National and the Cult of Buck-Passing
Successive National governments have had a problem.
New Zealanders, like all other human beings, don’t like paying taxes. National, like all other right wing political parties, are only too happy to oblige and try to cut taxes at every opportunity. They did this in 2009 and a year later in 2010. (Though recently they have been sneakily raising indirect taxes wherever possible. See: Parents face burden of preschool squeeze, Tax hikes disguised as reinvestment’, Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)
But at the same time, New Zealanders love their tax-payer funded social services. Whether it be free hospitals; highly-subsidised medicines, nearly-free education; free roading, etc. Quite simply, we like the “goodies” that are expected of a developed, First World nation.
What we don’t like are governments that attempt to tinker with, and cut-back, on our state-provided social services.
Which is where Miniaster of Education, Hekia Parata, has gone disastrously wrong.
Her first “crime” was the announced – discovered, more like – policy just after the Budget was released on 24 May. It did not take long before a cunning plan for teacher cuts and larger class sizes, buried deep within the Budget, was uncovered,
The uproar from parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and others throughout the community was such that the policy was literally ‘gone by lunchtime, two weeks later,
Parents and sector workers were no fools. They knew precisely what this cash-strapped “government” was trying to do. National had already reached into the pockets of paper-delivery children, to extract taxes from them. (See: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)
National had previously blown billions in it’s 2009/2010 tax cuts (see: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting) and they were now gearing up to recoup those losses by cutting back on State services.
This was pure, unadulterated, and re-cycled National Party policy from the 1990s. Who remembers National’s attempt in 1991, to implement a User-Pays charge of $50 per day in hospitals, up to a maximum of ten days? (See: Teara – Funding public hospitals) The policy was hugely unpopular and failed because New Zealanders simply refused to pay it.
The classroom-teacher debacle was the first of several major crises (I refuse to call them “issues”) to confront Hekia Parata and her Ministry.
- the ongoing Novopay fiasco
- the enforced amalgamation/closures of 30+ Christchurch schools, using data that was discovered to be hopelessly wrong,
- the attempt to force closure of Salisbury School, which would have placed special-needs female students in a male school, and making them potential victims of sexual abuse (See: Parata did not heed warning over closure),
- Ministry of Education suggestions that misleading information be given in respect to Official Information Act requests about Christchurch school closures. (See: Education ministry criticism ‘serious‘)
It seems fairly clear that Parata has wilfully ignored the advice of her own officials and failed to consult with parents, teachers, and others in local communities. The result has been a growing dillusionment and enmity between Parata and her constituents.
The problems became so great; coming one after another in over-lapping succession; and seemingly increasing in intensity, that Parata eventually ceased to front up to the media.
Instead, it was left to bureacrat, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, to answer for the Education Minister,
Education Minister Hekia Parata declined an interview with Campbell Live last night. Instead, the ministry’s chief executive Lesley Longstone fronted, and admitted mistakes had been made – though defended the ministry’s processes.
Hekia Parata could no longer answer to the public without appearing to be hopelessly ineffective in her own portfolio.
As a Minister, she seemed utterly out of her depth and this blogger strongly suspects that she has been given instructions from on high (Steven Joyce?) to steer clear of the media.
The untreated human effluent finally hit the fan when Ms Longstone became the “patsy”, falling on Parata’s sword as a political sacrificial ewe. Only about thirteen months into a five year contract, Ms Longstone is leaving New Zealand with her tail firmly between her legs. (See: Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns )
One doubts she will be in a hurry to return, even to savour the delights of the touristy-destination of “Middle Earth New Zealand”.
During this crisis, Parata was again nowhere to be seen. The resignation and resultant media conference was handled by State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie (along with a blond “Minder”, wearing copious quantities of red lippy, standing anxiously in the background),
So to re-cap,
- Parata has stuffed up at least half a dozen critical problems impacting on her ministerial portfolio,
- She has succeeded in alienating almost all her constituents,
- When she could no longer function effectively as a Minister, nor field media queries, she dumped the whole stinking mess into Longstone’s lap,
- The entangled mess of problems were such that Ms Longstone was unable to cope. Her overseas background and lack of knowledge of New Zealand society and politics was probably one of her greatest handicaps,
- Longstone finally had a gutsful and bailed. (And who on Earth could possibly blame her?!)
- And Parata was still nowhere to be seen – instead dumping the mess into yet another lap; Iain Rennie.
Talk about dodging responsibility and passing the buck!
So what was our Esteemed Dear Leader doing during this crisis?
Apparently, he was busy,
See also: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining
Buck-passing – best done as a group National thing.
Considering that Ms Longstone’s resignation was known in advance – with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirming Longstone resignation was made two to three weeks ago – it defies belief that Key was goofing around on radio stations that morning.
It occurs to this blogger that John Key no longer wants the highest job in the land. We saw a hint of this earlier in the year, in May, when he told children at Holy Family School in Porirua East,
“Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.
I’m sure there are many people in this country who would love to see someone else take Key’s job.
As for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.
A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.
Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.
National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.
Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?
Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?
Why let the Nats off the hook?
Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).
National seems to have a dodgy track-record when it comes to losing highly skilled, talented, managerial staff,
And of course we had the recent extraordinary spectacle of Canadian ex-Supreme Court Judge, Ian Binnie, being publicly derided and humiliated by Justice Minister Judith Collins – despite Justice Binnie being invited by National to oversee an indepent review of the Bain case (See: Bain could have an enemy in the Beehive).
At this rate, the most highly skilled and experienced professionals and civil servants will think twice before coming to New Zealand to take up government contracts. Like some evil Master Mind in a James Bond story,
Dominion Post: Schools face teacher cuts threat
Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn
Radio NZ: Education ministry criticism ‘serious
NZ herald: Work and Income boss quits
Radio NZ: Education Ministry head resigns
Dominion Post: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining
NZ Herald: Is Parata next?
Fairfax media: Education secretary quits
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