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Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

13 April 2018 2 comments

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A NZ Herald front page headline on 22 February screamed out to anyone who  cared to read – or perhaps even just happened to glance at the paper;

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Written by veteran Herald political reporter, Audrey Young – the on-line version’s headline was considerably more restrained;

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Regardless of headlines, the content confirmed years of media reports and countless blogposts  on The Daily Blog, The Standard, and elsewhere, that New Zealand’s public healthcare system was critically under-funded; over-stretched; and staff were burning out from over-work. The story confirmed nine years of National’s gross under-funding and mis-management of the health system as successive ministers demanded that DHB managers and health-workers “do more with less”;

The Government said total health spending would be a record $16.77 billion in 2017/18 – an increase of $879 million, with an overall increase of $3.9b over the next four years.

However, the record claim does not take inflation into account, and sidesteps the fact that almost half the spending will go toward mandated wage increases as part of the pay equity settlement.

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Meanwhile, mental health workers and union representatives said the funding was only a fraction of what was needed to adequately respond to demand.

Social worker Andy Colwell said he expected to see the gap between demand and funding get even worse as a result of Budget 2017.

“As a mental health worker, seeing families struggling with life-threatening situations not being seen as urgent is incredibly frustrating, and knowing it will get worse is incredibly distressing,” Colwell said.

Healthcare workers made their cries of frustration heard clearly and unequivocally;

A survey of almost 6000 paramedics, nurses, mental health workers and support staff earlier in 2017 found 90 per cent felt the healthcare system was understaffed and under-resourced.

Some said they feared burnout could be jeopardising patient safety, and 72 per cent said their workload was not reasonable.

Gordon Campbell wrote on 3 April;

Week by week, the sheer scale of the neglect to crucial social infrastructure by the Key/English government becomes apparent – and with it the size (and expense) of the problems they’ve left behind, for the Ardern government to somehow address. The mouldering walls and the decaying electricity and sewage systems at Middlemore Hospital serve as a perfect symbol of the dilapidation that’s been fostered by pressure to meet the political goals of budgetary constraint. All of it done so that John Key and Bill English could brag about being capable managers, who kept expenditure under control – as if balancing the books was an end in itself.

Meanwhile at Middlemore, the necessary investments in maintenance were being deferred – as they have has been in DHBs all around the country, in order to prop up the illusion of competence by a government always far more interested in delivering another round of tax cuts, if it possibly could. It didn’t want to hear bad news. Its managers in public health heard that, and obeyed orders.

Since National changed leaders, the same illusion has been perpetuated by Simon Bridges, who cited National’s claim to be “good economic managers” in his first statements as leader.

Over the last two years, Radio NZ  featured a series of hard-hitting, critical stories examining growing waiting lists and worsening under-funding at the various DHBs around the country. The reports were damning;

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This year,  DHB Boards mustered the courage to disclose the full extent of under-funding.  Our dilapidated hospital buildings were literally rotting from within;

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On top of stretched services; lengthening waiting lists; and stressed medical staff, the full extent of  the public health nightmare became apparent, as revelation after revelation was made public;

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Noticeably, it was this country’s non-commercial broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, that led the steady expose on the crisis in our public health system. Other media outlets picked up on the issue, belatedly, albeit based on Radio NZ’s sound investigative reporting;

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A subsequent Fairfax editorial was damning of the previous National government;

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The un-named editorial writer sheeted home responsibility for this mess firmly where it belonged;

The new Government has inherited these problems from a National Government that prided itself on running a tight financial ship. Even as recently as this week, when worsening news about Middlemore appeared in the media, new National leader Simon Bridges stuck to a script about prudent financial management and passed the buck back to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark. 

But the responsibility for this and other problems of underfunding and general neglect in the health system really need to be sheeted home to former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who has already signalled his departure from politics for the private health system. Many National MPs are said to quietly blame Coleman for their 2017 election result as both health and mental health became political quagmires. 

The editorial echoed Gordon Campbell’s earlier blogpost, and those of  other bloggers over the last nine years. This blogger has consistently pointed out that the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts implemented by National created a fiscal hole; forced increased borrowing; and corresponding under-funding/cuts to public services;

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As this blogger reported in January last year (2017);

A decade late, National’s ongoing cuts, or under-funding, of state services such as the Health budget have resulted in wholly predictable – and preventable – negative outcomes;

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In response, National’s current, caretaker Leader, Simon Bridges attempted to mitigate his Party’s shocking record of incompetance by repeating the oft-parrotted, mythical mantra of National’s “good economic management“;

“But remember we didn’t have all the choices that this government’s blessed with from a very strong legacy from good economic management.

