Monday, March 31, 2008

More on the Zimbabwean "elections"

Yes, the quotation marks around the word "elections" in the title line are not there by mistake. The Zimbabwean elections are a joke, plain and simple. Now we learn that the results are being "withheld", and riot police are highly visible on the streets of Harare, as Mugabe tries desperately to cling to power. Read this: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/2/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10501207

It is tempting to continue the comparisons between the respective regimes of Clark and Mugabe, but that trivialises the situation in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was once known as the "Breadbasket of Africa" - now, even by African standards, it is nothing more than a basket-case. Through my former work in the field of immigration I met many Zimbabweans, some of whom had been forcibly evicted from their rightfully-owned properties. At our church, we are blessed by the presence of a Shona-speaking Zimbawean family who have migrated to New Zealand in fits and starts over a period of three years - where their teenaged children now have a decent shot at life. That Mugabe has destroyed this once-wealthy nation is both a tragedy and a travesty, and the international community, South Africa in particular, should hang their heads in shame that their inaction and indifference has allowed Mugabe to cripple Zimbabwe.

Mugabe - whatever it takes

I'm not aware that the Labour Party has observers currently in Zimbabwe watching the progress of the presidential election. If they did, they might pick up some helpful tips for November, as per this piece in this morning's NZ Herald - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10500974

Mugabe is determined to hang on to power at any cost, whatever it takes. To do this, he and his thugs do things like:

* Enrol the dead and intimidate the living
* Stop food supplies to villages which are supporters of the opposition
* Beat, torture and even kill opposition politicians and their supporters

The Herald article also reports more subtle and insidious means - things like the opposition candidate's name being able to be erased from the paper, thousands of enrolments in areas where no-one lives, and opposition supporters being refused the right to vote.

Whatever it takes. Get the picture? So when Dr Michael Bassett said a few weeks ago, commenting on the government's intervention in the sale of Auckland International Airport shares that "They don’t care. If this means that overseas investors pull out and won’t invest here any longer, why worry? They’ll do whatever it takes to stay in office.", should we be afraid, be very afraid?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Satire from WhaleOil

We all know that WhaleOil is quite handy with Photoshop, but he's excelled himself tonight - he's hacked in to Labour HQ and found their 2008 Election theft guide!!


Great stuff O Blubbery One!!

The Ides of April draw near.....

I have had numerous reports from Napier today of strange sounds - like metal scraping against metal. I got on the NZHerald website to do some detective work, and this is my conclusion!!

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10500984

The PM leaves for Europe tomorrow morning, then presumably a detour via Beijing on the way home. So the sounds my spies in Napier are being subjected to - why, it's Michael Cullen sharpening his knives while his lackies work the phones!

The Ides of April are almost upon us!!

Kerre Woodham on Greenpeace

It must be a chilly day in Hades today, because I am 100% in agreement with Kerre Woodham's piece in today's HoS - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10500908&pnum=0

Under the headline "Up yours, Greenpeace" Woodham gives the environmental terrorists a real serve, and with good cause. Their "protest" at Lyttleton during the week was nothing more than a self-serving publicity stunt. Unfortunately for Greenpeace, it backfired on them in a rather major way. The Police were not happy at resources having to be diverted at peak hour, and also gave Greenpeace a serve, which they tried to deflect - says Woodham:

"The police have blamed Greenpeace for tying up police resources which probably contributed to one of their officers getting assaulted. The Greenpeace spokeswoman has batted her baby blue eyes and insisted that the police presence was overkill and that there needn't have been so many there.
What complete rubbish. Greenpeace wants as many cops there as possible, because without a police presence and a bit of conflict, the media will ignore the organisation and, without media attention, Greenpeace would wither and die.
"


And I'll leave the last word to Kerre Woodham, if for no other reason than it sums up my feelings precisely, and I couldn't say it better than she does

"I'm fed up with the lot of them - and I couldn't agree more with one of my callers who reckoned they all needed a bloody great carbon footprint up their collective arses."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pass me a bucket......

Did anyone else see the Labour Party advertisement that masqueraded as a news story on 3 News tonight?

http://www.tv3.co.nz/News/NationalNews/SuaWilliamSiotobeLaboursnewestMP/tabid/423/articleID/50837/cat/64/Default.aspx#top

Talk about pandering to the PM!

It would seem that the message has been sent to the media that the PI vote is vital to Labour, and that Dear Leader is still expecting the TV channels to play their role in her re-election. 3 News will doubtless receive the PM's benifience, having given her a wonderful "feel-good" story tonight. However, I feel anything but good after watching such fawning - it was positively vomit-inducing!!

The Herald-Digipoll

Let's face it, there are going to be many, many more polls between now and the election, and the nature of the political beast lends itself to volatility. Still, I'm sure that Labour will take heart from the Herald-Digipoll result released today: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10500861

I hope that National, and John Key in particular are roused from their slumber by this result. Sure, you could argue that the MSM has given the government an easy ride in the last few weeks, and turned up the heat on Key, but Key and National need to understand that Labour won't hand them the Treasury benches on a plate. The right to govern has to be earned, and the good news for National is that even after a "bad news" moth, they could still govern alone - but only just.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Go The Hurricanes!!!

Inventory2 is off to the Cake Tin tonight to see the first really significant match of the rugby season. Mrs Inventory is a Canterbury lass, and Inventory Jnr supports the Crusaders as well, so there will be some rivalry within the Inventory whanau!

My tip - for what it's worth - the 'Canes are due to string a few passes together, and when they click, they're pretty much unstoppable. My only concern is that Steve Walsh will have the whistle, and Wellington fans know EXACTLY what that means!!! So - it's the Hurricanes for me, but not by much!

Global Warming - fact or fantasy?

I don't know about you people out there, but I'm just not convinced about Global Warming. The apparent paranoia from certain vocal sectors of society who fervently believe that life as we know it will shortly vanish beneath the rapidly rising ocean hasn't left me convinced. Maybe it should, seeing as the Inventory whare is only a couple of streets away from the Tasman Sea, but that's another story.

So it was with interest that I read on WhaleOil's blog this morning - http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/?q=content/oh-dear-election-policy-stuff-2735#comments - that a Stuff poll has totally debunked the myth that the spectacular collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf in anything more than a natural event. Now I know that these web-based polls aren't scientific, but this one has had almost 17,000 responses, of which an overwhelming 12,203 (73.6%) chose the answer "This is part of the planet's natural cycle", while 1304 (7.9%) chose "It's all a load of hot air".

If Labour, and their Green mates, are hanging their election prospects on the 18.5% of the population who believe that such events are a consequence of global warming, maybe they should be looking for new election strategists!

Hat-tip: WhaleOil

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cullen concedes defeat on tax cuts

We've always suspected trhat Michael Cullen's heart wasn't really in his "offer" of tax cuts, and he pretty much confirmed it yesterday. The Herald reports: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10500404

Conceding that he won't be able to match National, Cullen argues that "less is more". But true to form, it seems as though Cullen's hated tax cuts will be in place BEFORE the election. Then again, if he rolls Clark in the next couple of weeks, will all bets be off? Hmmmm..............

