Labour MP Phil Twyford doesn’t know the difference between a trend series and a seasonally adjusted series. So what did he do when a data series from Stats NZ showed a positive trend in the trend series? He attacks Stats NZ and accuses them of political bias.
Stats NZ is probably the most neutral agency in the public service after the Auditor-General. Attacking their integrity is very stupid and desperate.
Labour’s candidate for the Auckland electorate of Te Atatu yesterday suggested Statistics New Zealand had “massaged” the latest figures on building consents to paint a rosier picture than was correct.
Statistics New Zealand had released building consents for September which found a 17 per cent seasonally-adjusted fall and a 14 per cent fall when apartments were excluded.
“But the headline on the Statistics New Zealand press release read: Trends for new home approvals continue to rise,” Tywford said.
“Talk about spin!”
Statistics New Zealand’s “enthusiasm” could be excused in less partisan times, he said.
“But during an election period when National is patting itself on the back for doing as good a job as anyone could in terms of keeping the economy ticking over, it is impossible not to see a lack of neutrality in the department’s media release.”
Trying to make a 17 per cent decline look like an increase was the “sort of behaviour” expected of Prime Minister John Key or National’s campaign manager Steven Joyce, Twyford said.
“It’s not what you expect of an organisation that has always – until now – prided itself on being fiercely independent of political bias.
“It is inexcusable for Statistics New Zealand to give even the appearance of bias during an election campaign.”
However, Statistics New Zealand chief executive Geoff Bascand said the government agency took seriously its responsibility to explain and present statistics in a meaningful and accurate way.
“As Government Statistician, I am fiercely protective of my statutory independence in the production and release of statistics.”
Volatility in building consents over past months had caused Statistics New Zealand to judge its trend series of figures as the most useful indicator of movement in building activity, he said.
It had also reported the seasonally-adjusted figures within the first paragraph of its statement and more detailed information had been included.
Maybe someone with a stats degree could explain to Twyford what a trend series is.