We had to get through a [global financial crisis,] we had to get through earthquakes.

Now we are in actually a relatively blessed period with strong surpluses, it’s for this government to look at how they do this”

Bridges seemed utterly oblivious as to why “we are in actually a relatively blessed period with strong surpluses“. Those so-called “surpluses” were at the expense of  rotting hospital buildings and under-funded services and medical staff.  He seemed wholly blind to the social costs incurred in National’s single-minded mania to create “surpluses”.

Bridges’ attempt to deflect to the GFC  ignores the critical fact that National stubbornly proceeded with it’s reckless promises of tax cuts that – as predicted – eventually proved to be unaffordable.

Even right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton panned Bridges’ comments on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon political panel, saying;

“That was his worst Morning Report interview so far…”

Hooten  also dismissed former Health Minister Coleman’s claims not to have been informed of Middlemore Hospital’s dire building crisis as “hopeless”.

Hooton suggested that rather than National’s 2017 election year bribe for more tax cuts, that the focus should have been on writing off DHB debts and more social spending. He believed that offering tax cuts was the reason National was no longer in government;

“That was the wrong call.”

He has a point – a point that many commentators on the Left have been banging on for nearly a decade.

It should be abundantly clear to all by now that National’s strategy of tax-cuts was simply to win votes at election time. It was a successful tactic during the 2008 election;

National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises, the party’s leader John Key says.

But Mr Key said the borrowing would be for new infrastructure projects rather than National’s quicker and larger tax cuts which would be “hermetically sealed” from the debt programme.

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National is yet to explain how it will pay for the promised larger cuts.

And they tried it on again last year;

Prime Minister Bill English is talking tax cuts – saying “something will be covered” in the upcoming Budget and any changes would take effect from April 1 next year.

“There will certainly be something covered in [May’s] Budget. Look, there’s not going to be some big sugar shock with tax cuts. We have a range of tools, we want to be able to help and support low and middle income families,” Mr English told Newstalk ZB.

Had it not been for NZ First coalescing with Labour and thew Greens, National’s planned tax cuts might well have proceeded. And the rotting buildings at Middlemore would have continued to decay; waiting lists throughout the country continued to lengthen; and increasing numbers of front-line staff burning out.

However, there is an aspect far worse than the opportunistic use of tax-cuts as electoral bribes by a National Party hell-bent on re-election at any cost.

That is that District Health boards have not made these problems public earlier.

Waiting for incoming Labour-led governments to finally ring alarm bells by announcing;

“We have been facing this for years and every year make savings or defer capital or struggle to get permission to get capital through the [Ministry of Health] capital investment committee.

– appears to be an act of cowardice.

Auckland District Health Board states that it’s  “strategic priorities” are;

  • People, patients and whānau at the centre.
  • Values and equity underpin everything we do.
  • Guarantee quality and safety.
  • Get the best outcomes from our resources.
  • Hold people, systems and structures to account.

Fine words. But have they been followed through?

When District Health Boards fail to make clear to central government that funding for public healthcare is inadequate; that there is a crisis in offering services in a timely fashion; that buildings and equipment cannot be kept to a high standard; that staff are over-worked and leaving in droves – then they have abrogated their duties to their communities; their employees; and to those vulnerable people who desperately seek medical assistance.

Waiting for a change in government is not a viable option.

Appropriate funding for DHB services must be the the number one duty of every Board member and Chairperson, irrespective of which hue the government-of-the-day is.

Acquiescence in the face of a Minister expecting (and demanding) a surplus from DHBs is not a viable option.

We, the public, expect our DHB Boards to look after our interests – not those of  Ministers with their eye on re-election.

If DHB Boards cannot find the inner courage to speak out on our behalf, to demand appropriate funding, then they should resign. Step aside and let others do the job. After all that is said and done, people’s lives are at stake.

Silence should never be a viable option.

 

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Acknowledgement

I acknowledge and thank the hard-work of Radio New Zealand staff who have brought to our attention the current abysmal state of our public health system. This is indeed the role – the raison d’être of the  existence of public broadcasting. Your dedication to bring us the truth may have saved lives.

