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”
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”
“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”
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 …”
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”
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”
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”
“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”
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 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”