David Clark’s responses to written questions – Speaker: “the breach was so blatant”

Audrey Young at the Herald, in scores of Ministers, rated Minister of Health David Clark one of the three poorest performs at 4/10.

Evidence today that supports claims that Minister Clark is may be out of his depth and performing poorly.

In Parliament the Speaker awarded the Opposition an additional 12 supplementary questions due to blatant breaches in responses to written questions by the Minister Clark.

SPEAKER’S RULINGS

Written Questions—Responses

SPEAKER: Before we come to questions, I have received a letter from the Hon Michael Woodhouse raising with me the responses to written questions he has received from the Minister of Health. I note the Minister and his office have been under considerable pressure as a result of having up to 1,500 questions lodged on a single day. However—[Interruption] The member is running a risk of a multiplier effect here. However, Dr Clark’s response to some of the questions is not acceptable.

The replies refer the member to another reply, and that reply refers him on to another reply. In one instance, the member would have had to make his way through 22 separate replies which do not answer the question before finally reaching the answer. That approach falls far short of the standard of accountability required to the House of Ministers.

The matter was compounded by the answer that was ultimately provided, which stated that the matter was an operational one and that the member could use the Official Information Act 1982 to request the information sought. There is no convention that Ministers are not answerable for operational matters in the agencies falling within their portfolio areas—Speakers’ ruling 160/3. In fact, that’s a key part of the role of a Minister. The House’s own rules for seeking information and its entitlement to receive information exceeds that under the Official Information Act—Speaker’s ruling 177/6. Where a written question seeks an unreasonable level of detail, it is open to a Minister to reply that the cost entailed in answering the question is not consistent with the public interest—and, in fact, Ministers have on occasion done that, from both sides of the House.

Our question system is based on the assumption that Ministers will try and give informative replies—Speaker’s ruling 178/5—and to account to the House for the public offices they hold. In this instance, I expect the Minister to lodge fresh answers to the questions—14351 to 15621 and 15974 to 16132—and, if it is necessary to use a single answer to reply to multiple questions, then the replies should refer directly to the substantive answer.

The Opposition has been denied the opportunity to hold the Government to account through this series of written questions. Therefore, I’m awarding the Opposition an additional 12 supplementary questions to be used today or tomorrow.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t want to raise any issue with the substance of the ruling that you have just made merely one of the process, as somebody who has lodged complaints along the nature of the one that Mr Woodhouse has made in the past. In the past, Speakers have adopted the practice that, before a Speaker would rule on a matter of written questions, the member would first have had to make a formal complaint to the Minister who lodged the answers in the first place. Then, second of all, the Speaker themselves would raise the matter with the Minister before issuing a ruling such as you have. My understanding is that you no longer follow that process. It would seem to me that if there is a sanction going to be applied, there does need to be some process of raising the matter with the Minister’s office before that sanction is applied so they have the opportunity to correct it where an error has been made.

SPEAKER: I’m happy to respond to that. In the vast majority of cases that’s a process I’ve followed. If the member has a conversation with the Minister on his right, he will understand that it’s followed quite regularly. But, in this particular case, the breach was so blatant that—and I hesitate to use the word which I’ve gotten in trouble for using in this House before, but such a blatant breach, in two ways, of Speakers’ Rulings and the Standing Orders—I felt that having that conversation was unnecessary.

Bridges and MPs deliver attacks on lack of delivery

With his leadership of National under ongoing scrutiny, Simon Bridges went on the attack in Parliament yesterday.

I don’t care for that sort of politics so will leave that speech at that, apart from saying that I don’t think it will save Bridges from being dumped as leader sooner or later (it doesn’t look like he will volunteer to step down).

He did a better job with one of Natikonal’s primary attack lines, the alleged lack of achievement by the Government in what Jacinda Ardern referred to as the year of delivery.

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s actions, policies, and statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that under the previous Government, job creation was at 10,000 per month, yet in the last three months, job growth has fallen by 4,000—that is, it’s gone negative?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I notice that the member has very specifically drawn on a quarter-to-quarter comparison because what he doesn’t want to say is that the unemployment rate, as it’s being announced today, is at 4.2 percent, the second-lowest level in 10 years. What he doesn’t want to say is that wages grew 3.4 percent over the year; that the underutilisation rate—again, we want to make sure that people, when they’re in employment, are working as much as they want to be working—fell to 11.3 percent, the lowest underutilisation rate since December 2008; and the NEET rate fell—not as much as we’d like, but it has fallen—and the number of employed people rose 38,200 from a year ago. The member has compared one quarter to the next because that was the only number that he felt comfortable raising in this House.

Hon Simon Bridges: So will she answer the question: does she accept that under the previous Government, job creation was at 10,000 per month, yet in the last three months, job growth has fallen—that is, has gone negative—by 4,000 people?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For the quarter, yes. However, if we’re looking at the average change in employment, it is, of course, in the positive and over 10,000. Again, I notice that the member, when he was in Government, tended not to use quarter-on-quarter either.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know that the reason Statistics New Zealand gave for the unemployment rate falling in the last quarter was because people were deciding to leave the labour force—that is, to go on a benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is actually not correct. If someone goes on a benefit, by default they are termed unemployed and would show up in the unemployment statistics, which have gone [Interruption]—if surveyed, they would indeed be regarded as unemployed, and the unemployment rate has gone down. Secondly, I also acknowledge that when the numbers came out, Statistics New Zealand said they saw a rise in men aged over—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Don’t just make it up.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —this is actually from Statistics New Zealand, Mr Brownlee, if you’d like to tune in—55 leaving the labour force in order to go into leisure time—perhaps a suggestion, Mr Brownlee.

