The luckier country
The week kicked off with a reminder of just how privileged we are to be living in New Zealand. First up was Victoria University’s climate change conference, where Kiribati President Anote Tong laid out the issues facing low-lying Pacific nations. Discussing his country’s future with Andrew Little he noted that even if there was a massive sea change on how the world responds to climate change the 102,000 islanders on Kiribati are unlikely to have a home within 50 years. Just as poignant was the testimony of the young refugee who told a public hearing at Parliament of the heartache of having to leave two brothers in a Thai refugee camp after the family fled Myanmar following the torture and killing of her father – used by the army to minesweep. Despite that, she was, she said, ‘so grateful’ to be in New Zealand. “We’ll never forget what you have done for us, in the country we now call ours. New Zealanders should be proud of what they are doing.” Food for thought.
And you thought Parliamentary staff were only known for their earnest and efficient manner, their professionalism and rock solid dependability. Well, yes, but they also do gallows humour pretty well, as was spotted by one eagle-eyed EA during testing of a refresh of the precinct’s intranet. Clicking on a link to the Oral Question section she discovered an ‘interchange’ between three Cabinet Ministers. Laugh? You bet we did.
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Me—Hurt My Feelings
1. Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice) to the Minister of Defence: Do you not like me?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Defence: No.
Hon Amy Adams: Why not?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Because I don't.
Repeat after me...
And in the select committee red corner... David Clark was in fighting form this week, taking the Southern DHB to task over its spending priorities before taking aim at TPPA chief negotiator David Walker. Dr Walker took to throwing back copious amounts of water as he worked himself up into a lather trying to side step questions from the energiser bunny from Dunedin North. Check out the video that proves the verbal political punch is still a thing here:
Just a day after Christchurch was hit by another severe earthquake the Government hit traumatised Cantabrians with the news that funding for mental health services was being cut. Here’s a region that’s dealt with more, well, crap, in the last five years than most of us have to deal with in a lifetime, trying to deal with another quake and the Government is suggesting everything’s hunky-dory. Canterbury University researchers obviously haven’t read the PR coming from the Beehive. A study they’ve undertaken shows hundreds of kids, aged between five and seven, are suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) linked to the earthquakes, with fewer than one in ten having access to counselling. Meanwhile Christchurch GPs say rather than demand declining, rates of suicide, depression and anxiety among adults are up, with some referring four to five patients to counsellors each day.
A rose is a... lemon
And there was more bad news for Health Minister Jonathan Coleman after Annette King released info showing our DHBs have been ordered to make $163.5 million in ‘efficiencies’. That’s Coleman speak for ‘cuts’. He’s also called them ‘reprioritisations’. It comes hard on the heels of the $1.7 billion cut from the health budget over six years since National’s been in Government. But wait, there’s more: Health staff are owed close to $500 million in holidays, with many due more than four weeks of leave but unable to take it. As Annette King said – and she gets the (sugarless) chocolate fish for the quote of the week – “they've squeezed the lemon so hard in health they are now down to the pips.”
It's only words
Spin was also the order of the day in The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report. It said government agencies were fudging figures, inventing numbers and changing the definitions of targets to make results appear better. Putting pressure on state sector workers to enhance outcomes is hardly the way to solve child poverty or tackle our ghastly rates of child abuse.
“There is a sense that our children’s social progress has stalled…there appears to have been little substantial progress in reducing rates of child poverty over the past five years…this lack of progress appears to be more about the Government’s priorities than a lack of resources.”
Meanwhile outgoing Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills also had a dig, slamming the Government for not committing to a plan to reduce child poverty, and pointing out its own data clearly shows the number of children being hospitalised and dying is not falling. As Andrew Little said on air with Kerre McIvor and Mark Dye “family violence and child abuse is this country’s shame. It’s our black spot.”
More hilarity from those jolly japes that are select committees. It came when a Newshub crew arrived during the somewhat dry (read desert-like) submissions on the latest tax bill at the Finance and Expenditure committee. They put their microphone on the desk, they set up the camera. Members waited with bated breath for a revelation in the submissions. None came. During a brief break in the riveting proceedings members of the committee inquired into the new found interest of Newshub into tax matters, only to find they were there to capture Finance Minister Bill English's appearance on the Budget Policy Statement. Er, one problem - that had occurred some 24 hours earlier.