Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism

This week’s budget highlights a big contrast between what Winston Peters has said and what he does. Talking the bucking the system bronco talk in opposition, but trotting along with the establishment for a dividend of baubles.

In past years Peters speeches has condemned National, capitalism and ‘neoliberalism’, but this week’s budget has been described as business as usual, National-lite and a continuation of neo-liberalism.

Not that this sort of duplicity will bother Peters – he has a history of talking a big change talk, but is walking a same old walk.

Winston promised radical change but is helping to deliver more of the same old. He campaigns as an anti-establishment politician, but props up the establishment given half a chance.

Peters has a history of cosying up to whoever will give him a share of power. He worked a coalition with National from 1996-1999, and did it again with Labour in 2005-2008. Neither of those Governments wavered from the same old capitalist approach alongside some state assistance. All Governments since the 1980s have been bitterly described as ‘neo-liberal’ by some on the left.

Peters in a speech in 2010:

New Zealand First was born from those who rejected the radical reforms of National and Labour and who wanted a party that represented ordinary New Zealanders – not overseas interests or those of a few ever mighty subjects.

So, after the blitzkrieg neo-liberal policy destruction of Labour between 1984 and 1990 – and National until 1996, New Zealanders decided they wanted change.

In less than two years Jim Bolger was rolled by Jenny Shipley whose mission was to smash the centre-right coalition and to continue the neo-liberal experiment supported by the Business Round Table and any other stragglers they could cobble together.

We saw some of this recently in the economic prescription of a failed politician who simply could not see that pure neo-liberal economics is a pathway to economic servitude for all but a small privileged elite.

Or maybe he does know this – which makes he, and his ilk, even more dangerous.

Dripping with irony. Peters enabled both the Bolger government and the Clark government prior to making that speech.

In 2016 Government a ‘bum with five cheeks’ – Peters

“Unless we get a dramatic economic and social change as a result of our efforts at the next election, we would have failed. That’s our objective. We know that unless we’ve got a dramatic change from this neoliberal failure that every other country seems to understand now but us, then we as a party would have failed.”

There is scant sign of anything like a dramatic economic and social change in the current Government or in the budget, apart from vague assurances it will be ‘transformational’ at some time in the future.

Also from 2016 – Winston Peters: ‘Most Kiwis are struggling’

“Everyone in New Zealand First knows that our duty, our responsibility and our mission statement is to get an economic and social change at the next election. Otherwise we will have all failed. It was a challenge to my caucus members, my party delegates and everybody else.”

He said there was no use in pursuing the major parties’ neo-liberal economic policies, which he described as being like “Pepsi and Coca-Cola”.

Peters provided the froth for both, and continues to do so.

Leading in to the 2017 election campaign: Winston Peters dismisses ‘irresponsible capitalism’ of other parties with new economic policy

Winston Peters is positioning NZ First as the party of difference and says his policy announcements today will steer away from the “irresponsible capitalism” that every other political party is selling.

The neo-liberal policy adopted by New Zealand politicians in the 1980s is a “failed economic experiment”.

“We want to confront what’s going on and set it right,” Peters said.

“I look at Parliament today and the National party, the Labour party and now the Greens are all accepting of that with a little bit of tweaking. That is astonishing, particularly in the case of the Greens – they’ve done it to try and look respectable – it’s totally disrespectable economic policy.”

Peters has enabled a Labour led Government whose first budget is little more than a bit of tweaking, with the Greens getting a  modest modest bit money for tweaking environmental policies.

Once negotiating power with Labour and the Greens Peters was already talking less radically.

October 2017: Winston Peters wants ‘today’s capitalism’ to regain its ‘human face’

“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong.

“That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.”

So he moved from radical change to supporting a tweak to capitalism.

And this weeks budget has been barely a tweak. Guyon Espiner calls it a A ‘triumph of neoliberalism’

It turns out you can’t judge a book by its colour either. Labour’s first Budget in nearly a decade came with a bold red trim, rather than the royal blue Treasury uses to present the documents when National is in power.

But inside this was a blue budget not a red one. It’s a description neither Labour nor National would like bestowed on Budget 2018 but this was a triumph of neoliberalism or at least a continuation of it.

