The Government Statistician can’t manage a census competently, and won’t tell us (let alone MPs) just how bad the situation is (about a census taken more than a year ago), but today – aiding and abetting the government’s Wellbeing Budget branding – she was out with the final list of indicators to be published in this brave new world. It goes under the label “Indicators Aotearoa”, and in addition to not being able to run a census, she seems – in common with many public servants – to have forgotten the name of the country: New Zealand.
Among the list of indicators – many of which are already published (and thus you wonder what value there is in one set of bureaucrats prioritising them and putting them in one place) – was this snippet.
I don’t have too much problem with suicide rates. They are reasonably hard and somewhat meaningful data (but comparisons across time and across countries are hard).
But the other three made almost no sense.
Take that “spiritual health” indicator – well, there is no indicator yet, but an aspiration to have one. Real resources are being wasted on this stuff. Who knows what business it is of the government to be measuring “spiritual health”, whatever it means? And, strangely, it appears that the Government Statistician believes that only the “spiritual health” of Maori people (or was that “Maori society”?) matters. Are we back in taniwha territory again, or perhaps the Governor of the Reserve Bank is helping with his enthusiasm for the tree god (although I gather the Governor isn’t Maori so his affinity presumably doesn’t count). As readers know, I’m a Christian, of a fairly orthodox variety. The General Confession of the Church of England’s 1559 Book of Common Prayer – Anglicanism having been the most prominent religious strand in New Zealand for most of its history – reads (emphasis added)
ALMIGHTIE and most merciful father, we have erred and straied from thy waies, lyke lost shepee we have folowed to much the devises and desires of our owne hartes. We have offended against thy holy lawes: We have left undone those thinges whiche we ought to have done, and we have done those thinges which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us,
It goes on to talk of restoration and penitence, but “there is no health in us” is pretty basic to orthodox Christian belief. Our hope is only in grace.
Now, perhaps, not being Maori, my lack of spiritual health won’t bother the Prime Minister and the Government Statistician, but what about the Maori Anglicans?
The whole thing is absurd, lacking content. Simply pandering in a way that makes even more of a joke of the framework – itself, in part a way of distracting attention from decades of economic failure.
Then there is the language development and retention one – again, no actual indicators only aspirations. Apparently it is a problem for the Government Statistician and the Prime Minister if an ethnic Chinese New Zealander whose ancestors came 100 years ago doesn’t speak Chinese. Or a descendent of a Dalmatian immigrant who doesn’t speak Croatian? Isn’t that a matter of (a) probably, assimilation, and (b) choice? What business is it of the governments? Isn’t the ability to speak English much more important?
What is this nonsense?
And then we have the “sense of belonging” to New Zealand which – according to the Government Statistician – is an “important aspect of being a New Zealander”. Except that….if you were born here and have lived here all your life, you are unquestionably a New Zealander, however you might answer an SNZ survey. I haven’t lived here all my life, but I have no other citizenships (or rights to them) but how would I answer the question? I don’t know. “New Zealand” certainly isn’t my first loyalty, I feel a fairly strong affinity for the wider Anglo world, and I’m a minority in New Zealand but an adherent to a faith that transcends national, ethnic or whatever boundaries. Globalists – of whom I’m not one – will probably (rationally) tell the interviewer they identify with “the world”. And what of it? Sure, a number emerges from the survey, but it will mean almost nothing, and its place in this suite of indicators will encourage officials and politicians to think it is something they should try to use policy to influence (all sort of daft interventions might “work”, but to what end?).
Couldn’t the Government Statistician just get on with doing the basics right? And if the government were to take seriously doing something about reversing the longrunning decline in our relative productivity performance, it would open up options to improve all sorts of things that, individually or collectively, we care about. Probably wouldn’t do much for (Maori) spiritual health, should they ever be able to “measure” it.