Luxon’s health-reform (and co-governance) predictions are dismissed as “misinformation” – but shouldn’t we wait and see?

On the Māori Television website, a contretemps involving National leader Chris Luxon is innocuously described as Te Ao with Moana, Series 4 Episode 7.

There’s a bit more information.  It happened on Monday this week:

Moana sits down with the leader of the National Party Christopher Luxon.

But she did not down to chat with him – or, necessarily, to conduct an interview.

What transpired is better summed up on Newshub:

Veteran Māori broadcaster Moana Maniapoto accused National leader Christopher Luxon of “misinformation” during a fiery debate about co-governance. 

We can argue about whether Luxon was guilty of spreading “misinformation”, “disinformation” or neither. But let’s put that aside for now.

Luxon raised Maniapoto’s hackles while explaining his opposition to the Ardern Government’s centralised co-governance arrangements, like the new Māori Health Authority.

“We’ve had co-governance in the past-National government that’s been bounded around Treaty claims and iwi managing local natural resources essentially working with local government,” Luxon explained. 

“What we now seem to be talking about is co-governance with respect to the delivery of public services and my issue is I believe a single system with innovation and components around targeting people on the basis of need and partnering through devolution and through localism with iwi and through local government, to actually get better outcomes.”

The Newshub report notes that the Maori Health Authority is a key component of the Government’s health system reforms.  The country’s 20 District Health Boards are being replaced by a new centralised entity, Health NZ, and a Māori Health Authority is being established.

The Māori Health Authority was decided after the Health and Disability System Review found that Māori health outcomes were “significantly worse” than those of other Kiwis.

The review said those outcomes represent a “failure of the health and disability system” that did not reflect Treaty of Waitangi commitments.

Luxon has committed his party to scrapping the Māori Health Authority if National wins the election next year.

Maniapoto plainly believes this is a bad policy commitment, regardless of the financial costs or whether the money spent on setting up the Maori Health Authority – and keeping it going – might be better spent on supplying treatment rather than administration.

“Isn’t Māori health in such a crisis that we do need to pile more money in and be very brave and bold in our thinking?” Maniapoto asked Luxon. 

He replied: “All we’re going to do is amalgamate and centralise and build a massive bureaucracy that will end up competing with Health New Zealand.”

Luxon presumably meant to say that all the Ardern government was going to do was amalgamate and centralise and build a massive bureaucracy that will end up competing with Health New Zealand.

But rather than seek clarification, Maniapoto disputed what Luxon had said and unabashedly became a spokesperson for the government:

“No, we’re not. That’s misinformation,” she said.

And:

“You want the one system that you suggest will work for everybody. In the last 40 years, there have been massive attempts to address inequities within the health system,” Maniapoto said.

“Everybody, all the experts – the Heather Simpson report, the Māori health advisory group, all the NGOs that wrote to you and David Seymour last weekthe Waitangi Tribunal with its interim recommendation – they all say that we need an independent Māori authority that will work in a certain way. Why do you not trust expert advice?”

Luxon replied: “I think we’ll create a massive amount of bureaucracy.”

The Newshub report was written by Zane Small, described as a “digital political reporter” for Newshub based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

He explains that the Māori Health Authority will commission kaupapa Māori services and work alongside Health NZ to develop system plans and commissions for primary and community services.

He does not delve into the question of which authority will get what portion of the health budget or how their claims for bigger budgets will be resolved if money is tight.

He does acknowledge that a Māori Health Authority was recommended in the controversial He Puapua document, “a think-piece report” commissioned by the Government in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040.

Māori have been consulted on what should be done with the He Puapua agenda. Wider public consultation will begin later this year.

Let’s get back to Maniapoto, who told Luxon in the interview – sorry, heated debate:

“You’re not helping with that conversation. You’re using words like separatism.”

He replied: “I’m not.”

Small’s report points out that Luxon’s predecessor, Judith Collins, did talk of “separatism”.

He recalls her accusing the Government of “separatism by stealth” for introducing the Māori Health Authority and scrapping the ability for Māori wards to be overturned by a local poll.

But the point of this recollection is open to question, because any notion that Luxon should be bound by everything Collins said while she was National’s leader is absurd.

Moreover, Newshub goes on to report:

“I’m up for that conversation. That’s why I’m here with you today. I’m coming on your show because you want to discuss these issues,” Luxon told Maniapoto. 

“I’ve given you a different perspective. I appreciate it’s not your perspective but I’m putting forward what I think and what we think.”

Then Luxon said the Government needs to be clear about its co-governance intentions. 

“I don’t think the Government is being very clear about co-governance and I think if you went outside on the street and asked an everyday New Zealander: what is co-governance? They’d be unable to explain it.”

Luxon’s suggestion was to focus on former Prime Minister and National leader Bill English’s ‘social investment model‘, “targeting support on the basis of need”.

“A good example for me would be the COVID story. Initially, the Government said we’ll just run everything centrally from Wellington and it wasn’t until they engaged with Chinese communities with language issues to get vaccination rates up – the same happened with Māori/Pasifika – that we were able to use local community organisations to get to those communities.”

As for Luxon’s “misinformation” – well, according to dictionary.com,

Misinformation is “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead.” Put a flag in the second half of this definition…

For example,

“… say a party starts at 8pm, but you forget or misread the invitation and tell your friends it starts at 9pm, you are supplying them with misinformation. But don’t fear: we’re not calling the fact police on you! The key, here, is that you unwittingly spread false information around; you didn’t mean to, or even might have thought the information was true.”

