Farewell to the Year of the Pig
Farewell to the Year of the Pig
The lunar Year of the Pig will officially end on February 6, and there can be no better description for 2007 under a Labour Government that has grown fat by overtaxing hard-working Kiwis. They’ve been laughing all the way to the bank with a surplus of $8 billion while everyone else has had to tighten their belts to pay their mortgage, stock the pantry, and fill their car.
In the last edition of Pansy Speak for 2006, I noted that political commentators had predicted that 2007 would be ‘game on’ between National and Labour because of the youthful, intelligent, and dynamic leadership team of John Key and Bill English. This has proven true, with John Key at times overtaking Helen Clark in the preferred Prime Minister stakes, and the polls consistently putting National in front of Labour.
I also predicted that many loose ends from last year would come back to haunt Labour in 2007. Cullen has had to back down from saying there will be no tax cuts to promising tax cuts, with the excuse of inflationary pressure preventing no longer relevant. Some 40,000 New Zealanders left for Australia last year because the average weekly wage over there is higher in every state.
The crisis in Capital and Coast District Health Board is systemic of our health sector, where the waiting lists keep growing despite more funding. Our supposedly safe communities have been shattered with almost daily news of murders and violent assaults.
Despite these important issues, Labour has pushed on to rush through the last piece of legislation from 2007 which will quash democracy and free speech. Obviously they are hoping everyone will forget about the Electoral Finance Bill over summer, but, as I mentioned in my last letter, we will remember.
As for ACC, their year can be summed up in one sentence - as Basil Fawlty would say: A satisfied customer – we should have him stuffed!
The recent change of Minister to newbie Maryan Street doesn’t seem to have had any effect and the board still seems to have its head in the sand. In the briefing for the new Minister, the Chair, Ross Wilson, crowed that the public knows more about ACC cover and how to access it, that their work will enable greater stability in levies, and that public trust in the corporation had increased.
It’s time for a reality check: it cost ACC, a state monopoly, $5.1 million of your money to tell you about ACC cover and how to access it; the self-employed face levy increases of at least 30% for 2008, and a damning report called ACC’s fraud unit ‘secretive and non-transparent’, which is hardly going to inspire public confidence or trust in the organisation.
You may remember a story from May this year about dodgy tactics being used by private investigators who were investigating ACC claimants. At the centre of the story was a Dunedin man, Bruce Van Essen, who had been at the receiving end of four investigations and said the investigators were over-bearing and had caused him considerable distress.
Just a week after story was on TV, ACC ‘coincidently’ announced a review of its fraud unit, which found it to have serious shortcomings, including that it was secretive, that information was wrongly accessed, and that it employed unprofessional methods to track fraudsters. The unit was also found to be over-bearing and unduly aggressive, used surveillance techniques that were ‘inappropriate and less than discreet’, and used unprofessional methods for obtaining information, including chasing down neighbours and alleging that fraud was taking place.
After the review was released, I asked the then-Minister, Ruth Dyson, if any private investigators currently contracted by ACC were under investigation by external authorities for their conduct and behaviour. Her answer was “ACC advises me that it is not aware of any investigations by external authorities into its contracted private investigators”, and, in another answer, said “I am not aware of any investigation by the Police Complaints Authority into ACC or any of its private investigators”.
Now, this answer was given despite correspondence from ACC acknowledging that one of the private investigators they hired was being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority. During 2007 there was a convenient lack of communication between the Minister and the CEO of ACC and this was just one example.
It was only just over a week ago that the new ACC Minister finally admitted that the corporation had been advised by one of its claimants that the police had completed a report about a conflict of interest. So what’s changed between August and December? And why can they still not admit they were aware of the Police Complaints Authority investigation into one of its private investigators?
But the communication problems don’t stop at the top. In documents released under the Official Information Act, one staffer makes the comment that claimants seemed to know more about the review of the fraud unit than they did. Watch this space for more revelations in the New Year!
Despite this John Key and the National team are determined and ambitious for New Zealand, and we are look forward to working with you for a change in government.
In the meantime, have a well-earned Christmas break and a happy and safe New Year.