A continuation of neoliberalism enabled by and supported by Peters, with a bit of crony capitalism for him and NZ First.

This looked like National’s tenth Budget rather than Labour’s first.

It is the seventh National/Labour budget that NZ First has played a hand in.

Much more largesse has been lavished on the New Zealand First relationship with $1 billion for foreign aid and diplomats and another $1 billion for the Shane Jones provincial growth fund.

Even Winston Peters’ racing portfolio gets a giddy up. The government will spend nearly $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed”.

It has to be a handsome horse though. The rules say it will be tax deductible if it is a standout yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

What next? A handsome horse called Neoliberalism? Peters is probably a bit old to ride it, but he is providing the hay.

NZ First’s colours are black and white, and Peters campaigns with black and white rhetoric, but when he gets the chance to get some power he is a kaleidoscope of collusion, whether it be with National, Labour, capitalists or neoliberalists.

Perhaps like Grant Robertson he has a few transformational tricks up his sleeve, holding them back for next year, or next term.

Or maybe his the same old political charlatan, talking a maverick talk in opposition but given half a chance walking the same old establishment walk.

Pharmac funding not cut

Amy Adams and National may have been a bit hasty in claiming that Pharmac funding had been cut.

Adams is still claiming this on RNZ this morning.

That seemed odd, but Grant Robertson has pointed out that it is inaccurate.

Pharmac: Budget 2018/19

PHARMAC is pleased that the Government has announced an uplift in PHARMAC’s funding.

The Combined Pharmaceutical Budget (CPB) will be increased to a record level of $985 million in 2018/19 – an increase of just under $114.2 million on the 2017/18 CPB level.

From 1 July 2018, PHARMAC will manage all public expenditure on medicines – whether used in the community or in hospital, and this means that all remaining DHB’s expenditure will be part of the CPB.

Due to the power of the PHARMAC model, this is likely to provide future savings of around $200 million over four years for Vote Health – achievable by applying the PHARMAC model to the full portfolio of medicines.

PHARMAC will continue to invest in new medicines and technology that best meet the health needs of New Zealanders.

PHARMAC has proven its ability to return savings for the health sector, while at the same time funding new treatments, as well as managing the growth in usage of existing funded treatments.

So the Pharmac budget has been increased, and ” the power of the PHARMAC model’ means that DPB spending on drugs could be reduced by $200m.

That’s if Donlad trump doesn’t force up the international price of drugs so that US drug companies can make even bigger profits.

Marama Davidson on the budget – more ‘grate Greens’ than ‘great Greens’

Green co-leader Marama Davidson’s response to the budget gushed Green greatness, as well as smooching smugness while ignoring why the Government has a healthy surplus with which to invest in some green projects.

This Budget begins the process of rebuilding our public services. Restoring our health and education systems. Putting in place the foundations for our future. The foundations for a Green future.

A real government builds houses and shelters the homeless. National stuffed around as rents and house prices exploded.

A real government funds hospitals to deliver the best healthcare in the world to our people. National blew smoke rings while mould grew in the walls of Middlemore Hospital, where three of my babies were born.

A real government thinks the justice system is for delivering justice, not feeding Māori and Pasifika men and women to the private prison industry.

This is what we campaigned for: a real government. A government that takes action rather than kicking the tyres. A government that builds, not a government that shuts things down.

People ask why we didn’t go with National and focus on environmental stuff. But being Green means understanding how our social and economic systems fuel the destruction of our environment.

The environment doesn’t sit in a box on a shelf. Mama nature is all around us. She affects our lives, and our actions affect her, every minute of the day. 💚💚💚

The issues facing our environment – water and air and native species – are connected to the issues facing our society – low wages, high rents, mental health, violence and discrimination.

These all have roots in an economic system which isn’t broken – it’s working exactly as intended, siphoning off the wealth we all create into the hands of a few who missed kindy the day we were taught to share.

This Budget has the largest redistribution of wealth since the Mother of All Budgets, but more Robin Hood than Ruth Richardson – helping those who need it the most. That’s what a real government does.

When National were in government, they were so focused on the surplus they ignored the massive moral deficit: families living in cars. Hungry kids. Toxic rivers, dying kauri and dead dolphins.

