National’s view of disability

Written By: - Date published: 11:19 am, June 18th, 2017 - 50 comments
Categories: disability, national - Tags:

Nicky Wagner, the National government’s Minister for Disability Issues and Associate Minister Health, tweeted last week on what she’d rather be doing instead of her actual job,

Understandably many people are unimpressed. Twitter responses,

Newshub have picked it up.

So Wagner tweeted thoughtlessly and just brought her party a start of the week public slap down, but what’s the big deal? As someone with a disability I’d say there are a range of intersecting issues here and three main things to look at. One is that NZ is not that great on disability issues. We do some good things, but we do some seriously bad things too, and many people with disabilities are struggling unnecessarily. That’s the context that the Minister tweeted in.

Another is that it’s a Minister’s job to show competency in her field, and competency in disability issues includes having enough social, cultural and political intelligence to understand what ableism is. In this case, Wagner wants to go boating. For many people with disabilities such a thing is impossible due to the nature of their disability, or to access issues, or due to them living with a disability in NZ and facing additional barriers like being able to financially afford recreation.

You just don’t say that shit when around people with disabilities when you have a huge amount of power in the system that directly impacts on those people. Not only is it rude and insensitive, but for the people that are working hard on disability issues whether that be in the sector or in their own lives, it comes across as ignorant. To make matters worse, her subsequent tweets are evasive of the problem with the original tweet, and come across as casual. Why should we trust someone in that position who lacked the social and cultural intelligence to manage the portfolio well?

Then there is National’s performance on disability issues. Austerity is always going to come down hard on people with vulnerabilities that aren’t well recognised or accepted by society. I’m not even going to link to back these up, because they are legion. The Bennett welfare reforms (including removal of Sickness Benefit), housing (including people with disabilities living in cars), ongoing attempts to privatise ACC and its culture of client bashing, serious lack of funding for mental health (including in high stress areas like Christchurch), underfunding for DHB’s and the flow on effect in accessing services, these are all broad-stroke areas that under National’s watch have directly harmed people with disabilities and that’s not even getting to areas of specific disabilities.

There is enough here for National to be ashamed of already, and so it’s that context that I see Wagner’s tweet in as well. In an ideal world where the government was actively on the side of people with disabilities, this would be a mistake that she apologised for and we moved on. National’s problem is that how they treat disabled people sucks, so mistakes like this loom much larger, and you really can’t apologise for that. She was no doubt being thoughtless, but her government’s policies are anything but, they are being implemented exactly as intended.

50 comments on “National’s view of disability”

  1. gonzo 1

    I’m pretty sure we all think stupid things.
    And from time to time (hopefully not too often) we say stupid things.
    But only really stupid people go through the effort to tweet them.
    And that should be enough to disqualify you from being a representative of any sort.

    • Wensleydale 1.1

      Given that she actually had to type that tweet out in full, you’d think she’d have realised at about the half-way mark, it wasn’t perhaps the most sensitive or appropriate thing to be tweeting. That’s generally one of the great things about typing. It gives you pause for thought.

      Unless you’re Nicky Wagner apparently.

  2. Incognito 2

    An excellent and well-considered Post weka that provided essential context.

    What came to mind is familiarity breeds contempt and once this pattern starts to form it’ll become stronger unless steps are taken to prevent this from happening.

    I hope Nicky Wagner has a sufficiently high EQ to realise this and take appropriate action.

  3. Cinny 3

    I don’t think she was being thoughtless, I think she was being outright selfish, her tweet is all about herself and her own wants. She was searching for self gratification, looking for likes whilst bragging about the view from her location.

    Wagner along with Coleman and Bridges would do well to remember that everyone is expendable, no one is indispensable. It might take them until the day after the spring equinox to figure it out, but sooner or later they will learn that lesson.

    Someone close to me works in the disability sector, am so hearing where you are coming from Weka.

  4. She should resign in disgrace and leave parliament too. We don’t want or need this horrible thoughtless person in parliament imo.

  5. Policy Parrot 5

    Third-termitis really beginning to bite now – just how arrogant are these people?

    BTW Nicky – I’m sure if Duncan has his way you’ll have a lot more time to peruse the harbour.

  6. Kay 6

    I’m not shocked, surprised, or batting an eyelid. Wouldn’t expect anything less.

    And too worn down to be offended by anything. After years of this crap you kind of tune out.

    • Wensleydale 6.1

      That’s what they want, Kay. They want you resigned, jaded, too worn down and dispirited to give a damn anymore. The peasantry must know their place, and recognise the natural order of things.

      That’s how they win, and the bicycle of misery is permitted to keep pedaling inexorably toward us. Don’t despair, Kay. By our powers combined, we can stop the bicycle of misery, and make Nicky Wagner walk to work.

      • Kay 6.1.1

        @Wensleydale- couldn’t have said it better 🙂

        Not totally despairing yet, I still vote (only just!) and do my utmost to encourage others in my peer group to and remind them why it’s vital. I still believe it’s impossible for any disability protest/activism to get anywhere until the government changes, so that’s got to be the first step.

