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Insights 13: 23 April 2021
Newstalk ZB: Eric Crampton on the Government's film subsidy deal with Amazon
Podcast: Oliver Hartwich and Jordan Williams discuss incentives for councils
NZ Herald: Roger Partridge says testing and vaccination bungles fail cautionary principle

A bold health package
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
Is it okay not to have an instant opinion on the Government’s proposed health shake-up?

There is no doubt the package, announced by Health Minister Andrew Little on Wednesday, is bold.

Abolishing all existing District Health Boards (DHBs), creating a single national health service, establishing a Māori Health Authority, curtailing the Ministry of Health, and forming a Public Health Agency: each one of these measures is significant. Taken together, it means no stone in health will be left unturned.

Hardly anyone would disagree with the Government’s analysis that the current health setup is broken. It is wasteful, inefficient, and does not deliver the outcomes the public expects.

Not even convinced localists like myself will miss the DHBs. Lacking in accountability and transparency, they were devolution in name only – and there were too many of them in any case.

The Government also deserves praise for introducing their health reforms while allowing for consultation, debate, and scrutiny. This should be standard practice, of course. Except more recently, it has not been.

The idea of a Māori Health Authority has turned out to be the most controversial part of the package. The opposition is portraying the move as institutionalised racism.

However, there is a different way of looking at it. It is also possible that the Māori Health Authority would inject a form of competition into the health system. Providing a Māori alternative could be a benchmark on which the rest of the health system could be measured – and vice versa.

So there are some positives about the package, and indeed the overall public response has been welcoming.

That said, a few aspects are worrying. Why, for example, would the Māori Health Authority have a veto on Health New Zealand’s operations? Both organisations are separate, why not independent?

You may also wonder whether the solution to the sham devolution of DHBs should be the complete centralisation of everything. If 20 DHBs did not work, why abolish them all? Why not group them into larger and fewer organisations, just as Heather Simpson proposed?

The Government likened their proposed model to Britain’s NHS. But the point of the NHS is not primarily that it is centrally administered but that health services are free at the point of delivery.

Finally, it is already clear that the new Public Health Agency could have a remit well beyond genuine public health concerns such as pandemic preparedness. From a policy perspective, this could be highly problematic.

It is early in the discussions, and much will depend on details not yet available. The Government’s package is intriguing and courageous. Whether it will work remains to be seen.

Do your jury duty
Matt Burgess | Senior Economist |
It is said going to court means putting your fate in the hands of twelve people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty.

Which says a lot because avoiding jury duty is simply a matter of not turning up. New figures from the Ministry of Justice show one in seven people summoned for jury duty do not appear.

That is a shame. My experience on a jury was one of the most rewarding interactions I’ve had with the public service.

The case was a criminal trial at the Wellington High Court in 2018. It was about the historic sexual abuse of a child in the 1970s. The trial lasted a week.

Sitting on the jury, I felt the weight of the responsibility we had been given. A man was on trial for his life, and I wanted to do everything I could to make the right decision, to hear every word from witnesses. I found myself watching for any attempt to mislead the jury or to reach for answers.

The court’s attention to due process impressed me. The Judge explained the jury’s task, defined what guilt means in a criminal trial (more than likely, less than absolute certainty), and made clear it is the prosecution’s job to prove guilt.  We should infer nothing from the Police officers sitting beside the accused, said the Judge, nor from his decision not to testify.

The courts may not be perfect. But I saw a system that understands the gravity of its task and has the processes in place to manage that responsibility. Some see due process as protecting the rights of the accused at the expense of victims. Perhaps. But it also protects the legitimacy of convictions.

Unfortunately, we saw little respect for due process from the prosecution. There was never any chance of a conviction in this case. Crown Law almost certainly breached the Prosecution Guidelines by going to court. I believe Crown Law was not prosecuting this case. It was disposing it. But that is another story.

The state had taken a year from an innocent man. The jury couldn't give that time back. But we could save the rest of his life. We declared him not guilty of all charges.

It was satisfying to see the process, reach a decision, and make a difference. Were it possible to volunteer to sit on more juries, I would.

Fixing Monopoly
Steen Videbeck | Research Fellow |
I previously wrote about the gateway to property speculation, the Monopoly board game. In response, readers said that they wanted to play Monopoly with their kids but were worried that the original rules aren’t realistic enough.

I wholeheartedly agree. In its rush to be nice, Hasbro has missed a real opportunity to update the game to allow young players to fully experience the thrills of uneven playing fields, regulatory uncertainty, and undermined property rights. So, just in time for the school holidays, here are some suggestions. Feel free to come up with your own.

Rule #1: The ‘OK Boomer’ rule. Parents get to play the game first. Kids get to join the game only after all the properties have been bought.

Rule #2. The ‘RMA’ rule. Before building a house, you must consult your neighbours and the council several times. WAIT 5 TURNS. PAY $200.

Rule #3. The ‘Metropolitan Urban Limit’ rule. In the Auckland version of the game, 50% of the board is a potato farm. Properties and rents are expensive, but thankfully potatoes are cheap.

Rule #4. The ‘Brightline’ rule. You must wait for two, no… five, no… ten rounds before you can sell your property. Otherwise, pay the banker a Capital Gains Tax.

Rule #5. The ‘30%’ rule: Because of the housing bubble, property prices and rents go up 30% every round.

Rule #6. The ‘Rent Control’ rule [coming mid-2021. Details will be announced later]

New Chance Card. The (central) banker has been busy printing money. EACH EXISTING PROPERTY OWNER COLLECTS $400.

Rule #8. The ‘Inflation’ rule: Inflation takes 10% of your monopoly money every round [coming 2022]

New Chance Card. Your hotel is now being used by MIQ or for Community Housing. COLLECT $200.

New Chance Card. The Government removes the interest deductibility ‘loophole’. TENANTS PAY $100.

New Chance Card. The Climate Change Commissioner has confiscated your Gas Utility. MISS TWO TURNS.

New Community Chest Card. You own a Gas BBQ. GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL, DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.

I hope this helps. And remember, it’s not a real game of Monopoly until someone throws the board off the table and refuses to talk to everyone for at least a day. Happy Holidays!

Fun Fact: Ironically, Monopoly was inspired by a game that wanted to warn players about how rents “enrich property owners and impoverish tenants”. This, of course, backfired spectacularly. Instead, it inspired a generation who decided they would much rather be landlords than tenants. The joy of unintended consequences.

On The Record

Other Initiative activity:
  • Taxpayers' Union Podcast: Oliver Hartwich and Jordan Williams discuss incentives for councils
All Things Considered
  • Infographics of the week: Designed for primary school students, these maths questions for kids stump parents
  • New Zealand and Australia were Covid success stories. Why are they behind on vaccine rollouts?
  • Rowan Simpson on venture capital in New Zealand
  • In praise of big agriculture, and free trade in agricultural products
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