Meanwhile Paula Oliver has penned a piece on the alternative approaches and considerations of Cullen and English: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10500397

Oliver also highlights the dilemma that Cullen faces having damned National's proposed tax cuts in 2005 - read this:

"A sense of deja vu surrounds Finance Minister Michael Cullen's argument that public services will suffer to fund the tax cuts National will promise in this year's election.

It's the same argument Dr Cullen made against the tax cuts that National trumpeted in the 2005 election battle.

Remember the lines? National's plan was "just crazy" and people should think about how many teachers and nurses would have to be chopped to finance those cuts.

But this time, there is a glaringly obvious difference and it's one that could make it harder for Dr Cullen to convince the public.

The difference is that this time he, too, is going to deliver tax cuts."

Cullen's past precedes him. I'm sure that "chewing gum" will get a mention throughout the year!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mugabe "raises the dead"

3News had an interesting story on the forthcoming Zimbabwean presidential election tonight. Apparently the electoral rolls there are full of the names of the dead, who will, to a corpse, be voting for Mugabe - here's the link to the video: http://www.tv3.co.nz/News/WorldNews/Story/tabid/417/articleID/50516/cat/61/Default.aspx#top

Now we all know that Dear Leader is desperate for a fourth term at the helm, and we know that Cullen's war-chest will take a pounding as Labour looks for new things to spend your money and mine on, but grave-robbing? Then again ........ this is the crowd that passed the Electoral Finance Act - classic Mugabeism!

More bad news for the Government

First glance at this morning's Herald carries two stories that will be of more than passing concern to Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. Certainly, it's not news of the "relentlessly positive" variety that Dear Leader was going on about in January!

1) http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10500121

Consumer confidence dives to a 10-year low. In other words, people are feeling the least optimistic about New Zealand's economic prospects that they have throughout the entire course of Helen Clark's PM-ship. Seven months out from an election, that is not the news the government wants to be hearing. Meanwhile, Helen Clark continues to proclaim that the "person-in-the-street" is doing just fine thank you very much, which merely illustrates how out-of-touch she and her cohorts are.

2) http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10500117

House rentals are up by, on average, 7% as landlords feel the pinch from rising interest rates. As the rate of home ownership drops, and more people are reliant on rental accomodation, this is another kick in the wallet for the average punter on struggle street, who is already battling rising fuel prices, food prices etc etc. Again, bad news for the government so close to an election.

But wait, there's more!! The Herald also reminds us that the end of the golden weather, this wonderful summer that we have all enjoyed, is nigh: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10500118

Methinks it could be a "winter of discontent" for the Labour government!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baygate - The Hive on governance

The Hive has an interesting piece on Baygate today, exploring governance issues, and in particular, the relationship between Boards and CEO's. Here 'tis:

http://wellingtonhive.blogspot.com/2008/03/baygate-governance-turned-on-its-head.html

In the Baygate case, it has to be remembered that the CEO is employed by the District Health Board itself. The CEO is, in effect, the Board's only employee, as all the rest of the staff are ultimately responsible to the CEO. So the point that Queen Bee makes is a good one - does it matter if the CEO loses confidence in his Board? It seems to me as though this was an employer/employee relationship that went sour, and it is hardly surprising that it went sour given the lengths the CEO seems to have gone to to undermine the Board, ultimately contributing directly to its demise. David Cunliffe seems to have accepted everything that Chris Clarke said as gospel, but as anyone knows, there are two sides to every story, and Cunliffe is treading on dangerous ground if he made his sacking decision based on only half of the available information.

Back on-line

Mrs Inventory and I had a bit of a broadband meltdown over the weekend, but all is well now, and Keeping Stock is back in the blogosphere. I can't believe how "disconnected" we felt!! Rather like that classic old song "Big Yellow Taxi" - "you don't know what you got 'til it's gone". Anyway, all is well now, we're connected to the outside world, the PM has left the country, and all the back-room plotting can start in earnest!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Hive on Labour's woes

The Hive has an interesting piece this afternoon. Headed "Tide Retreats Too Far For Labour" it echoes my own thoughts, and the reactions that I am getting from people I associate with. Have a read here: http://wellingtonhive.blogspot.com/2008/03/tide-retreats-too-far-for-labour.html

The Hive's conclusion is that the personae of the Labour Party and Helen Clark have merged, and that the electorate has been alienated. They speculate that this is amplifying the negative reaction that Labour is currently experiencing.

How many Labour MP's are anxious about their futures? Is support for Helen Clark wavering within the Labour caucus? Can Labour win the election with Helen Clark as leader? Can they win the election WITHOUT Helen Clark as leader? The answers to these questions, and others, may well be answered when the PM climbs aboard a plane bound for China later in the week.

Hat-tip: The Hive

Who would have believed it?

Time will likely as not prove me wrong, but it is all New Zealand this morning in the series-deciding third test match at Napier today. Michael Vaughan seemed delighted to win the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat first, but the inexperienced Kiwi bowling attack has been all over the lads from Mother England like a cheap suit. As I type this, it's 36-4, with England's last pair of specialist batsmen at the crease.

One thing is for sure though. Whatever happens, England's Barmy Army will make their presence felt, both at McLean Park, and in the bars and restaurants of Napier. They have been welcome visitors to New Zealand this summer, and add much to the atmosphere of a day at the cricket.

UPDATE: England 150-6 at tea. New Zealand still well on top!

Armstrong - a sloppy ACT

John Armstrong gives ACT a bit of a serve for the handling of Roger Douglas's return to politics. Here's this morning's article: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10499481

Describing Thursday's press briefing as "sloppy tactical thinking", Armstrong says:

"If parading Sir Roger was supposed to help Act by pushing its brand, it was never going to help National. And Act needs to help National so there is a centre-right Government that Act can be part of.
Letting Sir Roger loose in front of the press at Parliament to talk up his radical prescription for change was like throwing a hand-grenade into a crate of explosives in the current political environment.
Why? Because rarely, if ever, has an election campaign been fought so early and so intently in election year. Labour is throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at National in the hope that John Key will crack under the pressure
."


Armstrong then turns his attention to John Key's response:

"Key was immediately put on the spot. Would he be torn between loyalty to a centre-right ally or preserving his party's support? It was no contest.
Key was forthright. National would not sell voters down the river by presenting itself as a pragmatic, moderate conservative party before the election only to run an Act-instigated far right agenda in Government afterwards. And no, Sir Roger would not be a member of his Cabinet.
It was a faultless display from the new "decisive" Key - but one once again made on the defensive
."


I'm sure that Act will be a part of negotiations post-election should National be looking to form a government. However Key has signalled that National's manifesto and agenda will underpin any negotiations, and the tail won't wag the dog.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Roy Morgan - March poll

The latest Roy Morgan poll is out, surveying the period March 3 to 16. Here's the full report:

http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2008/4280/

OK - let's check those dates out - March 3 to 16 - what's happened in that time? Cullen undermined the Auckland Airport sale, the House dealt with the fallout from the Hawke's Bay DHB sacking, and the media got stuck into John Key, taking their cue from the PM and her deputy, who coined the phrase "Slippery John". Helen Clark had several high-profile photo opportunities. John Key got pilloried by all and sundry. OK - that's just off the top of my head. The public percetion is that the last fortnight has been a good one for the government,and a bad one for National, especially its leader. Doubtless any poll taken in that time will reflect that perception. Yeah, right!