  7. adam 7

    Well said Weka.

  8. Reality 8

    She is being well paid to do her job, and is not paid to go boating on the harbour.

  9. Philj 9

    Nicky,
    Top marks for honestly expressing your feelings. Really aspirational and helps the public know more about your personal qualities. Keep it up. The public deserves no less.

  10. Tony Veitch (not etc) 10

    Nicky may have, all on her own, just won the ChCh Central seat – for Duncan Webb!

  11. Ethica 11

    I commend her for her honesty. It is well known that she is not fond of this portfolio and she is often patronising to and about people with disabilities. People who come to meetings with her are often doing It in their own time and have taken considerable effort to get there. I hope she will be replaced soon by a Minister who cares about and actively advocates for the sector.

  12. It’s straightforward contempt. If Wagner were in the private sector she wouldn’t tweet from a meeting with her customers that she’d rather be somewhere else, for the excellent reason that the customers would be likely to see it and her company’s relationship with them seriously damaged to no purpose. There wouldn’t be any need for an apology because she just wouldn’t do it in the first place. That she did it in this case says a lot about Nat MPs’ attitudes to the people they supposedly serve.

  13. Keith 13

    A Freudian slip by another day dreaming rich wanker Nat.

    I think it’s the sheer honesty that shocks us most of all as we are not used to National Party MP’s being anything but well orchestrated liars.

    Her and Alfred are breaking the mould, such is their born to rule arrogance.

  14. Red 14

    i know where concrete pills are going cheap to help you all out, it’s a silly tweet, no context, get over it

    • Ethica 14.1

      Sorry Red. Disabled people are some of our most marginalised and discriminated against. For example, a recent study showed they are likely to have some of the worst housing situations. Wealthy landlord National Cabinet ministers have lives full of privilege. There is a lot more context to this and it is more than just a silly tweet.

  15. Muttonbird 15

    Not deliberate, just very careless.

    Like everything National does.

  16. Karen 16

    It is often the small things that show you what a person really thinks. Some are saying she made a careless tweet and apologised so let’s move on, but that ignores the fact that her “apology” only came three days later because the media had picked up the story. She gets paid $200,000 a year to do a job that she is clearly not interested in doing. She should resign.

    Scout Barbour- Evans has assembled some tweets from people with disabilities.

    https://twitter.com/i/moments/876196519728226304

  17. mary_a 17

    Natz mindset being revealed at a great rate of knots now … Ngaro and now Wagner.

    Any bets on who will be next to offend marginalised and vulnerable Kiwis?

    Disgraceful and shameful comments from a senior minister of the crown. Show her the door and quick please!

  18. Any MP deemed to have tweeted (or emailed or commented anywhere online) inappropriately by any MP from another party or any political activist should resign. That should ensure MPs take care about any possible misinterpretation of any communications.

    All parties should have teams scouring the Internet for any comment that could be ridiculed or if any offence could be taken from any interpretation.

    That might result in Parliamentary funkstille but most of what MPs say that’s not raked over in social media is boring anyway.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 18.1

      Shorter Peter: “nothing is political, everyone is bland. When you make waves I get anxious.”

    • Muttonbird 18.2

      It does show at a very human level where Nicky Wagner’s thoughts were on the day, and one presumes every other day in her job as Minister for Disabilities.

      Or, was she just having an off, want-to-go-sailing, day?

      Perhaps you think disabled people in New Zealand shouldn’t express their views on the Wagner’s very public tweet, just like you think the Pike River families should just give up on their need for closure for their lost loved ones?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 18.2.1

        Reacting in any way to Wagner’s tweet is Left Wing Dirty Politics.

      • Pete George 18.2.2

        “and one presumes”

        I presume that one’s presumptions are making things up to fit with one’s bias.

        • Muttonbird 18.2.2.1

          Just a stupid tweeting day then? Other days she just thinks this stuff but doesn’t go to social media.

          Good to know.

      • Stuart Munro 18.2.3

        In fact I expect she was trying to 3-way-handshake herself into a fraction of cup popularity – just didn’t think how the tweet would play outside her target audience.

    • marty mars 18.3

      “Parliamentary funkstille”

      what is this?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 18.3.1

        A German word – it means ‘radio-silence’.

        Peter means that right wingers centrists are snowflakes who can’t handle public criticism of their blurts, and might keep ‘silent’ if this ‘orrible oppression continues.

        What a tragedy that would be, so everyone else had better keep ‘silent’ instead.

      • Pete George 18.3.2

        funk=radio
        stille=silence

        If you don’t want MPs to communicate keep beating them up over trivial things (this applies across the spectrum).

        There’s a cry wolf syndrome involved too – serious mistakes and poor actions are easier to ignore if there’s a lot of noise over little of consequence.

        • Muttonbird 18.3.2.1

          Sorry, but none of the comments you’ve ever made show you know the difference between trivial things and serious mistakes.

