Saturday, May 23, 2020

Competent or incompetent government


In the comments thread under yesterday's "misfortunes of one's political enemies" post, I commented to Kimbo that I'd consider this government an improvement on the previous one even if it managed no other achievements beyond ending the meth testing scam. 

I was entirely serious about that, because the meth testing scam was one of the most evil things done by a NZ government that I can remember.  As usual, Danyl McLachlan can explain it much better than I can, and has done as an aside in a post about Bridges' and Bennett's demise:

(And on a personal note, I’m glad to see Bennett is no longer part of the leadership team of one of our major political parties. The meth-testing scandal is probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen in New Zealand politics: the government wasted over $100 million dollars throwing the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country out of their homes during a housing crisis, for no reason other than they wanted to look tough on drugs. It ruined lives, it was utterly pointless and evil, and while there was a lot of blame to go around, Bennett was minister of social housing and one of the major architects of the policy. She never apologised for any of it, and she should never be in any position of responsibility, anywhere in this country, ever again).

I'd go further than Danyl and say that it was not only because they wanted to look tough on drugs, but  perhaps also because they had friends in the industry, not least a certain National MP who must not be named due to court suppression rules.

Competence isn't the only measure of a government's worth. The Key government was very competent in its deliberate mistreatment of the poorest people in the country, but that's not a recommendation.  It's also fair to say the Key government was more competent than the current one (the current government's three-party structure alone would make that inevitable), but at least I can be confident the current government isn't competently inflicting a great evil on the country.

45 comments:

Noel said...

A small number were generally disadvantaged by the meth.
For most they chose to breach there contract.

Noel said...

Oops" their contract with HCNZ"

Snowflake said...

Evidence please Noel.

Tom Hunter said...

The First Labour government is still hailed on the Left because they built things. Not just houses and the like but government institutions that stayed much the same for decades. But it should be noted that even things like Public Health were crafted by nationalising a good chunk of existing healthcare systems, and the likes of the MOW relied heavily upon private enterprise like Fletcher Challenge.

But really there has been very little in the decades since then. The dominance in government of the National Party is often held to be the reason for this, with the usual mantra of conservatively managing whatever Labour put in place.

But there's little evidence that when Labour has got into power they've been able to repeat the creative efforts of the Savage/Fraser adminsitration. I don't think extending the social welfare system counts as such.

I think that's simply a factor of a natural limit on how big government can get in a non-communist society. And of course the 4th Labour dismantled a huge chunk of those 1st Labour institutuions and every time Labour has been re-elected since then we've heard demands for them to be re-created.

Aside from possibly natural limits on such things I think this government is too incompetant to do that - which I'm grateful for.

What they are good at is what most governments can do the easiest: say NO! Even things like their Green ideas are less things that create than yet another thing that says no to existing systems and hopes that new ones will rise in their place.

Psycho Milt said...

For most they chose to breach their contract with HCNZ.

Every great evil has its apologists.
1. That claim is propaganda peddled by the previous government, not a statement of fact.
2. Even if it were true, how would it alter Danyl's (or my) description of what happened?

Psycho Milt said...

What they are good at is what most governments can do the easiest: say NO!

Governments write legislation, which is inherently about saying "No" to things. Even legislation that grants authority to do things is largely about restricting that authority.

And saying "No" can be a very good thing - for example, this government, unlike the previous one, said "No" to the meth testing scam, for which we should all be grateful.

RosscoWlg said...

Whah whah Milt!

Meths scandal? Yes you are right there is one, its nationwide, and Labour have been just a part of the problem as other government.

Your big crisis above is only a subset of that issue.

They attempted to protect taxpayer assets, cant blame them for that or do you?

After all Milt as Noel said they did sign contracts. Or arent contracts a valid form of agreement in your world.

Snowflake said...

Ross is drunk.

OK, Tommy, other than KiwiSaver, the Cullen fund, WFF, interest free student loans, non-exploitative labour laws and every significant social reform since 1960 what have Labour governments done for us? I know, aquaducts!

Psycho Milt said...

They attempted to protect taxpayer assets...

