Armstrong on Health changes

John Armstrong writes:

It is not that long ago – only a matter of months – that the loss of 500 jobs in a crucial branch of the state sector would have been the major news story of the day. …

The same could not be said about this week’s announcement that the axe will fall on close to 500 positions in the Ministry of and across the country’s 21 district health boards over the next 18 months.

The media reaction was very ho-hum despite the layoffs actually being closer to 700 once 200 vacant positions in the Ministry of Health which will not be filled were included in the tally. …

Increasingly, the feeling is that the public has – to borrow from Helen Clark – moved on from the days when it could get outraged by the merest hint of slash-and-burn spending cuts or privatisation. The assumption was that National won last year’s election through John Key positioning his party more to the centre. It is clear now that a large portion of the electorate had already shifted to the right.

John is partly right here, but only partly. The public mood has shifted, but I would not call it a shift to the right. It is the same shift we have seen in the UK, where most of the public now support spending cuts.

It is not a change in political views, but a reaction to the recession. Part of it is a feeling of shared belt-tightening. If businesses and households can tighten their belts, so can the Government. And it is partly that people do understand huge deficits and massive borrowing is not sustainable.

The other aspect I would point out is that it is hard to call what Ryall is doing as slash and burn spending cuts. He has promised that Vote Health will not decrease, but the gains from the bureaucracy reduction will be transferred into frontline services. This changes things considerably.

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