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You know your policy sucks when…

Written By: - Date published: 12:42 pm, April 9th, 2010 - 21 comments
Categories: privatisation, public services - Tags: , , ,

It’s so vacuous and vapid that even Guyon Espiner is concerned about the lack of quality analysis and policy design.

To be sure, Guyon didn’t voice these concerns on air and he starts his blog by falling into the “we’ve got to do something, this is something, let’s do this” logical fallacy. And the “we have policies targeting social problems, those problems still exist, therefore those policies are useless and wasteful” nonsense, which is like arguing seat belts don’t work because people still die in car crashes. And surprise, surprise he automatically accepts the premise that privatisation will deliver better results.

But, eventually, Guyon manages to ask ‘hey, what is this Whanau Ora thing?’ and he’s unimpressed with the answers:

The taskforce report reads like a motivational self-help guide with banal slogans spread across its 71 pages. “Whanau Ora – well that’s us, it’s who we are,” reads one. “Whanau have to describe success in their own terms,” reads another. My personal favourite is: “Whanau ora is going to take us there and it has been since the beginning of time.”

Sometimes even the main text descends into complete psycho-babble: In searching for what Whanau Ora actually means the taskforce concludes that “whanau ora is distinctive because it recognises a collective entity, endorses a group capacity for self determination, has an intergenerational dynamic, is built on a Maori cultural foundation, asserts a positive role for whanau within society and can be applied across a wide range of social and economic sectors.”

So the challenge for the proponents of Whanau Ora is to explain how it will work and then to prove it does work.

Indeed. I noticed the silly ‘motivational’-type phrases in the report too. To me they sum up everything that is wrong with this half-arsed policy.

Guyon goes on to say that he likes Matt McCarten’s description of Whanau Ora as a ‘one-stop shop’ for social services. The problem is that the minister responsible, Tariana Turia, explicitly rejected that definition when Guyon put it to her on Q+A and such ‘one-stop shops’ already exist.

Guyon ends with a pretty silly comment. The same one, incidentally, that Wellington Airport passive-aggressively made to Wellingtonians when everyone hated the ‘Wellywood’ sign:

The challenge for the critics is: Have you got a better idea?

Hell, I’m a sucker, I’ll take the bait.

One better idea is not signing over hundreds of millions of dollars to unaccountable private organisations with no plan, no clear notion of what specific problems need to be addressed and how, no measures of success, and no checks against corruption. It would be better to carry on as is than take hundreds of millions out of existing services to make a punt in the dark.

Another better idea would be not cutting Pathways to Partnership, not cutting education, not cutting health.

My final idea stems from the example of the family that Whanau Ora is supposedly going to somehow help: single mum, three kids all in trouble because mum isn’t around because she’s working shifts.

It seems to me the problem in that family arises principally from the fact that mum can’t get decent work with hours that also allow her to be there for her family. The Whanau Ora report has some nonsense about an advisor ‘helping her find more suitable employment’ but that ignores the fundamental problem – the jobs don’t exist.

If the government were serious about helping families in need it’s priority would be getting people back into work and its second and third priorities would better pay and conditions for low income workers.

The fact that is has gone with this Whanau Ora nonsense instead shows it has no real intention of tackling the causes of this country’s social ills.

21 comments on “You know your policy sucks when… ”

  1. Its not a ‘one stop shop’…it’s more like ‘home delivery’ and thats the way the world is going.

    The problem with the solo mum example isnt the job. You could give her a job that pays well enough for her to spend quality time with her kids but thats not to say money will make her a better parent.

    The problem is how do you mend a broken spirit. Can you not see that’s what Maori suffer from ? Their present spirit is at odds with their past and unless you can reconnect them, they and their kids don’t have the spirit to look towards a ‘brighter future’ 🙂

    In dickensian terms, think of Scrooge and the ghosts of christmas. Whanau ora counsellors are putting themsleves in the role of spiritual healers and will time trip clients in the hope of reconnecting them to the nobler values of their ancestors and future progeny.

    But of course Tariana isn’t going to say that cos most eurocentrist have no idea how Te ao Maori/the Maori world works and nor will she hold that world up for even more public ridicule.