Every great evil has its apologists. Also: it was a scam, Rossco - there was no threat to taxpayer assets.

After all Milt as Noel said they did sign contracts.

1. Every great evil has its apologists.

2. Any evidence the people who were evicted to become homeless during a housing crisis had breached their contracts?

3. The government agency charged with housing the poorest and most vulnerable people in a society has no business writing contracts that make those people homeless if they take recreational drugs. Everywhere, throughout the history of civilisation, the poorest and most vulnerable have taken drugs because their living conditions are shit and they're unhappy. Your sneering at them doesn't alter that fact in any way.

RosscoWlg said...

Milt, Meths a recreational drug? Are you out of your mind or are you taking that shit?

Whah whah again,,,,, poorest and most vulnerable, yeah right. In a country with one of the most generous welfare scheme in the world.....

Oh and using your logic just because they are the so called poor we can absolve them from social behavior norms and the law of the land?

You clearly live in a different reality warp to the rest of us paying the way for your socialist wet dream!

Wayne Mapp said...

PM,

You are hyperventilating.

There was a perfectly good reason to test houses for meths contamination. It is a highly dangerous and illegal drug that does immense damage to the users. And in some cases huge damage to the people they interact with, that is they kill them, attack them and crash their cars into innocent drivers. And it seemed way too many Housing NZ houses had tenants with serious meth problems including cooking the drug. This apologists who suggested at the time that not a single Housing NZ tenant had ever used meths just looked ridiculous.

Now I agree the testing went too far, catching very low levels.

But to suggest the testing was an evil things to do is just ridiculous. It makes you look like someone who thinks meths drug use and meths drug supply is no big deal (even OK perhaps), and that state providers should simply turn a blind eye to it.

You may wonder why the general public were never that much concerned about the testing. Well it is because they think using meths is not a good thing.

Psycho Milt said...

Meths a recreational drug?

Well it sure ain't a medicinal one, and those are the only two kinds.

Whah whah again,,,,, poorest and most vulnerable, yeah right.

Every great evil has its apologists. Again, your sneering doesn't alter the facts of the situation in any way.

Oh and using your logic just because they are the so called poor we can absolve them from social behavior norms and the law of the land?

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Using my logic, the provision of social housing should take practical realities into account. Odd how right-wingers are always so instinctively hostile to reality-based social policy.

In any case, neither of your comments so far explain why it's OK for politicians to spend $100 mil on a scam being run by their associates, or why it's OK for them to make families homeless during a housing crisis just so they can look tough on drugs. That's the evil we're discussing here - do you have any thoughts on it?

Noel said...

You asked for evidence Milt.
Others have tried to obtain it.
"In the last five years, on a year by year basis, how many tenants have received financial compensation (including replacement of personal possessions) and re-housing where there was no suspicion of the tenant being involved in meth related behaviour but meth residues were found in the property which exceeded the acceptable levels of meth in either the 2010 Ministry of Health Guidelines or the 2017 NZS8510?"

Don't remember anyone getting an answer.

RosscoWlg said...

I have given you my thoughts as well as has Wayne Mapp. Not more to say really.

You evaded serious answer to the questions raised and you continue to rant about a non existent scam.

Good to see you posting again though even if it is a long dead issue of a very minor nature.

Personally I suggest you move on to the greater scam......

Yep thats the one, the missing 20,000 homes that should have been built by now for the poor.

I believe thats game set and match!

Kimbo said...

@ Milt

Intriguing.

I don’t have any argument that the then-National Government was duped by a supposed drug-busting tool that was at best an over-promise, at worst a con, which arguably may sum up some/most/all (take your pick according to your prejudices) of the “war on drugs”. And the reason it failed is because, at its heart Sabin’s ostensible goal was the laudable or immensely foolish (again, take your pick according to your prejudices) “elimination” of P. Any “science” from that, likely utopian folly, including the folly of testing ordinary houses to see if they had the same traces as a lab, was accordingly flawed. And yes, the government should have listened to other voices and experts in other agencies who were warning, “the science is bogus, and the promised downstream drug use reduction benefits are not supported by data”.

