The Treasury has been at work on its Living Standards Framework for some years now (since at least 2011). When it was first dreamed up I recall remarking to various people that it seemed like preparation for a Labour/Greens government. And so it has come to be, with the new government embracing the framework – a substitute for actually doing anything about New Zealand’s dismal productivity record – and talking endlessly about their forthcoming “wellbeing Budget”, plans for which must now be well underway.
There have been numerous papers published. Among them were several playing identity politics:
- one on Maori perspectives (which seems to have been initially for the Tax Working Group),
- one on Pacific New Zealanders’ perspectives,
- and one on Asian New Zealanders’ perspectives.
Strangely, the Pacific paper emphasises that there is a wide variety of different Pacific cultures, but the Asian one talks repeatedly of “the Asian culture”. This was the paper Gabs Makhlouf was touting in China a couple of weeks ago, talking up the “value” of “recognition of the hierarchical orderings of relationship.”
Personally, these papers strike me as largely a waste of public money. But then so is the whole project, and I am very uneasy about The Treasury trying to analyse policy by loose race-based “preferences” or sets of values. It has been notable, for example, that they have made no effort (to date) to look at perspectives on “wellbeing” by religion, for example – where any differences may well be starker than those across race-based lines. Nothing either by political affiliation or ideology. Only race.
Treasury were the ones who set off on the race-based path. So I was curious – and, okay, being slightly mischievous – about what they’d done to look at the perspectives on the issue of European New Zealanders? I didn’t actually expect they’d have done anything – maybe they just assumed that their British CEO could adequately represent a (or the likely wide range of) European perspective(s)? But I lodged the OIA request, and had a response this afternoon.
This was my request
Dear Sir/Madam,I have noticed that Treasury has recently released papers on Maori, Pacific and Asian New Zealanders” “wellbeing” and the Living Standards Framework. This is to request any similar work on European New Zealanders’ wellbeing, and if no such work exists any explanations why, and copies of any papers/emails relevant to the decision not to prepare such a paper.Thanks in anticipation.
The request is being declined under section 18(e) because the document/s requested do not exist.
In other words, it seems it never even occurred to them to think about the distinctive perspectives of the largest ethnic group in New Zealand.
Telling really, about the tokenism and identity politics that seems to infest this project.