At no point during the election campaign last year did Labour or its coalition partner campaign to get rid of national health targets.
So the decision Health Minister David Clark to drop national health targets came like a bolt.
Like the oil and gas ban. I see a pattern!
They have never been particularly controversial, not like national standards.
There has been no raging debate about any harm they do.
In fact for the past six years Labour and Jacinda Ardern in particular have insisted there is value in having specific targets in the area of child poverty in order to measure progress.
Ardern won that argument. There has been wide buy-in to that argument, which makes Clark’s decision when it comes to public health the more bizarre.
I think New Zealanders want to know that they can get speedy cancer treatment, they will wait no more than six hours at an emergency department etc.
National health targets are means by which to hold a government accountable to voters and set priorities in a sector which received more than $17 billion in the May Budget.
This is the key thing – the targets make the Government accountable. Merely judging a Government on inputs (how much it spends) is silly. You want to judge them on outcomes, or at least outputs. Having all cancer patients start treatment within four weeks is an outcome that you can judge on. Merely saying we will spend $20 million more on cancer treatment without an associated outcome or at least output avoids accountability.