JOURNALISTS: BE KIND

In their typical pack-running imitative practise, our media have had a field-day slamming the Health Minister David Clark for allegedly, “throwing the Director of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, under the bus”.

This is rubbish. The failure of the checking system fell squarely on Bloomfield’s management responsibility.

To the extent the Minister was also to blame relies solely on an absurdity which I’ve written about for decades, of alleged Ministerial Responsibility.

This is an irrational practise we’ve inherited from Britain and it’s long past time it was scrapped.

Here’s a personal analogy. I’m the founder/principal of a fairly large company. For the past two decades I’ve had absolutely nothing to do with its day-to-day running. I do get involved with new building purchases and decorative aspects because I enjoy it, but otherwise I leave things 100% to the management.

Because I handwrite everything I go into the office a couple of afternoons a week to have my stuff typed. Then at day’s end I have a few drinks with my key management.

For website appearances sake I’m listed as Chairman.

In other words my position is similar relationship-wise to a Cabinet Minister.

Now if over drinks I learn of a cock-up by a staff member, I’m damned if I’m going to take the rap, rather that falls on the Wellington Manager. I simply have to bear the cost, but certainly not the responsibility for the very good reason I’m not responsible. So too with Clark over the airport checking cock-up.

Clark has become the favorite whipping boy of the Press Gallery who love nothing more than bringing down a Cabinet Minister.

He was so cast after his double “sins” of first riding a mountain bike alone on a bush track and on another occasion, taking his family in his car to an empty beach.

For this he was branded a hypocrite, both activities being banned.

What he and Bloomfield were guilty of in fact were unthinkingly imposing a set of rules that were nothing less than ridiculous in the first phase of the lockdown. A halfwit in the Health Department would have made them up and the Director General and Minister blindly accepted them uncritically.

Both were quickly scrapped along with numerous other absurdities of that initial phase list that were in no way threatening contagion-spreading wise.

But let’s get one thing clear. The airport failure fell squarely on Bloomfield. Clark was guilty of nothing more than a lack of diplomacy in mentioning it.

That said, in fairness to Bloomfield, he heads an enormous government Department with thousands of different skills personnel.

You can be absolutely assured that while you’re reading this, dozens of folk will be cocking up in one way or another.

It simply goes with the territory of normal human behavior. All the boss can do is put in place supervising structures, not to eliminate errors for they’re natural human behavior, but instead to minimize them.

25 Comments

Not sure I agree. Clark is the minister and by default, superior to Bloomfield. Where’s the leadership, taking responsibility for subordinates etc. if he can’t take responsibility give back the pay packet.

    Actually, Sir Bob is right. It is not David Clark’s fault he is employed in a position he has insufficient managerial experience, intellect, or skills to perform and therefore he was destined to fail.

    Just like it isn’t Jacinda Adern’s fault that despite increasing government spending by an eyewatering 45% over 3 years her government hasn’t delivered their “transformational” promises: light rail, zero road toll, more jobs and lifting the incomes of families to reduce child poverty, successful pike river evidence gathering, kiwibuild, etc. etc..”

    IT IS YOUR FAULT. You voted for a government whose lack of intellect and management experience was a glaring precursor to non-delivery.

    The promises, kindness, and great communication are nice; but they are coming at a massive cost – TO YOU!

    To be accurate, Ashley Bloomfield is paid $528,000 a year, which is of course about 10% more than the prime minister and far more than David Clark.

Bollocks. A much better analogy would be as the chairman of a public company. Your position is nothing like a Minister’s. If you think a board chairman of a public company operates the way you describe then you should get out more. But of course you do not think that. And if your staff were making cockups like this border matter then there’d be skin and hair flying. Clark should have asked questions and ensured that procedures were in place. He did not. He should jump before he is pushed.

Perhaps the fact that during the biggest health crises he will ever see in his lifetime the man in charge of the Ministry of Health didn’t even bother going to his head office but stayed at home with his family .
Your analogy – The commercial building industry has some new kind of contagion, your companies buildings are collapsing and Bob is at home smoking his pipe for the entire month , When you do finally front up to your Wellington office , you cant answer many questions and bumble your answers. In the RJI days, we would have been placing sell orders…

Totally disagree. The buck stops with the Minister. He’s lazy and has shown us that he is completely inept with his ridiculous behaviour. I get the feeling you have met the Adern recently and she’s charmed you.

