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.

A new leader gets a chance of definition with early utterings

So what will the world’s leaders make of Chris Luxon’s first pronouncements?

Given the context, they might be surprised to discover that his conversion therapy reference was not to the alchemic process by which an amiable executive became the leader of one of the western world’s historically most successful political machines.

Does it perhaps signify a liking for political philosopy?

If so, the aversion to conversion is odd.

New Zealand has a rich tradition of nurturing doctrinaire cranks proclaiming the truth: Radiant Livers, communitarians, New Ageists, most socialists.  Liberals mostly enjoy and ignore them – unless they break the law.

So how will Luxon take forward his exegetic reasoning.

Is it based on the need for evidence to confirm the existence of the ‘gay gene’?  Or does he essay down the path of evolutionary selection of culture?

There’s risk and opportunity with the latter, because at times most factions have run that argument.

If you subscribe to cultural Darwinism, you can’t really avoid tackling the hypothesis that homosexuality has an evolutionary purpose (apart from enraging certain old-school conservatives).  Which would give big state supporters a chance to urge its active and compulsory promotion (call this reverse conversion, or perhaps reversion on a grand scale?)  Luxon should be able to take refuge in the causes of small government and non-interference.

But he’ll need to be careful of being overly philosophical in debates over selective abortion based on genetic typology – gay gene or not.

Jacinda Ardern does appear to believe in something (however harmful and divisive some people might think it is).  An early job for Chris Luxon – and not an easy one in the circumstances – will be to show that he is not one of those centre-right politicians who will believe in just about anything.

So clarity on his political philosophy – and on its continuity with the historical traditions of the National party – might actually be pretty important. And it might be useful to keep in mind that line from Yeats’s Second Coming (“The best lack all conviction … “) – still something of a gold standard in troubled times.

Righting the Nats may require pitching to voters in the centre – but that need not mean dumping free-enterprise principles

 

National’s   new  leadership   team had  no  need  to  worry  that, as  they stepped  into  office and into campaigning to replace the Ardern government at the next election, they  would suffer  from a shortage of  advice.  Wherever  they looked   they  could  see mountains  of  it.  

There  was  this  kind (from  a  newspaper  columnist) :

“ In short, new National leader Chris Luxon will likely have to come up with policies and strategies to tackle immediate economic headwinds in five areas: a slow economic bounceback, immigration, a slowing China, tourism, and inflation.”

Or this  kind  (from former National Prime  Minister  Jim  Bolger) who said a “disappointing”  National  has  to  reimagine capitalism because   social  inequality is  pushing  countries to  revolution.

Bolger said the dominant global economic model was dividing society.

“Some are getting obscenely rich and others are going to food kitchens.”  Bolger said Labour was not seriously addressing social inequality.”

Parliamentary veteran Winston Peters, once a National Party deputy leader and MP before forming NZ First,  weighed in. What is  needed, most importantly, is a real vision for NZ, he opined from his (somewhat lonely these days) pulpit.

The Dominion-Post  was  at  its most  omniscient:  NZ  needs  Luxon  to  right   the  Nats.

And  to  make  it  plain exactly  where  it  stood,  the  next  days’ edition  carried  as  a  lead  story the  revelation that

“.. soaring  prices  mean new  National  Party  leader  Christopher Luxon  is  effectively  earning about $90,000  a  week  in capita; gains  from his 7 properties which give him the biggest property portfolio of  any  sitting  MP”.

Point of  Order  resists  the  temptation   to  join  the throng in  offering  advice to the  new  leaders.  But we wonder  whether  Chris Luxon and Nicola Willis are  as convinced  as  the  would-be  advisers appear to  be  that the original  principles  of  the  National Party are  so  shop-worn   they  should be discarded.

It  is  true,  of  course,  that  Labour  has  long departed  from the  principles  on which  it  was  founded (remember   the  “socialisation  of  the means  of production, distribution   and  exchange”)  which it  found both unpopular  and, more  to  the point,  unworkable.

That  doesn’t  mean to say that  some  people don’t believe this system   is  superior  to capitalism.  Yet  it  was  clear  that,  in  an  imperfect  world, most  people  given   the  choice  in the days  when Communist Russia espoused the Leninist philosophy preferred  to  live   in the  West.  The Iron Curtain was designed to keep Soviet-bloc people in, not to keep the capitalists out.

Returning to  modern-day NZ, the  question is  about how to win the  middle  ground  in NZ  politics, which – thanks to Geoffrey  Palmer’s  adoption  of the MMP electoral system – a party must do to win  enough seats to govern at general elections.)  National may well be tempted to at least take a hard look at its original  founding principles  of free-market  capitalism  in a property owning democracy.

Critics  may  argue (as   Bolger  does) that some  people  are  becoming  obscenely rich  and  others  are  going to food  kitchens, but  one  may also look to  the  farming  industry as  it  has evolved  in  NZ  for another example  of the operation of  the free enterprise  system.  It  is  proving  not only  to be the backbone of  the  NZ  economy, but  it is a virtual saviour in  terms  of  export earnings  as  Covid-19 renders  others  like the tourist industry  almost  impotent in  terms  of earning  overseas exchange.

And  now  there  is  evolving an equally  successful outcome   for the  capitalist structure to farming  in  the  hi-tech  industry. As   Southland-born Peter  Beck, founder of the spectacularly successful RocketLab, said this week:

“Right now  the tech  sector in NZ  is  raging…I have a lot to do with the venture capital, it’s  the  best I’ve  ever  seen it and  funding a  lot  of  startups. And  I have to  say that the  quality  and  quantity of  startups  now  is the  best I’ve  ever  seen  it”.    

It’s  no surprise  that “obscenely rich” individuals like  Peter  Beck are backers of new  hi-tech  ventures — this  is  what  capitalists  do — and  they  encourage  others  to  do  the  same. The  theory  is  that  it is  better  to  aim at lifting  all boats.   

Point  of  Order suspects  that’s what  Luxon and  Willis want  to  do.

Time for a new airport on the North Shore?

Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon raised Defence hackles with his proposal to use the RNZAF base Whenuapai for commercial services. The air force has long resisted this for reasons of security, safety and the absence of land for passenger terminals and parking.

Cynics reckon this is an opening salvo from Luxon who seems headed to Parliament sooner rather than later. Sometimes the airline thinks it is the only business in town.

Continue reading “Time for a new airport on the North Shore?”

From the flight deck at Air NZ to the cream of the country’s companies?

Shane Jones might trample over ministerial conventions but his comments  have  resonated beyond Wellington and especially in the regions.  First he  had a  swipe   at  Air NZ which, apart  from the main trunk Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch, is expensive.  Then he hammered Fonterra, voicing what many, if not most, dairy farmers would say, about the  giant  co-op.

Now, if reports circulating in the farming community are confirmed, Jones might have a dual target since Air NZ’s Chris Luxon is being mooted as a possible replacement for Theo Spierings as CEO at Fonterra. Continue reading “From the flight deck at Air NZ to the cream of the country’s companies?”