Following Robert Jack’s experimental broadcasts in late 1921, radio broadcasting stations were established in New Zealand’s four main centres. Wellington’s first station, owned by Charles Forrest’s International Electric Co., opened in February, followed in July by Arthur McClay’s Wellington Broadcasters Ltd. In Dunedin, Fred O’Neill’s British Electrical Engineering Co., Norman Arundel’s British Radio Supply Co. and the Otago Radio Association (later 4XD, today Radio Dunedin) were all broadcasting by the end of the year, as was Radio Service Ltd in Auckland and the Radio Society of Christchurch.
None of these stations were on air for more than a few hours per week, and there were then fewer than 1000 radio listeners in New Zealand. But, as elsewhere in the Western world, radio would soon take the country by storm. In 1925 there would be 4702 radio listeners’ licences in the country; by 1935 there would be 152,808, and by 1940, a massive 345,682.
In July 1922, at the urging of the New Zealand Branch of the British Medical Association, the Minister of Public Health set up a Committee of Inquiry to report on the prevalence and causes of venereal disease, and ‘to advise as to the best means of combating and preventing’ it. The committee’s main concern was ‘the occurrence of promiscuous sexual intercourse’, which it blamed on ‘moral laxity’ among young people (especially girls), weakening parental control, delayed marriage, overcrowded urban housing and ‘the restlessness of the age’. It recommended limited sex education, some improvements to treatment at VD clinics and ‘conditional notification’ for VD patients, but stopped short of more radical proposals such as compulsory notification or the detention of those infected. Its report concluded that:
It must be obvious to every thinking person that looseness of conduct between the sexes as is shown to exist in New Zealand is destructive to the high ideals of family life associated with the finest types of British manhood and womanhood, and if not checked must lead to the decadence of the nation.
The legendary American prohibition campaigner William E. ‘Pussyfoot’ Johnson toured New Zealand to mobilise temperance supporters ahead of December’s national licensing referendum. Despite agonisingly narrow defeats in two 1919 polls, the prohibitionist cause remained a powerful mass movement throughout the 1920s. Both the liquor trade and its ‘no license’ opponents spent heavily on election advertising in the run-up to each referendum. Pussyfoot’s presence wasn’t enough in 1922, though, as the prohibition vote again fell just short of a majority with 48.6% support.
Sectarian tensions between New Zealand Protestants and Catholics festered during and after the Great War, partly as a result of events in Ireland, especially the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. The Protestant Political Association emerged as a powerful anti-Catholic force, and many Catholics felt that they were being made scapegoats for wartime and post-war problems.
On St Patrick’s Day 1922, during a speech in the Auckland Town Hall, Bishop James Liston criticised the Anglo–Irish Treaty, praised the dead rebels of 1916 (he apparently said they had been ‘murdered by foreign troops’), and predicted a successful fight for Ireland’s freedom. Amid a flurry of Protestant outrage, the Reform government announced that Liston would be prosecuted for making seditious utterances. After a two-day trial in Auckland’s Supreme Court in mid-May, the bishop was acquitted by an all-Protestant jury.