Hon Simon Bridges: How does she explain unemployment down but benefits strongly up?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, there’s been a variation of 0.2 percent in the benefit numbers. Again, however, when we look at the percentage of those of the working-age population receiving a main benefit, even where it is now in the March quarter, which is at 9.5 percent, that is lower than it was in every year from March 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, under the last Government. So, yes, of course we want to keep those numbers coming in a different direction, but, again—relative to the last Government—in better shape.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that under the previous Government, 60,000 people came off benefits, yet in the last 12 months, there were 13,000 more people on the benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yet, I say again, despite that, we are still at a lower rate than under the last Government. Of course we maintain the aspiration that we want to see people in work. That’s why we have Mana in Mahi, where we are supporting those who are on unemployment benefits to go into work and supporting employers to take them on in apprenticeships. That’s why we’ve got our driver-licensing scheme, where those on youth payments are eligible for free driver-licensing to help them get into work. And it’s why just this week, Ministers announced the work they’re doing with the building and construction sector. We do want people in meaningful work, and we’re taking meaningful action to make it happen.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why are there 13,000 more New Zealanders on the job seeker benefit under her watch?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I prefer to use the proportion of working-age population, but, again, even then I have said there has been a 0.2 percent increase. We have seen, according to the Ministry of Social Development, some softening in the areas around construction, from memory. So those areas where we have seen problems around our sector is where we’ve seen also job issues, and that’s why we’re doing the work to try and make sure those individuals have the skills to go into those areas of work.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Government’s $1.5 billion mental health package be announced pre-Budget or on Budget day?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: All Budget announcements, of course, sit with the Minister of Finance and the Government. We don’t give time lines on what is in and what is out, and nor am I going to confirm the totality of those Budget amounts.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree that it’s a failure that the Ashburton District, with an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent, saw a 20 percent increase in the number of people on the job seeker benefit in the last year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, my preference would always be to look at some of that individual, regional data myself, because sometimes it does give us patterns around what’s happening for industry areas. Of course, we don’t wish to tolerate growth in any of those areas; that’s why we’re taking very specific initiatives in very specific regions and employment areas in order to try and turn such numbers around. I would again say, though, this is a day where we’ve, again, had the second lowest unemployment rate in a decade, matched only by the lowest in a decade, which we achieved two quarters ago. This is a time for celebration for the country, that we are doing well in the face of some international headwinds which are not positive.

Hon Simon Bridges: If unemployment being down is so good, why are benefits up 13,000 people?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve given multiple answers to this question. Regardless, again, of those rationales, we are taking individual efforts to make sure that in those areas where we have job need we are matching those on a benefit in a way that we just did not see under the last Government. And that is the right approach to get our benefit numbers down.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report, due to be released on Friday, recommend the removal of most or all benefit obligations and sanctions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, I welcome the question from the member, because I’ve noticed some statements being made around sanctions which are just not accurate. There have been no changes to the sanction regime. We have, however, ensured that Work and Income is following the existing policy. So I cannot make any statements around whether or not that kind of rigour was applied to our system before, but it is being applied now. The sanctions themselves, however, have not changed. The second point is that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group—you’ll be able to discuss and debate their recommendations once they’re released.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will her Government not only “remove excessive sanctions in the welfare system” but, as the Speech from the Throne states, also “go further”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have been very open as a Government around some of the discomfort we’ve had with some of the sanctions that exist, for instance, naming of children—the penalty that applies for, particularly, women in those circumstances. That’s something we’ve been very open about. With sanctions, of course, we’ve always been mindful about the impact of them on children in particular. But again, in terms of any announcements, you’ll have to wait until the Government formalises its response.

Hon Simon Bridges: If she and her Government have made no secret of the fact that they’re uncomfortable with the sanctions and obligations, why have no changes been made, and will changes be made when the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report and the Government’s decisions come back?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I was simply flagging a particular sanction that at least Labour and the Greens have been on record on for a number of years. When it comes to announcements, the member will have to wait.

Hon Simon Bridges: So can I confirm that she is uncomfortable with the sanctions and obligations that are in place on benefits today, as she, I think, just said?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. The member completely misinterpreted my statement and he knows it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the current system and what we’ve got in place right now—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to remind the Prime Minister that she cannot accuse a member of deliberately misleading the House, and I think she just did.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she then saying that the benefit arrangements around obligations and sanctions today are fine as they are?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have not changed them—they have not been changed. We’re just making sure that Work and Income applies them appropriately.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, what’s the point of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group then?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will see the results in due course.

A problem with this line of attack is that many voters probably don’t care much about what a Goverment doesn’t manage to do.

Bridges launched into an attack on (lack of) delivery in the opening speech in the General Debate.

GENERAL DEBATE

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition): I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business.

You know, when they play the political gold back over the last few years, that last interchange is bound to be there. That was something special.

There’s one thing we need to remember about this Government in 2019, and that’s that the Prime Minister has said, and she’s made it quite clear, that this is the year of delivery. That’s what it is: it’s the year of delivery. Actually, yesterday, she said—[Interruption]—Grant Robertson—it was the year of striving. That’s where she was—the year of delivery—and so far, we don’t have even a roundabout to Shane Jones’ house that’s been delivered.

So what has the Government delivered?

Hon Members: Nothing.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: And in the economy, as Amy Adams has made quite clear in this House, we’ve gone from 4 percent growth to 2 percent growth, and today, we saw what that means: 4,000 fewer jobs in New Zealand at the moment. In poverty, more beneficiaries, more hardship, and more housing grants in their thousands, and that in the year of so-called delivery is an absolute shame. And the members over there think it’s a joke that the economy is worse, that poverty is worse, and that the cost of living is getting higher and higher.

The clowns on the other side think that somehow it’s a bad thing if, in the National Party, we highlight, in the year of delivery, that they’ve got no plans, no policies, they’ve achieved absolutely nothing.

Amy Adams continued:

Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn): Well, it has not been a great start to the year for the Government, you’d have to say, has it? I mean, here we are, in January, the Prime Minister came out proudly and said, “Well, never mind the first, sort of, 14, 15 months of our term, this is going to be the year we get some stuff done.” Then what did she do the very next day? The first item of business in the year of delivery, she came out and said, “Do you know all those KiwiBuild targets? Yeah, nah, just kidding, we’re not actually having those, because we can’t meet them.” So that was the first item of delivery.

Then on Friday, we’ve got the Welfare Working Group coming out. Again, about another $2.5 million of a long working group with all of the worthies in a room trying to figure out how to fix the working group, and I can tell you now, there will be zero action on the recommendations of that report. I tell you now, it’ll be another report where the only delivery this Government knows how to do is set up a working group, consult, consult, and then do nothing; a do-nothing Government.

This isn’t the year of delivery; this is the year of deterioration.

Then look at today with the revelations from Nicola Willis: waiting times for special education services and early education, this Government told us that 76 days is too long, they would halve them. What’s happened? They’ve almost doubled. That is not improving, that is not delivery, that is not well-being; it is total and utter incompetence and it is letting down the people of New Zealand. It is the very opposite of well-being.

