Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search 24 June 2005 24 June 2005

A Weekly Report From the Keyboard of Murray McCully, MP for East Coast Bays
24 June 2005 (#210)

Closing the Gaps

Longer term subscribers to your favourite Friday publication may recall the Closing the Gaps programme announced as the “flagship” item of the Sisterhood’s 2000 Budget. This was the payola for Maoridom’s return to support Labour in the 1999 election campaign. Costing a cool $350 million over four years, (unless Ministers were talking to Maori audiences in which case they inflated the number to over $900 million), our Prime Minister made it clear that she would brook no slacking from departments – chief executives who could not demonstrate outcomes for Maori would lose their bonuses, she said.

A few months of helpful and gentle scrutiny later (from individuals whom modesty will not permit us to name) Clark had had enough. The term “Closing the Gaps” was thereby banished from the English language by Sisterhood decree. The budgets and programmes remained. It was just that we could no longer embarrass Clark by talking or asking questions about them. Because they had no name. Because SHE had decided.

The advent of Don Brash and the 2004 Orewa speech brought the whole issue of race-based funding, and special privileges for Maori back into the frame. After the biggest poll fright of her life, Clark decided that this time she would need to go further to deflect the critics. So Mallard was given the task of running interference on the race based funding issues.

The release of the Mallard report on race-based funding on Thursday was carefully timed to evade Parliamentary scrutiny on the last day before a one month recess (and very likely one of the last ordinary sitting days of the term). The amount of paper released, was further designed to obscure the facts. The goal: to park the whole issue until after the forthcoming election.

So let’s get this clear. The Sisterhood who, introduced race-based funding as a “flagship” Budget policy, then banned the name “Closing the Gaps” but kept the programmes running at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars; who attacked the Brash Orewa speech as racist, but promised to investigate race-based funding when the polls forced them to, and then deliberately timed the release of its report on race based funding in order to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny; these are the very people who now want the public to believe that there is no problem anymore. It’s all been fixed. By them? They must really think the public are completely stupid.

The Real Trevor Mallard

A question: is it possible that the Trevor Mallard deputed to stamp out Treaty-based silliness is in any way related to the Trevor Mallard who is presiding over the establishment of a new Treaty bureaucracy at the State Services Commission, and who is currently spending large sums of taxpayers’ cash on Treaty of Waitangi brainwashing propaganda? Surely not.

Maori Nursing School?

The United Socialist Peoples’ Republic of Aotearoa is soon to become the proud owner and operator of its very own Maori Nursing School. That’s the hot news in the latest edition of the NZ Nurses Organisation magazine, Kai Tiaki Nursing NZ. The school is being promoted by the National Council of Maori Nurses and Nga Ngaru Hauora O Aotearoa (the National Maori Health Providers Collective) who await approval for the proposed course from the Nursing Council and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (yep, these are the people who brought us the NCEA, so that’s not likely to be a challenge).

The proposal is to establish a Bachelor of Health Sciences Maori (Nursing) at Te Whare Wananga O Awanuiarangi in Whakatane. Core subjects are to be nursing knowledge and practices, te reo, tikanga and research. No doubt the Sisterhood will ensure a speedy approval. Only one small problem remains: their graduates will no doubt have a good command of Maori language and customs, but what will they do if one of them has to deal with a sick person?

More Kiwis Voting With Their Feet

The Sisterhood’s obsession with political correctness and refusal to reduce taxes is continuing to take its toll. Figures released by the Government Statistician show the numbers of Kiwis fleeing to Australia continue to rise. For the year to May 2005, 32,596 New Zealanders moved to Australia – an average of 626 per week. That’s an increase of 23% on the year to May 2004.

For the purists who argue a net figure is more appropriate, the news is no better. If you deduct the 13,749 Kiwis who returned from Australia, or Aussies who moved here, the net loss of New Zealanders to Australia is 18,847 – an average of 362 per week. That’s a big increase on the 11,908 net loss to Australia last year (or 229 per week).

Australian Treasurer Costello has recently served up a Budget of tax cuts, to improve incentives to work hard and acquire skills with a goal of stimulating faster growth. The fact that the Sisterhood has obdurately refused to follow the same path, will ensure that the current trends are not about to change any time soon.

Rubbery Overstayer Numbers

Controversy over the alleged presence of senior Iraqi figures in New Zealand left serious doubts as to the management capabilities of our Immigration Service. And despite a major restructuring recently, doubts as to the competence of the Service were hardly dispelled by an answer to a Parliamentary question last week.

Asked how many overstayers had been present in New Zealand in each of the past three years and what nationalities they were, the response from the Minister was, to say the least, rubbery.

"The Department of Labour," the answer tells us, "estimates the number of overstayers on a particular date approximately twice a year. These estimates are based upon an analysis of the number of people recorded as being in New Zealand on an expired permit." Well, that’s reassuring. Because the assembled intelligences at the worldwide headquarters of are damned if they can imagine any other way of assessing the number of overstayers. But, the response tells us, "because of statistical uncertainty, the estimates are in the form of a range."

Which has got to be the understatement of the century. Just get a load of this: the last date on which estimates of overstayers were made was 8 November 2004. On that date, the Department tells us, there were between 2,808 and 4,248 overstayers from Samoa in New Zealand. From China, the range is estimated at between 2,095 and 3,365. For Tonga, between 1,837 and 3,061.

All of which is truly perplexing. Because to follow the process outlined in their preamble, all the Department needed to do was look at the permits issued, then look at how many had failed to leave on the due date, and bingo, there’s your overstayer figure. No ranges, no estimates, just a simple calculation. The figures in the response from the Minister are so broad that they might just as well have answered "We haven’t got a clue." Which might actually have been a more truthful response.

But there is something rather troubling about what is going on here. Departments which provide rubbery numbers like this usually have something to hide. So let’s have a bit of a kick around in there and see. A full report for our readers in due course.

Kyoto Cock-up

Just how could it have all gone so terribly wrong? The embarrassing revelation that New Zealand's signature on the Kyoto Protocol would result in a half billion plus liability rather than at least a $825 million asset ranks very high on the mounting list of Sisterhood cock-ups. Pete Hodgson, the Minister in charge, was carefully dispatched to an overseas conference of dubious note to spare him the ignominy of the inevitable Parliamentary mockery.

And our Prime Minister is still unable to explain why the self-styled greatest straight shooter in the western universe told her United Nations mates about our changed circumstances back in April, but didn't confide in her employers - the long suffering New Zealand public until a week ago. Parliament was merely treated to several mealy-mouthed and sanctimonious sermons on the subject of why it is the officials advising the government who are to blame.

There were no apologies, either, for the likes of Dr Alex Sundakov who had somewhat presciently forecast the eventual outcome. Hodgson had slammed Sundakov for "methodology errors and forecasting assumptions at the bottom end of credibility." Business leaders daring to criticise were treated in a similar vein.

Further fallout is yet to come. Rumours are rife that the chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment, Barry Carbon, may not, as they say, be with us much longer. And the paperwork, when it is eventually released (no doubt after the election) will lend further insights.

The worldwide headquarters usually impeccable sources suggest both the Cabinet and the Treasury will look very silly when the facts emerge. Charged with custody of a billion dollar asset, there are certain prudent management practices to be employed. Demonstrably, those responsible failed in a most spectacular and costly fashion.

But remember. None of this is the responsibility of Ministers. It's all the fault of the officials. Just like it was the Policemen and the driver who were responsible for Helen Clark's mad dash across Canterbury at 140 kph.


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