The buck only stops getting passed when it reaches the top.
At that point directive action may be taken.
From his description I would liken Bob’s position more as the Figurehead of the company rather than a Cabinet Minister.

Clark as minister has to be aware of what’s going on in his department – especially in areas that are politically sensitive – if only for his own sake, nothing else in his department comes within a country mile in political importance as preventing covid getting back into the country. He failed in protecting his ass – a critical skill for a politician. So his mistake.

Here’s another insight: Why didn’t the boy and girls at the coalface–who simply had to know what was going on–not contact senior management when they saw people wandering out, after not being tested?

I don’t buy “system failure”. I buy “communication breakdown”. We need to look at why people feel afraid to speak up. Maybe they didn’t want to fired or relocated for embarrassing their boss? We all know when our bosses doesn’t want our input. They simply don’t invite it.

No don’t agree Sir Bob.
You definitely won’t agree with the following…

What say we ask the prime minister what she thinks of the whole cock-up!..she might know who to blame.
Do you think she’s aware of whats going on?
Guess it’s not her responsibility either…wheres the tea lady?

I vote we find the lowest payed surf , then hang them.

Don’t really care about where the blame really lies cos it was just such an effing relief to have a break from the hubris & sanctimony.

The whole reason for levels of management is that at every level those operating at that certain level are not allowed to work unsupervised or unchecked.
Hence the upward trajectory of responsibility till it reaches the top.

Our “leadership team” look like possums caught in the headlights, while the media report the whole episode in a reluctant repentant, “come on you guys we can’t keep covering for you” manner.

What amazes me is whats at stake here. The lock-down, agree with it or not, will cost lives as an unavoidable consequence.
To throw it away now would be just the same as the Pike River $50 million debacle …it will equate to money not being spent in areas that matter.

We pay our leaders to think ahead and make sure our sacrifice is worthwhile. If they can’t do that, get out.

Surely it was Clarke’s duty to front the 1 o’clock daily media show during lock down but no he was no where to be seen as his boss wanted the limelight . You can’t have it both ways yes he is incompetent but so are all ministers in this government and now there’s problems his boss disappears into the back ground and he is pushed to the fore

I’m wondering whether the legendary inefficiency and lack of incentives and lack of accountability, of the public service, creates an inexorable trend that nothing will reverse short of something as serious as Rogernomics. Even Labour, which would be expected to command a bit more sympathy and loyalty among civil servants in return for their largesse to the sector, might now be finding themselves stonewalled and sabotaged again and again by non-performing civil servants. I have heard stories that Phil Twyford was simply let down by these people on everything he intended to do about housing. I don’t care about Kiwibuild; but the much more intelligent stuff about infrastructure financing and private sector involvement has apparently been stonewalled all the way and Twyford has been having to draft the reform legislation alone and unaided.

If National tries to knock heads together and hold the civil service accountable, of course they will get a rough ride from the media; NZ probably needs Labour to finally see the light, lose patience, and do severe reforms. There is a limit to the amount of back-room sabotage that a government’s public image can stand. Of course if the civil service had good and competent people in it to start with, we wouldn’t have debacles like the now long-standing unaffordable housing markets tangled up in Green Tape, and we wouldn’t have had such a stupid lockdown with such nonsensical rules and so much collateral damage.

If it is true that there were Health Department advisors who said 30 days of Level 2 would have been sufficient, the media should be calling these people “NZ’s overlooked COVID-19 Heroes” instead of the roll of “COVID-19 Heroes” they did publish, which included people responsible for GIGO modelling, who saw no need to take account of southern hemisphere summer as opposed to northern hemisphere winter conditions, no need to take account of sunshine and UV as the main “virucide in the environment”, and appeared to either not know, or to wilfully ignore, information about transmission of viruses that a layman after 2 days of lockdown could easily have collated off the internet. “Experts”????
It doesn’t surprise me if they also can’t organize a bunfight in a bakery, or organize quarantine worthy of the name. Their own realization of their own pre-existing disorder and inefficiency probably was a motive for going for “hard lockdown” so their own arses were not so exposed. PPE supplies, test kits, contact tracing; you name it, it was a shambles, and it is Fake News, worldwide, that NZ’s socialist government is some kind of paragon of effectiveness.