This is not the year of delivery; this is the year of debacles. It is the year of decay. It is the year of actual well-being getting worse and worse under this Government, and I have no doubt that the people of New Zealand see through the spin

…So if this is the year of delivery, then the rest of this country will be saying “Bring on the election.”, because the incompetence, the failure, the debacles, and the arrogance we’re seeing from this Government isn’t helping the well-being of New Zealanders at all.

Michael Woodhouse continued:

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National): There is no better illustration of the non-delivery of this Government in their year of delivery than in the health sector. Last month, I went to the Southern District Health Board’s board meeting, where I found out that on a year-to-date basis, their elective cardiac surgery target was behind by 45 percent. They had only achieved 55 percent of their year-to-date target.

For the first time in 10 years, we are on track to do fewer elective surgeries than in the previous year on both a numbers and a case-weighted basis, and yesterday, in question time, the Minister said that it was going to get worse. Another 2,300 elective surgeries have been cancelled this week alone as a consequence of the junior doctors’ strike. He also said that he was aware that there had been people who had been cancelled not once, not twice, but even more than that.

So it’s not overstating it to say that in this year of delivery, people’s health and even their lives are at risk as a consequence of this Government’s mismanagement of the health sector.

Remember Dr Clark wailing and gnashing his teeth in Opposition at a survey that showed that one in seven New Zealanders were not able to go to a GP because of affordability? And what’s happened—the number of people who can’t afford to go to the GP has gone up, not down. Over this Government’s time, it’s gone from 14.3 percent to 14.9 percent—non-delivery.

Well, I’m going to make a prediction: at the end of this month, in Budget 2019, there’s going to be no money for Dunedin Hospital. This is from a Minister who, in Opposition, petitioned the previous Parliament that the Government should have started the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital in 2017 and, two years later, not a thing—non delivery.

The removal of national health targets that the Minister said created perverse incentives has created even more perverse incentives. People could be dying, because the Minister does not want to set expectations for throughput of our DHBs—non-delivery in surgery; non-delivery in cancer care. We had Blair Vining standing at the Cancer Care at the Crossroads conference where his wife said her husband would be dead if he had kept to the appointment that the Southern District Health Board had given them. This is a Government that is not delivering and it’s not got its priorities right.

Lawrence Yule:

LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki): General debates about are about bringing things to this House that matter and that are important to your electorate and are important to New Zealand. I’m going to use my short time to highlight a really significant issue in my electorate and in my city of Hastings in this year of supposed delivery from this Government. That is around housing.

In 2016, the Hon Phil Twyford, as a member of the Opposition, said he wanted a state of emergency declared around housing in New Zealand. On 23 May, in an answer to question No. 6 in 2018—almost one year ago—he was critical that the waiting list for State houses in Hastings had gone up by 86 percent.

On 1 May this year—this day; nearly half-way through the Government’s year of non-delivery—we have one hectare of vacant land in Hastings completely serviced and ready to go and no houses on it.

From Stuff in January:  Jacinda Ardern says 2019 year of ‘delivery’ for Government

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told the Labour caucus 2019 will be a year of “delivery” for the Government.

“For us domestically it doesn’t really matter what the international community does or says, it only matters what we deliver”.

Attacks on lack of delivery look likely to continue.

However attacks on Bridges for lack of delivery as National leader also look likely to continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Sroubek texts to Ardern released under OIA

Texts to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the decision to grant Kaerl Sroubek residency were requested under the Official Information Act.

RNZ:  Texts to prime minister about Sroubek released

A text message from social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore to the prime minister thanked her for granting Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek residency.

Jacinda Ardern’s office released the text message following pressure from the Opposition last year.

The text message was in response to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granting Sroubek residency.

The minister subsequently issued him a deportation notice after new information came to light.

Mr Hardcore’s text said he and his friends wanted to pass on their respects and praise for the residency decision and, while Sroubek had made a “bunch of really bad choices”, deep down he was a good guy.

Ms Ardern didn’t respond to the text, which was sent at the end of October, not long after Sroubek’s case hit the headlines and it was revealed Mr Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to approve his residency.

A second text message was also received by Ms Ardern on 9 November from convicted fraudster Alex Swney.

It said: “U r too polite to say it but I will – Bridges & the Nats r being bastards about this Sroubek saga. I want to assist with information I hve included in an email I hve copied u in on. If I can please advise [redacted] … Best – Alex.”

Swney spent time in prison with Sroubek.

A spokesperson for Ms Ardern…

…said the government was deporting Sroubek and “Ministers did not have all the critical information when making the first decision, but now that we have all the info he is being deported”.

“This correspondence proves the PM had no involvement in this case or any of the decisions made about it. Text messages to her were sent after the first decision. They were unsolicited and not replied to.

“People write to the prime minister and offer their opinions about government decisions every day. She can’t control their opinions but has taken the step of changing the phone number she’s had for years, to limit unsolicited contact on her phone.”

Surprising it has taken over a year to switch to a more private phone number.

National Party immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse:

“Why was Sroubek’s main supporter texting her directly to pass on his ‘respect and praise’ over the decision to allow Sroubek to stay in New Zealand in spite of Sroubek’s criminal history and the fact he came here on a false passport?”

“Why was one of Sroubek’s fellow inmates – Alex Swney – texting and emailing the prime minister information on the case, which has only now been revealed in spite of months of questioning? And what was that information and what is her relationship with Mr Swney?

“The whole thing stinks. Karel Sroubek should never have been granted residency, the government should never have tried to keep it secret, and the prime minister should not be involved in any way in such a decision, especially ones which allowed a convicted criminal to remain in New Zealand.”

Ardern’s office:

There had never been an issue with releasing the messages, “but [we] wanted to get guidance from the ombudsman to make sure we don’t infringe on others’ rights to privacy, the spokesperson said.

“Given that advice we are happy to release them now.”

On Friday afternoon, a time favoured for releasing unfavourable information, texts have been released.  Ardern is heading to Europe, which will increase the impression that she is avoiding fronting up on this issue.

Matthew Hooton was one of those who requested that the texts be released.

 

 

Sroubek -> Hardcore -> Ardern – pressure builds for full disclosure

The Opposition have been pressuring Iain Lees-Galloway and Jacinda Ardern on the Karel Sroubek deportation issue for over a month. National have obviously been trying to connect Ardern to the original decision by Lees-Galloway not to deport Sroubek after he completed his current prison sentence.

Today in Parliament, and immediately afterwards,  some dots were joined.

