Friday, September 16, 2022

Point of Order: Little’s speech to nurses draws attention to the matter of language and comprehension as well as to visas and wages

If the delegates at a conference of nurses yesterday serve as a guide, when it comes to our telling them what ails us and describing the symptoms, we should worry about how many cannot comprehend English and how many prefer to communicate in te reo.

This question of language and communication has been raised after Health Minister Andrew Little kicked off his address to the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa Conference.

He chose words that are incomprehensible if you happen to have no grasp of te reo.

Tēnā tātou katoa

Ki te reo pōwhiri, kei te mihi

Ki a koutou ngā pou o te whare hauora o Aotearoa, kei te mihi

He taura tangata, he taura kaupapa e hono ana i a tātou katoa i tēnei rā,

Arā, ko te New Zealand Nurses Organisation Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa annual conference.

Mauri ora ki a tātou katoa.

Little’s speech has been posted on the Beehive website along with news that ministers have been…

* Naming new ambassadors –

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the appointment of Grahame Morton as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to China.
* Tackling the wilding pine challenge –

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor reporters that 1.4 million hectares of native and productive land have been protected from wilding conifers in the past two years and hundreds of jobs created in the united efforts to stamp out the highly invasive weeds.
* Opening new buildings–

After 10 years, HomeGround – Auckland City Mission’s new home – is now officially open.

And then there’s Andrew Little’s speech.

He did what most ministers – probably all – do nowadays when called on to make a speech. He incorporated a greeting in te reo.

More than that, he followed the modern-day ministerial practice of mingling two languages in speeches and press statements. We wonder about the costly expert advice on how to communicate effectively with an audience or readership on which this is based.

Little said:

Your work increases … and I acknowledge the leadership you have brought to bear during this time. E nga rangatira, nga mihi ki a koutou.

And for kaumatua who act as a spiritual pou, amongst other things, it is also challenging. Nga mihi ki a koe.

Point of Order has no data on the percentage of nurses who do not speak te reo.

In the general population, however, the great majority of New Zealanders do not speak it.

StatsNZ reports:

The proportion of people able to speak te reo Māori at least fairly well also increased, from 6.1 percent in 2018 to 7.9 percent in 2021 – this is the first time a significant increase in this level of te reo Māori proficiency has been observed from GSS data.

If the conference delegates are representative of the wider population, it seems the 92 per cent or so who do not speak te reo should take interpreters with them when ministers of the Ardern Government are going to address them.

On the other hand, we suspect very few delegates would have gone home not knowing what had been said if all the proceedings had been conducted in English.

But let’s get to the nitty gritty.

Before Little got around to promising the great things that will flow from the Government’s health-sector restructuring, he mentioned two issues of burning interest to nurses.

Staff shortages and their workloads, for starters.

The problem is not just the number of patients presenting and the conditions they’ve got.

Nor is it just the short-staffing caused by vacancies and staff sickness.

Those things create workload pressure. But there’s another sort of pressure – the feeling that, under these circumstances, you can’t do your best.

A fear something has been, or will be, missed. That the patients you and your colleagues care for, are not getting the best care.

I hear that from you. In July, I was presented with a report on a survey the NZNO carried out of its members. It was a lengthy and comprehensive report, and I have carefully read much of it.

The nurses might be disappointed he didn’t carefully read all of it.

But he read enough to acknowledge:

It was sobering reading. The message was clear to me.

And I commit to doing everything I can to make sure we don’t have a repeat of these circumstances.

This means making every effort to step up recruitment and training, and supporting nurses during times of major stress on the system, which I know Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand is addressing.

Whether every effort is being made is disputable, when nurses are leaving the country because of visa constraints.

Little next acknowledged that the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation and the Government are in the middle of a significant disagreement over the pay-equity claim.

Last December, after a lengthy period of engagement, an agreement-in-principle was reached, but this has now been challenged on a number of grounds and is the subject of litigation.

Because of this, it is not appropriate for me to express any further views.

I don’t know how long it will take to resolve the matter through the Employment Court and the Employment Relations Authority.

Both are considering different aspects of the claim, and the issues are complex and technical.

But the dispute would not be resolved quickly, Little said. He expected decisions from the Court and the Authority were likely to be more than a year away.

He hoped any opportunity that might arise to discuss the issues and resolve them by mutual agreement would be taken.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton


Anonymous said...

it's good to see a survey indicating how many speak te reo maori. it would be more interesting to see a survey indicating how many do not understand english. that would have been a much better statistic to decide how to reach the widest audience instead of indulge in some virtue signalling.

Mudbayripper said...

I maybe going out on a limb here.
But I suspect, apart from some resent arrivals, 100% of all New Zealanders speak English.