How “responsibility” is being redefined on Ardern’s watch – first at the top, and now at ministerial level

The Ardern  government, adding  a  fresh  policy  pile-up to  the heap  it  has  accumulated,  has been  busy re-defining   the  core   principle  of   ministerial  responsibility.

Health  Minister   David   Clark   has   joined   Transport  Minister  Phil  Twyford   in  the  “look, no hands”  brigade,   as he  shrugs  off   responsibility   for   failing  to  ensure  the government’s   strict border  protocols   as  agreed   by  Cabinet   were  implemented.

And  Twyford, adding the failure to deliver Labour’s  key  2017 election pledge to  build   Auckland’s  light  rail  by 2021  to  his  KiwiBuild  performance,  must still be laughing  as he   draws  his  ministerial  salary  and looks  forward to  another term,  after being  promoted  to  number four on   Labour’s list.

The  consequence  is  headlines  such as “Phil Twford, Minister of   embarrassing failures”  and  “David Clark throws  Ashley Bloomfield  under a  bus,  while Bloomfield looks on”.

Not   quite  the sort   Labour   will cherish  as  it  goes  into a general election  campaign.

Point  of  Order, in an earlier  post,  noted   what  is  emerging  in  NZ as  a redefinition  of   leadership:  Ardern  is   there to lead,  not to take  responsibility.  This defies    all  previous conventions in a  parliamentary   democracy.

This  is  now being refined  for  ministers, too.   They  are there   to  get  Cabinet sign-off  on measures,  but not to take  responsibility  when  a programme is not fulfilled. Continue reading “How “responsibility” is being redefined on Ardern’s watch – first at the top, and now at ministerial level”

While Megan Woods plugs leaks in the quarantine system, we may wonder who is delivering the transformation promised in 2017

An epic  failure,  or  just   “missteps”  in  NZ’s  border  controls?   The painful discovery  of  a lack of rigorous testing  in the quarantine regime against Covid-19 has enabled media columnists to rail against one of  the  more spectacular  bureaucratic blunders  of  the  modern  era.      

In answer to our question, the columnists  have been  virtually  unanimous  it  was  the  former although the NZ  Herald, more kindly, in  its  editorial  judged  them to be   just  missteps.

Opposition  politicians, too,  were  not  slow  to  join the  contest:  ACT’s  David  Seymour led  the way, labelling   it  the   “Dad’s Army routine  at  the  border”.

Whether   it  has  taken  the  gloss  off   Jacinda  Ardern’s  political  leadership  is  another  question. Most  of  the  critics  distributed  the  blame  more  widely,   pointing the  finger    at  Health  Minister   David  Clark  or   the  Director-general  of  Health,  Dr Ashley  Bloomfield   (lauded previously as  “saintly”),   and even  to  those  supposedly   tasked, as  one   columnist said, with carrying  out the restrictions  within  the  quarantine  protocol. Continue reading “While Megan Woods plugs leaks in the quarantine system, we may wonder who is delivering the transformation promised in 2017”

We are all getting older, but some of us (according to the Minister of Health) are getting older much faster than others

“Older” New Zealanders have been defined for policy purposes in a press statement that emerged from the office of Health Minister David Clark at the weekend.

And guess what?  Being “older” depends not on when you were born but on your  ethnicity, which is something we define for ourselves.

A distinction between “older” Maori and Pacific people, compared with the rest of the country’s “older” people,  was drawn at much the same time as the government was affirming its  funding of another race-based programme.  The 2020 Budget will include support in the mental health domain for services by Māori for Māori.

But what’s going on with “older” New Zealanders and the way they are being officially defined?

At Point of Order, we were fascinated by the focus on the word “older” (older than what?) rather than “old” (although we agree this, too is problematic).

Then we examined the fine print of the announcement of new funding ($3.5 million) for  organisations supporting vulnerable groups to provide additional mental health and wellbeing support.  And we learned that –

  • Most  of us are “older” at age 70; and
  • Some of us are “older” at 50.

Continue reading “We are all getting older, but some of us (according to the Minister of Health) are getting older much faster than others”

The D-G should be chuffed after being praised by Ardern – now let’s see how hard the Minister is cuffed …

Prime  Minister  Jacinda  Ardern made a  point of  thanking  the Director-general of  Health, Dr  Ashley  Bloomfield, for his service over the Covid-19 lockdown.  She described  working with the health official “as a real honour”.

I consider NZ to be very lucky to have a public servant of Dr Bloomfield’s calibre leading the health response. His background in public health has meant I consider NZ to be among those countries who are a lucky to have the expertise in leading the response: one that considers the health and wellbeing of NZers in every respect.

It’s a tribute most folk  think  well deserved,  coming  as  it  did   on  the   last  day  of  level four  of the  lockdown.   And  Bloomfield has  earned  international  acclaim. Continue reading “The D-G should be chuffed after being praised by Ardern – now let’s see how hard the Minister is cuffed …”

Cabinet’s challenge is to strike the right balance between halting contagion and getting Kiwis back to work

Finance Minister Grant Robertson trots out the phrase “go hard, go early”  in the battle against  Covid-19,  as  often as he used to declare  the  underlying fundamentals of  the  NZ  economy  are  “strong”.