    Some things are just too sacred to be shared with just anyone. Remember that magic jawbone i referred to. It’s a tool for reinterpreting sacred lore and not everyone knew or knows how to use it.

    captcha : trees (some cant see the wood because of it as they have a massive splinter in the minds eye)

    • pollywog 1.1

      *edit*…”see” the wood dammit ! [fixed — r0b]

    • quenchino 1.2

      But of course Tariana isn’t going to say that cos most eurocentrist have no idea how Te ao Maori/the Maori world works and nor will she hold that world up for even more public ridicule

      Bullshit. That’s as stupid as saying that most Maori have no idea how the European world works; or that Maori have some kind of monopoly on being ‘spiritual’.

      Pushing on down that kind of separatist path leads off into wilderness.

      • pollywog 1.2.1

        That’s as stupid as saying that most Maori have no idea how the European world works; or that Maori have some kind of monopoly on being ‘spiritual’.

        But fella…Most Pasifikans inclusive of Maori have no idea how the european world works. From left/right wing capitalism/socialism, to the market, to financial literacy, dealing with insurance, mortgages, hire purchases, even to MMP and parliamentary process etc.

        You ever been to a marae and had to stand there all awkwardly not knowing the protocols and procedures ? That’s how some of us feel going into banks, insurance companies, gov’t institutions etc with people in funny uniforms speaking gobble de gook to us.

        I dont hold your ignorance against you, why hold yours against us and expect us to be the same ? I’m not saying Maori have a ‘spiritual’ monopoly but spirits do play a large part in our everyday lives, more so than the average eurocentric NZer.

        The way i see it, pushing off down that path leads to self determination and re empowering, but hey, some people will always ridicule what they don’t understand.

        • insider

          “But fella Most Pasifikans inclusive of Maori have no idea how the european world works. From left/right wing capitalism/socialism, to the market, to financial literacy, dealing with insurance, mortgages, hire purchases, even to MMP and parliamentary process etc”

          That;s about education and experience not inherently cultural. What you seem to be saying is that they are, as Pasfikans, incapable of learning from experience. Isn’t that incredibly patronising if not borderline racist? It probably would be considered the latter if I, a middle aged WASP, said it.

          I’m beginning to wonder how the Maori I know have ever managed to get jobs, or mortgages or a driver’s licence, or start businesses and pay their taxes. I must have dreamed it.

          • pollywog

            Education and experience from someone who not so much sold out their culture, but compromised it to become more eurocentrically culturally focused. In doing so, connections to ancestral spirits were weakened and in breeding from that culture of mainstream success, future generations went on to compromise their culture even more to get jobs, mortgages and start businesses.

            Of course we learnt by experience and mostly we learnt from bad experiences. Native Maori/Pasifikan bad, transplanted christian euro good. The underlying message constantly reinforced being, if we want to get ahead and prosper in the world we have to become more like europeans. I suppose the extreme is the ludicrously foppish, king of Tonga.

            Theres nothing racist about it. I don’t buy into the false racial construct. It’s all about culture, elitism and the compromise and sacrifice of traditional values.

            • insider

              my ancestors could have used the same arguments when my culture went from animistic religion to monotheism, and abandoned runes for Latin script and those fancy Arabic numerals. “I mean, what have the Romans ever done for us….?”

              If you want to see noble savage done over by cultural imperialism, so be it. I see it as a practical example of cultural evolution to adapt to forces greater than any individual or culture. You can rail at those who adapt as sellouts/uncle toms from your pataka but it’s not particularly helpful and will likely look as quaint as the guy with the sandwich board saying “the end is nigh”. Not everything that has been abandoned was good and not everything adopted was bad.

              PS enjoy your cultural elitistly imposed weekend 🙂

              • pollywog

                I’m all for cultural evolution but not to the extent that ones native culture becomes token for grants. I just want us to be honest in our appraisal of what was gained/lost, how/why and who benefitted most. Somewhere between my position and quenchino’s is probably a ‘happy medium’. Maybe thats who ‘whanau ora’ practitioners are.

