ms Perkins about the writer being able to get a prescription because he was white, greying and assertive, when a “scruffy brown kid” would be turned away, the Council did not believe this was racist. In fact, it was based on the idea that a brown young person would be likely to suffer from discrimination. The author was commenting on his privilege as an older, white person.

No Principles have been breached.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.

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