9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Other than Karel Sroubek’s lawyer and family members, who made representations on his behalf in respect of the deportation liability that was the subject of the Minister’s decision on 19 September 2018?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I can confirm that amongst the information I considered on 19 September were letters of support from family, friends, business associates, and fellow sportspeople. Alongside the letters of support were sworn statements by a private investigator and a lawyer in the Czech Republic regarding the Czech justice system in Mr Sroubek’s circumstance. I do not consider it in the public interest to release the names of those who provided support or information regarding Mr Sroubek. Some have requested anonymity, and I consider it likely that naming people would expose them to unwarranted attention. None of those who made representations were known to me; none were MPs or former MPs, or MPs’ partners. I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

That sounds carefully worded. Later:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any reports of the Prime Minister confirming that there were no “direct” representations to him; and, if so, what indirect or informal representations were made, including from MPs’ staff or supporters?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: None.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did Richie Hardcore, a former martial arts champion, make representations in support of his application not to be deported?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I said, I do not consider it in the public interest to name specific individuals, and I’m not going to do it by a process of elimination either.

 

Afterwards from NZ Herald: Karel Sroubek supporter texted PM after residency initially granted

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a text from a Karel Sroubek supporter after the Czech drug-smuggler was initially granted New Zealand residency, but she did not respond.

During Question Time today, National’s immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse asked Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway if Richie Hardcore, believed to be a friend and supporter who met Sroubek through kick-boxing circles, had supported Sroubek.

Lees-Galloway would not answer, citing a lack of public interest, but after Question Time a spokesman for Ardern confirmed that Hardcore had texted the Prime Minister after news broke of Sroubek being granted residency.

“The Prime Minister received a text message from Richie Hardcore following media coverage of the first decision about Karel Sroubek that acknowledged the decision. She did not respond to the text.”

The spokesman said that Ardern and Hardcore were acquaintances and she had known him for years through his public advocacy work.

She did not know whether Hardcore had advocated for Sroubek, the spokesman said.

So that is a new development, but Ardern appears to be being not entirely open and transparent with her disclosure.

Muay Thai. Boxing.Drug & Alcohol Harm Reduction.Public Speaking. Occasional Media Comment Maker. Politics.Punk. Hardcore. Hip Hop. Day Dreamer.Idealist

Early last year, the Greens had political connections with Hardcore.

From 4 April 2017: Greens unite celebs and Kiwis in ‘fresh’ campaign video

Continuing its push to engage the younger voter, the Green Party’s new campaign video features plenty of fresh, recognisable faces amongst its regular roster.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople‘s Taika Waititi pops up via an iPad, as well as social commentator Richie Hardcore and comedians including Chris Parker and Alice Brine.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said the campaign signals a “fresh, new look” for the party.

The video features a surprising array of Kiwis for a political campaign. As well as actors and celebrities, the party says it went on the road to include regular New Zealanders in the video.

“The people who were keen to be involved and the resulting campaign is testimony to the incredible range and depth of Green supporters in this country. This campaign demonstrates who we are and what we stand for,” co-leader Metiria Turei said.

20 August 2017:

 and 

Phil Twyford’s Facebook page from 16 August 2017:

Join Jacinda Ardern​, Richie Hardcore, Carmel Sepuloni and Phil Twyford at ZEAL in Henderson this Saturday 2pm at Let’s Talk with Jacinda​ – an event organised for West Auckland youth by West Auckland youth. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the future. It’s time to talk! #LetsDoThis
(Authorised by Andrew Kirton, 160 Willis St, Wellington.)

Hardcore’s Facebook page 26 August 2017:

Richie Hardcore
Oh my god I love the way Jacinda conducted this interview; she’s so intelligent and articulate, I can’t wait for her to be our Prime Minister leading a Labour Green Government. ❤️💚

@RichieHardcore 23 April 2018: @NZClarke Welcome home bro, rise above and all that! NZ’s a terrible place to have more than 4 people know your name! Stay positive! 💛

Remember that lees-Galloway said in Parliament today:

I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

This may just be a bunch of coincidental connections, but I think that Ardern needs to provide a full disclosure (open and transparent) about what sort of association she and Gayford have had with Hardcore, and whether there has been any link via Hardcore to the Sroubek deportation decision.

NZ Herald:

National leader Simon Bridges said tonight that Ardern had not been upfront and it was time she told the whole story.

“She’s only told us this much because of our relentless questioning. It beggars belief to say that this would be the first contact that she has had with Richie Hardcore about this case.”

Bridges said Ardern should release the full text message, and asked why Hardcore would have sent a text if she didn’t know who Sroubek was.

“For total clarity, the Prime Minister should appear in the House tomorrow and make a Ministerial Statement about her associations with Richie Hardcore, Sroubek and any of their other associates.”

Ardern has avoided addressing this openly, which has increased speculation and suspicions. Last week in Parliament when Bridges accused her of ducking and diving the Speaker Trevor Mallard stepped in and kicked Bridges out of the House.

But National are likely to keep coming back to this until Ardern fronts up openly and provides credible disclosure. Otherwise, it will look increasingly like she has something she wants to hide.

 

Sroubek affair continues to dog Lees-Galloway

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway has made a mess of deferring the deportation of Karel Sroubek, and has made more of a mess of the handling of it when it was pushed by National.

He now admits he didn’t read the whole report given to him before making a very important decision about someone’s future, and he made the decision within about an hour. This seems to contradict assurances he gave to Jacinda Ardern that he had given the matter “careful consideration”, which could put her in a difficult position.

In Parliament today:

Question No. 2—Immigration

2. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Did he meet with officials on 19 September 2018 to discuss the deportation liability of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik; if so, at what time?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, at 4.30 p.m.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he first considered Karel Sroubek’s case on 19 September 2018, as indicated in his answer to written question 27289?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm he wrote to Karel Sroubek’s lawyer confirming his decision to grant residency that same day?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I understand that the letter was post-dated to that day, but I am advised that it was sent on the 21st.

SPEAKER: Backdated, I think the member means.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he therefore confirm it took him less than an hour to make his decision to grant residency?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the decision maker, it’s important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Immigration New Zealand prepared a comprehensive file, detailed information, which I used to make that decision, following exactly the same process that that member used when I made that decision. I made that decision on that day.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A helpful elucidation of the process which did not address the question, which was “Can he confirm he took less than an hour to make that decision?”

