Tuesday, April 20, 2021

An inappropriate gag

The government is planning to reform the health system. But in the leadup, they've issued new guidance for DHB members, gagging them from criticising the government:

A new code of conduct banning health board members from making “political comment” may have been timed to dull criticism of imminent changes to the health system, an expert says.

The code of conduct for board members of Crown enterprises was published on the State Services Commission website on March 18 and came into force on Monday.

Responsibilities in the code included acting in a “politically impartial manner” both as a board member and in a private capacity.

Members must also consult with the board chair on any “proposal to make political comment or to undertake any significant political activity”.

All of which would be perfectly reasonable if DHB members were unelected public servants, like the members of the Public Service Commission or a Crown Entity board. But they're not. Over half of each DHB is elected, there (supposedly) to represent the public. I have deep doubts about that democracy, whether its real or appropriate when in reality all decisions are effectively predetermined by what services the Ministry of Health contracts them to provide and how much money they are given for it. But for the time being they're elected representatives, and so political comment is literally their job, just as it is for local authority members. And this sort of gag order is simply completely inappropriate. Its like trying to gag MP's. But then, control-freak Labour is so afraid of criticism they'd probably try that if they thought they could get away with it...