Tova O'Brien: Who do we turn to when the Government stops listening?


On Monday I described the Government’s refusal to include nurses on the immigration fast-track green list as about the stupidest thing I’ve seen in politics. 

And there have been some stupid things. 

It worries me about the state of things over in the Government waka. 

What is going on? I honestly cannot figure this out. 

We’ve debunked the Government’s claim that there are retention issues with nurses, we’ve debunked the data that supposedly proved the claim. 2 percent more internationally trained nurses leave than domestically trained, which is nothing, and it’s old data from 2020 when migrant nurses were separated from their families. 

We’ve also debunked the advice about nurses using NZ as a gateway to get into Australia - immigration clarifying it’s not actually nurses doing that or anyone necessarily but technically any migrant workers could. They might do it. Maybe. 

We’ve debunked the initial line from the Government that it was actually the sector that asked for nurses not to be fast-tracked. The sector was swift to correct the record that it said no such thing. 

Finally, we’ve heard from everyone in the sector from the chief executive of Health NZ right through to nurses, surgeons, community health, and aged care - everyone that they want nurses urgently added. 

So I scratch my head in befuddlement? Why is the Government refusing? 

What does that leave? What could possibly be the rationale?

There’s only one explanation. Political arrogance. 

Sadly the Government has gone full third term arrogance, just one and a half terms in. 

This Government has shown in the past that it can listen, admit mistakes and flex. When it does, it’s applauded. God knows we’re not all perfect, governments are no different. They make mistakes. 

But like us mere mortals, we become better people when - if we make mistakes, we admit it, change them, learn from them - if Governments do the same, they become better Governments. 

People admire them for it. They respect them for it. They vote for it. Because they feel like their Government is working for them. 

Blind arrogance on the other hand - refusing to see any other points of view, always thinking your way is the right way, even when you’ve been proven wrong and the facts are against you - that’s not just infuriating, it’s really upsetting. 

Whether you vote left or right, our democracy functions because we have a say, we trust our elected officials to represent us, to represent our views and act in our best interests. 

When Governments get out of touch, when they stop listening, the system stops working. 

This particular issue may not fire you up as much as it does me or those on the health frontline but think of it as emblematic. 

If the Government won’t listen to something like this - something so simple to fix, something with the public will behind it, something in the interests of our healthcare system and therefore all of us - if it won’t listen on this, what else will it ignore?

That’s what really worries me.