Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Apple pie targets

File photo / Glenn Taylor
File photo / Glenn Taylor

The Government's newly announced 'to-do' list is full of apple pie targets that no-one could really disagree with. The question is, does National have the recipe and is that mock cream on top? Apparently the already slimmed down public sector is expected to actually come up with the plans and prove they are achieving them with regular updates on progress - see Audrey Young's Key sets tough 'to-do list' for public sector.

Most of the targets would be hard to criticise (which is the main political reason for having them) but there is, of course, a big difference between setting targets and having a realistic plan for achieving them. The most damning criticism comes from Russell Brown who looks at the laudable target to reduce rheumatic fever by two thirds and plots it against the reality today and comments: 'Did the poor civil servant who had to draw that graph believe it? Does anyone actually believe it?' - see: If wishing made it so .... Rheumatic fever in New Zealand is overwhelmingly a disease of Maori and Pacifica children and one that numerous health professionals have said is a direct result of poverty and poor housing.

Getting the Ministry of Health to reduce those causes will definitely 'stretch their ability'. A similarly damning critique is put forward by Gordon Campbell: On the government's new social targets.

The Prime Minister's track record on meeting targets isn't that great according to Scott Yorke: 'Closing the income gap with Australia, creating more jobs, reducing the number of people fleeing to a better life in Australia. And now the promise to get back into budget surplus, which he's already backtracking on' - see: More Futile and Cynical Policy.

Some of the targets will be achieved in any case given current trends, while others can't be fudged, and like the rheumatic fever target, will be a challenge and require a dramatic reversal of trends. In light of debates over ACC and education, however, there will be suspicion that public service CEOs with a careful eye on their bonus may find ways to meet the targets that aren't in their clients or the public interest - see Andrea Vance's State boss bonus for hitting targets.

The reduction in long-term beneficiary numbers is the most obvious example. Government enthusiast David Farrar praises the government for setting hard time frames and hard numbers and uses a hypothetical example: 'such as "reduce the unemployment rate by 25% in three years"' - see: The Government targets. That would be a target few could argue with, but it is actually very different from what the Government has actually set itself to do, which is: 'Reduce those on Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months by 30%, from 78,000 to 55,000'. Bronwyn Pullar and the hundreds of other long term ACC claimants dumped from ACC's books may have a more cynical view of how those CEO bonuses may get approved. And their suspicions will be reinforced by figures showing that the proportion of ACC's decisions being overturned on appeal has increased form less than 30% to 45% in the past few years - see Adam Bennett's ACC's tougher line fails to satisfy independent reviewers.

ACC's problems are creating further fallout for the Government, with the promised introduction of private competition into the work account again going into the too-hard basket - see Rob Hosking's Key says ACC reform has been delayed - again. Gordon Brown in the Taranaki Daily News praises the competition policy but criticises the abandonment of the original 'pay-as-you-go' model that means We're paying too much for ACC. The two may be mutually exclusive as it seems private insurers can't compete with ACC now, let alone under the old model that may see levies 30% lower.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Where does real power lie within Maoridom? The power shifts are discussed in a very good blog post by Morgan Godfery, which examines the role and relevance of the two main non-parliamentary institutions in Maoridom, the Iwi Leaders Group, the Maori Council - see: Merging the Maori Council. Godfery also comments on the latest in the internal Mana Party debates on gay marriage: Refusing to budge on marriage equality.

* The success of the sales process will be vital to the government's re-election chances writes John Hartevelt in Acid test of asset sales is who buys them. Not all may be for sale immediately as Bill English leaves the option open for shares to be set aside for Treaty settlements see: Adam Bennett's Shares could be held back for Treaty claims - English. Colin James examines the debate over whether National can claim the moral high ground on the policy in his ODT column When a mandate is not a mandate. John Armstrong also paints a picture of how the sales could work out positively for the Government - see: Right price vital for credibility of power sale.

* The final Media 7 show on TVNZ7 is upon us, and Russell Brown is looking at the extraordinary and blatant grab for editorial control over Fairfax by Aussie mining magnate Gina Rinehart - see: Strange days for journalism.

* John Key has said World heritage sites will not be mined but what about our marine reserves? - see TVNZ's Mineral exploration threatens rare marine life.

* Some principals took offence at suggestions that they are manipulating zoning and ballots to exclude poor areas and students from their schools, but now their own association is admitting the problem may be widespread - see: RNZ's School zoning manipulation 'may be wider problem'. Kate Shuttleworth reports that the competitive model introduced in the 1980s is being blamed - see: Call to review Tomorrow's Schools model.

* The Timaru Herald is the latest to publish an editorial that is unimpressed with 'Trasher Tolleys' gleeful dance on a boy racer's crushed car - see: Editorial: OK, point's been made. They make the point that crushing rather than selling the car cost taxpayers $9,000 but made no difference to the offender.

* Martyn Bradbury asks: Are Sky TV and TVNZ setting up the poor to be spied upon? And Does Igloo represent corporate big brother or the worst crack cocaine TV ever created?.

* Japan's economy has been stagnating for nearly twenty five years and Gareth Morgan Investments director Andrew Gawith wonders if this will be the new reality for the global economy - see: Low growth and interest rates might stick.

* Has the government put the fox in charge of the henhouse? Ex National MP and Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency board - see Isaac Davison's Lobbyist appointment no conflict: Key.

* Finally, the Taranaki Daily News Editorial disagrees with its own readers over the significance of some local history - see: Parihaka deserves to be celebrated.

- 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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