Personally, as one who is at best sceptical, at worst derisive of the “war on drugs” and think the “holistic therapeutic approach” is best employed, with addicts and peripheral and prospective users at any rate, I can shake my head. But here’s the thing - it fitted with the not-altogether foolish idea that hard drug use will destroy people and enhance their dependency, and that it was a punitive and didactic means to discourage that. Whether one agrees will depend, I would suggest, not on any science, but on that aforesaid prejudice and/or assumptions about human nature...either way.

You say the state has a role to protect the most vulnerable? Of course, although we might all disagree on where that is practicable and desirable. The war on drugs, for all its failures is not wrong in its primary intent - wanting to protect children. If nothing else, the testing regime sent that cleat didactic message, just as punishment and penalty any illegal or undesirable actions, that, if you have kids, and you choose to use P in a state house, you are in danger of forfeiting that tenure.

So, what’s so different between that and the overall dynamics and priorities of the recent loss of liberties due to Covid 19?

Desire to protect the most vulnerable? Yep

Constantly changing data making the “science” hard to nail down? Yep

Confusion over which “experts” in which field to ascribe weight? Yep

Compromise of traditional and liberties and freedoms in the interests of “protecting the most vulnerable from the current crisis”? You betcha!

Employment of the police and other government agencies to control otherwise “normally observed and natural” social behaviour?

Resulting difficulties in achieving the right balancing of risk in any coordinated government response? Yep

Resulting “catastrophic failures including unintended consequences” if one chooses to look at those responsibilities nose from a different, and not necessarily implausible wider data-driven perspectives? Yep

The real possibility that sometime in the future sufficient data will emerge to lock in the scientific consensus that...this was a F Up of massive proportions? Watch this space...


Psycho Milt said...

There was a perfectly good reason to test houses for meths contamination.

Yep - to see if the house has been used as a meth lab, which could potentially pose a health risk to future occupants. However, there was no good reason for the scam testing the Key government paid for, which had the effects this post is about.

It is a highly dangerous and illegal drug that does immense damage to the users. And in some cases huge damage to the people they interact with...

It sure is. However, running a testing scam that made people homeless because a ridiculously tiny amount of meth residue was found in their house did absolutely nothing whatsoever to reduce or mitigate the effects of meth on our society, did it?

What it did do was what Danyl described: "...wasted over $100 million dollars throwing the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country out of their homes during a housing crisis, for no reason other than [the government] wanted to look tough on drugs."

You may wonder why the general public were never that much concerned about the testing.

Oh, I never wonder why so many ordinary NZers are never concerned about misery deliberately inflicted by the government on beneficiaries. I know exactly why they aren't concerned.

Psycho Milt said...

But here’s the thing - it fitted with the not-altogether foolish idea that hard drug use will destroy people and enhance their dependency, and that it was a punitive and didactic means to discourage that.

If history teaches us anything, it sure as hell teaches us that punishing the poor and destitute for seeking solace in drugs is a pointless exercise. It's beyond me how politicians could be so stupid as to continue flogging that long-dead horse and inflicting misery on undeserving people in the process.

The war on drugs, for all its failures is not wrong in its primary intent - wanting to protect children. If nothing else, the testing regime sent that cleat didactic message, just as punishment and penalty any illegal or undesirable actions, that, if you have kids, and you choose to use P in a state house, you are in danger of forfeiting that tenure.

And this is where the "evil" bit comes in. Even if we had some level of confidence that the evictions based on test results did evict actual meth users, you don't protect children by making their families homeless during a housing crisis, on the contrary you're endangering children. That would stand alone as the reason not to do it, but there's also the fact that threatening drug addicts with punishment if they take the drug they're addicted to is so obviously doomed to failure it makes no sense.

Psycho Milt said...

You evaded serious answer to the questions raised...

Variations on "Those arseholes got what they deserved" aren't serious answers to the questions raised. I welcome a serious answer if you do have one, but further variations on "Those arseholes got what they deserved" won't get a response.

Gerald said...

Noel
It was originally thought that 800 previous tenants would be eligible for compensation.
Last publicly available information was that $3.4 million - an average of $7863 was paid out in 431 cases. 107 cases had been deemed ineligible, for example for evictions that were not meth-related or a tenancy that ended for other reasons.

