Whether we wake today to a brave new world or more of the same old muddle, it's undeniable that the past few weeks have been so preoccupying that we have been diverted from more important matters.

We pay politicians far too much attention, and there's no point expecting them to break the circuit. Show ponies all, they are ever ready to throw themselves in front of a camera or share their wisdom with bystanders, especially those carrying microphones.

Thankfully, with the demeaning business of having to choose between one of several knaves and fools out of the way, we can reward ourselves by pausing to contemplate a few of the things that really count.

Despite the best efforts of politicians, who spend most of their time fighting among themselves, other people carry on getting things done. This is particularly so in the area of health where great progress is continually being made.


It's tempting to include the resurrection of Constable Damian Albert as a medical advance, but his experience seems not to have started a trend.

Until returning from the dead becomes commonplace, however, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge we are likely to live longer and in better condition than ever.

According to researchers, the average life expectancy of New Zealanders increases by six hours every day. In other words, the longer you live, the longer you'll live.

Sir Ray Avery, who motivates himself by working out how many hours he has left on the planet if he has an average life expectancy, will have to revise his figures in the light of this.

Cancer treatment has been improving to the point that, of those people diagnosed with some form of cancer, 50 per cent will not perish from the disease. That cruellest of conditions is no longer quite the demon it once was.

And we don't have an obesity epidemic. We're fat, but not at a level that is having a serious impact on our health.

Longer lifespans have numerous consequences, not least in the care of the elderly. And the market is taking care of this in many respects.

Forty years ago the options for the elderly were few. You either put Grandpa in a rest home that resembled a hospital without the medical facilities or he was allocated a spare room at home with a bed jammed between the ironing board and the sewing machine.


Retirement villages today, for those who can afford them, with their restaurants, bars, shops, libraries, pools and pool rooms, bowling greens and petanque courts, organised activities and excursions, are more like cruise ships than the stereotyped dumping grounds.

If we're going to have more of life, we really need to make the most of it and up the quality to match the quantity. Fortunately, we don't need politicians for that.

Longer-lived New Zealanders also mean a higher superannuation bill. Super, at 50 per cent of welfare spending, is the biggest drain on the benefits budget.

I had not realised it was the task of that most cynically named of cabinet posts - minister for social development - to reduce the number of people getting benefits, but this Paula Bennett has promised to do.

I would have thought that job was more suited to the minister of finance, the minister of health, the minister of trade, the minister for primary industries, the minister of commerce and the minister of labour. The minister of social development could then give much-needed attention to social development.