Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: June 22

Judith Collins. Photo / NZ Herald
Judith Collins. Photo / NZ Herald

Has ACC become sociopathic? The latest revelations about financial incentives for ACC staff who push accident victims off the books could be perceived as being part of a sociopathic - or at least bureaupathic - culture within the government agency. Green MP Kevin Hague has revealed that case managers are paid a bonus for removing long term claimants and says 'This sort of scheme is symptomatic of a sick culture within ACC' - see Adam Bennett's ACC bonus pay for claimant cull. ACC argues that getting clients back to work is the focus, but the obvious next question is: how many of those 'culled' haven't actually increased their work hours but have just been pushed on to a benefit or lost income? For the strongest critique of the ACC policy, read Gordon Campbell's Scoop article On the incentive payments at ACC. Gordon Campbell argues the policy is 'not just corrupt, it's insulting'.

The 'sociopathic' label has been applied by Labour's ACC spokesperson Andrew Little to the Minister of ACC, Judith Collins: 'Her conduct is the conduct of a sociopath, Ms Tolley.

Maurice Williamson understands that, because he has worked with too many of them for too long. He knows sociopathic conduct when he sees it' - see Andrea Vance's Little always wrong on ACC claims - Collins. Rightwing blogger David Farrar says 'David Shearer is a decent man. I am sure he does not condone his spokespersons calling Ministers of the Crown sociopaths' (The hatred and bile from Labour), and Cameron Slater who delves into definitions of 'sociopathic', concludes that 'Based on the evidence it appears that Andrew Little was in fact talking about Trevor Mallard' (So who is the sociopath?). The response from Collins herself about Little's allegations that she ordered ACC to go after Michelle Boag and Bronwyn Pullar have been more restrained: 'He's just wrong and wrong and wrong. I'm just going to say this about Mr Little. He's just wrong. And again. He's always wrong'. According to Andrea Vance, 'She also brushed off his claims that she is "a sociopath". "I think he is under stress at the moment. And I forgive him".'

There are some more important policy debates going on about ACC at the moment. Assoc Prof Grant Duncan of Massey University is an expert on ACC, and he blogs about why Judith Collins is wrong to reject 'shifting ACC's funding model back from full-funding to pay-as-you-go' - see: Crusher Collins' voodoo economics. Similarly, blogger Robert Winter says that the latest revelations about ACC indicate that there has been a Perversion of the Woodhouse Principles. For more on the ACC funding debates see Vernon Small's Funding issue brews in ACC's cauldron.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Could the Labour Party end up 'attacking the poor and vulnerable' in order to get back in Government? Chris Trotter thinks so, and explains why in his column, Baby-boomers are becoming scapegoats. He says that Labour might give up on poor people because they don't vote, and that it looks increasingly likely to attempt to mobilise young voters instead with scaremongering about 'intergenerational theft'.

* Despite a concerted effort, Labour and the other opposition parties have failed to delay the asset sales legislation by more than one parliamentary day, according to Adam Bennett in his article Labour's bid to delay asset sales bill fails. Meanwhile David Farrar makes some good points about the electoral politics of the asset sales in his Herald column The mixed ownership debate. He doubts that National will lose the next election due to the asset sales, especially because, although 'opponents of the Government detest asset sales, so called swinging voters are not so passionate'. Farrar also replies to yesterday's rightwing critique of the privatization process by Cathy Odgers in his blogpost, Fisking Cactus.

* The ongoing ideological battles in the education sector are expected to 'reach fever pitch later this year' according to Auckland University's Assoc Prof Peter O'Connor from the School of Critical Studies in Education. His Dominion Post opinion piece, Education wars will intensify with charter schools is a strongly argued critique of the 'Government attack on public education'. For a very different version, see today's editorial from the same newspaper (Stop shouting and start talking). The editorial not only argues for the education unions to make compromises, but will also upset some with its explanation for why high-decile schools might be expected to produce better educational achievements: 'Middle-class families know the value of education and are prepared to make considerable sacrifices to foster it'.

* The Government and its ministers Judith Collins and Anne Tolley have gained a rare publicity win with yesterday's car crushing - see: Isaac Davison's Might of law falls on boy racer's wheels. But according to University of Canterbury criminologist Professor Greg Newbold, the crushing laws are 'vindictive, malicious, petty and an undignified way of dealing with the problem'. He also says that such 'ministerial grandstanding' only 'discredits the Government and it brings the legal system into disrepute and engenders disrespect for the law' - see: Car crushing 'discredits law' - expert.

* Labour and the Greens are fighting again. Deputy Leader Grant Robertson has publicly lashed out at Green MP Kennedy Graham's criticism of him not attending an environmental summit - see Graham's blogpost, Sad Labour's not here? Don't ask, don't tell, and Robertson's A response to Kennedy Graham. David Farrar also points out that although Robertson was probably correct not to go the summit, Labour - with a parliamentary budget of $5.1 million - certainly could have afforded to send someone if it was deemed a priority - see: Robertson v Graham.

* There's been some more positive economic news this week for the Government, but the Minister of Finance is telling us to keep our expectations low, saying that such growth 'remains lumpy and grumpy, occasionally you get a good lump' - see Vernon Small's English warns of 'grumpy' growth.

* Should the taxpayer pay for the upcoming royal tour of New Zealand? For many people, the answer possibly depends on how much it will cost, but Ministerial Services is apparently refusing to provide an estimate, and No Right Turn says that this is wrong - see: Disturbing.

* Politicians forever want to 'correct' the Wikipedia entries about themselves, which is apparently forbidden. And for doing so, Scott Yorke points out that National MP Tau Henare is Blocked From Wikipedia. But the MP has responded to say it's 'a beat up by the blogger' - see Dan Satherley's Tau Henare rubbishes Wikipedia ban.

- 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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