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References

NZ Herald:  Huge demand for services in Auckland stretches health system to the limit say bosses

Fairfax media:  Counties Manukau district health board in financial crisis

Fairfax media:  Frustration, disappointment over health funding in Budget 2017

Fairfax media:  Nine in 10 healthcare workers feel understaffed and under-resourced

Radio NZ:  Eye patient delays a nationwide problem – specialists

Radio NZ:  Eye check-up delays: ‘Within that time, I went blind’

Radio NZ:  Damning report on delayed eye appointments released

Radio NZ:  Eye patients forced to sit on floor at overcrowded clinic

Radio NZ:  Health Minister defends number of ICU beds

Radio NZ:  Man waits five months for urgent cancer surgery

Radio NZ:  ‘People will die waiting for the attention they need’

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB in a ‘slow motion train crash’

Radio NZ:  Dunedin Hospital surgeons operate only twice a month, surgeon says

Radio NZ:  Minister refuses to apologise for ‘toxic’ DHB comment

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB to implement all recommendations in scathing review

Radio NZ:  ‘I had a death sentence hanging over my head’

Radio NZ:   Prostate cancer patients face wildly varying wait times

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB commits to clearing patient backlog

Radio NZ:  Health Minister responds to ‘unacceptable’ delays at Dunedin Hospital

Radio NZ:  ‘Megaclinics’ planned for Dunedin urology patients

Radio NZ:  Akl DHB defends work culture, ‘rubs salt in wound’

Radio NZ:  DHBs warn funding crisis may worsen

Radio NZ:  Doctors push to reduce wait time for mental health patients

NZ Herald:  Rot, mould and sewage at Middlemore: Health minister ‘disappointed’ he wasn’t told

RNZ:  Hospital rot was ‘fully disclosed’ to board, ministry – former boss

RNZ:  Hospital rot – Sewage leaks linked to 2014 outbreak

RNZ: Middlemore maintainance a ‘bloody nightmare’ – ex-manager

TVNZ:  ‘We have rot, we have mould, we have sewage’ – Health Minister asks Middlemore Hospital for explanation over faulty buildings

RNZ:  Middlemore building woes worse than first thought

Fairfax:  Health system underfunding worse than PM expected, as more problems uncovered at Middlemore Hospital

Fairfax media:  Middlemore is a bleak symbol of health failure

Radio NZ: Patients have ‘severe loss of vision’ in long wait for treatment

Fairfax media: Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Radio NZ: Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

Fairfax media: 174,000 kiwis left of surgery waiting lists with Cantabrians and Aucklanders faring the worst

Radio NZ:  New govt ‘blessed’ with National’s surpluses – Simon Bridges (alt.link)

Radio NZ:  Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills (alt. link)

NZ Herald:  Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

Otago Daily Times:  Tax cuts would take effect from April 2018 – PM

Auckland DHB: Who We Are

Radio NZ: DHB vacancies likely even higher than 400

Additional

NZ Medical Journal:  Funding New Zealand’s public healthcare system – time for an honest appraisal and public debate

World Health Organisation:  New Zealand cuts health spending to control costs

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Fairfax media:  Government to urgently establish new health advisory group

Other Blogs

The Jackal:  National has failed our health system

Werewolf:  Gordon Campbell on Middlemore Hospital as a symptom of neglect

Previous related blogposts

12 June – Issues of Interest – User pays healthcare?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 April 2018.

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Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

1 November 2015 4 comments

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In June 2008, the then-Labour government – realising that child obesity was becoming a major health and social problem – moved to reduce the availability of unhealthy foods from schools;

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What could be wrong with providing healthy food options for our children? Who could possibly object to fighting obesity in our youngest citizens, who are vulnerable to the highly-processed, addictive, sugary and fatty foods that are a plague on Western (and increasingly developing) contries?

Who indeed…

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2009

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Schools' healthy food rule scrapped

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Yes, folks, evidently ensuring that the next generation of New Zealanders do not die  prematurely from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc, etc, from eating processed sugar/fat/salt-laden “food” is  now officially “nanny statism“. Apparently, then-Education Minister, Anne Tolley*,  was suffering deep angst over sausage sizzles;

“There was a great deal of angst about things like, when you’re having a school gala, can you have a sausage sizzle on site, can you lay down a hangi?”

Which raised the obvious question; were schools holding sausage sizzles every single school day, and feeding charcoalled ‘bangers’ to kids?

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2011

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As National maintained a  hands-off stance to our growing obesity problem, the consequences became obvious;

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According to the Ministry of Health;

New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates are rising. Almost one in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is obese, and one in ten children.