“Misinformation doesn’t care about intent, and so is simply a term for any kind of wrong or false information.”

On the other hand:

“Disinformation means ‘false information, as about a country’s military strength or plans, disseminated by a government or intelligence agency in a hostile act of tactical political subversion.’ It is also used more generally to mean ‘deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda’.

“So, disinformation is knowingly spreading misinformation. Our first definition of this word gives one major reason why a person or group might want to spread wrong information, but there are many other nefarious motivations lurking behind the creation of disinformation.”

In the case of Labour’s health reforms, Luxon is predicting they will result in a burgeoning bureaucracy.

The government is in the predicting caper, too, by insisting our wellbeing will be improved by its restructuring of the health sector.

We won’t know who is right – Labour, Luxon or his bellicose interviewer – for some time.

Covid divide in 2022: you ain’t seen nothing yet

As the Omicron wave washes through, it’s hard, even with the seasonal perspective, to reckon what things might be like in say a year’s time.

But perhaps necessary.

Because the day-to-day measures seem less and less meaningful – except where they provide a pointer to the direction of long-term policy.

Continue reading “Covid divide in 2022: you ain’t seen nothing yet”

In Britain, Christmas locks itself down

Experience suggests one should only call a turning point after it has actually – well – turned.

That said, it might be wise to keep an eye on developments in the UK over the Christmas and New Year period.

While Europe is fast locking down for fear of Omicron, Britain’s cabinet is the fulcrum of a political battle over whether any policy response would be meaningful.

Continue reading “In Britain, Christmas locks itself down”

Boris: Bad reaction to Omicron

British politics is proving a fine laboratory for times of transition.

Boris Johnson’s enemies are exultant at his latest woes: a crushing by-election defeat and a parliamentary vote in which he endured the biggest Conservative party rebellion since – well since the Brexit horrors a few years ago under his predecessor Theresa May.

But oddly enough, it looks like he might keep on standing.

Continue reading “Boris: Bad reaction to Omicron”

Zero Covid is dead – official

“Government instructions to stockpile food are seldom a sign that all is well.” 

That’s how the Financial Times kicks off its editorial: Zero-Covid countries have run out of road.

Measures in support of a Covid elimination policy, like this, quickly become destructive once elimination is not possible.  The FT states bluntly:  

“Buying time made sense during the wait for vaccines.  Now, though, buying time buys nothing”.

Continue reading “Zero Covid is dead – official”

The Covid mystery deepens … or so we are told

Accuracy is important for the BBC.  Hence the straplines in its reporting yesterday on the origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China:

Covid origins may never be known – US intelligence

“But US agencies say the virus, first identified in China, was not developed as a biological weapon.”

“The office that oversees US spy agencies could not establish how the coronavirus pandemic began.”

But the Financial Times thought the same material merited a different angle:

Continue reading “The Covid mystery deepens … or so we are told”

MIQueue – bringing Kiwis together

Scattered across time zones, united in desperation, Jacinda’s team of 25,000 hunched over PCs and phones on Tuesday to secure one of the coveted 3,700 rooms (more or less) for returning New Zealanders.  The two hours or so it took to work down the electronic queue were an opportunity to catch up on international coverage of the government’s acknowledgement that Covid elimination was not going to work. 

Continue reading “MIQueue – bringing Kiwis together”

Covid is now one problem among many 

Yesterday’s announcement that Australia will re-open its international border in November marked another step in the walk-away from zero Covid.

It’s harder in NZ to appreciate the extent to which this is happening.  In England and Wales, the most recent weekly statistics showed 850 deaths with a Covid linkage (although the fact that deaths were 2,000 above the seasonal average is perhaps of more concern).  But there seemed to be more interest in the latest slimming of Covid-bureaucracy to make it easier for Brits to travel.

Continue reading “Covid is now one problem among many “

Who gives a tweet about MIQ misery

The government’s choice of a randomised electronic queue for the distribution of 3,000 MIQ rooms yesterday had one surprising benefit.  It showed just how many New Zealanders were desperate enough to stand in e-line – more than 26,000 according to Stuff.

It also reminds us that while ministers and their officials can sometimes do one thing well – occasionally even two or three – the system is not designed to meet your personal needs. The fatal conceit, as Friedrich Hayek pointed out, is that the bureaucracy thinks it knows what they are.

Continue reading “Who gives a tweet about MIQ misery”

Health researchers measure the benefits of taking precautions – but they stumble when they bring the Treaty into considerations

The headline on a recent press statement from Massey University showed what great things emerge from state-funded research, although it seemed to state the obvious:  New research highlights the benefit of injury prevention measures in Māori households.

Was research really required to find it’s a good thing to take steps to prevent injuries in Maori households – or any household, come to think of it?

Introducing a few common-sense safeguards – you might think – would be good for the wellbeing of householders, regardless of race, in much the same way as we all would benefit from putting on warm clothing when the temperature drops or from looking for oncoming traffic before crossing the road.

Ah – but the research gives us a number:  relatively low-cost modifications in homes can prevent 31 per cent of fall injuries in Maori households.

The cost of the study (if our researchers have tracked down the relevant information) was $786,851.52, a sum which was provided by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), the government’s principal funder of health research. Continue reading “Health researchers measure the benefits of taking precautions – but they stumble when they bring the Treaty into considerations”