National is UP 1.5% to 51%; Labour is DOWN 1% to 34%, and the 17 point gap between the two major parties is restored. The Greens are down another .5% to 6.5%, their third successive drop, and closer than they would like to the 5% threshhold. New Zealand First is down 1% to 3%, and no-one else rates.

Worse news follows for Labour. The Government confidence index is down a massive 10.5 points, as is the Consumer Confidence index.

Gary Morgan says:

The drop in Consumer Confidence in New Zealand, down to a near record low of 106.6 should be a concern for Helen Clark. As well, the Opposition National Party has maintained its Election winning lead over the Government as the worsening economic conditions start to impact upon New Zealanders.

“The unhelpful comments this week by Finance Minister Michael Cullen, who gave voice to fears New Zealand may be headed for a recession, are clearly something the Government can do without as it attempts to claw back ground on the National Party heading towards the elections later in the year.

“The consistent lead the National Party has held over the past year means winning re-election for Helen Clark and her Government is her biggest challenge since becoming Prime Minister
.”


Oh dear. Methinks Michael Cullen and his supporters will be working the phones this Easter Weekend, as the Ides of April approach.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's all Parliament's fault!!!

There was an interesting exchange in the House yesterday as Bill English quizzed Annette King on the effects of the Electoral Finance Act. Check this out (my emphasis added):


"4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is she satisfied with the quality of advice provided by officials during the process of reviewing electoral law and the development of the Electoral Finance Act 2007; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : The Minister of Justice, in Cabinet, received advice from officials on various options relating to the reform of electoral finance laws over a long period that started in July 2006. The Justice and Electoral Committee also received a large amount of advice, as well as a number of submissions during its deliberations on the bill. At the end of the day the Electoral Finance Act 2007 reflects the decisions made by Parliament following consideration of the advice and submissions on the bill.
Hon Bill English: Has she read that part of the officials’ advice produced in July 2006 and released last week, which provided three options in respect of the length of the election period—to leave it at 3 months, to shorten it to writ day, or to shorten it to the day the Prime Minister announced the election date; if so, why did she think these options were wrong, and why did her Cabinet decide to make the regulated period the whole of election year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In relation to the question asked, this Parliament decided that the regulated period would be from 1 January 2007. This Parliament voted for that, by a majority. Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that all the official advice to Cabinet was to keep the regulated period at 3 months or less, that Cabinet decided, without any detailed consideration of the implications, to lengthen the regulated period to 12 months, and that that particular decision has been the cause of most of the problems that politicians of all parties are having in trying to apply the law that she passed?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Cabinet decided that it would line up New Zealand’s regulated period with some international standards, but, at the end of the day, it was this Parliament that decided. The National Party does not like the fact that it lost a democratic vote.

Hon Bill English: Did Cabinet give any consideration to the implications of extending the regulated period, or whether to get officials to advise Cabinet on the implications, such as those that have now arisen, which, for instance, create legal uncertainty about what is the legitimate activity of a member of Parliament in election year, and what would count as an electoral advertisement, which has gone to the ridiculous extent where the law has driven politicians to the ridiculous position that activities that are regarded as legitimate parliamentary activities will also count as an election advertisement, and will therefore have to carry an authorisation by someone who has nothing to do with Parliament?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think most members of Parliament who voted for the longer period took account of the fact that the National Party, during the 2005 election campaign, spent millions of dollars before the 3-month period started, and that National, when that member was the leader of that party, put up hoardings around New Zealand before the regulated period—all aimed at ensuring that National would not be caught by the 3-month rule. National carried out a rort then, and it does not like the fact that one has to be clearer now about what one is doing
."



So Labour doesn't accept any of the fallout from the EFA debacle, and the "paralysis" that various parties are presently experiencing over the legitimacy or otherwise of their spending. No, it's all Parliament's fault. So let's just do a memory exercise - here are the voting figures for the third reading of what was then the EFB - straight fromthe Daily Journal of the House, Tuesday 18 December 2007:


"Electoral Finance Bill, Broadcasting Amendment Bill (No 3), and Electoral Amendment Bill
Hon Annette King moved, and the question was proposed, That the Electoral Finance Bill, Broadcasting Amendment Bill (No 3), and Electoral Amendment Bill be now read a third time.
On the question, That the bills be now read a third time, the votes were recorded as follows:
Ayes 63
New Zealand Labour 49; New Zealand First 7; Green Party 6; Progressive 1
Noes 57
New Zealand National 48; Māori Party 4; United Future 2; ACT New Zealand 2; Independent: Field
The bills were read a third time
."



Oh look! The third reading debate was moved and led by Annette King!! Methinks she is making a very weak case for collective Parliamentary responsibility on the part of the 57/121 (47.11%) enlightened MP's who opposed the passage of this insidious piece of legislation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Annette King and dirty tricks

Annette King has been especially vocal in thelast couple of days about what she claims is a campaign of dirty tricks to get at her over the Baygate scandal. This morning's Dominion-Post suggests that a campaign of dirty tricks is indeed underway, but it seems that Annette King might just be the "tricker" rather than the "trickee" - have a read of this: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4444352a6000.html

The article alleges that King wrote to a senior staff member after that person told Ray Lind that rumours were circulating about him having an affair. The letter was allegedly hand-delivered to CEO Chris Clarke by, wait for it........ Ray Lind, Chief Operating Officer of the DHB, and husband of Annette King.

Annette King denies the allegations, and counter-attacks, shooting the messenger:

"When questioned about the letter yesterday, she refused to confirm it existed, claiming the suggestion was part of a "dirty tricks" campaign. Ms King said "a search of our database shows that no such ministerial letter exists".
"I predicted last week that a dirty tricks campaign would be launched against my husband and myself. Are you part of it?" she said in an e-mail.
Asked directly if she had written any type of letter to Ms Parisi, Ms King ignored the question, saying: "I am not prepared to continue with a charade in which you engage on a course of muck-raking under the guise of journalism - just as was predicted by me last week."
Ms King has volunteered to reporters that her husband had been the target of rumours that he had had an affair, saying on Sunday that she was "getting in first" in response to the rumours
."


If these allegations can be proven, King is in deep trouble. If she doesn't stand down from the Police portfolio until the complaints made at the weekend are resolved, Helen Clark must act, and soon.

Grumpy Old Geezers

OK - I 'fess up. I probably am a Grumpy Old Geezer. I certainly get grumpy. And old? Well, Mrs Inventory still dines out on the tale about when we took my now-departed Mum out for lunch a few years back, and they offered me lunch at Senior Citizen's rate! But until this morning, I hadn't caught up with www.gog.org.nz - the Grumpy Old Geezers website - so a big ups to WhaleOil.