This is unsurprising. Doing nothing about obesity and refusing to act decisively on combating a torrent of cheap, unhealthy “food”, has it’s natural consequences.

What is surprising to this blogger is that National has not tried to curtail or ‘massage’ Health Ministry data-collection on this problem, as it has done with child poverty. Or Crime statistics (more on this in an up-coming blogpost).

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2015

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One of the best strategies for reducing consumption of unhealthy food such as sugary carbonated drinks is to tax the product.

Mexico implemented a 10% tax on ‘fizzy’ drinks on 1 January 2014. This was was enacted as Mexican authorities realised the gravity of growing  obesity and related problems amongst their people;

Campaigners and public health experts are watching closely to see what impact Mexico’s tax has on consumption. Mexico, where 32.8% of the population is obese, is now the country with the biggest weight problem in the world, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, overtaking the United States. The impact on health has been serious – 14% of the population has diabetes. Rates of high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and heart attacks, are also high.

It worked.

A year and a half later, and the consumption of ‘fizzy’ drinks has dropped by   6% to 12% in the first year;

A tax on Coca-Cola and other sugar-sweetened drinks in Mexico has succeeded in bringing down sales, which experts hope will help curb the nation’s obesity problem.

The 10% tax was implemented on 1 January 2014 after a battle with the beverage industry. More than 30% of the Mexican population is obese and a love of Coca-Cola and other sugary drinks has been held at least partly responsible. The average Mexican drinks the equivalent of 163 litres of Coca-Cola a year, or nearly half a litre a day.

The Mexican National Institute of Public Health and the University of North Carolina have now carried out an evaluation of the impact of the tax, which shows it cut purchases by an average of 6% across 2014, and by as much as 12% in the last part of the year.

The effect was greatest on lower-income households, who cut their purchases by an average of 9% across the 12 months, and by 17% in the later months. The impact appears to be similar to that of taxes on tobacco and other goods that are hard to give up, where the drop in sales increases over time.

As with taxing tobacco products in New Zealand – a method proven to work – increasing the price of an unhealthy product reduces consumption. Especially amongst the poor, who are particularly susceptible to pernicious marketing and supply of cheap, unhealthy ‘foods’. A Parliamentary report here in New Zealand showed that obesity was especially prevalent in lower socio-economic areas;

In 2012/13, a Ministry of Health-led survey estimated that three out of ten New Zealand adults were obese (31.3%), an increase of 2.7% from 2011/12  and an increase of 18.6% in the 25 years since 1989   Obesity rates were highest amongst Pacific adults (68%) and Māori adults (48.3%).

The same survey found that after adjusting for age, sex, and ethnicity, adults living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 1.5 more times as likely to be obese as those living in the least deprived areas.

However, our esteemed ‘Health’ Minister, Dr (!) Jonathan Coleman was/is not convinced.

On 28 June, speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A, Dr Coleman said;

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Not necessarily. No, the evidence doesn’t show that. If you look at the evidence for sugar tax, right, it shows actually it’s very low in terms of disability-adjusted life years lost, so that’s basically saying that, look, there’s no evidence that it’s going to end up with people living longer, healthier lives. What there is evidence for is actually eating less and exercising more, and so I’m focusing my efforts on education, getting people to actually live more healthy, active lifestyles. Sugar taxes get a lot of attention. No evidence that it works.

Four months later, in an interview with Dr Jonathan Coleman, on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 October;

Patrick Gower: Looking at a soft-drink tax –why not?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks.

Patrick Gower: And consumption dropped. That’s evidence, isn’t it?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect, so there were other things going on – a tanking Mexican economy, $30 billion drinking-water programme. It’s also not clear if there’s substitution to other beverages. So we’re saying, look, you know, there’s some evidence that’s being assessed – it’s going to be reported on in 2017 at Waikato University as well as the University of North Carolina – but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to.

Patrick Gower: Well, the World Health Organization, which put out that major report recently, led by our own Sir Peter Gluckman, you know, that has said, and I will quote it for you, ‘The rationale and effectiveness of taxation measures to influence consumption are well supported by available evidence.’

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, they might be talking about a decrease in sales. But what we want to know about is – is there a link to obesity directly? So, for instance, there might be a decrease in consumption of soft drinks, but are people drinking more flavoured milk? Are they drinking beer as a substitution? What is says in that report is that, actually, there isn’t clear evidence. On balance, they recommend it, but, look, that’s the WHO, you know? You would expect that they would take a very purist view. And I met with the commissioners personally. I talked to Sir Peter Gluckman.

