I am involved with Community Housing initiatives. I was slightly apprehensive about how Megan Woods would handle the announcement of the Housing reset. Phil Twyford almost completely stuffed up the Housing portfolio by overpromising, and under-delivering. However, he succeeded in placing housing in the middle of the debate and ramping up the number of state houses being built to the highest level for decades, which was a great outcome. He also succeeded in getting a new housing ministry which pulled together all of the housing supposed initiatives of Central Government. I say “supposed”, as successive Governments, of all persuasions, have completely dropped the ball with their responsibility for housing.
What I found impressive with Megan Woods’ announcement on Wednesday this week was that she did not guild the lily. She named the mistakes which had been made, and said how she was going to address them. That is rare for a politician. It seems these days that admitting, when in power, that something was wrong is tantamount to us, as little Catholics, being taught about “mortal sin”.
I therefore found this article quite worrying https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/09/05/790317/kiwibuild-reset-shows-how-badly-policy-was-bungled.
When a Minister says they have had a complete re-think about something and have changed course then that is to be celebrated. Some opinion writers gave credit for this change. One of my favourite journalists, Bernard Hickey, didn’t. If politicians get hammered for admitting they have made a mistake, we will never get the level of openness which is needed in our public policy.
I am interested in reading Cabinet papers to see just what was considered by Cabinet and what was rejected. Bernard probably knows more than me on this one. I think the release of Cabinet papers is excellent and the more analysis of what was rejected the better for us to have an open society.
I am increasingly concerned that the Minister of Finance could be our problem. He appears to be the continuation of neo-liberal politics. Maybe we are hammering Phil Twyford, and possibly soon Megan Woods, when Grant Robertson is the guilty party. We need to spend right now because our economy is faltering (as is the world economy worrying). Money is as cheap as it is going to get, and infrastructure in both Cities, and in housing, needs a massive shot in the arm. And it needs to be decided right now.
But, getting back to politicians admitting they were wrong, just think about our lives at home. When we make a mistake and choose the wrong colour for the walls, or choose the wrong school for our kids, we change course. We reflect on what we got wrong and change it. We reflect on what we got right and celebrate it. Our political leaders need to have the room to do this as well. I’m not advocating change should be the norm, but careful reconsidering of everything must constantly be normal behaviour.
Journalists are the 4th estate. They must remember that their responsibility is not just to put the boot into every bit of public policy, but to also reflect on what has happened and say whether or not this has the chance to make things in our society better. When a politician says “we got it wrong” they should not be hammered for saying it. We should be pleased that they were honest and didn’t bullshit.
Or do the journalists just want bullshit, so they could put the boot in either way?