                By the way ” the end is nigh”…and yeah, have a cracker of a weekend yourself 🙂

            • Puddleglum

              Hi Pollywog – I don’t think all left critics of Whanau Ora, or the Maori Party more generally, are unaware of the points you make. I’m certainly not. If Maori or Pasific people can provide an alternative way of organising this modern society so that it’s more humane then all power to them. But look at it from my perspective – and it’s a long one (I’m well read on this), way back to when my ancestors were just as collective, just as family focused, just as imbued with spiritual connectedness to the world as Maori were 170 years ago or maybe still are. But … something happened.

              My ancestors were colonised centuries before Maori were; they were pushed off their land, progressively denied their remaining customary rights; any attempts by them to gain some control of their own destiny (their ‘tino rangatiratanga’) were met with deception, rejection and violent suppression; they were treated as sub-human, their children were sold, prostituted, huge numbers of them were imprisoned. All of this was done to them in the first act of English colonisation – before it happened to the Scots, before it happened to the Irish, the Native Americans, the Africans (whose slave labour financially founded Britain’s emerging industrial economy).

              My ancestors were the English peasants who then, in time, became the English, urban working class – once living off the land was made impossible and they were herded into horrendous conditions whose only ‘positive’ was that it was better than starving. You see, they had to be colonised first. Their oppression had to provide the base for colonial expansion to Ireland, the Americas, Australia, India and New Zealand. They had to be ‘tamed’, ‘ripped untimely’ from their own culture, dispossessed, brutally oppressed for centuries to allow the sorry farce that is the history of the world over the last few centuries to begin.

              Note that this all began with English people oppressing English people. That might help you to understand why the English, historically, was so aware of class. That might help you to understand why some on the ‘left’ are SO concerned about notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’. When colonialism began is was not one race against another, one culture against another (although the new capitalist culture was definitely contrary to peasant culture). It was the powerful few against the powerless many.

              Also note that in Ireland, India and even here in New Zealand some members of the local elites actually did very well, thank you, from this continuing process of colonisation, just as some of my peasant ancestors grabbed the opportunity (as yeoman farmers) to get a foot on the ground floor of the developing capitalist world.

              So, my fear over Whanau Ora, and the Maori Party, is that history is just going to repeat itself. No new culture, no new way of organising ourselves will come out of it. This is just one of the many ways that real alternatives to the present system (what you, mistakenly, term ‘eurocentric’ when it bears no resemblance to the culture of my ancestors or to that of the mass of Europeans, many of whom retain immense allegiance, against the odds, to a deep sense of solidarity, family and community) get hijacked, defused and rendered neuter. My ancestors tried it all – and failed. Please don’t think there’s something different about Maori or Pasifika culture that would allow it to succeed where my ancestors’ culture failed.

              My sense is that this government is, wittingly or unwittingly, encouraging Maori – especially Maori leaders – to believe that, in fact, it’s all about different cultures. It isn’t. It’s about how the powerful have always treated the powerless – irrespective of common or different culture, common or different race.

              • pollywog

                Nice one Puddleglum.

                My ancestors tried it all and failed. Please don’t think there’s something different about Maori or Pasifika culture that would allow it to succeed where my ancestors’ culture failed.

                Yeah maybe, but given the opportunity to learn that ourselves would be nice. As a parent i would love for my kids to learn from my mistakes and save themselves the hassle, yet i understand the need for them to try, fail, and from the lessons learnt, make them better, stronger and wiser for it.

                In keeping with the powerful over the powerless from within a culture, I suppose this is my definitive take on ‘whanau ora’. What do you think ?

                More to worry about

              • Puddleglum

                I think it’s very insightful.

                If whanau can use this to exert pressure on their own elites (of whatever culture) then that would be ideal. But, I suspect that if that began to happen it would be ‘modified’ or even undermined. After all, from the point of view of those with power, what’s the use of power if you don’t use it to make sure you get what you want?

                I’m not a complete pessimist – I think gains have been made over the last century and a half. It’s just that it’s a hard road to hoe – there’s no bright new dawn of social progress, just ‘business as usual’ (i.e., a hard slog and constant vigilance, taking nothing for granted).