And what did I find there? Well, the lead story this morning is about David Cunliffe, so naturally I read on. And by the time they'd called him "Czar Cunliffe" and "Controller Cunliffe", I was starting to think that these were my kind of geezers! Geezers who say what they believe, and say it in words that you don't have to be an academic to understand.

So, if you too are a Grumpy Old Geezer of either gender, kick back, make yourself a cuppa, and enjoy.........http://www.gog.org.nz/2008/03/18/this-message-may-seriously-harm-your-health/

Hat-tip: WhaleOil

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monopoly Economy

I remember it well, from the old version of Monopoly - it was a Community Chest card which began "Bank error in your favour...". Well, it seems as though Michael Cullen drew that card out of the stack today...

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10498857

Treasury and IRD officials have confirmed a scarcely-believable $600m error in the government accounts announced the other day. Cullen says that the error was "serious" and "unacceptable".

I'm willing to bet we won't see a cent of it in tax cuts though!

Dom-Post Editorial on Baygate

The Dominion-Post editorial this morning pours cold water on David Cunliffe's elation at the release of the Baygate report yesterday - http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4443118a26494.html - it begins:

"It will be the fervent hope of Health Minister David Cunliffe and Director General of Health Stephen McKernan that the report, released yesterday, into conflicts of interest at the Hawke's Bay District Health Board ends speculation about why Mr Cunliffe sacked the former board and appointed a commissioner to run health services in the region. It is a hope that is doomed to disappointment, writes The Dominion Post."

But wait, there's more, as the leader writer goes on to comment on the shortcomings of the report:

"The report makes no comment on the wisdom of former health minister Annette King appointing Mr Hausmann, the managing director of a company with significant interests in the health sector to the board, no comment on the wisdom of board staff giving Mr Hausmann a tender document ahead of rival bidders for a district health board contract and no comment on the appropriateness of the board's former chief operating officer Ray Lind, Mrs King's husband and now an employee of Mr Hausmann's company, secretly recording a meeting with the whistleblower who first questioned the appropriateness of an e-mail from Mr Hausmann to a staff member.

Mr Wilson says that is because the focus of the review was governance. But given the disquiet created by the sacking of the board just 72 days after it was elected, the existence of a substantially different draft report, the contents of which the National Party has begun dripfeeding in Parliament but which The Dominion Post has been prevented from reporting by lawyers acting on behalf of the director-general of health and Mr Hausmann, and the relatively narrow focus of the inquiry, the report will not be the end of the matter.

The board was clearly remiss in its handling of conflicts of interests. Quite possibly it deserved to be dismissed. But the wider question of whether or not Mr Hausmann should ever have been appointed to the board has not been addressed. Nor has management's role in the debacle."

And the editorial closes with a message to David Cunliffe that the Hawkes Bay Labour MP's (all from Labour's list - none elected) will be dreading:

"Mr Cunliffe has achieved the remarkable feat of uniting public opinion in the Hawke's Bay on a health issue, but it is not a feat for which his Labour colleagues will thank him. There is a sense of aggrievement in Hawke's Bay and it is not a sense that will be assuaged by a report into some, but not all, the causes of the health board's troubles.

The region has been poorly served by the board, board staff and government ministers.The only beneficiaries are the National MPs campaigning to retain the Napier and Tukituki electorates later this year."

It is a given that Chris Tremain and Craig Foss will be returned to Parliament with increased majorities. What will be really interesting will be the effect to Labour on its Party vote in the Hawke's Bay, and in provincial New Zealand as a whole, as voters send a message to the destroyers of democracy.

"Weasel Words"

The Dom-Post is leading with deposed DHB Chairman Kevin Atkinson's reaction to the Baygate report - here 'tis: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4443146a6000.html

Atkinson condemns the report, describing it as a "whitewash" and "weasel words", calls on the Auditor-General to investigate, and condemns the narrow terms of reference:

"But Mr Atkinson accused the review panel of misunderstanding how conflicts of interest were managed and said it "appears to imply that Mr Hausmann acted in a way that was normal for our board".
"They seem to say this sort of conduct was endorsed by the board and the chair and that was why when Hausmann walked into this environment he didn't declare his interests properly. I totally disagree with that.
"I've got sufficient corporate experience to know how to manage conflicts of interest. The process we used was robust and sound."
Mr Atkinson said the report should have considered former health minister Annette King's decision to appoint Mr Hausmann as well as the conduct of management, especially chief executive Chris Clarke.
"After all, it was management that allowed Peter Hausmann to gain the advantages he did through those negotiations."
"


Indeed, the role of the CEO, Chris Clarke should have been put under the microscope. Why wasn't it?

John Armstrong on Baygate

John Armstrong has obviously taken heed of all Helen Clark's veiled criticisms of the Herald as being a right wing rag. His piece this morning will bring a smile to Dear Leader's face as her hubby brings her the cuppa, straight from the microwave - here 'tis: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10498776

What Armstrong overlooks is that the review team made the only finding it was able to make. And that the review team made excatly the finding that it was INTENDED to make, due to the narrow terms of reference under which it was commissioned.

In closing, Armstrong says:

"While Cunliffe can claim to have been vindicated, King, however, cannot claim to have been cleared by the report in terms of the wisdom of appointing Hausmann to the board.
Determining that it was outside the scope of its terms of reference, the panel rejected the board's request to examine King's role.
Much to Labour's relief, the report should go a long way towards killing off the whole sorry business as a political issue outside the boundaries of the Hawkes Bay DHB."


That may please Helen, But unfortunately for Helen, for David, and for Annette, this "whole sorry business" is not going to be killed off by a report which reached a pre-determined conclusion. There are many, many questions remaining unanswered. Keeping Stock will continue to ask those questions, especially those which arrive via unsolicited e-mails!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Baygate Report

The Baygate report has been released this afternoon.

The Herald's take on it is here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10498690

Stuff has this to say: http://www.stuff.co.nz/4443044a10.html

Meanwhile, Tukituki MP Craig Foss is predicting that the Health Ministry will bail out the cash-strapped DHB to the tune of $3 to $5m of your money and mine, after which time it be "nothing to see here, move on...". Read his blog post here: http://craigfossmp.blogspot.com/2008/03/hbdhb-prediction.html

More on this later - meantime, who will break ranks and release the REAL report?

UPDATE: Here's the link to the full report - http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagesmh/7526/$File/hbdhb-report-mar08.pdf - at 190 pages, it will make good bedtime reading for anyone with insomnia!!