Patrick Gower: What about this for evidence? If a tax doesn’t work or there’s no evidence for it, what about with cigarettes? Because your own government’s putting up the price of cigarettes and saying that that is working to stop smoking.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, that’s a different issue. So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption, but what I’m interested in is – will that decrease obesity? So say, for instance, we tax something. You might drink less Coke, but are you drinking beer or flavoured milk instead?

This was an interesting exchange between Gower and Coleman. Note that his first contention is that sugar taxes do not work;

“Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks […]  Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect […] but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to…

But only a few seconds later, Coleman makes this startling admission;

“So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption…”

That was a slip on his part. The National Party politician in Dr Jonathan Coleman was instructed to parrot the official line: ‘there is no evidence that sugar taxes work‘ (even though that is precisely the same mechanism used to reduce tobacco consumption).

But the other part of Dr Jonathan Coleman – the doctor part – knew deep in his soul that a tax on anything will affect consumer behaviour. There is a part of Jonathan Coleman that, as a doctor of medicine, wants to help people, and National’s luke-warm, ineffectual “22 initiatives” will not placate that desire in him.

As bad as those “22 initiatives” are, National has heaped insult upon injury by funding the policy  “from within existing health, sport and education budgets“.

Millions will be taken from health, sport, and education, to fund a policy of “initiatives” that are a sop to the sugar and food industry, and not designed to address the problem at it’s core; the widespread availability of cheap, unhealthy, sugar/fats/salt-laden ‘food’.

How many hip replacement operations or classroom re-builds were sacrificed or postponed, to fund this rubbish “initiative package”?

It is interesting that Dr Coleman has rejected implementing a tax on sugary drinks and other foods because of a “lack of evidence”.

In March 2009, National scrapped the previous Labour governments healthy-food-in-schools programme. This allowed school cafetarias/”tuck” shops – many run by private companies – to again return to the practice of selling unhealthy foods to children.

When Corin Dann challenged Dr Coleman on Q+A on 28 June, he said;

“You reversed the rules on the tuck shops, on the canteens at schools, so there’s sugary foods and all that sort of stuff gone back in there.”

To which Minister Coleman replied;

“That’s because they weren’t working.”

If that is the rationale used by Jonathan Coleman to justify wrecking the healthy-food-in-schools programme, then the Minister should be deeply, deeply ashamed of himself.

The policy had been in effect only nine months (see above screen-grabs, 2008 and 2009). There was simply insufficient time to assess the programme. Of course there was “no evidence” – the programme was aborted before it could be gathered!

By comparison, the Mexican sugar tax has been in effect since 1 January 2014 – nearly two years. Consumption of carbonated sugar drinks has fallen dramatically.

The evidence exists: sugar taxes, like tobacco taxes, work.

But this is not about “evidence” at all. If National was keen on gathering evidence, it would have permitted Labour’s healthy-food-in-schools programme to continue until it could be properly evaluated.

If National was interested in evidential-based policies, it would be studying the Mexican result keenly.

And if National valued the advice from it’s own science-advisor, Dr Peter Gluckman, it would listen. As Dr Gluckman pointed out on 30 July, on TV3;

“The issue around these taxes is, how much tax would you have to put in to change behaviour? I think they’re a really important signal, and it does look from the preliminary evidence from Mexico that taxes on sugary beverages do reduce consumption.

No, evidence does not factor in National’s actions.

This is about corporations; profits; and free-market ideology. As former-NZ Herald columnist, Dita De Boni wrote in her excellent piece on obesity, on 3 July;

“If we are intent on reducing health spending on obesity, it will come – but only when political ideologues like Jonathan Coleman and the food lobby are comprehensively uncoupled.”

In this instance, evidence is not only not welcome by National, it is downright embarrassing.

Parents throughout the country should be alarmed at what this government is doing. Or, more accurately; not doing.

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Postscript

Former-NZ Herald columnist, Dita De Boni wrote an incisive piece on obesity, on 3 July – “Giving us a fat chance against obesity“. Ever insightful, and a master at prose and skilled, liberal use of facts, Ms De Boni’s column was scathing of National’s do-nothing stance on our growing obesity crisis.

Further down the online page, in the Comments section, was this chilling, prophetic comment left by “Cathy”;

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Ms De Boni was dumped from NZ Herald on 10 August. “Budgetary considerations” were given as the official reason.

