Matt King

Government out for the count?

by Matt King, Member of Parliament for Northland

The government’s failure to step up to the mark on a bewildering range of important issues entered a disquieting new phase last week.

Seemingly they are no longer content even to acknowledge their failings (perhaps the growing public discontent has seen to that), they have now let someone else take the blame for them.

That is one take we can take from the resignation of the country’s chief statistician Liz MacPherson over the 2018 Census debacle.

There is no doubt the census was a debacle. Only 83% of us responded to it, and Maori responses dropped by 20%, which makes the veracity of any consequential data questionable at best. There is no doubt that Ms MacPherson must shoulder some blame for that.

As my colleague and National Party spokesperson for statistics Dr Jian Yang points out, the current statistics minister James Shaw who has oversight over the census, is missing in action on this issue — as he was when the census took place.

Jiang says this: “[Shaw] needed to be more involved in his department. He should have asked more questions of his Statistics NZ leadership team and demanded better results from them.

“However, he chose to be a hands-off minister instead. He was missing in action when things were going wrong — off on a Pacific Island junket while his officials were left to clean things up.

“He let things spiral out of control to the point where much of the data may no longer be useful. That creates enormous problems for the billions of dollars in funding for health, education, police and other vital services that depend on reliable census numbers.”

Jiang goes on to say that James Shaw was too relaxed about the problem, brushing off any criticism as ‘scaremongering’.

So, Liz McPherson falls on her sword, takes responsibility and acts appropriately, while a government minister walks away from his own role and lack of leadership on yet another government bungle.

In my view, it is happening too often and with escalating frequency these days. Moreover, who’s counting?