And WhaleOil is doing a clause-by-clause analysis (he's a tiger for punishment!), and his conclusions thus far are here, with lots of unanswered questions: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/?q=content/hbdhb-report-part-1#comment-11867

EPMU running interference

OK, we all know that today is the day that the Director-General will release the report into allegations of conflicts of interest at the Hawke's Bay DHB. Now that the TV channels are starting to cover the story - very superficially, it must be said - the government will want attention diverted elsewhere. So we get this: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10498589

Andrew Little, EPMU head honcho and aspiring Labour Party leader has made a telling run in front of the ball-carrier (pardon the rugby analogy), so that the tacklers can't get to Helen Clark and David Cunliffe. And is this a surprise? Of course not! In fact WhaleOil broke the story on Saturday that his sources had passed on to him that this was a 9th Floor strategy. Just as Cullen's announcement over asset sales threw the newshounds off the scent two weeks ago, Andrew Little has obediently done his bit for the cause. However, Inventory2 has refereed plenty of rugby in his time, and is reaching for the yellow card as we speak!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Should King stand aside?

Two members of the sacked Hawkes Bay District Health Board have laid a complaint with the police over the conflict of interest allegations surrounding Peter Hausmann, and other matters, including the actions of health board officers, and the e-mails recovered by forensic examination of back-up tapes.

Given that some of these allegations involve her husband, and all involve her husband's employer, Annette King must stand down from the Police portfolio to preserve the integrity of any investigation, and remove any inference of political interference in the police's work.

Please, I want your views on this, so register your vote. Should King stand aside?

Baygate - whitewash?

Fran O'Sullivan has penned an interesting piece in this morning's Herald on Sunday

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10498432&pnum=0

She raises the question as to whether Peter Hausmann has compromised the report, due out tomorrow, which he says will vindicate him. I have a few questions of my own.

* How would he know that the report "vindicates him"?
* Has he or his legal team already seen the report?
* Given the snide comments that he has made in the House about "smoking guns" and who they are pointed at, has David Cunliffe already seen the report?
* How can a report, which in its first draft was so criticial of Hausmann's involvement - "There were significant barriers to a vendor other than Healthcare New Zealand succeeding with the proposal. Healthcare New Zealand and Peter Hausmann, on the other hand, knew what was required as it had seen the February 2005 board paper, which set out what the Hawke's Bay District Health Board wanted." (as per Hansard, 13/3/08) - change so much in its final form, that Hausmann now claims to be exonerated?
* Has the review team also considered submissions from the Board, and was any weight given to them?

So many questions, so few answers. Methinks Baygate will be around for a while yet.

UPDATE: The Hive has blogged about my post this morning - http://wellingtonhive.blogspot.com/2008/03/baygate.html - indeed, I had not read the Sunday Star Times before I posted this morning, but I will be very shortly!! It is good to see the print media asking questions of the government over Baygate, and maybe the TV news will get to it eventually!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

1990 Revisited?

Fran O'Sullivan has a thought-provoking piece in this morning's Herald. Check it out here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10498259&pnum=0

Adding to her comparison last week of Michael Cullen to Sir Robert Muldoon, O'Sullivan refers to the current spend-up by Labour as a "21st century "Think Big", then says:

"Put the 2008 projects on top of Finance Minister Michael Cullen's earlier moves to bring Air New Zealand back into majority Government ownership, launch the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and KiwiSaver and invest strongly in Auckland's transport infrastructure and a clear picture emerges of a Government intent on leaving its political legacy by spending up large.
All Labour needs to do now is repeat its 2005 election scenario by offering new voter bribes - such as abolishing student fees and reducing the student loan debt burden for graduates struggling to buy houses - and its political brand will be sufficiently differentiated from National, offering a clear choice at the election
."


And it is here that the significance of my "1990 Revisited?" title comes in. O'sullivan again:

"In 1990, the then Labour Government left the Treasury coffers so bare that an incoming National Government was forced to rescind its own big budget policies and slash spending to redress a fiscal crisis.
The effect of Cullen's big spending strategy will be to reduce the fiscal options available to future Governments. The upshot will be that National will also come under pressure to say what programmes it will cut to fund its own policies
."


A little over a month ago I penned a thread after Helen Clark tried to play the hackneyed old "John Key has a secret agenda" card, and referred to the 1991 "Mother of all Budgets" - today, it's worth a link: http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/02/hollow-woman.html

Let us be in no doubt that members of the current Labour administration were in senior positions when the tide went out on Labour in 1990. Those ministers colluded to sabotage the incoming National government, and it seems as though nothing has changed 18 years on.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Baygate - the deposed Board speaks out

Another day, another unsolicited e-mail from the sunny Hawke's Bay. The sacked Hawke's Bay DHB expects nothing more than a fresh coat of whitewash when the Baygate report is released on Monday. This straight from my in-box:


14 March 2008
News release

HAWKE’S BAY HEALTH BOARD REPORT EXPECTED TO BE A “WHITEWASH”

The former board members of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board expect the review panel’s report, due out on Monday, will be a “whitewash”.

Based on comments made to date, both inside and outside Parliament, they suspect the report will fail to address many of the key issues and ignore evidence given in the Board members’ submissions.
Comments made under Parliamentary privilege this week indicated that the final report will be radically different from the first draft.

“This whole process reeks of political interference,” the former Board members said today.

“Based on comments made by Mr Hausmann earlier today, it appears that he has been given advance notice of some of the report’s content. It now seems clear that this exercise has been nothing more than a drawn-out, pointless, whitewash,” the former Board members said.

“There seems little doubt now that the only way the public will get full disclosure and accountability on this matter is for the Auditor General to investigate. We will continue to ask him to do just that.”

The purpose of the report was to review the conflict of interest concerns surrounding Government-appointed Board member Peter Hausmann and the way in which the Board, the chief executive and senior managers handled those conflicts.

“We’ve always maintained that the conduct of Mr Hausmann, chief executive Chris Clarke and certain senior managers in managing the conflicts of interest was, and remains, unacceptable for a publicly accountable entity,” said the former Board members.
- ends -

More from McCully

Murray McCully's weekly e-mail again devotes a large amount of space to Baygate, with the release of the independant review team's final report scheduled for Monday. No commentary from me on this one - McCully pretty much says it all!!


The Great Hawkes Bay DHB Cover-Up

These people never learn. Appointing an internal enquiry designed to deliver a cover-up never works. Such was the case with the “Lie in Unison” affair at the Department of Labour, when an internal white-wash found everybody innocent, but a subsequent Ombudsman’s enquiry laid the whole sorry cover-up out for all to see. And with the Ingram enquiry into the actions of Taito Phillip Field, which Helen Clark defended month after month before serious Police charges made a mockery of the whole process. Now, a so-called “independent review” appointed by the Director General of Health is due to report on conflict of interest issues at the Hawkes Bay District Health Board (DHB) next Monday. And the process has been so flawed that a subsequent independent report from the Auditor General is almost mandatory.

