the 30-year-old Chris Hipkins reached across the Pacific for inspiration, quoting former US vice-president Hubert Humphrey: “…the moral test of a government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick and the needy.”
Consider those words and recall that it was the same gentlemen who played politics with Charlotte Bellis as she languished in Afghanistan, pregnant and abandoned by her government.
Consider those words and recall Hipkins was Minister of Covid 19 Response when hundreds of citizens were denied the chance to see their dying relatives in an ultimately futile attempt to prevent the virus entering our shores.
Consider these words and recall that, in 2021, Hipkins inaccurately accused two women of using “false information” to obtain travel documents to visit Northland, and stuck to his position long after it was no longer tenable.
Hipkins fails on his own moral test. So be it. Politics is about tough decisions, and maybe Chippie has demonstrated a willingness to make the hard calls.
So long as he is competent, perhaps an element of ruthlessness is a good thing in a prime minister.
Except, he isn’t competent.
Hipkins was the Minister of Education from the start of this government until his ascension to Premier House, and under his guidance the only achievement has been his decision to close charter schools.
In a foreword to a recent study by free market think tank the NZ Initiative, Professor Elizabeth Rata articulates the decline in our education system: “The emptying out of academic knowledge and its replacement with discredited student-centred, cultural identity, and competencies approaches are the drivers of the decline.”
Under Hipkins we have seen an acceleration of the rate of descent, best reflected in a steep fall in the level of attendance.
In his last year as minister, Hipkins presided over a sector where half of all students failed to achieve regular attendance, defined as being present 90% of the time.
It was, to be fair, 63% in the year he became minister, but that had been a fairly stable figure.
Some 5.8% of students were turning up less than 70% of the time when he took over, but 12.4% when he left the portfolio. The data for Māori is worse; 10% were hitting the 70% or less figure in 2017, more than 20% by 2022.
A report in March 2022 by the Education Hub revealed that literacy rates had declined to the point that a third of 15-year-olds struggle to read and write. And this under the guidance of a politician who, in his maiden speech, declared, “if we are to realise our full potential as a nation in the coming decades, education will be critical”.
More was to come. Hipkins took 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics and forced them into one morass of dysfunction called Te Pukenga, that has managed to lose 10 percent of its student body and $63 million in 2022 alone, and asked the Crown for $330m to bail it out earlier this year.
The failure in that one portfolio should have ended his political career. He has demonstrated that he either cannot drive performance from the civil service, or he does not care what is happening in his portfolio.
Either would be disqualification for further promotion if the Government’s talent pool wasn’t as shallow as the fawning access-junkies of the parliamentary press gallery.
Then we come to Covid 19 and his central role in events.
Hipkins resolved we would be at the “front of the queue” when it came to getting the vaccine, then botched the ordering process.
In late 2020, in a report critical of aspects of the Covid response, Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche made a number of key recommendations, including the rapid introduction of saliva testing. Hipkins, the relevant minister, failed to sort this out and we were still groping around with the slow and expensive PSR tests nearly a year later.
The premiership of Ardern should have taught us that electing leaders on the basis of likeability isn’t optimal. Competence matters. So does experience.
Hipkins had achieved almost nothing by the time he entered Parliament, and in the 15 years since has left nought but a trail of mistakes and missed opportunities.
In his brief tenure in the top job he has managed to unwind a few unpopular agenda items of his predecessor and preside over another $7 billion budget deficit in the middle of an inflationary cycle. And yet he remains stubbornly popular.
Christopher Luxon isn’t a down-to-earth bloke who likes sausage rolls. He comes across as someone who is trying too hard to be liked because he is trying too hard to be liked.
But Luxon does not have five years of repeated incompetence and failings in government, laced with a hint of malice, on his resume.
Even if you believe in the policies of this government, it is impossible to credibly believe that they have the competence to implement anything other than a campaign to encourage the poor to have shorter showers because the electricity infrastructure has deteriorated to the point that rolling blackouts are a real prospect.
Luxon isn’t my first choice for prime minister, but he has the managerial competence and intellectual curiosity to actually govern......The full article is published HERE
Damien Grant is an Auckland business owner, a member of the Taxpayers’ Union and a regular opinion contributor for Stuff, writing from a libertarian perspective