How many had breached their tenancy agreement by bringing a Class A product into the building eventually was never a factor in the payouts.

Kimbo said...

If history teaches us anything, it sure as Hell teaches us that punishing the poor and destitute for seeking solace in drugs is a pointless exercise

From a macro perspective I can’t argue much with that, if I was even bothered. Prohibition was a failure, including the catastrophic unintended consequences, sane with the 50 year “War on Drugs”, however

...you don’t protect children by making their families homeless during a housing crises...

...but as per the risks and benefits, you may dissuade a (statistically unmeasurable) whole lot of agents, current and prospective parents and other potential users to steer clear on the temptation in the first place. We can disagree regarding the efficacy or cost/benefit priorities, but nonetheless that’s what those who support testing, and the overall criminalisation of drug use in all sincerity believe. And it is folly to suggest their argument is entirely devoid of merit, logical or empirical.

Wayne Mapp said...

On the issue of protecting the most vulnerable.

Housing NZ always has a waiting list, often families with young children. So inevitably if someone has breached the tenancy agreement by a committing a criminal act on the property, then the house becomes available to someone else in need.

Is that character testing? Yes, in a fashion. Those who are not committing crimes are seen as more deserving than those who commit a crime on the Housing NZ property. I don't have a problem with that type of character assessment.

Kimbo said...

@ Wayne Mapp

I’m unaware of any legal mandate to test general character for the sake of testing character, much less to ascertain who are the “deserving poor” in a universal social welfare safety net, where fulfilling valid criteria should determine receipt of benefit. Rather, any prohibitions on behaviour while receiving a benefit should be to minimise real harm. Ok, P addiction locks the addict and dependents into a vicious cycle, including the ability to transition to work where practicable.

However, In that context the P testing regime was sold under the bogus harm-minimising assumption that low trace reading were confirmation of the real passive harm that accompanies manufacture of P, not just use. Hence if it was inappropriately used to punish the use of P in a dwelling, especially as it could never be determined who, when and how much use had occurred.

And “not committing a crime” as a singular valid prohibitive/moral test? Well, yes, they cut the hands off thieves in some countries for their failure to abide by the local law, However,despite the warning and discouragement it sends to prospective thieves, I doubt any sane New Zealander would agree it is a valid moral test, much less a just punishment.

Milt has a reasonable point that, in terms of the unintended consequences on weak and vulnerable children the P testing fiasco was a similarly failed moral test and unjust punishment for the sin/weakness/vice/problem/disease (take you pick according to your prejudices) of addiction. Ironic, especially as the primary raison d’ĂȘtre for the criminalisation of drugs is, “will nobody think of the children?!”

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Kimbo

Have you not heard the legal term 'moral turpitude' No, it's has nothing to do with paint thinners.

Kimbo said...

@ Adolf

As a good Presbyterian you demonstrate the temptation to use civil law as a means of shaping public morality. Yeah, ok, but history is littered with catastrophes and evil when a significant portion of the populace, due to the inescapable realities of human nature, refuse to comply. And the wisdom of good government is knowing when and when not to prohibit. Including drug policy.

But if you want, by all means double down with “so we should stop punishing stealing because not everyone will comply...?”

Psycho Milt said...

Adolf: I guess you could make the case that the Key government was guilty of moral turpitude, if there was such a thing in NZ law.

Psycho Milt said...

So inevitably if someone has breached the tenancy agreement by a committing a criminal act on the property, then the house becomes available to someone else in need.

Apart from the immorality of that as a policy in and of itself, it is not what was happening in this case. The houses weren't made available to someone else on the waiting list, they were taken out of use for an extended period until someone got round to cleaning them, or were simply declared uninhabitable. Given that there was nothing actually wrong with the houses, that is yet another appalling feature of the scandal.

Kimbo said...

@ Adolf

...and you may in turn not have heard of the legal distinctions, malum in se/malum prohibitum. No, it has nothing to do with Asterix dialogue.

Wayne Mapp said...