National certainly struggled to deal adequately with some problems, but they did try. And the current Government has the benefit of a healthy economy and a growing surplus with which they can fund more initiatives – in large part thanks to the careful financial management of National.

Claiming moral superiority means Davidson has a lot to deliver on, and she is a long way from doing that yet.

Today we’re turning the waka around. We’ve ensured every rental will be warm, dry and well ventilated. We’ll fix Auckland’s transport issues. We’re delivering real justice and aroha to the families of the Pike 29.

We’ll deliver a rent-to-own scheme in KiwiBuild, more services for mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, and overhaul our welfare system to focus on helping people, not reading their Tinder profiles.

We’ll transform Aotearoa into the country we know it can be. Where kids grow up in warm, dry homes in vibrant cities and towns, and can swim in the river and drink water from the tap without getting sick.

A country where everyone who works has a decent income and a good life, and paid employment is not the only kind of work we acknowledge and value.

A country which honours and does MORE than just honour te Tiriti o Waitangi. A country which leads the world in tackling the global problems of climate change, inequality and injustice.

There’s a lot of idealistic maybes there.

We’re not just managing until the next election: we are governing for the next century, planning for the world our mokopuna will inherit: one built on love and community and kaitiakitanga.

This government is going to transform our country. We are so proud to stand with our friends in Labour and New Zealand First and vote for this Budget.

Some of her claims are a bit premature. The world won’t be transformed into a Green nirvana with one largely unremarkable budget.

Greens have only just got their feet under the Government table. They have a lot to deliver yet if they are to achieve what Davidson is claiming.

And her divisive ‘them versus the great us’ moral superiority attitude does not look like ‘one built on love and community and kaitiakitanga’.

More humbleness and more results would help achieve some real and significant Green achievements,

The attitude that Davidson has brought to the top of her Party is more ‘grate Greens’ rather than ‘great Greens’. That’s a real shame.

I applaud some of what the Greens are bringing to budget decisions, but I cringe at how some of their ideals are delivered.

 

Good budget for the Greens

This was the first part that the Green Party has played a part in so it is understandably a big deal for them. They deserve credit for some achievements, like the biggest increase in DOC funding for many years.

James Shaw has been granted a $100 million Green Investment Fund.

This looks paltry beside the $1b per year Provincial Growth Fund that NZ First got out of Labour, but it is enough for Shaw to prove whether is right in thinking that a revolutionary Green economy can be seeded. If he starts well with what he has got then there could be scope for more.

I want to acknowledge the vision of my predecessor Dr who campaigned in 2011 and in 2014 for a state-owned, but fully commercial, Green Investment Fund.

It’s time for Shaw and the Greens to deliver on one of their most important policies.

Other Green gains have been relatively modest, but worthwhile nevertheless.

There is an additional $181.6 million in operational funding for conservation initiatives over the next four years. This funding will start to turn around the biodiversity crisis, where 82 per cent of native birds are threatened or at risk of extinction.

Shaw on farming initiatives:

Farmers & rural communities must be supported in the transition that New Zealand needs to make. So I am delighted that today’s Budget includes $15 million over the next four years for the Sustainable Farming Fund.

A lot of farmers are already taking great strides forward by reducing their environmental impact but at the same time improving their profitability. This is how we are investing in a Sustainable Economy. This is how we are investing in our future.

It’s good to see Shaw acknowledging that “a lot of farmers are already taking great strides forward by reducing their environmental impact”, but the sustainable farming funding is modest, like most of the green gains.

Not so modest have been the Green leaders. Shaw:

It makes me & my colleagues proud to be a part of this Government. To have had a hand in the development of this Budget – the Greens’ first Budget in Government. To be laying the foundations for a truly sustainable economy, a healthy environment & a fair society.

We support this Budget & stand ready to provide the ideas, & the vision, & the energy to build on it into the future. This Government is investing in a better, more resilient, more sustainable future for all New Zealanders, and for this beautiful land we call home.

Some good Green gains, but no real sign of “foundations for a truly sustainable economy, a healthy environment & a fair society”. Yet. There is a lot of work to be done. Green revolutions take time, especially when they are competing with NZ First for funds for their policies.

