Ralston on National

Bill Ralston writes in the HoS:

National has found an unerring ability to plug into public sentiment.

Even when there has been an apparent reverse, such as minister Judith “Crusher” Collins’ frustrated attempt to rid herself of Corrections boss Barry Matthews, most people seemed to sympathise with her, such is the public’s scepticism of the corrections system. …

Even when it comes to doing nothing some ministers do that very well. Health Minister Tony Ryall wisely ducked the row over the Auckland laboratory testing contract, preferring to let the city’s DHB’s stew in their own juice. It was their call to award the contract to another Australian-owned company and the Court of Appeal backed it.

ACC minister Nick Smith’s public flogging of the commission will have won him more friends than enemies, apart from a few sacked board members.

Most people are aghast at the thought that current projections would see the average household paying $47 a week more in ACC levies.

As a journalist, over the course of my career, I have had more people come to me with complaints about ACC than any other state agency, even the Family Court, which attracts grumpily aggrieved folk like a magnet.

Actually, I’m one of those who currently view ACC with a jaundiced eye. As I run a tiny company writing columns like this one, I have just paid, under duress, an ACC bill the size of the price of a small second-hand car. The greatest risk of injury I face in this job is electrocution when I plug in my laptop or being bitten by a rabid politician. I suspect many self-employed people look at their ACC demands with similar loathing.

I know what Bill is on about. I have paid both employer and employee ACC levies since 2003 and the total paid in that time is a staggering amount when you consider that none of the 200 or so staff who have worked for me have had a workplace injury, or in fact (as far as I know) any sort of injury that has led to an ACC claim.

Smith’s attendance at the transport and industrial select committee hearing with ACC chief executive Jan White provoked hysteria from Labour.

Opposition spokesman David Parker claimed Smith was a “gatecrasher” who was “bullying” and “gagging” ACC.

Frankly I think it was a great thing for democracy that a minister showed up at a select committee hearing of his department. They should all the time.

Too often in the past ministers in charge of controversial parts of the state sector have dived for cover, cowering in their Beehive offices, while select committees ripped apart the chairman of the board and senior public servants.

The minister should be just as accountable to a select committee as his minions.

And finally a warning:

Most Aucklanders don’t believe they get value for money from their rates. Most suspect the local body structure of several warring city states is clumsy, inefficient and prevents effective regional infrastructural development.

The ARC’s claim to be the answer that they are skilled regional managers is met with one word. Beckham.

If the Royal Commission and the Government get the new city proposal right, National can breathe easy.

Get it wrong and the Nats can expect a speedy return to opposition.

The reform of Auckland is indeed critical.

Comments (75)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment