Hard News by Russell Brown


If wishing made it so ...

The Prime Minister has had another Announcement Monday: this time it's a series of five-year targets for the public sector.

On one hand, the Better Public Services targets are generally laudable. On the other, there is this graph, Figure 2 in the Better Public Services: Supporting vulnerable children section, accompanying the target to "Reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017.":

What the actual fuck? Did the poor civil servant who had to draw that graph believe it? Does anyone actually believe it?

Rheumatic fever is a classic case of a problem that, if not addressed, will cost the country far more in the long term than seriously addressing it would. So it is good that the Prime Minster should name it as a priority. But it's also a disease that closely correlates with poverty. Is it something that can only be fixed by the Health minister? And does anyone seriously think things will proceed as the graph suggests?

It doesn't fill me with confidence that according to Jessica Mutch, who was at the post-Cabinet press conference, John Key said "some of these targets are very aspirational" and his Treasurer Bill English said "we're not saying many of them are aspirational." Indeed, I'm confused.

But there is certainly more substance in this week's Monday Surprise than in last week's risible blurt about national standards. The relevant page on the State Services Commission website actually contains links to Cabinet papers and background material. So perhaps it should be welcomed.

Can you help me out here? It's a big week and I don't have time to research this properly, but I'm keen to tap your knowledge and research skills. Vent if you must, but I'd like to know what degree of credibility I ought to be extending to this initiative. Is it just this week's asset sales misdirection? Or something better than that?

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