Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing

This country’s relations with the Pacific were the subjects of two fresh statements from the Beehive and were mentioned in despatches from Washington, although nothing suggested Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta would be headed to look up our near neighbours any time soon.

Mahuta’s contribution was to announce the appointment of Don Higgins as the next Administrator of Tokelau.

“Aotearoa New Zealand is first and foremost a Pacific nation. We value the strong and enduring relationships that we have with countries throughout the region, and I know these will only continue to grow,” Nanaia Mahuta said. 

The Administrator’s role is to support the Tokelau Government to deliver quality public services to the people of Tokelau, and to help manage the relationship between our countries.

Higgins will also oversee New Zealand’s development assistance to Tokelau, which is focused on strengthening Tokelau’s resilience to climate change, and includes “major investments” in education, internet connectivity, and renewable energy. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing”

Buzz from the Beehive – PM broadcasts a bulletin about the breakdown of border barriers to boost tourist businesses

Good trade news has flowed from the office of Damien O’Connor in the form of a report showing how this country’s high-tech exports are faring in the United States.  But much better in terms of the immediate economic boost was news from the PM that the Government is bringing forward the date for opening the border to tourists in time for the Australian school holidays.

Accompanying this, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash announced a new tourism marketing campaign is being launched in Australia this week to build demand for travel here.

Nash’s statement gave no hint of the costs involved.  It did say:

  • Historically, 71 per cent of all international tourists who came to ski have been Australians, who generated more than $211 million in winter spending; and
  • The government will keep rolling out direct investment from its two tourism support packages worth $600 million in targeted spending. Further details are due shortly.

These announcements were timely.  The latest official statistics today show the seasonally adjusted current account deficit widened to $6.5 billion in the December 2021 quarter, from $4.7 billion in the September 2021 quarter.   Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive – PM broadcasts a bulletin about the breakdown of border barriers to boost tourist businesses”

Pharmac should brace for a dose of medicine to perk up its Treaty performance and (all going well) lift Maori health outcomes

Monitoring the Ministers

A raft of appointments has been  announced over the past 24 hours – an ambassador to Turkey, a consul-general to Guangzhou, a chair for KiwiRail, a deputy inspector-general of intelligence and security and an advisory panel for the same outfit. 

Oh – and remember Clare Curran? The former Labour Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media has landed a job on the board of a Crown company, Network for Learning (N4L).       

In other announcements, the government joined the disabled community in marking and celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall congratulated Covid testing teams around New Zealand for reaching the five million tests milestone.

Another big health-related statement came from Health Minister Andrew Little, who said care for the sickest New Zealanders is getting a major boost from the government, with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on expanding intensive care-type services.

As the country shifts to the traffic-light system, he said (somewhat ominously)

“… we need to make sure we can cope with the unexpected.”

Cabinet has earmarked $100 million of capital funding from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to accelerate these intensive care unit projects.  Another $544 million of operational funding is available to fund ongoing costs like staffing.

But Point of Order was drawn to another of Little’s press statements, issued to accompany his release of an interim report by an independent panel reviewing the national pharmaceuticals-buying agency Pharmac. Continue reading “Pharmac should brace for a dose of medicine to perk up its Treaty performance and (all going well) lift Maori health outcomes”

Govt rushes freedom-crimping measures past close scrutiny – ministers then go spending big bucks to tackle Covid-19

Latest from the Beehive

Fresh from the legislative outrage of rushing the “traffic lights” bill through Parliament, the government poured $504.1 million earlier today into initiatives to help Kiwis deal with Covid-19 in its latest responses to the reality that Covid-19 is something we must learn to live with.

That was the sum when Point of Order first checked the Beehive website this morning.

By the time we were wrapping up this post an announcement from Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall had increased this by almost $1 billion on measures for testing, contact tracing and case investigation

Quicker testing will be among the consequences.

“Delta is here, so we are ensuring we have the tools in place to support the transition to the new framework, and to help minimise the spread of COVID-19,” Ayesha Verrall said.

Yep.  The government has waved the flag of surrender in its efforts to beat the virus and has changed the rules for trying to constrain its spread.

Most controversially,  this is being done by constraining Kiwis freedoms – if they have not been vaccinated – under legislation which has been passed in indecent haste.  Continue reading “Govt rushes freedom-crimping measures past close scrutiny – ministers then go spending big bucks to tackle Covid-19”

Let’s not quibble about a typo – instead we should admire Little’s readiness to list achievements with mental health spending

We trust Health Minister Andrew Little got his numbers right when he addressed the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists at a Virtual Conference on Equity of Health Outcomes for New Zealand.