“Cathy” would do well with Lotto or putting bets on horses.

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References

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

World Health Organisation: Healthy diet

Fairfax media: Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

Radio NZ: More weight loss surgery funded

Ministry of Health: Obesity

Scoop media: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

NZ Herald: ‘Ghost crime’ stats may be probed

The Guardian: Mexico enacts soda tax in effort to combat world’s highest obesity rate

The Guardian: Mexican soda tax cuts sales of sugary soft drinks by 6% in first year

NZ Treasury: Increase in Tobacco Excise and Equivalent Duties

Parliament: Research papers – Obesity and diabetes in New Zealand

Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE): NZ: National reversal on healthy food in schools “incredible”

TVNZ Q+A: Coleman – We’ll tackle obesity but no tax or legislation

TV3 The Nation: Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

National Party: Dr Jonathan Coleman

Facebook: Dr Jonathan Coleman – 22 health initiatives

TV3: Don’t rule out sugar tax – PM’s chief scientist

Additional

NZ Herald: Dita De Boni – Giving us a fat chance against obesity

Other Blogs

The Pundit: Children’s Commissioner fronts for Nats on food in schools: Corporate agenda rules

The Daily Blog: Has the Government manipulated Corrections statistics as well?

Brooking Blog: Corrections cuts crime with the selective use of statistics

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts

When is ‘Nanny State’ not a ‘Nanny State’?

From “Nanny” State to “Natzi” State?

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

*Also on Anne Tolley

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

The law as a plaything

A fitting response to National MP’s recent personal attacks on Metiria Turei

On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 October 2015.

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlooks

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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Sunrise, Sunset, and Outlook for 2013

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What are we manufacturing today

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We need businesses producing high-value products for overseas markets and businesses using R&D to develop those products which drives other benefits, like better production processes and marketing.  Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy.

We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. Our world-leading dairy industry also owes much of its success to innovation.” – Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

See: EDANZ National Economic Development Forum – Speech Notes

It’s a funny old world we live in…

Sunrise Industries…

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Central Auckland super brothel approved

Full story

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Full story

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Another liquor outlet set to open

Full story

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Sex, gambling, tobacco, alcohol – the new profitable industries of the 1st century? We seem to have left out other “growth” industries, the modern sex-slave trade in women and children, and arms manufacturing.

Oh. Wait. Maybe not,

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Govt funds still invested in cluster bomb makers

Full story

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Oh well, National and it’s  free-market fellow-travellers will be delirious with joy. If there’s a buck to be made from vices and weapons, they’ll be happy as a pig in mud.

Now if only they can find the price of a soul, and a market for it…

And the Sun sets on…

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Sounds silenced by $20m debt

Full story

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Borders, Whitcoulls under administration

Full story

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Real Groovy Wellington to close

Full story

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Closing chapter for fine arts bookshop

Full story

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Bookstore another victim of public sector cuts

Full story

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Marbecks music shop closes down

Full story

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Meanwhile…

Basically it’s about using innovation to drive our economy. We have some of these companies already – the likes of Fisher and Paykel, Tait and Rakon. Jonathan Coleman,  Associate Minister of Finance, 1 July 2011

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Rakon cuts full-year profit guidance

Source

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F&P confirms job losses

Full story

Warning as Haier wins all

Full story

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Oh well, one (Tait) out of three still seems a ‘goer’. How long for, I wonder?

Meanwhile, how are our export and related sectors doing?

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Job losses blamed on high NZ dollar - more forecast

Full story

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And the stats back up the ODT story above,

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New Zealand in Profile_2012_economy

Source: New Zealand in Profile: 2012 – Economy

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Not too good it seems.  The red-highlighted sectors all declined from 2006 to 2011.

National’s “hands off” doctrine, in deference of the ‘Invisible Hand of the Market’, is certainly achieving one result; giving advantage to our exporting competitors from other nations. The Nats seem resigned (hellbent?) to more job losses; more exporters going under; more skilled tradespeople leaving for Australia; and a further decline ineconomic growth,

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Job losses inevitable in declining industries, say ministers

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What the hell!? The export sector is a “declining industry“?!?!

When even National’s allies – the Manufacturers and Exporters Association – are calling for government intervention about the high New Zealand dollar, it really drives home the seriousness of the crisis. An economic crisis that this time had it’s origins on Molesworth Street – not Wall Street.

For National to persist in it’s “hands off”  and obedience to Free Market dogma will have nasty consequences for our economy.

