Former National minister to head justice advisory reform group

In what I think is a smart move Minister of Justice Andrew Little has appointed former National MP Chester Borrows to head a criminal justice reform advisory group.

Borrows was a police officer before getting a law degree and practicing as a lawyer before becoming an MP, and served a term as Minister of Courts, so looks to have a good background.

RNZ: Chester Borrows to head criminal justice advisory reform group

Mr Little said Mr Borrows was the obvious choice to chair the group because of his experience in the justice sector.

“I was keen to have Chester on board because of his background as a former frontline police officer, prosecuting sergeant and then later as a defence counsel after he got his law degree.

“He knows the political system, he was a minister outside cabinet, he was a deputy speaker of parliament – he brings a good understanding of the political process as well.”

Mr Little will announce the other members of the advisory group later today.

He said his advice to them was to be “bold” and “courageous” with their recommendations while drawing on experience, science and data.

“We should all be incredibly concerned at a reoffending rate of those in prison of 60 percent within two years of release – that to me is a failure.”

Borrows says that he never liked the three strikes law and was forced to vote for it by the party whipping system.

In his first interview ahead of Justice Minister Andrew Little announcing the group later today, Mr Borrows has blamed political parties’ self-interest in staying in power for the lack of progress in law and order reform.

An example was the three strikes law introduced by National and ACT under the previous government, which Mr Borrows said National never supported but was introduced to appease their confidence and supply partner.

“Three strikes was never part of National’s plan, it came up as a political move because they needed a confidence and supply partner and that was it. I never liked it, I sent that back.

“Unfortunately it was a party vote and you fall under the whip on those occasions and that’s what happened.”

The reality of party politics.

Many of the problems facing the criminal justice sector today were the same issues Mr Borrows dealt with as a police officer decades ago, he said.

“That is because law and order policy is so frequently governed by politics and not by a sensitive and sensible approach to it.”

“If you’ve got politicians too scared to introduce policy that actually might work because it’s seen to be soft on crime they won’t do it because of how it might be reflected in the ballot box.”

There will always be failures in the justice system, some of them high profile and they will be used to by crime and punishment activists.

But Borrows sounds like he could be a good person to lead the review.

And Little looks like a Minister who wants to make a significant difference – but he has a potential problem, party politics, or more to the point, Winston Peters and NZ First.

But with Borrows’ connection to National he may be able to get them onside with justice reform to get the votes with Labour that will get it through Parliament.

I might be able to contribute to the review in a minor way. I now have three years experience dealing with the justice system (ongoing with a possible third appeal plus I have now been dragged into a bankruptcy proceeding as a creditor in which Dermot Nottingham is trying to avoid paying about $220k in court costs that he keeps appealing).

Courts are under a lot of time pressure due to increasing workloads and resigning judges. One problem I have experienced is their lenience with misguided lay litigators who repeatedly fail to follow legal procedures and repeatedly ignore court directions and timetables, and flood proceedings with large amounts of irrelevant paperwork. They should get tough on this, it will save some time in the court system.

And while private prosecutions are an important part of our judicial system they are too easily open to abuse by vexatious litigants who try to inflict costs in protracted hopeless cases.

 

Ministerial Advisory Group for health

The Minister of Health, David Clark, has announced “the urgent establishment of a new Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System”.

Advisory groups, working groups, committees and commissioned reports are all things that are used in Government to kick the can down the road, to bury a promise, to deliberately delay.

For example the Tax Working Group seems to be a device to get advice that the Government wants to hear. After nine years in Opposition one could wonder why Labour hadn’t already done all the research needed to inform adequately on reforming our tax system.

But I think the health Advisory Group may be justified. Clark is not very experienced in Health, and it is one of the most demanding portfolios, with one of the biggest responsibilities. Life and death is at stake, costs are escalating, as is the age of the population, so it is difficult to get the right levels of care to balance on a budget.

New Ministerial Advisory Group established for Health

Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced the urgent establishment of a new Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System.

“Since becoming the Minister of Health, it has become increasingly clear to me that all is not well within our public health system. Nine years of under-resourcing and neglect have taken their toll.

“New Zealanders deserve better and the Labour-led Government will not sit back while the public is short-changed by a health system operating under such stress. We have a significant health agenda to roll out, including in primary care, mental health and disability services.