Just consider the following facts, and draw the obvious conclusions:

- Faced with allegations that previous Health Minister Annette King appointed an individual to the Hawkes Bay DHB who was also attempting to negotiate a multi-million dollar contract with that DHB, the Government refused to have an independent enquiry, insisting instead that the Director General of Health would appoint an enquiry team.
- The Director General of Health advises the Minister, reports to the Minister and depends upon a good assessment from the Minister to keep their job and get paid their bonus.
- The enquiry team produced a draft report last November. Suspiciously, the next draft was produced early this year containing “substantial changes”. How do we know this? Because that is the phrase used to describe the changes by High Court Justice Mallon in granting an injunction to the Director General of Health, and the contractor/board member Peter Hausmann and his company, Healthcare of New Zealand.
- Even more suspiciously, the Hawkes Bay DHB members were given only three days to comment on these substantial changes. So they issued proceedings to ask the High Court to give them a reasonable chance to respond.
- They were promptly sacked by the Minister David Cunliffe.
- A Commissioner (Sir John Anderson) was appointed, who very conveniently withdrew the legal challenge, thus denying the Court the chance to rule on the unreasonable approach of the review team.
- The Minister will release the substantially changed report on Monday.

A copy of draft one of the enquiry team (before the “substantial changes”) apparently came into the hands of the Dominion Post. They were promptly injuncted by Director General of Health, Hausmann and Healthcare NZ (is there a small clue about who benefited from the “substantial changes” to be found in the make-up of that unlikely tag team?).

Pressed for assurances that version one of the report (subject to the injunction) would be released with the final report on Monday, Cunliffe declined. So National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall quoted from version one of the report in Parliament this week. And it is now a reasonable assumption that the rest of version one will see the light of day at the appropriate time.

Unfortunately all of the indicators point towards another of the classic cover-ups for which the Clark Government is now famous. Sadly, the Minister having sacked the board and aborted any High Court imposition of fairness, the independent office of the Auditor-General may yet again be the only means of the truth being revealed. But never fear, Her Majesty’s Loyal and Very Determined Opposition is on the case.

Ryall in attack mode on Baygate

The Herald is this morning reporting on a pretty significant development in the House yesterday. Of course, if you relied on the TV news to keep you informed, you'd have missed this story, but Paula Oliver seems to be on the case. Have a read of this: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10498102

The "big issue" here is not the content of the document that Ryall quoted from. Rather, it is the fact that the government, via the Director-General of Health has sought to have this first copy of the inquiry report suppressed because it is "materially different" to the report that will be released on Monday. Ryall's first quotation from the leaked copy of the interim report provoked an exchange of points-of-order as below:

"4. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Will the director-general’s inquiry into the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board cover the role of management in dealing with conflicts of interest; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : For the information of the member, I was asked the same question yesterday by Heather Roy, to which I replied: “Although the draft review and the final review are, I am told, a matter of governance, the relationship between a board and its senior management team is no doubt relevant.” None the less, I fully expect the member to continue his desperate attempts to undermine an independent review.
Hon Tony Ryall: Would the Minister be concerned to hear that leaked findings of the review team’s version one report say: “There were significant barriers to a vendor other than Healthcare New Zealand succeeding with the proposal. Healthcare New Zealand and Peter Hausmann, on the other hand, knew what was required as it had seen the February 2005 board paper, which set out what the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board wanted.”?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Of course, the difference between the member and me is that he thinks he has the report and I do not, because he is violating Speakers’ ruling 32/4, which says that he should exercise his privileges only in exceptional circumstances, not to protect his cronies.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is unacceptable that a Minister can get up and say that a question is outside the Standing Orders. If it is outside the Standing Orders, he should take a point of order and ask the Speaker to rule. That was not an answer to a question.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister made reference to a Speakers’ ruling, and I have made reference to that Speakers’ ruling in the past on matters related to this one. For the benefit of those who are interested, I advise it is Speakers’ ruling 32/4. Of course members’ rights to freedom of speech in this House are not curtailed, but members are reminded in the Speakers’ ruling that it is only in exceptional circumstances that they would go against a court order. However, it is, at the end of the day, in the judgment of the individual member as to what he or she says or does.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am concerned that your ruling may have given the impression that a member has gone against the court order. That is not in fact the case. In fact, the court order concerned quite explicitly says it does not cover the fair reporting of statements made in Parliament. So there is no question here of an MP using privilege to breach a court order; the court order does not apply in this circumstance.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I was not making that implication, at all; I was merely reiterating to members a ruling that has been made before. It is for members to decide whether it applies.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister should answer the question without reference to the cover of your previous ruling, which does not apply in this case.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, if he wishes to. I think he had two parts to his answer, as I recall it. But does the Minister wish to readdress the question?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Continuing from the previous answer, I was asked the same question yesterday, and I said then in my answer that the report, I am told, was on matters of governance but may include the relationship between the board and the management team. I would invite the member, if he is confident that his material does not breach a court order, to read the same material out in the corridor after question time.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In his previous answer the Minister made a remark that I believe is unparliamentary. He alleged that a member of Parliament was using the privilege of the House to “protect his cronies”—those are the words he said. I believe those words are quite unparliamentary. I have never heard that allegation made before. The member is not actually using privilege, in any case, and the Minister should be required to withdraw that allegation.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think this particular line of questioning over some weeks has been accompanied by direct statements from that member, and certainly from other members on the National front bench, about the protection of cronies and, indeed, other people. It is a little rich to now raise the issue when somebody on this side has used the phrase.
Hon Bill English: It was the Minister’s allegation that a member was using privilege. Now, the use of privilege in this Parliament is something that we all take seriously, and I will repeat what I said before. I have not heard the accusation made in this Parliament before that an MP is using privilege to protect his or her cronies. In fact, the statement is wrong; the member is not doing something that requires privilege. The Minister should be asked to withdraw his allegation that privilege has been used for some kind of self-interest.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Everything said in this Parliament is subject to parliamentary privilege. If one cannot say that, then one cannot even use the phrase “protecting cronies” in regard to almost anything else. The fact is that what is said in this House is privileged, and members use that on occasions to say things that, if they said them outside the House, they would be subject to legal sanction for.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker, we are in great danger here, if you are to accede to Mr English’s request, of so restraining the rights of members of Parliament as to in fact end up with an abuse of our rights, which we have had since 1688. Just because Mr English is sensitive about some things, that is no reason for you to tighten the Standing Orders. But, more important, Mr Ryall has been invited countless times to go outside this House and say what he has said here. The fact that he does not do so might add some substance as to whether we should believe him.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank members for their contributions. I shall reserve my ruling on this matter, because it is obviously one of some importance to everyone. Now, can we proceed?"



The Speaker's ruling on this will be awaited with interest by many. In the meantime, Paula Oliver's article reveals that the ongoing saga has forced Peter Hausmann to break his silence. The Herald reports:

"Mr Hausmann has said very little as the review into the management of his conflict of interest has proceeded, but after yesterday's events in Parliament he issued a statement which went far further than he has previously.

In it, Mr Hausmann said he had faced "inaccurate, incorrect and unsubstantiated criticism" relating to his role on the board.

He said he was confident the review panel's final report would vindicate him and clearly explain his position.

Mr Hausmann said that when he was appointed to the board he was "horrified" to find it was "not a professional operation at all".

"Instead, it was a place where some board members were board members were behaving poorly towards very competent management and medical staff.""

Two questions - does Mr Hausmann expect the report to "vindicate him" because it will say what he asked asked the review team to say? And when he talks about "board members were behaving poorly towards very competent management and medical staff", does he include himself in that number?

