Wednesday, 22 August 2012

They'll Soon Discover

A couple of times in the last two weeks, National party ministers have shown their ignorance of the basics around data in response to questions in parliament.  Essentially they have confused day to day changes in a measure with longer term trends in those measures, and used that as an excuse to avoid the question before them.  The two examples I have are:
Paula Bennett, one of my perennial favourites for saying stupid stuff, in Question 4 on 16 August 2012.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree that today 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon—[Interruption] Order! I have not even called the Minister. Can I encourage the Minister to settle down.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have not measured them today.
and Gerry Brownlee, in Question 8 today.
JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Will he reconsider the Government’s motorway projects, in light of the impact that record high petrol prices may have on motorway usage; if not, why not?Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) : No. Petrol prices do fluctuate and they do spike, but that would be no basis to abandon an infrastructure programme that will deliver intergenerational positives for the economy and the environment. The inputs to pump price these days are somewhat different. It is noticeable that Z Energy is leading the way at the present time. Last weekend it had a supermarket deal arrangement that saw discounts of 10c a litre for a $100 spend, up to 50c a litre for a $400 spend. It is clearly evident, then, that the pump price is an extremely irrational input into the consideration of strategic transport policy.
Both those answers are those of intellectual bankrupts. Gerry Brownlee's is a bit more difficult to spot, because he is so verbose.
I do like the bit about supermarket discount vouchers, and the implication that supermarket vouchers will save us from high fuel prices. For starters - ministerial responsibility, anyone? And secondly, they are not a particularly good market mechanism. They might help make a particular brand of petrol distributor more profitable, but they do nothing for the efficiency of the market.
Julie Anne Genter has clearly frightened Gerry Brownlee, too. Later on in Question 8 we got this exchange:
Julie Anne Genter: So what specific evidence does the Minister have that shows that these motorways are the best value-for-money way to improve economic productivity?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We are a very long way from the original question, but what I would say is that where there is a reduction in congestion, there is an economic positive—no question about that. If the member wants further proof that New Zealanders think these are good ideas, she needs look only at the electoral returns from 2011.
Straight to an appeal to the authority of the Speaker.  Followed up with a truism, and finished with a half-hearted gloat.  All up it scrapes through as a C- of an answer.

The Shins - SpongeBob SquarePants Move Soundtrack, 2004


  1. The poorly educated or the ill informed Gerry comes across as knowledgeble and in control, just a little knowledge reveals he knows very little and what he does share is generally made up on the spot and he doesn't give a damn about research and evidence. He makes decisions based on gut feelings, but just because he has a substantial one doesn't mean he is correct.

    I agree with your summation, Armchair but would give Brownlee's answer a D- (though he probably deserves something for creativity and gall).

    I don't normally make personal comments about people, but when they tell obvious fibs and ignore the facts and evidence, i have little respect for them.

    1. I had to give him a passing grade because the Speaker said it was an acceptable answer. Though the standard required in parliament is very low.
      Colleagues of mine have met Gerry and they rate high highly. That might just be because I work in tory-land and they suspend their judgement when face to face with their idols. As we all tend to.
      About the nicest thing I can say about him is that it is kind of him to make the last Minister of Transport, who wasn't very good, look quite competent.
      While I'm contemplating transport-y things, I look forward to seeing the battle between Genter and Brownlee continue; I sense that like the asset sales and privatisation program, the wheels are also about to fall off the RoNS.