Meanwhile   Health Minister  David  Clark   says   responding to  Covid-19   is a  “marathon,  not a  sprint”.

But  New Zealand  didn’t  “go early”.   The  Ministry  of   Health  on  January  24,  the  day after China  locked down  the  huge  city of  Wuhan because of the  outbreak of the disease,  said the  likelihood of a  sustained outbreak in  NZ  is  “low”.

It maintained that  line for  a month.  There was no  visible sign of the  ministry calling on ministers to scale up  stocks of relevant equipment, take precautions in retirement  homes,   or   increase the  number of Intensive Care Unit beds  and ventilators. Continue reading “Cabinet’s challenge is to strike the right balance between halting contagion and getting Kiwis back to work”

A united front against Covid-19 is all very well, but it shouldn’t isolate the Ardern govt from hard questioning

As  the  Covid-19 crisis  deepens, the  country  needs  unity, not politics as  usual:  so  says  the  PM  Jacinda  Ardern.

Repeating  a  theme  she had expressed  in a speech the previous   day, she told  Parliament  on  Wednesday:

There are moments in our history where it’s not business as usual, where New Zealanders expect us to come together”, 

 “We are a nation that has been shaped because of our experiences, and they often have been tough, harsh, and unpredictable. That is when New Zealanders are at their best. That is when we rally: when we look after one another, when we care for the most vulnerable. So my final message is this to New Zealanders: be strong but be kind—we will be okay”. Continue reading “A united front against Covid-19 is all very well, but it shouldn’t isolate the Ardern govt from hard questioning”

Ministers enthuse at their economic prowess but polls suggest the public recognises a failure to tackle poverty

Government  ministers   are  exulting  over  how the  NZ  economy is performing—  and  their  own work  in  making it stronger.

David  Clark,  standing in  for  Grant  Robertson in Parliament on Tuesday, rejoiced at  how  solid the  “underlying  fundamentals of the  NZ economy are”.  He said the government  accounts for the June  year   showed how the coalition  had achieved  “strong financial results,  while also making significant  investments in well-being and infrastructure”.

Robertson,  singing from  the  same   songbook, celebrated NZ’s economic strength and resilience being recognised in a major update on the state of the global economy.

The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook  shows   NZ’s  growth   forecasts   have held  steady  at  2.5%  in 2019, rising  to 2.7%   next year, against  the 1.7%  for the  rest of  the so-called  “Advanced Economies”. Continue reading “Ministers enthuse at their economic prowess but polls suggest the public recognises a failure to tackle poverty”

Failure to lift the wellbeing of our public health service helps explain slippage in Labour’s poll support

Diabetes amputations  top 1000” :  so ran a headline in  the  NZ  Herald over a  report  on  what   is becoming  one of the  public health disasters  in this   country.

Public health  is the  science  and art of preventing  disease, prolonging  life and promoting health  through organised  efforts of  society, says Professor Sir David  Skegg, one of  NZ’s most respected  epidemiologists.

Unfortunately NZ’s performance  in this is even less adequate  than its treatment services”.

He cites   weak leadership and a  lack of  political  will as fundamental problems  for public health in  NZ. Continue reading “Failure to lift the wellbeing of our public health service helps explain slippage in Labour’s poll support”

Setting a suicide-reduction target might have been detrimental to the govt’s wellbeing

The headline on a statement released from the PM’s Office on the eve of the official release of the Wellbeing Budget tells us the government is Taking mental health and addiction seriously.

To demonstrate this, the government has accepted, accepted in principle, or agreed to further consideration of 38 of the 40 recommendations in the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

This raises an obvious question:  which two recommendations have been rejected?

The press statement gives the answer:

  • The Directing the State Services Commission to report on options for creating a ‘locus of responsibility’ for social wellbeing within Government; and
  • Set a target of 20% reduction in suicide rates by 2030.

Continue reading “Setting a suicide-reduction target might have been detrimental to the govt’s wellbeing”

The govt has no national health target for elective surgery – perhaps David Clark should tell his ministry

The Ministry of Health website and the Minister of Health are out of synch, when it comes to elective surgery.

On a page last updated on August 10 last year, readers will find a section headed Health targets: Improved access to elective surgery.

This says the Government has directed the ministry to develop a new set of performance measures to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders.

While work is underway to develop these new measures DHBs will continue to report to the Ministry against the current set of health targets, as well as against a previously established suite of wider measures.

Readers are referred to the Health targets page for more information on the development of new measures.

On the specific matter of improved access to elective surgery, a sub-heading asks:  What is the target?

The answer (drum roll, please) is: 

The volume of elective surgery will be increased by an average of 4000 discharges per year.

Continue reading “The govt has no national health target for elective surgery – perhaps David Clark should tell his ministry”