It looks like a good budget for the Greens, but nothing extraordinary.

A reasonable first budget for Labour

As Minister of Finance Grant Robertson was fortunate to inherit a healthy economy and a growing surplus to play with.

From what I’ve seen (I was busy yesterday and only caught bits of the budget details) it was a generally prudent and predictable budget. Big dollops of dosh had already been committed in last year’s ‘mini budget’, so this was more of an incremental addition.

Health and education  got reasonable increases, but nothing dramatic – National claim some increases are no more than they increased in their last budget. That isn’t a bad thing.

The budget has been described as ‘the first step in a plan for transformation’ – it is really only a beginning in most respects. Much will depend how the economy goes over the next couple of years and how the results of the many working groups and advisory committees pan out. There seems nothing revolutionary about the Government at this stage.

I’d like to see a bold reform of the whole tax and benefit system, and with healthy books it is a good time to do something, but it is probably too seen for the Government to get to grips with major changes – and the IRD computer system in particular couldn’t cope anyway until it is replaced.

Labour have been criticised for reneging on some of their promises – fair comments but no big deal.

While money has been spread around there is still a big miss – middle New Zealand, ordinary working people who don’t have dependant children. They have had their tax cuts whipped away from them and as far as I have seen will get little direct benefit.

Overall it seems to be an ok first budget. The degree of transformation won’t become apparent until next year’s budget, and the election year budget after that.

Media and some politicians try to make dramatics out of budgets but in the main they should be predictable and boring, so this one has been a success.

Budget highlights – foundation for the future

The budget is more of a preparatory budget rather than the claimed transformative budget – but Minister of Finance Grant Robertson acknowledges that. Here is his summary of the 2018 budget.


Foundations for the future

Health, education, housing and other critical public services receive overdue investments today, says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

“Our public services have been underfunded for too long and there has been a failure to appropriately plan for the future. That changes today,” says Grant Robertson.

“Budget 2018 begins the economic and social transformation that must happen if New Zealanders are to have better lives in the decades to come.

“The Coalition Government is rebuilding the critical services Kiwis expect their government to provide – modern hospitals, classrooms kids can learn in, public housing for those who need it, efficient transport systems and safe communities.

“Budget 2018 makes responsible investments for the future, while delivering a surplus of more than $3 billion and taking a responsible approach to debt reduction.

“We are committed to living within our means and having a buffer to deal with the risks and shocks that a small country like New Zealand inevitably faces.

“The Government’s plan is fully funded within the operating and capital allowances we have set for this and future Budgets. We have been able to increase the allowances slightly because economic growth is forecast to be stronger than was expected before the election, by cracking down on tax avoidance, by reprioritising spending to reflect the Coalition Government’s priorities and with our more balanced debt track.

“We are committed to being responsible – not just fiscally but socially and environmentally. This Government is preparing our country for the future by making sure its foundations are strong and sustainable,” says Grant Robertson.

Highlights of Budget 2018:

  • Health receives a huge boost with $3.2 billion more in operating funding over the next four years and $850 million new capital – including $750 million to tackle some of hospitals’ most urgent building problems, the biggest capital injection in health in at least the last decade.
  • This Budget commits to free doctors’ visits for everyone under the age of 14 – an extra 56,000 of our young people from the current policy. We are extending very low-cost general practitioner (GP) visits to all Community Services Card holders and extending the Card to all Housing New Zealand tenants and New Zealanders who receive an accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy. This will make going to the GP cheaper by up to $30 for the 540,000 people eligible for the Card.
  • Elective surgery, maternity services, air ambulances and the National Bowel Screening Programme are among the health services receiving extra funding.
  • New capital funding will build schools and hundreds of new classrooms. Operating funding for education over the next four years increases by $1.6 billion to address rising demand, fund 1,500 more teachers and raise teacher-aide funding. Early childhood education gets a $590.2 million operating boost over four years, benefiting over 200,000 children. A total of $284 million goes to Learning Support to allow every child with special education needs and learning difficulties to better participate in school life.
  • Housing is boosted by more than $634 million in operating funds. We will increase public housing by over 6,000 homes over the next four years, provide more transitional housing and help for the homeless and offer grants for insulation and heating.