Kimbo and PM,

There isn't a general morality test for welfare and there should not be one. But it is a breach of a tenancy agreement to use premises to commit crimes. I simply cannot see why it is immoral to evict someone who has committed a serious crime on the property, thereby enabling the owner to lease it someone in need.

You may recall that during the lockdown Housing NZ was still permitted to evict people who were destroying the property.

As a tenant there are some minimal obligations, such as paying the rent, not destroying the property and not using it to commit serious crimes. Why are those obligations immoral? However, I suppose they are to socialists.

Only owners of property have a right to destroy their own property, others do not have such a right. It is one of the privileges of ownership that you can basically do what you want with your own property, including destroying it.

Kimbo said...

@ Wayne Mapp

I agree that the manufacture of P is immoral, harmful, currently rightly illegal and should result in the forfeiture of tenancy and any benefits if discovered and proven by sound means.

However, the issue with the criminalisation of recreational drug use is

1. Should it even be a crime that results in forfeiture of state tenancy benefit? Personally, I think the answer should be, “it depends on whether, in the ordinary course of events it prohibits one’s capacity to transition off a benefit if the opportunity arises”, and

2. Is there a valid and reasonable means to detect such activity on the part of the beneficiary? Which, irrespective of what the public thinks about those who were punished by it, was not the case with Mike Sabin’s product which was supposedly solely designed to uncover manufacturers. .

Psycho Milt said...

I simply cannot see why it is immoral to evict someone who has committed a serious crime on the property, thereby enabling the owner to lease it someone in need.

But can you see why it is immoral to evict an entire family because a test has shown a positive result for a miniscule amount of an illegal drug that might have been consumed by a member of the family or might have been consumed by a previous tenant, with that eviction to happen in the full knowledge that by evicting the family you'll make them homeless, and that you won't actually be able to lease the property to someone else until some indefinite time in the future because you plan to waste a lot of money having the place cleaned unnecessarily? Because that's what we're talking about here.

RosscoWlg said...

Such a moral dilemma. Perhaps some sort of test.

You are as Milt says poor and destitute who suffer the most and its immoral to chuck them and their kids out on the street, cough, cough. So how about this.

They are living on the taxpayer and taking benefits so what we do

1.Income test. You spend $100 a day on your P and Meth addiction in your taxpayer funded house. $700 a week. No moral dilemma there for me. You and the kids on the street.

2. Income test 2. You cook and brew meths and P in your state funded house, your income is $10,000 per week. No moral dilemma for me here either, you and the kids out on the street.

See Milts its all very easy. If you are spending $700 a week or more on your recreational drug you aint destitute.

If youre cooking and baking your meth and P, destroying hundreds of other lives then sorry no moral issue there for me.

To sum up... "Oh and using your logic just because they are the so called poor we can absolve them from social behavior norms and the law of the land?"

Psycho Milt said...

Maybe you should watch fewer TV cop shows and pay a bit more attention to the facts of the matter under discussion, it might make you look less of an idiot.

Kimbo said...

...chuck...the kids on the street

So, primarily to protect innocent children we have laws criminalising drug use, which you willingly, indeed gleefully admit are designed to set a punitive example...by punishing innocent children.

Hmm. That right there looks to me like a logical and moral fail.

Anne Tiffa said...

What MAGA hats symbolise. Hate. Indifference. Rage. Fear. Hatred of women.

This takes pride of place in Todd Muller's office. Guess we don't need to ask about HIS policies.

Anonymous said...

PM what has morphed into a great evil of the previous Nats government in your mind is actually the result of what happens when unintended consequences and poor science meet. Just like Covid, climate change, Y2K and other such potential disasters we are supposed to avert before the “end of the world” [tm].

In the meth testing issue it is was the unintended consequences of the relatively newly minted health & safety legislation alongside tenants protection regulations. Landlords of all stripes, private and public, in fear of prosecution, and just like Jacinda in regards to Covid, had to act on the basis of knowledge at the time.

The real problem was the lack of understanding in how to deal with the contamination. The majority of contaminated properties only needed several scrub downs with simple green to get the meth levels below acceptable limits. We had numerous properties in South Auckland treated this way that allowed tenants to move back in.

