Editorials 16 March 2010

March 16th, 2010 at 10:24 am by David Farrar

The Herald looks at the Iraqi elections:

Iraq’s national elections were some distance removed from the type of poll associated with a smoothly functioning democracy. They were conducted amid an intimidating campaign of violence, and in the aftermath there have been accusations of fraud.

Even now, only partial results are available because of disorderly vote-counting. Yet the pluses of the election far outweigh the negatives, especially in indicating that Iraq may be ready to turn its back on years of sectarian strife.

The results announced so far show the Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, edging ahead. His State of Law coalition leads in seven of the country’s 18 provinces. …

If a coalition is cobbled together relatively quickly, it will clear the way for the smooth pull-out of more American troops by the end of August, and a final exit by the end of next year.

The new government will have its hands full preserving Iraq’s fragile security, continuing to resolve its sectarian tensions and repairing shattered public services.

But, at the very least, this election marks a promising start. Iraq has defied the many doomsayers by moving further along the road to democracy and reconciliation.

It is going to be fascinating to see what Iraq is like in 2020. Will it still have major sectarian violence and terrorism, or will it be a relatively well functioning democratic state?

The Press talks football:

The Wellington Phoenix football team has provided one of the sporting highlights of the past year. For the club to have made the A-League playoffs for the first time, and to have got within one match of the grand final, was an achievement all New Zealanders can be proud of. As Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has noted, this has been a breakthrough season for the club. It also augurs well for the 2010-11 season.

Although the dream run ended on Saturday night, thanks partly to a handball goal by a Sydney player, the Phoenix’s successful season helped to heighten public interest in football, as shown by the crowds of up to 33,000 that the team attracted.

Maybe the Warriors would do better if they were Wellington based also :-)

The Dominion Post talks league tables:

One thing is for sure in the wake of the publication of Health Ministry statistics comparing the performances of 80 primary health organisations.

Total Healthcare Otara, the PHO with the poorest record of immunising two-year-olds, will be taking immediate steps to improve its performance. Public ignominy is a powerful motivating tool.

So it should be. The release of the data highlights yet again the benefits of comparing the performance of organisations doing essentially the same job, whether they operate in the health sector, the education sector or any other area. Not only is the information useful to decision-makers and the public, it is also useful to the organisations themselves. As Helen Rodenburg, the chairwoman of a clinical quality board that oversees four PHOs in Wellington, told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report yesterday, before the publication of the data, PHOs did not know how their performance compared with those of similar organisations in other parts of the country.

The primary teachers’ union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, should take note.

This is exactly why the NZEI is so opposed.

Of course there are limitations associated with the way the data is collected. Of course it is important to compare like with like and, of course, it is important to consider the different environments in which schools operate. Just as a PHO in Wellington City could be expected to outperform a PHO in Porirua on many measures, so children at a decile 10 primary school in Khandallah could be expected to perform better in tests than children at a decile 1 school in Cannons Creek. The children in wealthier neighbourhoods are more likely to come from homes in which English is the first language, there is space for a dedicated homework area and the shelves are stacked with books.

But instead of flatly rejecting the introduction of national standards as the NZEI is doing, it should be devoting its energies to ensuring the tests measure something useful.

NZEI be constructive? Sure, and Satan has this nice little ski chalet for sale.

The ODT focuses on investor migrants:

The Government is rightly taking a hard-headed look at the domain – New Zealand is not so wealthy as to be able to offer refuge to thousands of migrants who bring little other than “diversity” to their new country, but neither should it push these policies so far that, in effect, the prize of New Zealand citizenship is being sold to the highest bidder.

There are, after all, many values – honesty, pride, diligence, community-mindedness, intelligence, aspiration, entrepreneurialism among them – besides an already accumulated wealth that will colour the future contribution of any migrant, including those in the new parent and temporary retirement categories, to his or her adopted country.

Dr Coleman and the National-led Government are evidently determined to implement immigration policies that pay.

The ambition is laudable, but wealth is relatively easy to measure, other desirable qualities less so.

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