Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: June 6

Photo / Alan Gibson
Photo / Alan Gibson

Bronwyn Pullar has been exonerated by police investigating claims that she attempted to use extortion against ACC. This raises many questions - especially about whether ACC actually used the allegations in a deliberate attempt to distract from their own incompetence - see: ACC used police as smokescreen, say Greens. If so, it only provided a temporary distraction, and looks to have blown up in their faces. The police appear to have unequivocally cleared both Pullar and Michelle Boag, and this represents quite a victory for them - one that Boag is indicating she may further pursue in the courts.

ACC chief executive Ralph Stewart is hanging tough saying that the corporation would take the same action again. The problem for ACC and their Minister, Judith Collins, is that the police decision raises a number of awkward questions. David Farrar has a list of ten Questions for ACC, focusing on why ACC waited three months to make the complaint. He suggests that Judith Collins should start looking for new board members.

Pullar herself is in no doubt that Collins has been misled by her department: 'How can the minister [Judith Collins] have confidence in her chairman [John Judge] who continues to stand behind a report that contains blatant lies?' - see Phil Kitchin's ACC report contains 'blatant lies'. Collins' refusal to be make any comment on the latest developments risks being seen as an implicit endorsement of ACC's actions.

Perversely the Prime Minister appears to be hinting that the police decision may help clear the way for the return of Nick Smith to cabinet, although he did say it depended on the outcome of other inquiries, including those by the Privacy Commission - see: Smith could return to Cabinet - Key.

The class size fiasco could be a crucial turning point for the Government according to Duncan Garner who reports that his daughter has brought home a very clear message of condemnation from school: 'We all hate John Key' - see his must-read blog post, Hekia Parata should've asked one simple question. Such complaints about the National Government are probably being heard in hundreds of thousands of homes around the country. Garner says 'It's a cock-up. Nothing else, nothing less. And all because the Education Minister, Hekia Parata, didn't ask the right questions of the right people. Her eye was off the ball. The Cabinet's collective eyes were off the ball. John Key's move to save a paltry $43m by increasing class sizes in our intermediate schools has completely backfired. It is a stuff-up of epic proportions - and all in the name of cost-cutting.'

Garner makes the point that in the past Key and English have been very careful to stick to their promises and maintain their credibility and that this is a major departure from that approach for which National might pay a heavy price.

Labour has certainly latched onto the absence of the class size policy in National's pre-election policy saying it would have almost certainly cost them votes - see Radio NZ's Class-size decision made since election - Parata. That view is backed up by TVNZ's poll which shows that 79% of respondents oppose the policy ('Anti-education' cuts slammed). That's an awful number for any government, but especially over a policy which has such a direct impact on so many households and which is being strongly opposed by a vocal, well-organised and united sector. For an example of that sector's persuasive strength, see PPTA President Robin Duff's Govt's class size debacle leaves a handful of options.

The Government's insistence on pushing through the policy to save $43 million has also been criticised in light of their increased funding for private schools. Mana Vice-President and educationalist John Minto points out that over half of that amount was given in increased funding to private schools in 2010 alone - see RNZ's Private school funding 'at expense of state schools'. Radio New Zealand reports that a single private school - Wanganui Collegiate - has received an additional $3 million over the past few years - see: Budget allocates more money to ailing private school. When the same school is advertising small class sizes and cuts in tuition fees, the Government leaves itself wide open to accusations of double standards.

Parata unwisely blew 'the political equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card' yesterday, says John Armstrong, by refusing to meet education sector groups who offered 'something of an olive branch' - see: Parata should have welcomed offer of meeting. The Minister's refusal might have been intended to be a show of strength, but Arnstrong says 'Pouring petrol on the fire is an odd stance to take given Parata is operating from a position of weakness'. Meanwhile the headlines continue to worsen with unions asserting that, contrary to Government claims, over 2000 schools will actually face cuts - see John Hartevelt's School cuts deeper, say unions.

The storm of protest over class sizes has somewhat overshadowed tertiary student protests over changes to allowances. TV Ones' Close Up reports that post-graduate psychology students from Victoria University say the cutting of allowances will have a huge impact as the university itself says that it is unfeasible to undertake paid work in their final year of study - see: Students forced to think twice about further study.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Economist and blogger Eric Crampton refutes claims by the Greens that it doesn't make sense to put the rebuild of Christchurch 'on the credit card'. Crampton is bemused to find himself to the left of the Greens in advocating deficit financing for spending on government projects - Role reversals: Greens for Austerity. And on the topic of the Greens, Niki Lomax, who attended the recent Greens conference as an obsever, has written a blog post on The Greens' post-election celebrations, concerns, and challenges.

* Joe Bennett takes Tariana Turia's policy of anti-Tobacco finger wagging to its (logical?) conclusion of a vigilante campaign against all questionable personal behaviour - see: 'Mummy, can we go smoker-hunting?'.

* The honours system continues to divide commentators - and even families - as Brian Rudman (Title reveals Cullen's true colours and Simon Cunliffe (Honours list spurs divided feelings) report. An excellent Sunday Star-Times Editorial (No honour in these empty trinkets; not online) says nothing has really changed since Kings and Queens used the honours to buy off or placate powerful rivals: 'No wonder prime ministers are so keen on them. It's a cheap form of political patronage, a costless way of rewarding allies and flattering the powerful, the vain, the self important and the already rewarded'.

* The Destiny and Anglican churches have more in common than you might think says Rex Ahdar in a very thought-provoking piece: Different bishops, different buildings, same outcry.

* Today's Herald editorial says Give deep-sea oil drilling a fair chance (http://bit.ly/Lonh3s), but Gordon Campbell says we should hold the Brazilian Government owned Petrobas to the same environmental standards the Brazilian's demand off their shores - see: On the opportunity to force Petrobras' hand on oil exploration.

* The brain drain has become a major problem argues Fran O'Sullivan: 'Nearly 25 per cent of New Zealanders live outside their birth country'; 'the Kiwi diaspora is the world's highest on a proportionate basis, neither the Government nor business has made it a strategic priority to reverse the outflow' - see: Tipping point in battle to retain Kiwis.

* The Minister of Social Development is again courting controversy over how the state deals with bad parents - see Patrick Gower's Bennett grabs victory from jaws of sterilisation defeat.

* Finally, blog wars are nothing new, but Scott Yorke has a cunning plan to resolve his current stoush with Bomber Bradbury - if all else fails (including mediation by Louis Crimp) they will duel it out - see: We Need To Get Past This, Martyn.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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