BS and Jellybeans

In December 2022 / January 2023, The Last Mile6 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerJanuary 10, 2023

In the early 1970s, Tim Shadbolt, political activist and later long-time mayor of Invercargill, wrote a book entitled Bullshit and Jellybeans. The title is a good description of what we witness almost every day in this country. We are consistently fed a line of spin (bullshit) to the point it is increasingly hard to separate fact from fiction. I suppose this must be expected given the large increase in spin doctors in central and local government and their agencies.

The Minister of Health, Andrew (Do)Little, refuses to acknowledge the health system is in crisis. Tell that to the thousands of people who have had elective surgery deferred or even cancelled or must spend hours waiting in A&E. Also explain that to the families of patients who have died because they could not get timely treatment. Of course, it is not the government’s fault, says the minister; Labour inherited a broken system from the previous National government.

Our education system is on the verge of collapse, with many teenagers leaving school with little understanding of basic reading, writing and arithmetic. The government says it inherited a broken education system and that its planned reforms will fix the issues in a few years. But the problems are today’s problems not the future’s, and they require action today.

The government also tells us that under its stewardship, New Zealand is heading in the right direction and cites record low unemployment as an example. It also tells us 100,000 people are ‘work-ready’, but cannot explain why there are labour shortages in most industries, instead offering explanations such as many of those who are work-ready are complex cases or even extremely complex and need further assistance. Surely, if these people need extra help, they are not work-ready… or is this too simplistic?

We read that the government’s clean-car initiative rebate is not achieving the goals intended – but it is certainly helping those who wish to buy Teslas. The transport minister, however, appears to be very proud of the results, saying more environmentally friendly cars are entering New Zealand now than in 2017, but adds the government is looking to “reset” the qualification rules for the rebate.

We see more and more people speaking on behalf of the government who, when asked a simple question that can be answered by a yes/no, launch into a diatribe about the subject but rarely provide an answer.

We must, however, give credit to the government and its bureaucrats as many responses to questions and inquiries often include the words “under consideration” or even “under active consideration”. This gives the impression something is happening but without saying what. One episode of the Yes Minister television series of the 1980s defined “under consideration” as “we have lost the file” and “under active consideration” as “we are looking for it”.

As for the jellybeans, there is plenty of government help and assistance available, including financial assistance for special interest groups with a pet project in line with the administration’s ideological thinking. You need look no further than the state of our roads to see this. There is plenty of money around for cycle and walkways but little to make meaningful and long-lasting repairs to our roads. It would be interesting to know if any operators have had WorkSafe NZ tell them to fix potholes etc in their yard because WorkSafe considers them a workplace hazard – and, if so, why don’t they take the same approach to our roads?

Driver shortage

It was disconcerting to read recently of one of our industry representative organisations taking a potshot at the other over driver shortages. One organisation wrote a joint letter with other organisations that rely on drivers to the minister of transport, telling him the industry was short of 9000 drivers. The other organisation says this is “alarmist, inaccurate and unhelpful”, claiming the shortage is more like 2400. I question whether the number is relevant – either there is a shortage or not. If there is, what is the industry doing to fix the problem? It is incredible to think both these organisations were, until recently, part of one national organisation representing the industry with the same overall objectives.

Finally, as 2022 rolls towards its end and 2023 looms, a big thank-you for the part each and every one of you has played in keeping the country fed and moving. As we look towards 2023 and an election year, we can be sure of one thing – there will be plenty more bullshit and jellybeans coming our way.

My best wishes for 2023.