For 2013, expect,

  • unemployment to rise
  • the export sector to worsen
  • growth to remain low, under 1%
  • an early election this coming year, as Dunne and the Maori Party desert the National-led coalition.

It’s easy to predict – we’ve seen it all before.

Previous related blogposts

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame

New Zealand’s OTHER secret shame – *Update*

NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries – Drugs, Gambling, & Prostitution

Drugs & Gambling – NZ’s 21st Century Growth Industries?

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outlook for 2013

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= fs =

In a matter of days… not nine months?!

16 February 2012 2 comments

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The Crafar Saga;  a time-line on the sale process,

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5 October 2009: Crafar Farms placed into receivership, owing $216 million to creditors.

22 December 2010: Government  blocks  bid by Natural Dairy to buy the 16 Crafar farms on ‘good character’ grounds.

27 January 2011: KordaMentha accepts offer from Shanghai Pengxin International Group Ltd to buy Crafar Farms.

13 April 2011: Shanghai Pengxin lodges application with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the Crafar farms.

26 September 2011: Crafar farms receiver KordaMentha  rejects a conditional NZ$171.5 million offer for 16 central North Island dairy farms from a group led by controversial former merchant banker Michael Fay.

26 November 2011: Parliamentary Election

27 January 2012: Government ministers approve Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase 16 Crafar farms.

15 February 2012: High Court over-rules  Government’s decision consenting to Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase

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The OIO spent nine months assessing the Pengxin bid, which is reported to have valued the farms at $210 million, some $40 million higher than the bid by a consortium of New Zealand bidders led by merchant banker Michael Fay.” – Source

We don’t have a clear timeframe for this process but expect to receive the resubmitted recommendation report from the Overseas Investment Office in a matter of days, not weeks.” –  Mr Williamson, Ibid

Interesting…

It  took nine months for the OIO (Overseas Investment Office) to report their decision to Ministers Williamson and Coleman, for their rubber stamp approval…

But Minister Williamson now reckons it will only a matter of days to receive the resubmitted recommendation report from the Overseas Investment Office?!?!

… and this is the government that swears, hand-on-heart, that the extraordinary delay (applications normally take 50 – 70 days to process – not nine months) in processing and approving the Crafar purchase by Shanghai Pengxin, had nothing to do with the November election?!?!

The only thing worse than lying politicians?

Politicians who don’t lie very convincingly.

What a shabby, shonkey, shameful  government we elected last year.

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John Key, Minister for Tourism, MIA

20 December 2011 6 comments

John Key is Prime Minister of New Zealand.

You wouldn’t believe it – but he’s also Minister for Tourism,

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Source

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As Prime Minister, he has been an almost omni-present figure on television, radio, internet, print media, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

As Minister for Tourism, though, his presence has been more akin to a human “stealth-politician“. One has to think very, very, very hard to actually recall any achievements that Key has made in his role.

In fact… he has achieved practically nothing.

Even his cherished “baby“, the nationwide cycleway, has not been the outstanding achievement he proudly predicted it would be,

The national cycleway has so far generated just 215 jobs – well short of Prime Minister John Key’s expectation of 4000.

In May, Mr Key said he expected the $50 million project, which involves building 18 cycleways throughout the country, to generate 4000 jobs. ” – Source

It is worthwhile considering that of sixteen tourism-related press releases issued since February 2010 to December of this year, Key’s office was responsible for only eight. The remainder (twelve) came from then-associate Tourism Minister, Jonathan Coleman’s office. Source

And when it came to tourism-related  speeches made on this ministerial portfolio;  four were made by Jonathan Coleman; and three, in total,  were made by John Key  since his victory speech on 8 November 2008.  [1], [2], [3]

Not exactly an over-exertion on Key’s part. In fact, it’s a mediocre performance.

Perhaps the most extraordinary contradiction  of Key’s tenure as Crown minister is that he appears to be Minister of Hawaiian Tourism.

Every year, John Key takes his family – not to a New Zealand destination – but to his  holiday residence on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Personally, I wouldn’t  care a jot if John Key was Minister of Housing or Energy or Mushroom Farming – his choice of holiday destination would be irrelevant.

But Key is Minister of Tourism. His brief is to advocate on behalf of New Zealand and to promote this country as every holidaymakers’ first destination-choice.  As Key himself stated in a speech to the Hotel Industry Conference on  14 May, 2009,

It is a privilege to be New Zealand’s Minister of Tourism, to lead tourism in our beautiful country, and to promote our incredible scenery, our fine food and wine, our rich Maori culture, and the 100% pure experience.