“This Government is placing the wellbeing of people at the centre of all its work,” says Grant Robertson.

“We are also building strong foundations for a more productive and sustainable economy. Budget 2018 allocates $1 billion over four years to encourage business innovation through a research and development incentive. We are supporting and growing our regions through the $1 billion-per-year Provincial Growth Fund and investing $100 million into a Green Investment Fund to help our economy’s transition.

“We are promoting a progressive and inclusive trade agenda. Our tax system will be fairer and more balanced to encourage investment in the productive economy.

“This Government is looking ahead to the next 30 years. We are managing our economy responsibly and providing the critical public services we need to build foundations for our future,” says Grant Robertson.

Budget day

Grant Robertson will present the first Labour-NZ First-Green budget today. It is a big test for Robertson and Labour in particular.

All three parties have been playing the PR game in advance.

Most of the budget will be mundane business as usual.

Some things will probably be laudable. Some will be debatable. And critics will criticise.

And then we will have to wait months if not years to see what the effects are – some will be positive, some negative.

And for most of us life will go on regardless.

Bickering over pest eradication funding.

Three headlines from RNZ:

Govt puts extra $80m towards eradicating pests

Efforts to eradicate rats, stoats and possums are set to get a boost of $80 million in next week’s Budget.

DOC funding barely keeps up with inflation – National

National’s conservation spokesperson has accused the Green Party of making a u-turn on its election promises.

National Party conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie said during the election the Greens promised to double DOCs budget and this increase was barely more than inflation.

She said in last year’s budget, National committed more than $107 million to DOC.

“I think they’re failing to convince their conservation partners of the value of conservation and adequately advocate for the environment,” she said.

Ms Dowie said the Green Party talked a big game during the election and the public needed to see it now they’re in government.

Govt will double what National spent on predator control – Sage

The National Party is wrong to claim the Greens aren’t following through on their election promises on conservation, the government says.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said yesterday’s announcement won’t be the only funding on offer.

“This is part of the conservation package in Budget 2018, there’s more to come on Thursday, but we have a biodiversity crisis because of possums, rats and stoats,” she said.

Ms Sage said when looking at predator control specifically, the government was funding more than double what National had over the past four years.

She said the funding package in 2017 was largely for tourism facilities, not for backing nature by doing extensive predator control.

“National is comparing apples with pears,” she said.

She added, under National, DOC’s core baseline funding only allowed it to control predators on around 200,000 hectares annually.

“We are going to ramp that sustained control up to 1.85 million hectares on an ongoing basis, that’s almost 25 percent of the conservation estate,” she said.

Quibbling aside, continuing to target the eradication of pests is a good thing.

Sage is talking of the funding as ‘a big win’.

Our native forests, birds and other wildlife are the big winners in the first ever Green Party pre-budget announcement.

Yesterday I was delighted as Conservation Minister to announce that the Greens have secured significant new funding in Budget 2018 to help save our wildlife from predators like rats, stoats and possums.

We have won an extra $81.3 million over four years so the Department of Conservation can protect New Zealand’s precious native birds and wildlife over its largest area ever – a whopping 1.85 million hectares. That’s about the size of Northland and Auckland combined. The extra funding means DOC can do sustained predator control over nearly 25% of public conservation lands by 2021, more than it has ever been able to do before.

It will not only be bigger, but better as the control will target rats and stoats, not just possums.

And there is more to come for conservation in Thursday’s budget. This is just the beginning.

Odd terminology. Government is about doing, not winning (that’s for elections).

Winning the fight against predators is a long way away, if it can ever be achieved. It is likely the Government (DOC, people) will always come second – but at least they are aiming at an honourable second.

The first budget for the current Government will be announced on Thursday, but there has been a drip feeding of pre-budget announcements, especially from the support parties who are no doubt keen to get some positive attention spending our money.

 

 

Mental health crisis talk, but no urgency walk

There have been claims that our health system is in crisis. I guess it depends on what constitutes a crisis.