Cunliffe's blood pressure

Had to laugh at this little piece in the Herald this morning:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10498101

Apparently David Cunliffe's blood pressure was elevated at the end of Question Time yesterday - I'm not one to wish ill on anyone, but if Cunliffe ever DID need hospital treatment, I just hope for his sake it wasn't north of the harbour bridge!

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/organisation/story.cfm?o_id=236&objectid=10497750

Winston - from poodle to hippo.....

Now let me make myself clear - not for one moment am I suggesting that the Rt Hon Winston Peters has somehow morphed into Africa's deadliest mammal. No, the point I'm making is that our esteemed Minister of Foreign Affairs displayed hypocricy of the highest order in the House yesterday.

"Tell us more" the people chorused! OK - this from Hansard yesterday, during a question from Tony Ryall on conflicts of interest and the HBDHB (my emphasis added):

"Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker, we are in great danger here, if you are to accede to Mr English’s request, of so restraining the rights of members of Parliament as to in fact end up with an abuse of our rights, which we have had since 1688. Just because Mr English is sensitive about some things, that is no reason for you to tighten the Standing Orders. But, more important, Mr Ryall has been invited countless times to go outside this House and say what he has said here. The fact that he does not do so might add some substance as to whether we should believe him."

Now many of you will remember the Winebox saga - Winston's lone crusade against the evils of big business, especially Messrs Fay and Richwhite, darlings of the fourth Labour government. Winston made all manner of allegations in the House under the cover of Parliamentary privilege, but seldom, if ever, did he repeat those allegations beyond the protected confines of the Debating Chamber - and with good reason - many of his allegations were proved baseless.

But wait, as the TV hucksters say (a good analogy?), there's more! A later supplementary question:

"Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister not ask Mr Ryall to table the information from which he is reading—which is clearly improperly obtained—so that all the rest of the members of this House and the public can know what on earth he is talking about; would he simply ask that question now and seek leave for that to happen?"

Winston revelled in the Winebox saga. He hinted for weeks, months, that he had a treasure trove of documents which would incriminate many. And week after week he was told to "put up or shut up" and table his evidence. Did he? In a word - no! Well, at least not until he had milked the Winebox for all he was worth. All of which makes his demands to Tony Ryall yesterday hypocricy of the highest order.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I don't like cricket - I love it!

Early start this morning, as I am about to head off to Wellington for a day at the Basin Reserve watching the mighty New Zealand XI deal to Mother England again - then again, I've followed NZ cricket long enough to know that one swallow doesn't make a summer!!

So it'll be a light day of blogging from me, but don't let that stop you! I'm still taking your opinions on Cullen's deputy when he rolls Clark in a few weeks - and don't be afraid to think outside the square!!

http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/03/cullens-deputy.html

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chris Clarke speaks.....

Something arrived in my e-mail in-box today. Something from the Hawke's Bay District Health Board. It is in fact a staff newsletter, penned by CEO Chris Clarke upon his triumphant return to his role after a short period of "stress leave", during which time, conveniently, the major source of his stress, the DHB which employs him was radically excised by the Surgeon General, aka David Cunliffe, Minister of Health. Clearly all is well at the HBDHB, at least in the opinion of the CEO. Read this, and make your own judgement.

"Greetings, Kia Ora, Talofa Lava, Kia Orana, Malo e Lelei, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Selamat Pagi, Mabuhay, Guten Tag , Goeie Dag, Dobar Dan, Namaste
"MOVING FORWARD"
It is great to be back and having spent last Thursday with our new Commissioner Sir John Anderson, and his Deputy Brian Roche, I am confident our organisation's governance is in very good hands and that we will benefit considerably from the experience, wisdom and humanity that they both bring to their roles. The day started with a very moving powhiri and Sir John spoke of his roots here in Hawke's Bay. He said his role as Commissioner was not to "slash and burn" but to work with management to build the nation's best practice DHB. Throughout the day he repeatedly described best practice as a focus on the health of our community, high quality and safe services, empowered staff and a community that has pride in its health services. Sir John believes that if we are up to the challenge, we need no more than two years to achieve that goal. Brian and he are offering their full support to management to realise that ambition. At the final session of the day they both commented that having spent a day in the DHB - they are confident the DHB does not need to be "fixed"but rather it needs to be "unleashed" to be allowed to move forward. They want us to reaffirm our values especially to work together across organisation and professional boundaries. They also want to see a more agile organisation - faster decision making, less paper, fewer meetings and more action. They commented that our financial situation is a real concern but from their experience of helping turn around many other organisations, the only way to approach it is to first understand what is driving our finances rather than leaping to quick-fix solutions that often end up compounding the situation. They commented that if we are serious about best practice we have to build a culture of accountability and not blame, we need to focus, we need to be open to new ideas and always committed to doing the right thing no matter what. Repeatedly Sir John spoke about the importance of leadership, and in particular empowering health professional leadership. He quoted Dr Ian Brown (newly appointed Clinical Monitor at Capital and Coast) who has commented that you get real change when you give the resources and the accountability to health professionals. Both Sir John and Brian made it very clear that they are not interested in looking back, that the current media furore is a distraction and that all our efforts should be directed towards moving forward. Folks - change is in the air, the bar has been raised and it's up to us to rise to the challenge.
YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU WILL ENTERTAIN AN ANGEL
One of my early childhood memories is of a Sunday School Teacher who used to encourage us to show concern for others, "for you never know when you will entertain an angel". Well in this case it was Commissioners, rather than angels, but the point is the same. On walking into my office Sir John's opening comment was "Chris you have an organisation to be proud of". He told me how they had turned up at the front desk of the Hospital asking to see the CEO. He explained that a lovely woman who had no idea who they were, told them to come with her and she walked them across the campus to my office chatting all the way about how she was proud to work for the DHB and what a great place it was. Thank you ….. Jacqui Eathorne you did us all proud. Well done and a bouquet of flowers is coming your way from all of us!
THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY?
Much of the media outcry over the sacking of the Board has focused on the supposed death of democracy. An early priority for the Commissioner is to appoint two additional Assistant Commissioners from Hawke's Bay. He is also considering what the best Committee structures to support the Commissioners are. He has tasked me with rebuilding community confidence in the DHB and strengthening our consultation processes.
ACCUSATIONS AGAINST THE CEO
Reading Hawke's Bay Tabloid and listening to Parliament you would be forgiven for thinking the CEO really got into some dodgy stuff a couple of years ago and then to cover his tracks colluded to roll the Board. Along the way he picked up a free world trip as an inducement to sign a contract and plays fast and hard with the DHB's money. To date I have resisted the urge to respond to these increasingly salacious accusations, largely because the Review Report is imminent (publicly released on 17 March) and because I know that by responding it merely prolongs the media attention and we descend into an even more unedifying squabble. Nonetheless, leadership stands or falls on the integrity and competence of our leaders. If we lose trust in the integrity of our leaders they lose their moral mandate to lead on our behalf. Therefore, following the release of the Independent Review Report on 17 March I will be doing a series of staff briefings and will happily answer any questions you may have about my alleged involvement in any of these issues. In the meantime, I have been fielding a lot of questions from staff and others concerned about some of the statements being made in the media this week. While I am not able to comment on a number of issues until after the full report into conflict of interests is released on 17 March, I can respond to some of the misinformation: A $50 million contract? There has been a great deal of talk about a $50 million contract, which is at the heart of a lot of the allegations and innuendo. There never was a contract. Instead we ran a RFP process to find one or more strategic partners to work with us to help develop our future planning for community services.
The $342,000 Legal Bill
Yes, the DHB is required to cover costs incurred while the Board were acting in their lawful capacity as Board Members. The $342,000 being discussed last week in the media is part of that cost and was authorised by the Board's Audit Committee. Any costs incurred by former Board members since they were removed from their positions will not be authorised. WellcareContract The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the DHB did enter into a contract with Wellcare (a subsidiary of Healthcare New Zealand (HCNZ)), to train community care givers. There has been a suggestion that the DHB colluded with Peter Hausmann to award him the contract. The facts are that the MSD chose Wellcare from a number of different providers and the DHB took no part in that decision other than introducing the MSD to Wellcare. My supposed world trip Apparently as an inducement to sign a contract with Peter Hausmann, I was offered a free around the world trip - aka "Study Tour". Again the facts are somewhat less exciting. HCNZ did propose that a team of CEOs and clinicians go on an overseas trip to see developments in community services as it was acknowledged that NZ is well behind other countries in developing home based services. HCNZ's proposal was for a 'pay your own trip', .... and it certainly never happened.
Are there Lessons for Management?
Absolutely, there are lessons for management and I would have been very surprised if there were none, particularly as the areas under review involved working in new ways with other government agencies and with the private sector. I wrote a paper last year on what I thought those lessons were. Here is an extract from that paper.
3.0 The Lessons - so we get it better next time
I see 9 lessons for management:
1 Ethics, Contracting, Probity and Procurement Policies
2 Contracting for Innovations
3 Board Reporting
4 Managing the Governance Boundary
5 Conflict Resolution and Stakeholder Engagement
6 Assisting Board members to identify and manage their conflicts of Interest
7 Integration of Legal Advice
8 Board Policies and Procedures
9 Sharing the Learnings

