If Dr Shane Reti happened to insist the world is not flat, would RNZ see much merit in reporting he had come under fire from flat earthers?
We ask because a recent RNZ report was headed Shane Reti stands firm in face of criticism of Māori health comments
Oh dear. What did he say?
The opening paragraphs inform us:
National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti is under fire for comments he made comparing Māori life expectancy to the 1840s.
It follows his appearance on The Hui where he said the life expectancy for Māori was 30 years in the 1840s but today it is around 73.4 years.
Was Reti really obliged to defend himself, saying he was trying to argue how the life span of Māori has increased over time?
His critics included Te Kōhao Health managing director Lady Tureiti Moxon, who is on the incoming Māori Health Authority board. It seems she regarded Reti’s comparison as damaging because it did not factor in other inequities.
Labour’s Minister of Māori Development, Willie Jackson, dismissed Reti’s comments as ridiculous and nonsense.
“He knows having been involved in his local community in terms of health that Māori health has been at a catastrophic level and that there needs to be a special strategy around Māori health. And we’ve tried everything, they have not appropriated enough resourcing for that kaupapa.
“We’re looking to obviously appropriate major funding towards it but also give Māori the opportunity to lead it, so I think Shane is talking nonsense.”
But what did Reti say that was inaccurate?
Social issues blogger Lindsay Mitchell posted an article headed New Zealand today: Where facts are described as “nonsense”
She referenced the RNZ report and wrote:
Shane Reti: Life expectancy for Māori was 30 years in the 1840s but today it is around 73.4 years.
Willie Jackson: Shane is talking nonsense.
Let’s hear from the Minister of Māori Affairs, 2000 – 2008, Parekura Horomia.
Mitchell quotes him in a report she wrote titled Māori Social and Economic Indicators under Colonization: A Picture of Progress:
“In recent years we’ve seen tremendous improvements in Māori education, employment and health status. In turn, this has meant that Māori are progressively taking charge of their own destiny, playing an increasingly crucial part in New Zealand’s economy through education, employment and enterprise.”
Mitchell agreed there have been enormous health (and other) gains for Māori over the past 100 or so years and steered her readers to the data that verifies this. She writes:
I gathered them together in one document here.
Progress is being made but constant polemic-driven politicking and redundant reforms will not hasten it.
The data on longevity are the same as those which Reti used.
So where can we find Willie Jackson’s contradictory data?
At issue in all this is the government’s plans for a discriminatory health system which embeds “the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi” (a malleable set of principles that are susceptible to change, depending on the political climate and political whims).
The new system will feature:
- Health New Zealand – responsible for improving Māori health outcomes and equity through all of its strategic and operational functions at national, regional and local levels.
- A new, statutory entity, Māori Health Authority – to work in partnership with both the Ministry of Health and Health New Zealand and be responsible for ensuring the health system works well for Māori through:
- leading change in the way the entire health system understands and responds to Māori health needs
- developing strategy and policy which will drive better health outcomes for Māori
- commissioning kaupapa Māori services and other services targeting Māori communities
- co-commissioning other services alongside Health NZ
- monitoring the overall performance of the system to reduce health inequities for Māori.
In her article, Lindsay Mitchell challenges this structure:
If Andrew Little’s goal is to reduce bureaucracy to improve efficiency, why develop two separate health authorities? He too is flying in the face of reality.
Ultimately, the personal decisions individuals make about their own health will have the greatest impact on their longevity.
That should be the message to Māori and every other person of every other ethnicity.
Among the comments beneath the article, one reader has responded to the summary message that “Ultimately, the personal decisions individuals make about their own health will have the greatest impact on their longevity”.
He says this ought to be profoundly obvious to everyone.
“Who would have believed we would become so lacking in what was once considered ‘common sense’?”
The same people (we suspect) as those who challenged Reti when he drew attention to the huge gains made in Maori longevity since 1840.