30 Jul 2017

Kiwi expat quenches media thirst for commonsense

From Mediawatch, 9:08 am on 30 July 2017

Expat business expert Andre Spicer served up a summer story of bureaucracy-gone-mad in the UK which went down a treat for the media there this week - and then all around the world, including here.

Andre Spicer's story of petty bureacracy got under the skin of ITV's Piers Morgan

Andre Spicer's story of petty bureacracy got under the skin of ITV's Piers Morgan Photo: screenshot

"A British man and his young daughter have gained international attention after being fined for selling lemonade outside," Stuff.co.nz reported last weekend.

"Andre Spicer said his 5-year-old daughter was left in tears after local council officers fined her NZ$260 for selling lemonade without a licence near their home in London," said Stuff.

The New Zealand Herald said Mr Spicer hoped that his daughter would overcome the "heart-wrenching" experience.

The story could have had more legs here if they knew Andre Spicer was in fact a New Zealander.

And not only was he born and raised in Whangarei, he went on to become an expert in how organisations make irrational decisions. He's the author of a book called The Stupidity Paradox and he clearly knows local authority over-reaction when it arrives on his doorstep.  

His story rapidly went global.


"An adorable 5-year-old set up a lemonade stand. Then she was fined $200," said The Washington Post.

Andre Spicer told US outlet NPR about the good days back home:

"Spicer, who's a native of New Zealand, says his daughter's run-in with police has made him contrast the situation with his own childhood, when he and his brother roamed far from home and supported their clubs by selling snacks".

Andrew Spicer then told the Australia's ABC - which reported he had kicked off a "media storm" - he couldn't imagine this would ever happen in Australia or New Zealand. 

But he faced a backlash from the left-leaning New Statesman:

"The father in question is quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.”  -- so he knew he was breaking the rules.  He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.  A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain.

After hundreds of offers of market stall and even summer jobs, Andre Spicer went on nationwide morning TV with Piers Morgan, who told him he wanted to name and shame the local council officers who made his daughter a lemonade criminal and shut down her entrepreneurial spirit. 

“A lot of people are outraged, clearly, but let’s move on. The individuals don’t need to be publically humiliated,” Andre Spicer later told the evening Standard.

All this heat wasn't really necessary because the local council had long since cancelled the fine and apologised when story first hit the headlines.

But how did this little neighbourhood incident - which actually happened two weeks ago - become international news in the first place?

"I thought that this was nuts so I i wrote a piece about it for the paper here," Andre Spicer told Australia’s ABC. 


'The paper' was not his local rag, but the conservative-leaning and commonsense-loving Daily Telegraph - the biggest-selling broadsheet paper in the UK.


No wonder Andre Spicer’s story had an impact.


However, Andre Spicer’s piece was much more than a petty whinge about petty bureaucracy. His point was that opportunities for children to try new things are disappearing under a safety-conscious culture, contrary to the freedom he enjoyed a kid in New Zealand.  


But while Andre Spicer told the ABC he couldn’t see "Lemonadegate" happening here, TVNZ Breakfast host Brodie Kane poured cold water on that last Monday. 

"We did a story like this for Fair Go," she told her colleagues. 

"The Auckland Council was making it so expensive to have a cake stall because of health and safety regulations," she said. "PC gone mad!" she grizzled. 

Don't tell the British press.