Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the alleged threats to John Key

May 6th, 2011

John key, popemobile

The “explanation” by Police Minister Judith Collins for the $800,000 cost blowout in the diplomatic protection squad budget – there have been threats, she says, to the security of the PM – puts a brand new spin on accountability. Countering threats is, one would have thought, the squad’s baseline job. Can we assume that if the health system needs to treat more people it too, will be allowed to blow out its costs?

ON RNZ this morning, Collins sought to blame much of the situation on the Clark government which she said, had signed up to a collective agreement that allowed officers to take time in lieu rather than work overtime. Apparently, Collins opposes squad officers being paid time in lieu – and if that’s the case, what’s her plan for paying for the longer hours and extra work involved in keeping local and foreign notables safe and sound? Answer: she doesn’t have a clue. When for instance, she was asked on Morning Report about the potential cost blowout for security during the Rugby World Cup she gave this extraordinary answer to interviewer Geoff Robinson:

The fact is, the Police have to make those decisions not worrying about the budget. We can’t have a situation Geoff, where we have peoples’ lives at risk because the Police are worried that they’re going to end up having to defend their budget and what they’ve spent it on. … Its not just acceptable. …

Isn’t that what doctors and nurses have to do almost every day of the week? Consistently, they are forced to balance the quality of care against the need to defend the health budget. Such decisions of course, affect only the lives of ordinary people though – and not the very important people who qualify for diplomatic protection squad care and protection. Just one more sign that this government believes some lives are more important than others.

Interesting that the RNZ news bulletins ran with the angle that the cost blowout was allegedly due to increased threats to the PM. That’s a very sexy news angle, no doubt. (One person has indeed been arrested and charged in connection with such threats.) Yet the actual story also contained that claim by Collins that “over $600,000” of the $800,000 over-run was due to the ‘time in lieu’ provision. So less than $200,000 – spread through the entire year across all of the local and foreign dignitaries under the squad’s care, including other MPs, the governor-general and visitors from China who attracted protest attention – was spent on such things as additional threat scenarios. Clearly, fresh and unexpected threats to the PM were a negligible factor in the cost over-run incurred by the squad. Unfortunately, there is no way of telling how much the decision to send squad members to Hawaii – where the PM tends to holiday – contributed to the blowout.

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Foot and mouth disease

Even more damaging than earthquakes and tornados, foot and mouth disease has long been a threat hanging over New Zealand’s agriculture-based economy. So we should be delighted by fresh research from Britain that indicates mass culling of herds may not be essential if and when an outbreak occurs. Apparently, animals show detectable signs of infection for 24 hours before the onset, and remain infectious for a shorter period than previously thought. Here’s the Guardian report:

….Scientists…have shown that it is detectable in cattle up to 24 hours before they become infectious. This could provide a window to quarantine infected animals and stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring farms. The researchers also found that cattle infected with the foot and mouth virus remained infectious for an average of only 1.7 days, much less than previously thought….. Until now, scientists had thought that cattle became infectious up to four days before they showed clinical signs, and then remained infectious for up to four to eight days afterwards.

But [researcher Bryan] Charleston also found there was a point where virus detection was possible before the animals became infectious. “After an animal becomes infected, you can start to detect virus in blood and in nasal samples approximately two to three days later, that’s before they show clinical signs and before they are able to transmit the virus,” he said. The government’s chief vet, Nigel Gibbens, said: “While these types of tests aren’t currently practical for use on the ground during an outbreak, we are continuing to fund their development and are working with the Institute of Animal Health so the best possible tests and equipment is available. Quick reporting of suspect cases of the disease by farmers and veterinarians and selective culling of animals, with vaccination where that can make an effective contribution to control, remain the best way of stopping this disease.”

The 24-hour window allows farmers and scientists to isolate and cull the infected herd before they can spread the infection to neighbouring herds. “It’s not the animals that are infected that are saved, it’s the ones they might have put at risk, all the animals in the next-door farms,”

OK. Are we putting a similar system in place – of quick reporting and up to date lab analysis, and with the capacity to deploy sufficient veterinarians to enable selective culling – that can handle a foot and mouth outbreak without resort to costly and unnecessary mass cullings? Given that the Earthquake Commission had been told in a report a year before the Christchurch quakes about its administrative shortcomings – and had failed to act on them before subsequent events proved the report’s findings about its inability to cope – we can probably assume the worst. By and large, these are the sort of preventive measures being axed by a government fixated on short term savings and the slashing of public services.