This is also a prime example of the difference between private landlords and the government being a landlord. The incentives to get the property back into a rentable condition are greater for private landlords. The HNZ bureaucracy just don’t have the same incentives. And yet you want the government to grow their rental book so the next big thing will impact even more poor trapped in dependency.

Paranormal

Kimbo said...

@ Paranormal

Good summation. Hanlon’s Razor: never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence. Mind you, no matter what the real risks of P contamination, it was naivety of the highest order to let a utopian moral-panic merchant and snake oil salesman with conflicts of interest like Mike Sabin anywhere near the purported solution.

Psycho Milt said...

In the meth testing issue it is was the unintended consequences of the relatively newly minted health & safety legislation alongside tenants protection regulations.

I know the Key government's apologists would like us to believe that, but the reality is that the extension of meth testing from checking for meth labs to checking for any residue whatsoever was a scam run by the testing companies, many of which also offered cleaning of the "contamination" their tests uncovered, a glaring conflict of interest. The people running those companies knew full well they were selling a fake service and the only reason their scam was endorsed by the health system was that the Key government put testing-industry scammers on the body that decided what the standard would be - another glaring conflict of interest.

I know that we should always favour the cock-up theory over the conspiracy theory, but in this case the government's indulgence and consistent endorsement of those conflicts of interest suggests pretty strongly that "cock-up" isn't the term we're looking for.

The HNZ bureaucracy just don’t have the same incentives. And yet you want the government to grow their rental book...

The relevant party in that clusterfuck wasn't the HNZ bureaucracy, which has shown itself quite happy to not evict people to help the government look tough on drugs if the government doesn't require it. The relevant party is the National Party, or more particularly its relevant cabinet minister, one Paula Bennett. I do want the government to grow their rental book, I just don't want on-the-make weasels looking after that rental book.

Psycho Milt said...

...it was naivety of the highest order to let a utopian moral-panic merchant and snake oil salesman with conflicts of interest like Mike Sabin anywhere near the purported solution.

I'm ready for any members of the relevant cabinet to argue for how it was just naivety, but in the meantime it doesn't look anything like naivety to me, it looks like mutual interests being met.

Snowflake said...

Hmmm Sabin. Now there's someone who along with Todd Barclay epitomises the soul of the National Party.

The Veteran said...

Flake ... you mean like Field epitomises the soul of the Labour Party?

Tom Hunter said...

Vet - you're wasting your time responding to Flake. He's basically a troll who will never tell you where he stands on anything but leave you to try and imply his stance by whatever he sounds like he's opposed to in the moment.

Look for projection. He's here for no reason but to own the Right.

"Seppo Renfors" said...

Looked for projection.

Found it. Right there.

In your comment, Tommy Bhoy.

Tom Hunter said...

no you.

RosscoWlg said...

I always struggle with the moral dilemma on this one, so the current tenant with wife and kids has smoked and baked the stuff.

A "recreational drug" in Milts very words. Of course which just happens to be illegal.

I use recreational drugs too I guess, Estrella Beer, a gin and tonic, a whisky and soda, but nobody has to decontaminate my house afterwards (unless of course I barf)

And then they move out and in comes the new people with the kids into a possibly toxic house.

Tough on the new kids with all that shit floating around but hey as Milt says we don't want to be tough on the old tenants, make them responsible for their own actions.

Lifes never simple....is it

Kimbo said...

I always struggle with the moral dilemma on this one

Well, that’s a turnaround, Rosco, from your previous, “P or Meth addiction in your state funded house...No moral dilemma there for me. You and the kids on the street”.

But no, if you manufacture P, you don’t get thrown out on the street. You rightly go to prison and your kids go with relatives or into care.

And the testing regime falsely purported to prove which premises were being used for manufacture, because that’s where any genuine and harmful toxicity issues arise. And instead they fingered a whole bunch of places where it didn’t. So again, a law that was ultimately designed to protect weak and innocent kids ended up penalising...weak and innocent kids.

So that means all you’ve really got is, “it’s illegal”. Yeah, like your alcohol during the legal and civic failure that occurred during Prohibition. Not much of an argument.