“We’re committed to investing an extra $8 billion in health, and it is vital to have a health system in its best shape possible to ensure all New Zealanders can access quality health and disability services.

“The Ministerial Advisory Group will help ensure that investment makes a positive difference to people’s lives. It will provide fresh perspective and independent advice about how we can improve our health system and deliver better services to New Zealanders.”

Dr Clark has appointed Sir Brian Roche as chair of the group. Professor David Tipene-Leach, Muriel Tūnoho, Dr Karen Poutasi and Dr Lester Levy have also been appointed members for a term of two years. They will report directly to the Minister of Health.

“These five individuals are extremely experienced and highly regarded in the health and disability sector.

“I’ve asked them to advise me on lifting the Ministry’s performance and leadership, strengthening relationships across the sector, and helping to deliver the Government’s strategic direction for health. This work is critical to improving the quality of our health services.

“There are good people nationwide working hard to improve people’s health. Both they and the public deserve the highest standards of leadership and performance,” says Dr Clark.

Background Information:

The Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System is a Ministerial Committee established under section 11 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2001.

Chair Sir Brian Roche has extensive governance and management experience, a former Chief Executive of PWC NZ, oversaw a significant transformation of the New Zealand Post Group as Chief Executive and is an experienced chair of numerous entities, both Crown and private.

Professor David Tipene-Leach is a Professor of Māori and Indigenous Research at the Eastern Institute of Technology. He has a distinguished medical practice and academic history, and has led innovative public health projects on prevention of long-term conditions, particularly diabetes.

Muriel Tūnoho is president of E tū, one of New Zealand’s largest unions and national coordinator for Healthcare Aotearoa, which represents many community and iwi controlled primary health providers. She is also involved with Hutt Union & Community Health Service and is an executive member on the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa board.

Dr Karen Poutasi is a former Director-General of Health. She oversaw the establishment of district health boards and the amalgamation of the former Health Funding Authority with the Ministry of Health. She has extensive experience at both a governance and management level, with deep knowledge and networks in the health system.

Dr Lester Levy has extensive knowledge of the health sector. He is Chair of the three Auckland district health boards, and has a wealth of experience in other private and government governance roles.

The best possible advice is essential for making decisions on health, and this group should the Minister.

David Farrar gives it a tick in Clark pushes out Chuah:

I don’t know all the members but Roche, Poutasi and Levy are well regarded and could well play a good role in improving the performance of the Ministry of Health.

Clark dines pushing Chuah: Outgoing health boss ‘not pushed’

Labour has been highly critical of Chai Chuah in the past but it was his choice to resign, David Clark says.

Hobson’s choice perhaps, but as Farrar said, Clark needs to have confidence in the Health boss.

In Parliament yesterday Clark responded to patsy questions (and one from the Opposition) with some of his expectations.

12. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: Why has he established the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Today, I announced that I have established a ministerial advisory group because it has become increasingly clear to me that all is not well within our public health system. I require strong, independent advice about how we can lift the ministry’s performance and leadership, to begin to address the challenges facing our health system and, in particular, to rebuild the relationships that were seriously strained under the previous Government.

Dr Liz Craig: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What does he expect the ministerial advisory group will do to improve New Zealand’s health system?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I expect that the ministerial advisory group will provide the strategic advice required to deliver on this Government’s commitments in health and ensure that the $8 billion we have committed to investing in health will make a positive difference in people’s lives. This will include, for example, improving access to primary care by lowering the costs of visiting a GP.

Dr Shane Reti: Isn’t it more correct to say he’s set up the ministerial advisory group to tell him what his health plan in health should be, because he doesn’t have a plan?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.

Dr Liz Craig: Will the ministerial advisory group improve relationships across the health sector?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: One of the first things I expect the ministerial advisory group to do will be to rebuild relationships across the health sector. Strong and productive relationships are required to deliver the healthcare New Zealanders expect and deserve. I’m confident that the ministerial advisory group will be able to do this, and I have no doubt that its members will be talking and listening to district health boards, primary health organisations, and others up and down the country.

A line up of doctors, with both Craig and Reti having worked in health roles. That’s not necessarily all positive, the last Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, seemed to lack in communication skills, something that’s essential in this portfolio.

I wish Clark and his Advisory Group well – I may need their help some time in the future, and there’s been some scary bad health stories coming out of Dunedin Hospital – the hospital whose case for replacement has been kicked down the road for a while now.