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    1. 11 Responses to “On the alleged threats to John Key”

    2. By honebinstupid on May 6, 2011 | Reply

      “Can we assume that if the health system needs to treat more people it too, will be allowed to blow out its costs?”

      Are you retarded ? This is exactly what does happen and why most DHBs operate significantly over their budget year on year.

    3. By Stuart Munro on May 6, 2011 | Reply

      We should not protect our politicians. Let them get what they have earned. The massive redundancy in the profession ensures their positions will be filled almost instantly. Look at Rodney – a replacement was found even before anyone got around to shooting him.

    4. By Grant on May 6, 2011 | Reply

      Foot and mouth disease
      Given that after the Waiheke Island outbreak in 2005 where MAF couldn’t find animal owners the Government rushed to remedy the situation and last month announced the launch of the national database of animal owners and that MAF have just agreed to allow the import of disease infected pork – I think we can reasonably assume that any response within 24 hours is not a priority

    5. By Spotlight on May 6, 2011 | Reply

      If a national foot and mouth program was going to be implemented we could save vet costs by using ag researchers, vet students and vet nurses to take blood samples.Fonterra can inform, or remind farmers what symptoms to look for now, and not wait for an outbreak.Its a good plan to put in place for any agricultural threat.

      Keys budget blowout :Its always amazing to hear from people that do not seem to understand that treatment at the DHB ARE limited by funding. The DHB does not provide treatment due to funding resource. The DHB does not, as the rude commentator said, ” fund everyone’s treatment and that’s why they are over budget”.
      key should pay for the excessive costs of his personal security bill himself.

    6. By Andrew R on May 6, 2011 | Reply

      Great — I am pleased at least one commentator has reported the outrageous comments of Collins. I heard the interview and reckon she almost worked herself up to the state of declaring it illegal for any pesky journalist or any other person to question any action of any member of the police. What bit of the concept of law does she understand — any?

    7. By Ed on May 7, 2011 | Reply

      A Budget is not set in isolation. If costs increased due to time off in lieu, that would have been allowed for in the _previous_ years budget – it cannot be a factor in over-spending for this last year. The budget would have been set based on anticipated spending – so whatever changed to cause actual spending to be higher it cannot have been the time off in lieu provisions. This appears to be desperate spin from Collins. Do we know what the budget and actual spending was in say each of the last four years?

    8. By Myles Thomas on May 7, 2011 | Reply

      I’ll never forget arriving at Wgtn airport one morning shortly after the last election to find a massive traffic jam in the upstairs drop-off zone. No-one could park anywhere because most of the zone was coned off.

      I assumed it was some urgent construction or some extremely important foreign dignitary to warrant such horrendous disruption. Seconds later four silver Beemers parked in the coned zone and John Key swept through surrounded by many burly guards.

      This was in stark contrast to Helen Clark’s method of arrival which was relatively normal – no need for cones and one or two minders.

      I suspect John Key chooses extra security because he is paranoid or because he likes the status. Threats on PMs are a dime a dozen.

    9. By Leon on May 7, 2011 | Reply

      Key the rich man needs bodyguards because he and his fellow-travellers are responsible for condemning ever-increasing hordes of New Zealanders to abject penury, misery, and desperation. The rotten Labour Party was (and is) more than bad enough with their rabid free-market capitalist idiology but the National Party are even more extreme. Twenty-five years of Jewish-American free-market capitalism has made this country plummet from the fifth-highest standard of living in the world (after the Scandanavian Social Democracies and Finland – which owned Nokia in those days) in 1984, to somewhere between 31st and 32nd on the OECD Standard-of-Living Index where New Zealand has nearly fallen past PORTUGAL! A damning OECD report in March 2009 (which was suppressed by the mass-media) stated that the gulf between the wealthy and everbody else in New Zealand was wider than ever,and the biggest since records began. The National Party (and Labour) are going to continue with this ruinous economic and social idiology and hurl the ordinary people of this country into literal Third-World paeonage.

    10. By Tiger Mountain on May 8, 2011 | Reply

      Pathetic really, the PMs curly wire down the neck minders resemble extras from ‘The Matrix’ films that did not quite get a call. Key is one tory whose “lets splash!” behaviour actually exceeds my leftie expectations.

    11. By Rose on May 9, 2011 | Reply

      Key comes across as playing at being Presidential, surrounding himself with minders he doesn’t need, in order to enhance his image as the biggest silverback of all.

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