Monday, April 29, 2019

THE 2018 CENSUS

The 2018 census is revealed as an unmitigated clusterf**k.     Now the blame game with National fingering Labour and Labour saying that the majority of the planning was undertaken when National was in power.   For myself I think the finger pointing is in the wrong direction.

Can I suggest that we need to look no further than the Government Statistician.   Reproduced below is the Brief to Incoming Minister (BIM) given under her hand to Minister Shaw on 27 October 2017 (18 weeks prior to the census taking place).    She said ....

'The Census is the highest profile piece of work in your portfolio’s calendar. The census produces authoritative and, in some cases, the only comprehensive population and dwelling statistics, including information on small communities and small populations. It includes a wealth of data about New Zealanders, including ethnicity, occupation, highest level of qualification, household and family composition, iwi affiliation/Māori descent, and geographic location. This information is used by local and central government for planning and to allocate funding; and by businesses, NGOs and other organisations to support decision making. Stats NZ is running the next five-yearly Census on 6 March 2018. The 2018 Census will use a new collection model focused on the online completion of census forms and the reduction of field staff required. The target for online uptake is 70 percent. System and operational risks for the census programme have been identified following the November earthquake. As a result, Stats NZ may seek additional funding to manage the newly identified risks. This work is underway in conjunction with Treasury and any funding would likely be sought from the between-Budget Contingency already established as part of Budget 2017. The questions for the census, including on how we record gender and sexual identity, are determined by the Government Statistician through her statutory independence. An explanation of the content decisions made for the upcoming census is provided in a separate 2018 Census briefing, and officials would be happy to discuss this further with you'. 

No indication of any issues of concern then and indeed, the Government Statistician had a duty of care to bring these to the Minister's attention.    She didn't.   If, post 27 October 2017, issues arose then it was Ministers Shaw's responsibility to sort them out.

Where I think the CoL can be fairly criticised, with the census data revealed as essentially meaningless, is their failure to bring the date of the next census forward.    I would have thought this was the logical step of a responsible government.   Clearly they think otherwise.

16 comments:

Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

At least they didn't ask the final question that William the Bastards census men asked after counting every goose, sheep, pig, person and dwelling in England......"and what more can be had?"

Psycho Milt said...

I saw National's representative of the Chinese Communist Party on the news last night trying to make James Shaw responsible for decisions that had been made and implemented under his own government. I guess in Chinese politics you inevitably develop excellent skills in lying with a straight face.

The reason the government isn't bringing the next census forward is simple enough - it takes years to prepare a census, which is one reason we only have them every five years. To hold one in 2021 the preparations would have had to be under way for a year already and be carried out by the same staff who are working on the problems with the 2018 census. The idea makes a handy propaganda talking point for Nat spin doctors, but is of zero value beyond that.

Noel said...

Seems the failure of "digital first" was a major factor in the failure.
Presume lessons learnt will ensure it's not repeated.

Must admit there are couple of questions I've considered intrusive and never answered truthfully. Bet I'm not alone with that.

The Veteran said...

Milt ... the same news-item saw the representative of the New Zealand Communist Party wash his hands of any responsibility ... ok, now we've got the name calling done with perhaps we could debate the real issue ... why is the Government Statistician still the Government Statistician?

Tell you sompin for nuffin ... that's the way of the public service ... continue on as if nothings happened ... but you knew that.

Psycho Milt said...

I don't think Shaw's ever been a member of a communist party, but yes, not his responsibility. Five months out from a census, it's too late to make significant changes even if you're made aware there's a problem.

I agree there's a bit too much acceptance of failure in the public service, for instance the Housing NZ CEO who oversaw the eviction of hundreds of society's most vulnerable people under National's meth testing scam should never have been allowed to keep his job. However, the private sector practice of sacking people to cover their superiors' failures while giving those superiors fat bonuses is much worse.

Noel said...

Doesn't look like a total shambles to me. Sure reliance in the digital did reduce available data but with time and using other sources they have most information now.

Heads to roll for what? An unexpected problem overcome.

Noel said...

Housing NZ CEO who oversaw the eviction of hundreds of society's most vulnerable people under National's meth testing scam should never have been allowed to keep his job.


What for following procedure before Gluckmans office had yet to start investigations?
On that basis all you're going to have to get did of a heap of postions!

The Veteran said...

PM ... There was no identified problem up to the BIM. Post the BIM and I don't know but if your man had been told there were problems then he could have/should have put a hold on the exercise. I'm prepared to cut him some slack and believe he wasn't told so it's back to the point of my post. In that context I'm encouraged by your admission that there's too much acceptance of failure in the public service.

Less encouraged my your attempt to muddy the waters with the meth testing debacle. You conveniently forget that the decision was made on the basis of the best scientific advice available AT THAT TIME. Advice later proven to be faulty. Hindsight rules ok.

Noel ... well you're the only person wearing rose coloured spectacles lining up behind Ms MacPherson and repeating her blathering. Tell me, on basis can the electoral boundaries be set when you don't have an accurate population/location count ... just askin.

Psycho Milt said...

The meth testing scam was based on misusing the science available at the time for a purpose it didn't justify, and that the relevant authorities repeatedly and specifically warned it shouldn't be used for. Those warnings were ignored for the sake of helping the minister look tough on drug use. Heads should have rolled, not least the minister's.

Noel said...

Gee I would have thought you couldn't give a toss on the Iwi affiliation data.

Anonymous said...

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/110559481/national-say-2020-election-data-based-on-guesswork

The Veteran said...

Noel ... the Iwi affiliation data has zip, zero, nothing to do with electoral boundaries ... but you knew that.

Noel said...

I get it. It's not about Departments like DHB Education etc having robust data to plan for the future. It's about voter boundaries. No surprises there.

The Veteran said...

Noel ... you're being obtuse. Of course its about robust data and that's why I gave the example of the problem being faced by the Boundaries Commission although how you made the leap of logic to throw Iwi affiliation into that equation quite beats me.

You're digging a hole ... keep digging. No skin off my nose.

Paulus said...

Without proper statistics Maori do not know how many there are, where they are, and what tribes they belong to.
Understand Maori Caucus in Parliament are very annoyed as they wanted to use these figures to continue to screw everybody else - besides Shane Jones.

The Veteran said...

Milt ... re Meth testing. You may not be aware (or perhaps you are) that the 'precautionary principle' is a recognised feature of environmental law. One can fairly argue that HNZ was invoking the precautionary principle in doing what they did.

Turn the argument around. Are you saying that HNZ took some perverse delight in doing what they did ... rhetorical question ... of course you are ... a variation of the theme 'National eats babies'. As I said ... 20/20 hindsight has a lot to commend it.

Your mob played this up like a fiddle and the media danced to the tune.