Other Questions

As always I am happy to answer any of your questions. Until the final report is released I do need to respect the process and avoid pre-empting or compromising the review team's work. I would, however, find it helpful if you have any questions you want answered to flick me an email. I will start collating them and once the report is released will be happy to answer them through the CEO News and at the Staff Briefings.
A POSTSCRIPT
The question I am getting asked the most is "what do we say to people who ask us what is going on at the DHB?" My suggestion is that you say we are all looking forward to the release of the Independent Review report on 17 March 2008, that until then we are just getting on with doing what we always do - caring for our community and patients, working together, making a difference in the lives of others and nurturing a passion for learning. These are our four organisational values and our best retort to any challenges thrown our way.
Thank you all for a great week back. It's great to be your CEO again.
Kind regards
Chris "

Interesting that Clarke is "suggesting" to staff what to say when asked what is going on at the DHB. Clearly, there are more than a few people who don't find his "suggestion" to have a lot of merit!

The Jaunt - value or waste?

As would be expected, there's been a lot of hot air released over the jaunt to Europe masquerading as the Speaker's Tour, due to fly off (business class, of course) at the end of April. It is, or course, a bad look for both National and Labour, but I'm a little surprised that no-one seems to have singled out Peter Brown, given that his leader is dead-set against New Zealand First receiving any "baubles of office"! Maybe Winston has come around to the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy!

Meanwhile, the Dom-Post has put the boot in this morning with their editorial - here 'tis: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4435148a26494.html

The closing paragraph sums it all up nicely:

" It is entirely fit and proper for politicians to recognise the contributions of colleagues when they depart Parliament. But they should do so by reaching into their own pockets and buying them a silver platter, not by reaching into taxpayers' pockets and shouting them an overseas trip."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Listener II

Here for all to see, courtesy of WhaleOil - the Listener article that blows the lid on allegations of conflict of interest, dubious management practices, dodgy e-mails and much more at the Hawke's Bay DHB.

http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/Files/HBDHB_Listener_March_2008.pdf

I know that I've gone on and on about this issue, and I don't want to be a hypocrite when I accuse Tane & Co at The Standard of doing likewise with the John Key "cut your wages" beat-up - but I strongly believe that this is a major credibility issue for the government. All I'll say tonight is read the article, and decide for yourself if the allegations being made around the blogs have any substance.

Feel free to comment or critique!

Hat-tip: WhaleOil

Cullen's Deputy?

The Hive is playing a great little game this afternoon - name the deputy when Michael rolls Helen at the start of April - here's the rules: http://wellingtonhive.blogspot.com/2008/03/who-will-cullens-deputy-be.html

Ok - I'll happily accept the advice of my sage and canny readers. But must it be a woman? Wouldn't Rainbow Labour demand a gay Deputy? Wouldn't the unions insist on a "brother" (or a "sister")? This could be harder than first thought!

Please, tell me what you think! Democracy will prevail, failing that apathy rules ok? We'll run this for a week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Listener on Baygate

Kiwiblog commenter first time caller posted tonight "Hi all. Go check out the latest Listener. It has a very comprehensive article on exactly what’s been going on at the HBDHB" - so off to the shop I went.

At last! Finally!! Somebody in the MSM (I still regard The Listener as MSM) has devoted some serious space to this festering issue, and finally, it will get some traction in the public arena. The Listener article is based around an interview with Deborah Houston, an administrator at the Hawke's Bay DHB, who was filling in as Chris Clarke's PA on the day the now-infamous Hausmann e-mail appeared on her screen. This is the woman who blew the whistle on Hausmann and Clarke, the woman who was restructured out of her job, the woman who has won two personal grievance cases against the HBDHB, and the woman who has complained to the Privacy Commissioner over Ray Lind allegedly secretly taping a meeting with her.

The article contains a timeline of significant events - interestingly, the DHB Chairman was advised in April 2005 that Hausmann was going to be appointed to the board; Hausmann began his communications with Chris Clarke in May 2005 regarding the RFP for community services; Hausmann's appointment was confirmed by King in June 2005 in spite of misgivings by Health Ministry officials; The RFP documents were sent to tenderers in July 2005. The crucial question here is this - if the board chair was told in April 2005 that King was going to be appointed, did Hausmann know that was King's intention? If Hausmann knew in April that he would be joining the board, his correspondence with the CEO over tender documents is a serious matter.

Ray Lind is lambasted by the article. The Listener says "The presence of Ray Lind, King's husband, in the controversy is one of the key issues that has made the HBDHB such an awkward problem for the government." Lind is accused of secretly recording conversations with staff and board members, and of dubious activities in regard to incriminating e-mails.

In closing the article comments on the irony that Deborah Houston and her partner had previously lived in Annette King's electorate, and had voted for both her and Labour, then adds "They would not vote for her again. And like most of Hawke's Bay, will not vote for Labour this election."