27 March 2012

A compliment to Finland

Looking up the UN's Human Development Index Report, I note that Finland ranks 5th in the world on the gender-equality index, compared with NZ at no. 32. Finland's per capita gross national income is much higher than NZ's, while the two countries' longevity and years of schooling are roughly comparable. Finns also enjoy high levels of life satisfaction.
Looks to me like Finland is a good country with which to compare ourselves, in spite of boorish comments made by a cabinet minister in Parliament. While Mr Brownlee is free to say what he pleases in the House, he is accountable for his words. He should 'man up' and apologize to the people of Finland - and to New Zealanders for causing us embarrassment.

26 March 2012

No charges over tea-pot

It comes as no surprise that the Police have decided not to lay charges over the recording of the conversation between John Key and John Banks at a cafe during the election campaign. The only surprise is that the Police took so long over it. Even a bush lawyer like me could see that the cafe conversation did not fall within the definition of 'private communication' in the Crimes Act, as the parties ought reasonably to have expected that their conversation could have been intercepted under the circumstances.

The statement by the Police that the recording was 'unlawful' - but they are giving the cameraman a warning - sounds like face-saving for the PM to me.

After a bad time last week (with the resignation of Nick Smith and further allegations about privacy breaches at ACC etc) this looks like another week off to a bad start for the National-led government. They had been quick to condemn the 'teapot' recording as 'illegal' when its existence was first revealed, but it looks like it may not have been illegal after all. But we'll never really know for sure, as the question won't be put to trial in court.

Assuming the recording was inadvertent, as the cameraman insisted it was, it would still have been unethical, in my opinion, for media to have published it. The recording was leaked on line anyway, but it's quite difficult to make out much of the conversation, thanks to background noise.

Nonetheless, the tape may have been NZ First's springboard back into Parliament, and the subsequent debate undoubtedly did National a great deal of damage. Key's defensiveness lost him a lot of good will among reporters. The event led to a major change in National's campaign strategy: from relying almost entirely on the popular image of their leader to trying suddenly to divert attention to 'the issues that really matter to New Zealanders'. How ironic!

Key should have just asked for the recording to be published anyway, and dealt with the fallout up-front. The matter would have been over with more quickly, and he could have then taken the moral high-ground and given reporters a telling off over unethical practices. Transparency is always the best long-run policy in the PR game, especially in the fast-moving communications world of these days. Easy to say so in hindsight, though.

15 March 2012

Ministry of Dumb Ideas

Today's admission that the Government will not implement its election promise to introduce competitive private-insurer provision of workers compensation represents a humiliating defeat for National. But it also represents (inadvertently) a return to some common sense. See my previous post.

Competition, in this particular sector, was such a bad idea for so many reasons that I'd need a lengthy essay just to explain them all. The Herald article only outlines a few of the problems. I'd speculate too that the insurers themselves were getting cold feet as their reinsurance backers have probably sunk too much into NZ Inc lately, they are jacking up their fees accordingly, and they are still afraid of investment losses (especially with the trouble in Europe) so they are not keen on new long-tail risk.

John Key's speech today set out some very unambitious goals, what's more. First, they've set the cap on public-service employee numbers at a lower level, but they are already below that cap now, so that's one box easily ticked. Secondly, Key has set out 10 'results' that government departments have been beavering away on to achieve (with fewer staff) for ages already. Yawn. Thirdly, he proposes to amalgamate a few departments to create one great big bureaucracy. Are we getting excited yet?

I'm still waiting for news about that 'step-change' that was going to lift our productivity up to the level of Australia's...