SPEAKER: Well, I’ll ask the Minister to have another go at it. I mean, days don’t finish at half past five., but carry on.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I made the decision on that day using the information that I had available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why was this decision, one which the Prime Minister has said he gave “careful consideration to” and was “a very difficult decision”, decided just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because I used the comprehensive file that was prepared by Immigration New Zealand and presented to me. As a decision maker, it is important that I base my decision on accurate and robust information. Publicly available information may be wrong or unfairly prejudicial. That’s why it is important to have a robust process to prepare the information for my consideration.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it common practice for him to consider cases to, in his words, “weigh matters of public safety and the criminal behaviour of the individual involved” just minutes or hours after being presented to him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I used the same process that the member used when he was Minister.

RNZ: Immigration Minister made Sroubek decision in just one hour

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has admitted he took only an hour to decide to let Karel Sroubek stay in New Zealand and did not read the entire case file.

In response to questions in Parliament, Mr Lees-Galloway confirmed he made his decision on the same day he received the file.

He later told reporters he took “an hour or so” to make up his mind and said that was “much, much longer” than he’d taken on other cases.

“I took the time that I felt was necessary. I certainly asked questions. I certainly looked closely at different aspects of the file,” he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said he went through the summary with his officials, but admitted he did not read the file in its entirety before making his decision.

“I read the aspects of the file that I felt were necessary to make the decision that I made.”

The minister defended his decision-making, saying he followed the exact same process as the previous government.

“This is the usual process for these decisions.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said he’d since read the full file “several times” and stood by the decision he made on the basis of the information provided.

Asked whether in hindsight he would have taken more care and time, he insisted he was “thorough” and had given the case “due consideration”.

“That’s the job.”

It appears that Lee’s-Galloway did not do a thorough enough jonb in making his decision, and has done an awful job of dealing with the flak.

Also today Sroubek put out a media statement:

Following the Minister of Immigration recently cancelling my liability for deportation there have been numerous reports and statements about me made to and reported in the media.

Much of what has been said about me and my circumstances does not present the true picture.

In 2010 I faced charges. I was properly acquitted at trial, as were all of the other people charged. Comments made about that case in the media are not balanced, and in particular do not reflect that the key prosecution witness’ evidence was discredited.

The National Deputy leader by her questions in Parliament has implied I may have had something to with an alleged burglary of a property I have an interest in. The allegation I was involved in that burglary is completely without foundation. I was not involved in the burglary.

Until New Zealand Immigration reports backs to the Minister and I have had the opportunity to respond to him on any issue he may wish to raise I will be making no further comment or statement.

And National are not backing off.

Immigration Minister to reconsider Sroubek residency decision

Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway announced that he would reconsider the decision to grant residency to illegal immigrant and convicted drug importer Karel Sroubek after National brought up ‘new information’ in Parliament yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had suggested that media ‘read between the lines’ on the decision and it was assumed that residency was granted because Sroubek feared for his safety if he returned. However it has been revealed that he has returned to the Czech Republic voluntarily since coming to New Zealand. This suggests that the safety concerns may have been overstated, and he may not have informed officials of his travel.

Both Lees-Galloway and  have pointed their fingers at immigration officials for not providing complete information.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her Government grant residency to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to correctly categorise the decision that was made, my understanding is that he already had residency, albeit in an incorrect name.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is her response to the Dominion Post this morning, which said, “So yes, prime minister, we have read between the lines. Our reading of it suggests that Sroubek is a person of poor character, a criminal who cannot be trusted, who arrived here under false pretences. He should be deported. You have got this wrong.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as that member should know given that when he was in office there were roughly 100 deportations cancelled. From time to time to time Ministers do have information put in front of them that makes for very difficult decisions. I have seen information that would suggest, from the information reports, that they have been in very similar circumstances.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it clear that her Government has prioritised a dangerous criminal’s welfare over public safety, contrary to her statement that any further offending actions by Karel Sroubek “sits with this individual … anything further is off the minister’s conscience and it’s on theirs.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is being made absolutely clear by the Minister. He has put into writing that anything further would mean that he would automatically be deported. On the face of it, of course, it looks like an obvious decision, which demonstrates that from time to time, Ministers in this position do receive additional information. What we have to make sure is that that information that the Minister makes the decision on is consistent and clear, and that’s for officials to ensure that they have provided that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t it the case that since the early 2000s, Karel Sroubek has been back to the Czech Republic, and doesn’t that make any decision by Iain Lees-Galloway ridiculous?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister made the decision based on the information he had at the time, and he is no different to any other Minister of any political persuasion. They have to deal with the information provided to them by officials. If there is information that contradicts the basis on which the Minister made the decision, then that would be for him to go back to the officials and seek further advice. I would have an expectation that he would do that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did she and the Minister not know he had been to the Czech Republic since the early 2000s, and is she going to fess up they just got this clearly, badly wrong?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Every Minister does rely on the advice that they are provided by officials, and the Minister is no different in that regard to the last Minister, who overturned 108 deportations. We are all, as Ministers, reliant on the information we are provided. Again, if there is anything that contradicts the information that’s been provided, it is for the Minister to go back to officials, and it would be my expectation he would do that.

Winston Peters jumped in to try to support Ardern, and tried to divert blame to the National Government. His initial efforts were ruled out of order, and responses by National MPs were disproportionately punished by the Speaker.

Rt Hon David Carter: Because it’s not your job—

SPEAKER: That’s six. Any more?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, OK. It’s worth it.

SPEAKER: That’s 10 supplementary questions that will be taken from the National Party today.

But Peters was allowed to rephrase.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the basis of information being given to this House in good faith, has the Prime Minister been appraised of the number of times this man came back into the country, and who was the Government at the time?

Ardern briefly took the opportunity to take a swipe at National but switched back to the more serious matter before her.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, members will draw their inference from the fact that we have only been in Government for 12 months. Again, though, I reiterate that a Minister would make a decision based on the information in front of him, and we would all have a fair expectation that if there is information to contradict that, we would expect the Minister to go back to his officials.

The next question also addressed the issue.

2. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: What is New Zealand’s process for extraditing Czech nationals to the Czech Republic, and what stage is the application for extradition of Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, at?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): The Czech Republic is able to make an application for extradition of one of their citizens, and any application is made under the Extradition Act 1996. There is a process that usually starts with an application being made through diplomatic channels. It goes to the Minister of Justice in New Zealand. It is an application ultimately determined by the District Court on the grounds of eligibility, and then the final decision on whether or not an extradition is made is made by the Minister of Justice of the day. On the second part of the question, despite the Czech Republic indicating to the New Zealand Government in 2015 that it had an interest in Mr Sroubek, no formal application for extradition has been made.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why is the Parole Board aware of an extradition request?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I’m not responsible for the determinations of the Parole Board.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Did the Minister speak with the immigration Minister ahead of the Minister approving residency for Karel Sroubek?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Was the Minister aware of any controversy around Karel Sroubek before the Minister of Immigration granted residency?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No, and there’d be no reason for me to have been so.

Hon Mark Mitchell: If officials advise there is sufficient evidence to support an extradition request, will he extradite Karel Sroubek back to the Czech Republic?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member will be well aware that it would be entirely inappropriate and not in the public interest for me to comment on any case that may be the subject of an extradition application.

It became a triple whammy.

4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he believe he has considered all relevant factors in deciding to grant residency to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Shortly before question time today, I became aware that information may exist that appears, on the face of it, to directly contradict information that I used and relied upon to make that decision. I am now taking advice on my options and need to consider the veracity of the new information that has been made available to me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did all of those factors include submissions from Czech Republic officials about any statements Mr Sroubek had made relevant to them, and, if not, will he be also asking the Czech officials to provide submissions?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Given the potential new information that I have just become aware of, I do not intend to make any further comment on the information that I was provided. I need to take advice, and I need to carefully consider the way forward from here.

So a commitment by Lees-Galloway to reconsider the residency decision due to new information becoming available.

This issue was already awkward for the Government. It has now become embarrassing. One would hope that a minister would do as much as possible to ensure he had all relevant information before making an obviously contentious decision.

National have called for the Minister to resign over this, but I think that’s a silly overreach. This looks more like a stuff up than anything like a sackable offence. Perhaps sloppy, but probably not a misuse of ministerial powers.

So Lees-Galloway should learn a lesson from this and be a more careful minister in the future.

This is a bit of a blow to Government credibility, but probably isn’t a major. However it reinforces National’s campaign that keeps claiming the Government is soft on criminals.

Bridges on Woodhouse and Collins on Chelsea Manning

Simon Bridges was asked whether he backed Michael Woodhouse saying as Immigration Minister he would not let Chelsea Manning come to New Zealand to speak, and whether he backed Judith Collins promoting what some have claimed is fake news.

Morning report (RNZ):

Suzi Ferguson: On Chelsea Manning, Michael Woodhouse said he would have denied the visa if he was the minister. Do you back his comments that Chelsea Manning shouldn’t have been able to come to New Zealand?

Simon Bridges: He’s got strong views on that and he’s entitled to them. What I would say is pretty simple. Actually I don’t care where you are on the spectrum, whether you’re hard left, hard right, freedom of speech matters and you should be able to do that. Al of that said, I do think there’s an issue of the immigration rules here.

Now if Chelsea Manning is allowed too come to New Zealand on the rules, good for her. She should get out there and say what wants from the rooftop.

If though what the Government has done is bent the rules for her, I would like to understand why that is, I think it’s a slightly different issue to the free speech one, but look, I feel strongly about, um and I’ll stake my claim on.

Suzi Ferguson: What about Judith Colins comments that Chelsea Manning was a traitor whose actions led to people losing their lives or having them put in danger? That’s not actually true, so do you support her using fake news again?

Simon Bridges: Well I haven’t gone through and read Chelsea Manning’s Wikipedia page, I don’t know the ins and outs of everything that she done.

My basic sense of it is though, she was convicted of very serious crimes. Now President Obama commuted those sentences, but serious matters and that’s really my point.

Bridges trying to divert and seeming to avoid answering.

Free speech is incredibly important, but you also have to have rules…

Suzi Ferguson: Do you back her using fake news though, because it’s not the first time in the last few weeks?

Simon Bridges: I would argue it’s not fake news actually if you look at what Chelsea Manning’s history is and what has happened there. Judith Collins is entitled to say what she said.

Suzi Ferguson: Ok, that’s not actually what was every proven in court.

Ferguson moved on to another topic (identifying the leaker of Bridges’ expenses) and Bridges also left it at that and moved on.

That’s some fairly tame questioning and some vague and weak responses from Bridges.

 

 

David Clark accused of cronyism after appointing another ex-Labour MP

Minister of Health David Clark has been accused of cronyism after he appointed former Labour MP Steve Maharey as new chair of Pharmac, against the advice of officials, and without following State Services Guidelines in considering a pool of applicants.

Clark’s history shows he has been appointed to a number of positions as he has worked his way into politics and up the ladder, and once he became a Minister (in Cabinet) he has made more than one appointment that involves political connections.

Clark is an ordained Presbyterian minister and practiced as one from 1997 to 2000 (he is still a celebrant and performed a civil union for Grant Robertson and his partner in January 2009).

He started his political involvement while working as an analyst for Treasury from 2003 to 2006, and was also appointed to a number of community positions:

  • Campaign hoardings assistance, Wellington 2005
  • Advisor to Hon David Parker 2006 – 2007
  • Dunedin North Campaign Committee member and activist 2008
  • Head of College, Selwyn College, University of Otago 2008 – 2011
  • Member, Finance and Audit Committee Otago Community Trust 2008 – 2012
  • Trustee, Otago Community Trust 2008 – 2012
  • Leith Branch Membership Secretary 2009 – 2011
  • Member, Otago Forward economic development forum 2009 – 2011
  • Dunedin North LEC Deputy Chair 2009 – 2010
  • Dunedin North LEC Chair 2010
  • Member, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor’s Alcohol Advisory Task Force 2010 – 2011
  • Deputy Chair, Otago Community Trust 2011 – 2012
  • Member of Parliament for Dunedin North 2011 – current

After working his way up the Dunedin North Labour Party administration he was selected to replace the retiring Pete Hodgson and won the safe-ish electorate in 2011.

He was appointed Minister of Health when Labour took over Government in October 2017. he made a controversial appointment soon after:

ODT (8 December 2017): Hospital rebuild chairman sacked; Hodgson given job

Health Minister David Clark has sacked the Dunedin Hospital rebuild chairman and appointed former Labour cabinet minister Pete Hodgson to lead the project.

When contacted, Hawke’s Bay consultant Andrew Blair said his role as Southern Partnership Group chairman was “terminated” this week. Dr Clark told the Otago Daily Times the rebuild needed to be led by a local person.