One figure in the speech posted on The Beehive website seriously inflates the extra spending earmarked in this year’s Budget for Pharmac (obviously it’s an innocent typo). 

The team at Point of Order long ago learned to be wary, if not downright suspicious, when politicians bandy numbers.  More often than not the figures they brag about will be challenged by political opponents who produce contradictory data or put matters into a very different perspective.   

For example, earlier this week we reported a statement by Jacinda Ardern, Minister in Charge of Child Poverty Reduction:  Continue reading “Let’s not quibble about a typo – instead we should admire Little’s readiness to list achievements with mental health spending”

Pharmac looks likely to get a pick-me-up after review team reports on its state of health

Our Beehive Bulletin … 

The Beehive has drawn attention today to the help being dispensed by the kindly Ardern government and other agencies for Covid-affected communities after alert levels (and levels of social inconvenience) were raised.  But Pharmac, the state’s controversial drug-purchasing agency, is to undergo a rigorous examination before changes are prescribed.

The Nats said the review is long overdue.

The PM said the Pharmac model broadly works well and gives New Zealanders access to the medicines and products they need to live healthy lives,

“ … but we have heard people’s concerns about the model, and we believe there is scope for improving it.

“Pharmac is a model that’s critically important to the health sector, and viewed as world-leading, but let’s make it better if we can.”

Health Minister Andrew Little said concerns raised about Pharmac include access to new medicines, timeliness of decision making, and the application of criteria that inform Pharmac’s prioritisation and funding decisions. Continue reading “Pharmac looks likely to get a pick-me-up after review team reports on its state of health”

The right medicine for NZ (we are told) is a matter of Pharmac’s ethnic mix rather than pharmaceutical expertise

Stuff delivered another woke-up call to its readers this morning with a report which presses Pharmac to hire more Maori.

There’s nothing in the article to convincingly explain how current staff ratios adversely affect Pharmac’s job of buying medicines or how they actually undermine the nation’s health.

The drug-purchasing agency’s “appalling” shortcomings instead relate to concerns about cultural inadequacies, systemic racism and a failure to meet Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

The on-line report is accompanied by a video of the PM facing questions about the government’s healthcare policy and its funding of Pharmac.

She will be used to such questioning.  Pharmac is the constant target of grievances about its medicine-buying priorities and of petitioners who quickly muster popular support for demands that certain drugs be bought (typically at great cost) to deal with one life-sapping illness or another.

This time Stuff’s Katarina Williams has discovered –

Just three of Pharmac’s 130 staff members identified as Māori last year, despite the country’s drug-buying agency vowing to prioritise Māori leadership and uphold the Treaty of Waitangi as a way to ensure better health outcomes for Māori.

Readers are left to puzzle about how Pharmac’s drug purchases and the policies underpinning them are adversely affecting the health of people who identify as Maori.  Or how they might unfairly advantage the health of other people. Continue reading “The right medicine for NZ (we are told) is a matter of Pharmac’s ethnic mix rather than pharmaceutical expertise”

Ethnicity data to be collected for “balance” in appointments to State sector boards

The strong whiff of meritocracy being further undermined in this country has reached Point of Order in the form of a press statement from Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa.

She says the Cabinet has agreed to collect ethnicity data for candidates appointed to State sector boards and committees.

These data will be used

” … to identify opportunities and challenges in delivering our goal of ensuring Government bodies have a balanced membership reflective of wider New Zealand society.”

In other words, ethnic identity will be a factor in appointing people to State-sector boards and committees and “balanced membership” will be more important than the abilities of appointees. Continue reading “Ethnicity data to be collected for “balance” in appointments to State sector boards”

  David Clark (it had to happen) gets something right

In  one of the smartest  moves he has made,   Health Minister  David Clark  has recruited  Steve  Maharey to  be  Pharmac’s  chairman.  Unlike  many of the  “Labour luvvies”   being named  these   days  to  various  panels and  other  well-paid jobs, Maharey  has genuine  credentials for  the task.

He  was one of the  most effective ministers in the Clark government and then  moved  out of politics  when he believed  he had   contributed all he could in that  sphere.  He  subsequently  had  a stellar  period in public  service  as  Vice-chancellor of  Massey University  from 2008  to  2016. Continue reading ”  David Clark (it had to happen) gets something right”