  2. Rob M 2

    Perhaps the original document was in Maori and something has been lost in translation.

  3. PK 3

    ***If the government were serious about helping families in need it’s priority would be getting people back into work and its second and third priorities would better pay and conditions for low income workers.***

    Those are the traditional left wing economic concerns but, as Chris Trotter has pointed out, identity politics has become more prevalent (ironically now under National). This just seems to show that ethno-politics become increasingly important in a diverse society. This isn’t primarily about nuts and bolts outcomes like those you mention, but about ethnic control.

    That’s not to say it won’t work, but I think the main motivation based on ethnocentrism, which is a natural outgrowth of nepotism.

    • Bright Red 3.1

      Well and that’s another problem.

      There’s an ethnonorm-ism inherent in this approach. It assumes (hell it states) that there is a ‘right’ way for a Maori family to live and it wants to impose that ‘right’ way on families.

      • marty mars 3.1.1

        Yes and other whanau from other cultures that want to use whanau ora – remember it is now open to all BR

        • pollywog

          Sweet..so are the service providers gonna be non-exclusively Maori also ?

          Ayo aunty Tari…Where do i sign up for a laptop, wireless broadband and branded car. I want a silver one and a matching cell phone with a ‘borg’ like head set ?…and can i get a badge too ? Maybe one of them flip out wallets like the feds have on TV ? Oooh oooh and a stylin leather trenchcoat. Of course it goes without saying i’ll have the meke shades.

          I’ll look mean as rollin up, flippin out the badge and sayin “pollywog..whanau ora division. Come with me if you want to live…”

          Say whut ? Fucken eh i will sort your shit out cuz, just call me vodafone cos i will hook you up. Sheeeeit…i got a direct line to your ancestors owwww !!!

          chur 🙂

  4. ianmac 4

    Bright Red “It assumes (hell it states) that there is a ‘right’ way for a Maori family to live and it wants to impose that ‘right’ way on families.” This could be solved by training in the Catholic way of confession of sin and no birth control. No? How about a Destiny Church for all those who are poor but not quite poverty stricken. No? How about the Act Party so that the poor and disadvantaged could learn to satisfy greed at the neighbour’s expense. No?
    Yes. A very vexed question but maybe the traditional Maori way with extended family and respect for the Elders might work, but only if the “needy” want to buy into it and break the cycle. Who knows what the “right” way is?

  5. I remember reading the large Royal Commission documents that came out about Genetic Engineering and they managed to discuss a bi/multi-cultural approach to value systems while still at the same time delivering hard recommendations about implementation and policy.

    The problem with leaving all the spiritual stuff as nice aspirational goals is that is all to easy to pull the carpet out from under it later on. For it to anything at all to protect and engage with Maori cultural values it absolutely MUST engage with the dirty difficult world of policy.

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Was it only 5-10 years ago that the The Maori way of knowing was all the rage as a viable alternative to the Scientific method.
    So we know have its cousin the Maori way of delivering social services.
    Whats the bet that Titiwhai Hawawira’s way of delivering mental health services can be seen again. Along with the Donna Huata way of doing reading recovery

  7. Gramsci 7

    What really concerns me about Whanau Ora is that it will further drive down the wages of the care workers in the sector. When patients were de-instutionalised in the eighties and nineties, there was a huge drop in the wages of those formerly working in well-unionised centralised sites. Care workers went from a few centralised agreements with a bureaucracy behind the front-of-line care to support their work.

    Please do not take this post as support of the institutions. There were problems with the institutions, but my point is regarding how the wages and conditions have dropped in this sector and the service levels have declined.

    What occurred was a disolution of these terms and conditions, with a corresponding drop in service. The work became casualised and further de-valued. There was no need for any level of qualification; the money that went to providers had to be soaked up in the first instance by a multitude of supporting bureaucracies before any of it got to the workers. It might be even less if there was a profit to be made by the organisation.

    These problems are still being grappled with by the sector and then along comes Whanau Ora. This will only further fragment and disolve the service levels and wages of those working in the sector. It will put wages back even further and make a unified response to the Government’s continual under-funding of this sector even harder to resisit.

    And that – comrades – is why the National Party supports it.

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