Mr Hodgson, Dr Clark’s predecessor in Dunedin North, served as MP from 1990 to 2011, and held numerous ministerial portfolios in the fifth Labour government.

“As a former minister of health, he understands the complexity of the issues involved,” Dr Clark said.

“He is indisputably a local champion, and  . . . is well connected into health.

Dr Clark’s other move is appointing University of Otago chief operating officer Stephen Willis to the group now led by Mr Hodgson.

So Clark’s university and political connections coming into play there. This left Clark open to criticism, which he got – War of words over Dunedin Hospital rebuild

Former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says the Government has made the “wrong move for progressing the rebuild” of Dunedin Hospital.

“The announcement of the ultimate Dunedin Labour Party political insider and former Health Minister Pete Hodgson as chair of the Southern Partnership Group is exactly the wrong move for progressing the rebuild.”

Hodgson is probably a good person for the job, but there is a risk of it being seen as cronyism.

Now this week (Newsroom) Clark accused of cronyism over Pharmac appointment:

Steve Maharey, former Labour MP and ex-Education Minister was appointed Pharmac chair on August 1 to little fanfare.

But questions are now being raised about his appointment after it emerged Health Minister David Clark went against the advice of officials in appointing Maharey.

Documents released under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Health advised reappointing existing chair Stuart McLauchlan for a fourth term.

A report from 3 May 2018 advised Clark, “the Ministry considers sound reasons exist that support the reappointment of Mr McLauchlan”.

“Pharmac is taking on new roles that will have a significant impact on the health sector… They will require Pharmac to develop new capabilities to carry out these new roles,” the briefing said.

It went on to say: “Mr McLauchlan has performed well as the chair and it is advisable to provide for continuity during this period of expansion of Pharmac’s role. This is particularly so, given that a new chief executive has recently been appointed”.

It went on to recommend McLauchlan be reappointed for a further term of three years or, if Clark wished to change the chair, to reappoint him for just one year, while a replacement chair was sourced.

But Clark overrode that advice.

Instead, he informed McLauchlan that he would not be reappointed, and elevated Maharey to the board.

Opposition health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the move was “appalling,” and raised questions about the process involved.

While Clark had the right to appoint Maharey, he went against guidelines from the State Services Commission, which advises a position description be filled out and a wide-pool of applicants be sought before appointing board members.

A workflow for appointment processes from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet shows that the general procedure is to identify required skills and “call for nominations”.

Instead, a statement from Clark said the position “was not publicly advertised, which is within the Board Appointments and Induction Guidelines from the State Services Commission”.

Clark told Newsroom the appointment “followed the standard process for Board chairs and was signed off by the Cabinet”.

But Woodhouse said the process raised issues of cronyism.

“David Clark’s appalling move to remove the previous chair and appoint a former Labour MP to the role, all with no position description, no application process, interview, or any other input into the decision is cronyism at its worst,” Woodhouse said.

Making uncontested appointments, especially when close political affiliations are involved, are risky.

Maharey may chair Pharmac competently and without controversy, but questions could be asked about his credentials. He has been Vice-Chancellor of Massey University since he left Parliament.

He doesn’t seem to have done health as an MP. His responsibilities:

  • 1990-1994 spokesperson of broadcasting and education
  • 1994-1997 spokesperson for labour
  • 1996-1999 spokesperson on social welfare, employment, and tertiary education
  • 1999-2007 he ha\d various portfolios:
    Minister of Social Services and Employment
    Associate Minister of Education holding special responsibility for tertiary education
    Minister of Broadcasting
    Minister for Education
    Minister for Research, Science and Technology
    Minister for Crown Research Institutes
    Minister for Youth Affairs

Nothing health related – but Clark didn’t have much of a background in health either.

If there are no controversies over Pharmac (or the Dunedin Hospital rebuild) this may not be an issue for Clark, but he should take care avoiding too many accusations of cronyism.


UPDATE: more appointments with political connections from Clark – More DHB chair turnover but Health Minister says it’s not political

On Sunday David Clark announced three new board chairs for Auckland DHBs – Pat Snedden will lead Auckland DHB from June 1, Judy McGregor at Waitemata DHB from June 10 and Vui Mark Gosche at Counties-Manukau DHB from Thursday.

At least two of the appointments appear to be politically motivated with Gosche coming into the role having previously been a Minister under the former Labour-led Government.

Gosche was a Labour MP from 1996-2008.

McGregor served as the first Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission between 2003 and 2013 (two terms), appointed by Minister Margaret Wilson and replaced in the role by politician Jackie Blue (a National political appointment).

Pat Snedden was previously also a Labour appointee who says he was politically pushed by National’s Health Minister in 2010 – see Minister pushes health chief out

National’s Woodhouse wants to ban Chelsea Manning from visiting NZ

National MP and former Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is calling for a ban on US whistle blower Chelsea Manning from visiting New Zealand.

Stuff:  National wants Chelsea Manning barred from New Zealand

National is calling on the Government to bar ex-US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning from visiting the country next month.

Former Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the “convicted felon” should not be allowed to earn money talking about her crimes, and it would “not enhance” New Zealand’s relationship with the US.

Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified American diplomatic and military documents, has two speaking events scheduled in early September.

Her conviction for espionage and computer fraud means she is likely to require a “special direction” from the Government to allow her into the country.

Woodhouse said if an application from Manning had landed on his desk while he was Immigration Minister, he would have denied it, and called on the Government to do the same.

“She is wanting to be hailed as a hero for stealing military secrets and state secrets. She was convicted of very serious crimes.

“I’m a firm believer in free speech. But I don’t believe there is a basis to say that her crimes are victimless. We will never know because of the nature of her offending – whether there are people that were put in harm’s way,” Woodhouse said.

I’m very surprised that Woodhouse and national have chosen this as something to bark at.

I have no idea what a normal Immigration position would be on someone like Manning, but on a free speech basis this stance almost makes me speechless.

Quietly scrapped national health targets, no replacement yet

Health Minister David Clark has decided to quietly scrap national health targets, without debate, without evidence, and without anything yet but a vague promise to replace them with.

There is nothing in the Beehive media releases, but yesterday National claimed Government axes National Health Targets

The Government’s quiet shelving of National Health Targets is bad news for Southland says local MP, Sarah Dowie.

“It is outrageous that the Government has done away with the targets which include a set of six major indicators, which measured DHB’s throughput in surgeries, cancer treatment, Emergency Department waiting times and childhood immunisations, as well as B4 School checks and help for smokers to quit.