Tourism is one of New Zealand’s most interesting industries. It has many different operators and many different customers.

And its success is hugely important for our future. Already, one-in-ten working New Zealanders are employed in the tourism sector. It accounts for around one dollar in every five of our export earnings. And it makes up about 10% of our economy.

We need to keep this in mind, because it shows just how much we stand to gain if our tourism industry keeps lifting its game.” – Source

I can’t see John Key promoting New Zealand from a beach in Hawaii.

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It’s not exactly a Vote of Confidence in our own tourist  industry if our own leader takes of to overseas destinations. What signal does that send to others – that a beach on Maui is more desirable than Ninety Mile Beach or the Marlborough Sounds in NZ?

By contrast, his predecessor, Helen Clark, routinely holidayed locally. Her tramping trips into our incredible scenic wilderness – which Key refers to in his comment above – were legendary.

We should remember the excellent Colenso advertising campaign in 1984, which encouraged New Zealanders “Don’t Leave Home Till You’ve Seen The Country“.

If John Key is serious about encouraging tourism to “lift it’s game”,  he definitely needs to  either take the role more seriously – or pass the portfolio on to one of his colleagues.

Preferably one who actually enjoys holidaying in our own country.

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Additional

Politicians relax with family

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Our own Christmas Grinch, MP for Northcote

14 December 2011 2 comments

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Full Story

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Sacking three of his five staff this close to Christmas?

Classy, Dr Coleman, real classy.

If this is how you reward loyalty and dedication, I’d hate to see what you do to staff who slack off. As for sacking someone who has been at your side for four years – I wonder what new staffers will be thinking? How much loyalty can you expect from people if they know they can be shafted at any moment, for expediency and “to make a step up”?

Not much, I’d wager.

Dr Coleman can’t claim that this is saving taxpayers’ money in one breath, when next he states,

This is the time to do it because if they get let go now they get a good package and this is when the jobs [in Parliament] come up.

”It would not be helping to wait until all the options have been exhausted. And people want to know.”

So basically what he is saying is that he has made them redundant; paid them three months pay-out;  and they may be able to apply and win new jobs for another MP?!

If this is saving us, the taxpayer, money – we’ll be broke by the end of the year. Especially if any of these people are rehired as “advisors” at $2,000 a day

I sincerely hope that other government MPs are not following Dr Coleman’s actions. It could end up a very expensive exercise – more expensive than Key’s wasteful spending on 34 new ministerial BMW limousines.

I’m hoping National doesn’t cancel Christmas this year as a further “cost cutting” exercise.

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Trade Unionist to the rescue!

13 September 2011 3 comments

Well, this is a new one for the books.  From our “You Wouldn’t Believe It”  Files, we have this story…

Background: a report was published in today’s edition of the  “Sydney Morning Herald” that alleged that one of three NZ government ministers had behaved offensively during the recent Italy vs Wallabies RWC game. The report stated, in part,

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“…”He booed and abused the Wallabies all game,” Jeeves said. ”He was yelling out, ‘f—ing cheats’ and other offensive remarks, and then when the Wallabies started to get on top, he suddenly left.” Naturally the ARU representatives and their partners in the box were gobsmacked. One asked an Auckland government official: ”Who is this bloke? His behaviour is right over the top.” The local suit replied: ”Sorry. I can’t do much about it. He’s a government minister.” The contingent now refer to him as the New Zealand Minister for Bad Manners…”  Source

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Prime Minister, John Key was not happy, and made inquiries. The three ministers concerned; Wayne Mapp, Maurice Williamson; and Jonathan Coleman, were all interviewed by the media – and all appeared uncomfortable at the allegations.

Things were not looking good for any of the three National Ministers. They knew only too well that their boss, John Key, would not hesitate to sack anyone who mis-behaved in such a fashion.

Enter a Knight in Shining Armour; trade unionist Robert Reid,  General secretary of the National Distribution Union. Mr Reid was present in the VIP area, and confirmed that whilst Maurice Williamson “was boisterous [that] it certainly was not offensive behaviour”. Mr Reid went on to defend Mr Williamson as not behaving offensively and not swearing,

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A story rich in irony; a right wing, anti-Union Minister; belonging to a centre-right, National/Act government – “saved” by a trade unionist coming to his defence.

Something that Maurice Williamson might ponder next time his colleagues in National consider legislation that might impact of workers’ rights?

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