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MICHAEL BASSETT: LABOUR JUMPS FROM COW PAT TO COW PAT

How can it be that everything this Labour government touches crumbles? Chris Hipkins and his team score zero on any competence rating. A recent crash is the Early Childhood Education free 20 hour promise in the budget. Spokespeople for the industry say there was no consultation before the budget announcement. Hipkins says it was not possible to consult first because of mandatory budget secrecy. Bullswool! Labour boasts of having more women in its caucus than men, for the first time in its history. Many are of child-bearing age. Allowing for a huge proportion of LGBTQ amongst them, surely there is at least one with childcare experience who could have been trusted to make inquiries? The industry would have talked to an MP with childcare experience and alerted her to the fact that centres wouldn’t be able to operate if those mothers getting the 20 free hours per week couldn’t be charged for any more hours they left their toddlers at the centre. The MP could then have reported back to the Minister of Finance, and the policy he was formulating could have been tweaked accordingly without the MP knowing what, precisely, lay behind the inquiry. But, no. Common sense is in very short supply in this ministry.



It’s the same with the various conflict of interest problems. Michael Wood suffers from delusions of grandeur. Twelve warnings that he should divest himself of shares relevant to his portfolio. Not one registered with him. He’s the greatest, and he’d ride out any storm. In the end he did, and only because his boss lacked a replacement Minister of Transport in the present caucus. Several of this government’s appointments have been so foolish they were bound to cause trouble. Think Rob Campbell who was trusted with the job of heading the new health authority. Made money in business, yes, but a check with any previous Labour minister would have been met with a warning that Campbell has always lacked political judgement. Meng Foon too. A modestly competent mayor of Gisborne, but nearly every observation he made as Race Relations Conciliator showed that he had read little, especially about New Zealand’s race relations history, which was vital to his role. His remarks after he resigned/was sacked, showed good sense was in short supply as well. He’d been appointed way above his ability.



And how on earth was anyone so silly as to put in writing what everyone has known for years: that Maori, and to a lesser extent, Pasifika, have been getting extra help accessing health care, by adding surgery? For more than 40 years ministers and health boards throughout the country have bent over backwards to encourage Maori to take a greater interest in their personal health. Eat more carefully; give up smoking; be less promiscuous with their sexual partners; see their GPs at regular intervals; take their prescribed medicines; keep hospital appointments when they are made for them, rather than top the list of “Did Not Shows”…. Short of hand-on-hand frog-marching by a care-giver, fecklessness has always won out. We’ve all known that this was the case. Why someone added faster access to surgery to the list when people of all ethnicities waiting for it are at record levels, and an election is nigh, beggars belief.



As if to highlight his ministry’s foolish two-faced conduct, today the Prime Minister has condemned “racism of any sort” in reference to a taunt at a Kiwi football player in Qatar. All he has done is draw attention to his own government’s racism. I’ve got news for him. Racially dividing the public by favouring some, while reducing others’ expectations that they’ll be treated in line with Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi that guarantees Maori “the same rights and duties of citizenship” as everyone else, not more, won’t be an election winner.



Every explanation for this ministry’s stumbles comes back to the paucity of talent within the current Labour Party caucus. Candidate selections declined rapidly in quality from the beginning of the new millennium. For nine years between 2008 and 2017 Labour MPs failed to work on policy development, and had to establish more than 200 committees to devise policies when they were surprised to find themselves in office. Scarcely a one of their MPs has ever worked at a real job or demonstrated any administrative skill. They can move their feet, however, as they skip deftly from cow pat to cow pat, splattering us and themselves as they do so.



It’s lamentable. Our history shows that meaningful advances in social policy are more likely to come from Labour than from National. But if the voters are wise enough this election to consign the Labour Party to six to nine years in opposition, maybe sufficient quality candidates will eventually come to the party’s, and the country’s, rescue?


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