I’m pleased to see Sir Ray Avery at least, pointing to a bit of objective scientific reality that the Fake News absolutely does not want to know about:

http://www.makelemonade.nz/2020/06/04/nz-humidity-prevented-spread-of-covid-19-pandemic/

    Well Phil, the Rogernomics-2.0 I would like to see is radical political decentralisation. Break NZ up into 16 “mini states” with a tiny central government head. May the states compete for people and capital, and hold each other to account.

I’m not going to be kind.
It’s this childish obsession with kindness that’s responsible for the manifold cock ups in the first place.
Jacinda somehow seems to believe that her feelings of kindness are a moral good, to be applied even to the most deceitful and lazy of her team of incompetents; Diversity Davis, Twyford, Clark, Curran and co.
The problem isn’t that Jacinda can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Jacinda can’t think. The problem is that Jacinda doesn’t know what thinking is; she confuses it with feeling.

Thomas Sowell (with apologies)

    Ardern is an idealist. The most challenging decision she appears to have had to make prior to politics is ‘how many chips’ when she was serving in a fish and chip shop. Apart from that, she has always had money supplied. Didn’t have to make decisions that people who own businesses have to make. She clearly doesnt understand a business principle-being, if you borrow money, then it has to be paid back. From what I can see, there are no labour or green caucus members who have owned businesses, or who have had to exist on the result of their own financial endeavours. Teachers, doctors etc etc…salaries just keep getting paid, doesn’t matter how competent or incompetent you may be. And hence, that is why ardern does not understand ‘consequences’. Thats why, in my opinion, she doesn’t sack anyone, no matter how incompetent they are, and boy hasn’t she got some incompetent ‘ ministers’ right now. The worm may be turning however after the news from the greens that they want to tax the hell out of anyone moderately successful. Ardern and her cronies are going to have to come out very quickly and distance themselves from the greens on this. Think they’ve got the balls to do it ? I don’t.

Hear, hear. I am not a Coalition supporter, but Clark has been on the receiving end of a media beat-up since the start of lockdown where he was elbowed aside by Jacinda (sensibly wanting to do all media to increase her profile – which paid off huge for her), and Bloomfield who had (from long standing legislation) control over all quarantine activities – including rules/strictures of lockdown. Clark was perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by the fawning sycophancy extended to Ardern, and thought it would apply by extension to him as a member of her govt, when it clearly doesn’t.

A fair minded reasonable person is not going to blame either David Clark or Ashley Bloomfield if supervising structures were put in place and those supervising structures were not followed.

The Government cannot deny Kiwis from returning home but they could put an online application system in place to approve their arrival date and therefore better manage the overall quarantine process.

Riddle me this.
If David Clark can’t sort out the border / quarantine mess , but the supposition is , that Megan Woods can.
What does that say about David Clark ?

I feel I have to comment on those contributors that accuse the PM of wanting the limelight or pushing herself to the forefront ahead of certain ministers.
All supposedly in an effort to brighten her star.
Turn that around and what would you be saying if she hadn’t fronted.
If she had done a Sco-Mo.
The response would have been brutal.
You can’t have it both ways.
I don’t care either way , I’m not a Labour supporter , but I do try to keep a balanced view.

    I would say she’s a team player, that quality that we were all meant to aspire to in our job appraisals. Who here didn’t observe exactly that when the PM took to the dais? That here was a gifted opportunity to ‘lead’ & burnish the rep. She has good political instincts, for sure. I would’ve expected Clark to front some of the time. Perhaps he did? I’d stopped watching by then.

The problem is that there is a very difficult problem to deal with and you are asking civil servants to do it. They are “yes people” “suck up people” Take the money while doing as little as possible people”. They will not own the problem and require it solved. Nor will their managers. So hotel lockdown and compassionate leave was way beyond their skill set. The military, maybe.
“All the boss can do is put in place supervising structures” . Correct but with employment law in the public sector as it is what is the boss going to do with all the public servant ‘cock ups” reality is probably nothing, so the cock ups go on. And because these idiots can’t control a relatively simple boarder they may well try and lockdown everyone again. Problem is,we will not be locked down again.

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