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.
“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 week, the 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…
“… 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.