Real issues ignored

The politicians have finished for the year. Nice work if you can get it. I don't know about you, but I'm working through until next Friday.

So, what has this year of politics delivered?

Let's face it. There's been plenty to entertain us.

We've had Kim Dotcom who, for such a memorable figure, has been the cause of so much forgetfulness. The issue with the giant German is not how his efforts at ingratiating himself with various establishment folk through large donations and other generosity has caused embarrassment to his new friends. The real issue is how New Zealand authorities allowed themselves to be drawn into United States intelligence agencies' obsession with him to the point where our lot were prepared to break our laws.

The really amazing thing is how a guy with overseas convictions for dishonest actions who was denied the right to purchase property here, even though he was given residency, has become a folk hero.

It's a healthy thing that the rest of us look at the US authorities' overzealousness with a healthy degree of scepticism, even if our law-enforcement agencies don't.

We've seen government departments embarrassed by their failure to manage the privacy of citizens who happily assumed their details were secure.

You would think in this day and age of sophisticated information technology that the Government at least would have top- quality protocols in place.

Given how much personal information we are now often required to provide to the Government, surely we are entitled to be assured the Government takes seriously the need to protect it.

Departments such as ACC, Work and Income and Inland Revenue have looked cavalier in their approach to information security.

We've seen unprecedented misjudgments in education.

The real issue at the heart of the class- size debacle in May was the loss of technology subjects, and this in an age when we are desperate to increase our science and engineering base.

The class-size brouhaha was followed by the failure to manage the Christchurch schools merger programme.

Then, just this week, the High Court overturned the minister of education's decision to close a special needs school in Nelson.

Three major failures in a year, all at the ministerial level? Surely a "Not achieved" here, Mr Key.

On the Opposition side, Labour spent the year bedding in its new leader, and he seems to have ended the year with more confidence than he displayed during it.

It is a pity Labour's conference, which should have marked a turning point in the modernisation of the party, became a spectacle over whether there was going to be a leadership challenge.

The Greens were in the ascendancy for a large part of the year, but this seems to have fizzled out more recently.

Like it or not, I suspect when more people are finding it tough just to get by, consideration for environmental issues becomes less of a priority.

NZ First has ended the year expelling one of its MPs because of a family feud.

I strongly doubt the reason for Brendan Horan being given his marching orders is anything to do with his TAB account. It is well known that Winston Peters enjoys a punt on the horses. After all, he was minister for racing once, and is still held in high regard in the industry.

However, against all of this, the big questions remain. What has been done to address the real issues affecting New Zealand? What is being done to reduce unemployment, which is now at its highest level in 15 years and showing no sign of falling? What has been done to help lift incomes so we can meet the continual rise in the cost of living, which shows no sign of slowing?

Where is the support for industry?

Why doesn't the Government use its powers to make sure local industry is preferred in large government contracts?

We might avoid a future Novopay fiasco if we did.

What is being done to improve education, especially for the 20 per cent who we are told are failing?

We hear a lot of criticism of teachers, but policies like national standards are government policies.

Is having more private schools in the form of charter schools, with all the rules about teacher registration and safety relaxed for them, really going to improve the system?

In health, we keep on being told how well the system is working, but the Taranaki District Health Board reports ongoing financial problems to the point that it wants to start charging patients.

The complaints about patient care at the hospital keep mounting. We are struggling to keep our much-needed helicopter rescue service and we've all but lost our leading-edge youth health service, Waves.

And what about child poverty, which this week the children's commissioner told us is getting worse.

Let's hope 2013 is the year of fixing real problems, not being entertained by sideshows.

Taranaki Daily News