Rodney Hide on optics and heartlessness

Rodney Hide writes about the poor optics and apparent heartlessness of the government: Quote:

One of the many things Stephen Joyce did for the previous government was to manage “the optics.” To have a proposal deemed “bad optics” was its death knell.

The “optics” are how the public perceives a policy or decision. It’s the headline or takeout. It’s what’s grumbled about at smoko. It doesn’t have to be true or even reasonable. It’s just how the thing looks.

If there is someone questioning “the optics” in the present government, they’re doing a woeful job. “The optics” for this government have been uniformly bad. The nurses’ nationwide strike is a case in point.

Did the nurses have a similar strike nationwide during the “harsh, cold” Bolger/Shipley years? No. How about through the “neo-liberal” Key/English years? No.

So how does it look to have the nurses strike nationwide less than a year into the new government’s tenure? It looks bad. “The optics” are shocking. It might be unfair and unreasonable but in saying no to the nurses’ demands the new government looks more heartless and uncaring than previous governments. That’s “the optics.” End quote.

If Labour hadn’t bribed rich kids at university they’d be able to pay for nurses. Snotty rich kids at university are better than nurses, is what Labour are saying. Good-looking horses are valued more than nurses. Quote:

The reason the government gives for rejecting the nurses’ demand is there is no more money. But the same government in recent months has trumpeted billions in spending on making students “fee-free,” a billion-dollar regional slush fund, a billion-dollar spendup on foreign affairs, millions for horse racing and, in the same week, a defence spend up.

There is money for students and racing tycoons but not for nurses. That’s bad “optics.” End quote.

The nominal person in charge is sitting at home and strangely silent. She must be sitting there like a stunned mullet, wondering what to do with a baby AND watching her minister flap around like a goldfish on the carpet. Quote:

There appears to be no oversight for how things look for the government in total. It might seem simplistic, with the complexities of budgeting and policy, but since Roman times politicians have had regard to how things look as well as how things are.

It’s the big and the small. We read that in the runup to the strike, Health Minister David Clark was overseas holidaying with his family. That then became he was simply “transporting” his family for their overseas holiday. He rushed back to say the strike was an “operational” matter – the implication being that it was nothing to do with him and that there was not much he could about it.

Former Labour MP Annette King in opposition would make mincemeat of any health minister declaring such non-responsibility. More especially, as health minister she would never be in such a predicament or inflame it with an inopportune holiday.

Whatever the reality, the health minister should look in charge and doing everything humanly possible to avert strike action. That’s what managing “the optics” means.

Julius Caesar was not just a brilliant military commander conquering Gaul. He was also brilliant at managing “the optics” back in Rome. I suspect he would have seen winning battles and winning “the optics” as equally important.

The lack of money for the nurses also highlights the truth of Stephen Joyce’s much-derided “fiscal hole.” “The optics” of his allegation were wrong but the bad “optics” didn’t mean he was wrong. End quote.

The government are going to have to break their fiscal rectitude promise if they are to accommodate the nurses, the ACC staff, the teachers and God knows how many more union-based public servants’ pay demands. They’ve spent money in the wrong areas, and Rodney Hide is right: they look heartless.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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