          You accuse others of political bias but literally every single post you make is couched in conservative, don’t rock the authority boat, language.

          It makes it very difficult to take your claims of political bias in others seriously.

          As for wanting Nicky Wagner to communicate, as her employer I expect her to be communicating the details of how her cheap government is going to lift the outcomes for disabled people in this country, not what she sees out the window.

        • Incognito 18.3.2.2

          Warum sprechen Sie Deutsch Herr George?

          Anyway, it is Funkstille as all nouns are capitalised in German.

  19. Mojo Mathers has a disability; she is deaf. Mojo’s reaction to Wagner’s tweet has so much more validity than Pete George’s wan response.

  20. Anita 20

    I don’t much mind that she’d rather be out on the harbour, I mean I would too. I’d trade the couple of hours I spent at the after hours doctor this weekend for a harbour cruise, or even just a harbourside walk or cafe, actually for being at home and comfortably able to hang up the washing.

    The problem isn’t so much that she’s like to be doing something lovely on a lovely day, it’s that she’s doing precisely nothing to make it possible for those of us with disabilities.

  21. One Anonymous Bloke 21

    Just in case anyone thinks Wagner’s opinions are a simple brain-fart, here’s Double Dipton to make it worse.

    There’s no way it was meant to be offensive… Nicky Wagner is a strong advocate for the disability community. She has many friends there. No-one would believe that Nicky Wagner set out to be offensive to people with disabilities.

    “She’s a very hardworking, competent minister who made a mistake with her tweet, easily misunderstood, and she’s fixed that, which is appropriate.

    Centrists will see absolutely nothing wrong in Double Dipton’s statement. Is there a better illustration of the gulf between centrists and ethics?

    • Muttonbird 21.1

      Agree. Centrists are the worst kind of people because they will justify literally anything in pursuit of an ineffectual political stability and incrementalism, not recognising that ineffectual political stability itself, and incrementalism, is the enemy of positive social change.

    • Sacha 21.2

      “Easily misunderstood” – nah, easily understood, hence their problem. Wagner got caught out telling us how she really feels about her portfolio. Not a fuck given. We are sailing.

    • Ethica 21.3

      ‘She has many friends there”, says Bill. How does he know? People will be polite and friendly to a minister because she is the minister. And public servants have to be as its their job. But real friends?

  22. Wagner’s follow-up/cover up second tweet was a painfully transparent attempt to tidy up the initial mess. Better she’d said nothing more, bar, sorry.

  23. Macro 23

    I came across this this morning. Another instance of Tory inhumanity on the other side of the world. May’s response to the Tower Inferno .
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/17/shes-adrift-tories-concerned-over-theresa-mays-grenfell-response
    “Concern is growing within the Conservative party over Theresa May’s handling of the Grenfell Tower fire, with some fearing it could become “her poll tax moment”.
    specifically it boils down to this:

    There is concern, however, among Tory MPs that the disaster has again placed the spotlight on May’s difficulties in demonstrating empathy and responding on her feet, weaknesses that were exposed during the election campaign.
    my bold

    I think that phrase “difficulties in demonstrating empathy” is it in a nutshell.
    People often confuse the words empathy and sympathy. Empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’ , whereas sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. The crux is in sharing the feelings of another. Most Tories MP by their very nature have no understanding of the situation for others less fortunate than themselves. How can you understand the feelings of someone who has been poor their whole life, when you have had the benefit of well to do parents, gone to a private school, and never had to want for anything in your life?

    I have no knowledge of Nicky Wagner’s background, but I thing the same criticism could be levelled .. “difficulties in demonstrating empathy”.

  24. Sacha 24

    If a Minister was at a chamber of commerce event about Sunday trading in a high-rise with a good view of the outdoors, who would decry a distracted tweet? Rather be at the beach. Rather be shopping. No power relationships involved.

    But she was meeting organisations working on disability matters, which are fundamentally underpinned by the ongoing social devaluing of disabled people. Not smart enough to think before blurting her wants. Unfit for the role.

  25. Mrs Brillo 25

    As a wheelchair user, I can at least empathise with her wishes. I too would like to be out on the harbour, or even just on a beach. But for wheelchair users these are scarcely practical options.
    So I suggest one useful thing she might do with her despised portfolio is to get together with the Tourism Minister, if we still have one, and plan for and fund some boardwalks on some of New Zealand’s nicest beaches so that all New Zealanders, including the wheelchair users, parents pushing prams, and elderly on mobility scooters, can have access to them.
    New Plymouth and Mt Maunganui have made a good start on theirs, with their own money, but some government money behind the scheme nationally would work wonders.

    • KJT 25.1

      Actually not quite true. There is an organisation “sailing for the disabled” that are happy to take wheelchair users, and other disabled people out on the water. It is free!
      Spirit of Adventure trust have voyages specifically for disabled youth. We, the supporters, sponser a large percentage of youth who are on the voyages.

  26. Venezia 26

    Nicky Wagner is a waste of space in Christchurch Central and come 23 September she will be history.

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