Health Minister Tony Ryall has followed Paula Bennett’s* lead by cancelling a conference for PR purposes**.
In terms of symbolism it’s great. Even though the per-person cost of the conference was low, and it’s not like doctors would want to spend their precious time at a conference were it pointless, and the cost was only 0.001% of the health budget, cancelling it looks good.
If we’re interested in good government though, it’s very bad. Having campaigned on restoring the (supposedly lost) neutrality of the public service, Ryall has now twice over-ridden the judgement of the civil servants for political reasons.
Moreover, this is looking like a government that is spending more energy on minute stunts than the big issues. Three months as government and still no economic recovery plan, let alone action. In Ryall’s own portfolio, I have heard reports that emergency room hours have been cut in some hospitals despite Ryall identifying quicker emergency care as a priority.
National/ACT can cut all the conferences it likes but it is fiddling while Rome burns.
*(speaking of Bennett, can you imagine a minister standing by doing nothing when confronted with teens fighting?)
**(he admits the conference probably will go ahead later in the year).