“Just as they scrapped National Standards within education, they have done away the Health Targets that ensure public reporting of DHB’s performance with no plan of how to effectively manage and monitor the healthcare of New Zealanders.

“Minister Clark needs to realise that you cannot effectively operate healthcare systems on anecdotal evidence.”

Simon Bridges (RNZ): Ditching health targets is ‘absolutely outrageous’

The targets were put in place by the former National-led government in 2009.

They focussed on six areas: increased immunisation, faster cancer treatment, shorter stays in emergency departments, improved access to elective surgery, helping smokers to quit and raising healthy kids.

Mr Bridges said it was absolutely outrageous that the government had canned the targets.

He said it was a prime area where the government could be held to account.

“Over time dropping the targets, losing the accountability will mean more illnesses and more fatalities in our health system that could have been prevented.”

The Health Minister’s office…

…said the old targets would not be published, and new targets were being developed.

Meaning the old targets are being scrapped,

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters…

…said National had the wrong end of the stick.

“They are not correct in saying we’ve dropped health targets, we just think those health targets were such a miserable failure that we have to find something that works and that is better, and that’s what we are working on at the moment.”

Peters proves himself incorrect in the same sentence.

Stuff:  How’s your DHB doing? Govt does away with National Health Targets

Public reporting of District Health Boards’ (DHB) performance of procedures including elective surgeries, cancer treatment times and Emergency Department wait times, has been axed.

It also appears a new project to publicly measure elective surgery referrals and rejections has also been quietly shelved, with the Ministry of Health failing to release updated figures since the election.

Health Minister David Clark said the targets created “perverse incentives”, particularly in relation to surgery – but the Opposition said there was no evidence to suggest that’s true.

And while there has been no announcement, the National Patient Flow project – which measured the number of patients being turned away from the operating table – has not released any updated figures since September last year. That project was launched following intense political pressure from Labour, over surgical unmet need.

Clark has given an assurance that more surgeries would be performed, but there was currently no public measure of that.

Just trust Clark’s word, with no numbers?

“As minister, I’m concerned about the perverse incentives that exist under the existing targets, whereby we’ve had what were traditionally cheaper surgeries performed in more expensive environments and so not spending the health dollar as wisely as it could be spent,” he said.

Clark, who has also implemented a complete review of the health sector, said the current system wasn’t “fit for purpose”.

Nationals health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse asked Minister Clark about it in Parliament yesterday.

8. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Why does the Government intend to dispense with the national health targets?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): The previous Government’s health target data has not been published since August 2017. I want a health system that has honest and transparent reporting.

Woodhouse complained that his question ‘why’ wasn’t answered, but I think it is established under Speaker Mallard in Parliament that avoiding answering is an obvious answer of not disputing what was asked.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by his statement that the targets create “perverse incentives”; if so, what is his definition of “perverse incentive”?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: A good example of a perverse incentive is to recall what happened toward the end of the previous Government’s tenure, when the overall statistics showed that the number of electives was going up, yet in centres like Northland, Auckland, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, and Waikato, if Avastin injections and skin lesion removals were taken out of those pumped-up statistics, the actual number of surgeries was dropping. Despite a growing population, the actual number of surgeries was dropping. That Government should hang its head in shame. That is the result of nine years of underfunding.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given that, is it his view that eye procedures designed to save the sight of patients with macular degeneration, or skin procedures aimed at improving the prognosis of cancer patients, are not worthy of undertaking or counting?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We know that skin lesion removals can be performed for roughly half the price in a primary care setting as compared to being performed in a hospital setting. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you can afford to perform twice as many surgeries, more lives will be saved.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it appropriate to describe the saving of more than 700 lives a year by implementing targets to improve emergency department waiting times, as reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal last year, as a perverse incentive?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don’t think anyone is saying that about that target. We will continue to monitor a range of measures, dozens of measures, through the Ministry of Health, and the district health boards will be held to account for improved performance.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: What possible benefit to New Zealanders can come from the dispensing with of publicly stated targets that improve surgery throughput, reduce waiting times, improve health, and quite literally save lives?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I disagree with the member’s characterisation. What we know is that that set of targets was driving a set of behaviours which may have led to the public health dollar being more poorly spent, with health consequences for New Zealanders. By defending a set of targets with perverse outcomes in it, the actual fact is that that member and his former Government may well have been driving poorer health outcomes for New Zealanders.

Audrey Young points out Labour ditches national health targets with no debate on their value

At no point during the election campaign last year did Labour or its coalition partner campaign to get rid of national health targets.

So the decision Health Minister David Clark to drop national health targets came like a bolt.

In fact for the past six years Labour and Jacinda Ardern in particular have insisted there is value in having specific targets in the area of child poverty in order to measure progress.

Ardern won that argument. There has been wide buy-in to that argument, which makes Clark’s decision when it comes to public health the more bizarre.

It was a decision that did not go to Cabinet – and should have.

The least that the new Government could have done was come up with its own priorities or have some new form of accountability in place before ditching the targets.

Quietly dropping the targets without saying so and without debate is a concern, especially when there is nothing in place yet to replace them.

Dominion Post editorial: Trust me, I know what I’m doing

Health Minister David Clark is scrapping National Health Targets that publicly address district health boards’ success or failure in achieving, among other things, reasonable treatment times, numbers getting surgery, waiting times in emergency departments, and immunisations.

Incredibly, the National Patient Flow project, which monitors the number of people turned away from surgery, and which Labour supported while in opposition, also appears to have been sidelined.

In making these changes, he has criticised the “perverse incentives” created by the previous monitoring regime. Also, Labour has intimated that the DHBs and the previous National government padded the statistics with easier procedures, that they gamed the system. Trouble is, there’s no evidence. Just a “vibe”, it seems.

No evidence, just Clark thinking he knows best. That’s a concern, especially in health.

This Government has set aside an extra $31.5 million for elective surgery; Clark insists that will mean more operations and that the performance of the Ministry of Health in delivering those will be monitored.

But we just won’t have the regular, public updates to help verify that.

What we do have is the minister’s assurances that more operations will be done, at lower cost, with more beneficial outcomes.

He appears to be asking us to simply trust him.

Trust a politician? If things don’t go according to plan politicians are notorious for hiding bad news.

Clark had better hope that there is a perceptible improvement or he could come under fire in the future.