Thursday, 1 November 2007

New ministers, same old failure

Despite a record spending binge in the areas of both health and education, ministers holding these portfolios have once again been either replaced, resigned or returned to the backbench obscurity from whence they came, or in the case of Steve Maharey they've abandoned the job in favour of a cosy sinecure they've spent their last years in power setting up for themselves.

Rather than celebrate the smiling faces of new ministers, maybe we should ask why they're recycled so readily?

Despite the size of these 'sectors' and with all the money the ministers for health and education have to spread around (our money, let's remind ourselves), they haven't got much to show for it, have they, which is why they spend so little time with their feet under the ministerial desk.

Spending in both these portfolio areas is huge and exploding-- health spending has doubled in the last ten years while education spending has ballooned by 7% a year every year for the last ten years -- an enormous spending binge -- but with almost nothing to show for the deluge of taxpayer money beyond inflated public sector prices and emptier taxpayer pockets: all major health indicators for example have either held steady or declined as waiting lists have continued to climb, while all literacy studies show either decreases in functional literacy or only negligible improvements.

Despite the spending binge of previous ministers (and let's remind ourselves again, this was our money they were spending), the results have been appalling. More money, more failure. No wonder the ministers were reshuffled.

But a reshuffle just shuffles the deck chairs on a sinking ship. These are results that neither new minister is going to address, or going to be able to address. The solution for more government failure is not more money or new faces at the helm; to put it bluntly, the solution is less government.

The new ministers have less than a year to paper over the cracks and ensure no new headlines emerge from their bailiwicks before next year's election, and to a politician 'no new headlines' will be the measure of their success. It's not what you or I or the users of the state's die-while-you-wait health system and the state's factory schools would call success, not by a long chalk, but as long as this is the system we have, then that is the way "success" will continue to be measured.

The problem is the system, stupid -- the stupid socialist system that taxes people into poverty while leaving them to die on public hospital waiting lists and their children to grow up illiterate after years in the state's factory schools.

Why do you put up with it?

UPDATE: Outgoing Health minister Pete Hodgson says, "Results show, again, that our health policies are working for the most good for the most people." As Lindsay Mitchell observes, what the the results show is that 26% of NZers surveyed for a Commonwealth Fund International Health Survey considered that "only minor changes" are needed to the country's creaking health 'system' and 56% decided that what is needed is "fundamental change." So, what was that again, Pete?

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