Speaking out of one side of his mouth Minister of Health David Clark says that parts of the health system are in crisis due to chronic ‘underfunding’, but out of the other side of his mouth he praises the state of Health.

And even though he sees a crisis in Mental Health he is happy to wait for a committee to investigate before taking action. He has justifiably been criticised for this contradiction.

On Q&A yesterday:

Corin Dann: The other criticism is that you’re manufacturing a crisis. Is there a crisis in health, for a start?

David Clark: There are some areas where there is a crisis. I think mental health – people will acknowledge is at a crisis level. But the reason our health system is holding together so well, and it is, is because of the dedicated staff. We have doctors and nurses and allied health workers who have turned up every day in an underfunded environment for years, and they deliver an amazing service, and New Zealanders know that.

There is a crisis, but the health system is holding up well?

Later the interview addresses mental health.

Corin Dann: We’re going to talk mental health now. Talking again to people in the health sector this week, one of the things that came up with mental health was actually an ED nurse, who said they are just seeing a massive increase in the number of presentations at emergency departments from people suffering from mental illness. What are you going to do about that?

David Clark: We know that we have an aging demographic, which includes dementia, and we have a growing population. As more people get weeded out for care in primary care, we have more acute demand at the emergency level. We’re going to need new approaches, new ideas to tackling these issues. And we’re going to need increased capacity in some areas.

No indication of what Clark intends to do, just “we’re going to need increased capacity in some areas”.

Corin Dann: Okay, I know you’ve got an inquiry looking at this issue and presumably that’s going to come up with some big, challenging recommendations for you on mental health, and you’ll deal with that. How quickly can you implement those?

David Clark: Yeah. I’m imaging we won’t be able to implement them all at once. We’ll take it budget by budget, step by step. But the purpose of making that inquiry independent is that it will bring forward hard recommendations. It will bring forward challenging recommendations. And we as a government will then have to wrestle with them. But I don’t want to get some watered-down version as minister. My job is to manage the prioritisation and the politics, and I’ll do that. 

Corin Dann: Sure. Big picture here, because I know you’ve got an inquiry, what is your feeling about the balance in terms of our mental health? Are we keeping people in the community too much? Are we not putting people in care enough? Where is the balance?

David Clark: My gut feeling is we’ve devolved care to the community without putting resource after it. And sometimes it’s been used as a cost-cutting measure. We need to change community attitudes. We need to change the way we’re delivering primary services to some extent. And we need to just make sure that mental health is afforded the priority that it should have. It shouldn’t be possible to cut corners for our most vulnerable.

Corin Dann: You’ve got other promises in mental health, in particular in schools and those sorts of things. Are you going to be able to deliver on those, having nurses or mental health care workers in those sorts of facilities?

David Clark: There are some things that have strong evidence behind them. Nurses in schools is one of those things. We will continue to roll out that programme. The cheaper doctor visits is another way of ensuring that those services are more accessible to people. So we will do some things in the interim. I’m not going to announce the budget detail today, Corin.

Labour rushed in an expensive tertiary fees-free policy, without claiming there was a crisis in education.

The did claim there was a mental health crisis in their Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis

One could think that a crisis would be treated a bit more urgently than deferring to a committee.

Labour’s post-100 day brag sheet includes this, but it is well down the list of priorities – 100 days. Here’s what we’ve done.

We’ve announced a ministerial inquiry into our mental health system. It’s time to do better by New Zealanders.

But this isn’t the time to do it apparently.

More details: Inquiry to improve mental health services

The Government has taken a major step towards improving mental health and addiction services with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing details of a ministerial inquiry.

The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner, Professor Ron Paterson, and will report back to the Government by the end of October.

Then any spending to address the so-called crisis will have to wait until the budget in May 2019, unless things get deferred further.

“Nothing is off the table. We all know we have a problem with mental health in this country and our suicide rate is shameful. It is well past time for us to do something about it.”

That was in January. Perhaps something will be done about it in this year’s budget, but even then one could suggest ‘it is well past time for us to do something about it’.

In the meantime: Funding uncertainty for Dunedin rehab service

A Dunedin rehab centre with a waiting list of 142 people, most addicted to methamphetamine, will run out of money in two months.

Addiction treatment services say the public funding model they operate under is creating stress, fostering competition between providers and, worst of all, detracting from the work of rehabilitating addicts.

With only 62 days left in the financial year Ms Aitken still had not been able to secure funding – which comes from a mix of government departments – to continue to run past July.

Perhaps they could go and talk to the mental health crisis working group. Drug addiction is a symptom of mental health problems.

Claims of crisis are not new. from may 2018:  New Zealand’s mental health system is in crisis

The Auditor-General’s new report on discharge planning for mental health patients shows more than ever that the system is in crisis.

The report by Greg Schollum, Deputy Controller and Auditor-General, diagnoses several acute ailments in the system – a lack of planning and liaison between DHBs and community services, limited bed numbers available in inpatient units, and rushed discharges into the community because DHBs cannot cope with growing demand.

“This report provides some alarming insights into the slow decay of the mental health system under this Government, particularly in terms of supporting severely vulnerable patients to re-enter their communities after time in DHB inpatient units,” says Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary.

“It’s clear that empty rhetoric and the hollow promises of prioritisation by this Government aren’t enough,” says Ms Polaczuk.

See also (Stuff, 3 February 2018): A growing emergency: Why are cops looking after mental health patients in crisis?

If things go according to current plans another report will be released in October. Perhaps that will call it a crisis too.

Then what?


David Clark has been asked (on RNZ) about the Moana House funding crisis and says it is something that needs to be worked out over time. And pushed on whether urgent funding would be provided he said he won’t be announcing the budget in advance and again said solutions would be forthcoming “over time”.

No apparent urgency given the claims of a crisis.

It is a very difficult situation for Clark (as the portfolio is for any Minister of Health).  But if the Government talks the crisis talk surely they should walk the urgency walk.

 

 

Government to drip feed health underfunding stories pre-budget

Former Health Minister Jonathan has finally spoken about what he knew about the building problems at Middlemore Hospital that seem to have suddenly emerged.

RNZ: Coleman says documents show he didn’t know about hospital rot

RNZ has been reporting on hospital buildings at Middlemore Hospital that are full of rot and potentially dangerous mould. There’s also asbestos present and raw sewage leaking into the walls.

Earlier today, National Party leader Simon Bridges told Morning Report Dr Coleman did not know about Middlemore’s building problems.

In a blog post this afternoon Dr Coleman said he had been reviewing a couple of “very pertinent” documents.

“It’s just not credible to say that Middlemore Building problems were widely known about and I would have known,” he wrote.

This claim that was made in late March to Morning Report by former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Lee Mathias.

“Most people in Wellington knew of the situation Middlemore was in,” she said then.

She also said the state of the buildings was covered in board minutes that were publicly available. However, the DHB has blocked the release of these minutes to RNZ under the Official Information Act.

More withholding of information under the OIA.

But the Government seems intent on not withholding information about health underfunding heading into next month’s budget.

RNZ:  PM hints of further public underfunding revelations

The government is going to drip feed stories of public sector underfunding by the previous government in the run-up to next month’s Budget, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated.

Ms Ardern is playing down expectations of a big spending budget next month saying her government did not realise how bad the under-investment in public services had been under National.

She said it was now clear National put budget surpluses ahead of the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and chronically short-changed public services.

“I’ve always said that from the beginning we thought it would be bad, we didn’t know it would be this bad.

“And the public is seeing just a snapshot of it now, the state of Middlemore Hospital I think is emblematic of what we’re seeing across the board.”

I get the feeling that the public were played during the election campaign, and are being played by politicians now – with DHBs possibly complicit.

Ardern:

“What we are flagging is that as we’ve gone through this process we’ve uncovered things we didn’t expect. We want to build more transparency around that as we lead up to Budget day.

“As ministers we have been engaging in this conversation for some time, we’ve decided it’s one we should be having with the public too.”

The public could have done with factual information on health and hospital funding long ago. This sort of waffle in an apparent attempt to manage pre-budget PR is crap. If Ardern has information she should just present it all now.  Instead she seems to be intent on playing a risky game. Not all information that is drip fed could look good for Labour.

So why did the Middlemore building story just start to emerge now? It sounds too serious and important to be used as political misinformation.