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7.30pm Live Tonight: The Working Group pre-budget 4 Economists of the Apocalypse Special: Hooton + Damien Grant + Brad Olson

 

7.30pm live tonight: The Working Group pre-budget 4 Economists of the Apocalypse Special: Marxism, Libertarianism, Nihilism and Brad Olsen

TEXT: Working to 3598 for all updates

Streaming live from the palatial new podcast studios at Mediaworks, we are live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, The Daily Blog and ROVA .

TEXT: Working to 3598 for all updates

Panelists tonight: NZ Herald Columnist Matthew Hooton, Economist Brad Olsen and the Libertarian Cheerleader Damien Grant.

Issue 1 – Can Nicola Willis really borrow for tax cuts and get away with it?

Issue 2 – What are the political and economic consequences of underfunding public services?

and Issue 3 – This weeks budget predictions

It’s Shakespearean vaudeville politics

TEXT: Working to 3598 for all updates

The podcast broadcasts live 7.30pm Tuesdays from the new podcast studios at  Mediaworks on TwitterFacebook, YouTube, The Daily BlogApple Podcasts, Spotify & Rova 

The Daily Blog has been hacked

Comrades

The Daily Blog was hacked yesterday and that is why you saw a maintenance page for most of the day.

The hack was very sophisticated and very tricky.

Thank you to everyone who reached out, these moments are always a mix of infuriation and terror.

We can’t point the finger at who did it, but we can see trends.

Whenever we criticise China, we get cyber attacks.

Every time we criticise Israel, we get cyber attacks.

Every time we criticise Russia, we get cyber attacks.

Every time we post out how racist NZ is, we get stupid cyber attacks.

Every time we have a go at NZ First’s weird Qanon antivaxx culture war bullshit we get really dumb cyber attacks.

Every time we criticise woke overreach we get cancelled.

This hack on us yesterday was a lot more sophisticated and I would be surprised if it didn’t originate offshore.

We have a new page design up and running in the interim, there will be updates made to it for the rest of week as we iron out all the damage caused and tweak it for TDB readers.

Obviously this all costs and arm and a leg being offline so if you are in a position to donate – please do into our bank account 12-3065-0133561-56

You never know how important critical media voices are until you lose them!

Cheers

TDB Team

GUEST BLOG: Ian Powell – Health boss appointment could define credibility and direction of health system leadership

The Government is expected to announce soon the new Chair of Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand). This follows the sudden resignation of outgoing Chair Dr Karen Poutasi whose term had been scheduled to end in December rather than this month.

Sitting behind this are some murky politics and agendas which, depending on how they unfold, will shape the credibility and direction of the health system under Te Whatu Ora’s leadership.

My approach is to focus on health systems rather than health leaders. Overwhelmingly the challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand’s health system are systemic.

Where health systems go wrong is when form and structures rather than functions and culture prevail, as was the case with the Labour government’s health restructuring.

However, including their personality traits and beliefs, health leaders become intertwined. Just as ‘good’ people can make a bad system work, ‘bad’ people can both obstruct a good system and further worsen an already a bad system.

Collateral damage

Health minister Dr Shane Reti: top appointment risks his marginalisation and credibility loss

If the expected appointment is confirmed, then this is going to seriously marginalise health minister Dr Shane Reti and damage his credibility.

His marginalisation would be because the expected appointment would make it more difficult to achieve his objective of devolving decision-making regionally within Te Whatu Ora in order to be closer to where healthcare is overwhelmingly provided.

His credibility would be damaged because of the damaged credibility within the health sector of the expected appointee. Reti would become collateral damage.

The expected appointment

Prime Minister Luxon calling the shots on appointment

The expected new Te Whatu Ora chair is Dr Lester Levy. The driver of this decision is not the health minister.

Instead it is Prime Minister Chris Luxon whose known view behind closed doors is that the problem of health is than it is run by health.

Last week (14 May) I discussed this in my article published by Newsroom: The politics behind pending health boss appointment.

The focus of my article was on:

  • the manner of the resignation of outgoing Chair Karen Poutasi;
  • Prime Minister Chris Luxon’s views on the kind of person who should lead the health system and that his officials are running the appointment process;
  • Levy’s record in health leadership since 2009;
  • why Levy appeals to Luxon; and
  • the expected consequences should Levy be appointment.

What you need to know about Lester Levy

For further background on Lester Levy, I refer to my two-part series published by Victoria University’s Democracy Project on 20 and 24 August 2021: The luck and comings of Lester Levy and The third coming of Lester Levy; a process glued together by hypocrisy.

Also relevant is a further subsequent article again published by the Democracy Project (24 September 2021): Reputations in tatters.

This above-mentioned article includes links to another two-part series published earlier that year on the theme of a ‘bureaucratic coup’ that Levy was a key player in against the pro-workforce engagement leadership of the former Canterbury District Health Board (DHB).

What makes health systems work better (and worse)

Health systems are labour-intensive, complex and internally independent. Consequently, relationships arising from cultures are critical.

This means that health systems function best when their prevailing culture is relational. Alternatively, they function worse when the culture is contractual.

Relational culture critical to health system performance

The more the former prevails, the greater the engagement, innovation and effectiveness of health professionals working in communities and hospitals where healthcare is largely provided. Patients are the winners.

The more the latter culture prevails, the greater the opposite occurs. Instead the culture is top-down command-and-control based on vertical managerialism. Patients are  the losers.

A paradigm unlikely to shift

Lester Levy is firmly located in the latter culture. His frame of reference is a narrow paradigm unlikely to shift. Shane Reti is more comfortable in the former although does not get it as well as he should (and hopefully might).

In the early to mid-2010s the then National-led government used a crown agency, Health Benefits Ltd (HBL), to rationalise what were disparagingly called ‘back-office’ functions, such as procurement, in the DHBs.

It was a laudable objective but to succeed required the right culture in order to get things right. It didn’t, it was very hierarchical, and the consequences were damaging and costly.

Levy was a critical part of HBL’s leadership then both as deputy chair and the most influential figure in the leadership of the three large Auckland DHBs.

The contractual culture prevailed in the relationship between the three Auckland DHBs and the  primary care in the region through their Primary Health Organisations. Consequently, the relationship between them was destructively terse and conflict-ridden.

To varying degrees this contrasted with the largely more relational cultures in the country’s other DHBs. This contrast was most pronounced in Canterbury DHB.

Canterbury’s successful internationally recognised health pathways between community and hospital would not have occurred without this culture.

Shamefully the former Labour government sent Levy to Canterbury as a crown monitor to help bring this culture down.

Likely consequences

If the expected appointment to the Chair of Te Whatu Ora occurs, then Minister Reti’s wish to devolve decision-making within the organisation further down the hierarchy will be led by someone whose practice has been to favour the opposite.

It will also damage Reti’s credibility within the health system. He has already been damaged by an appalling government decision which was not of his making.

This was repealing New Zealand’s world-leading tobacco control legislative amendment. That was a huge rat for him to be forced to swallow, especially as a general practitioner.

Now he may have a new head of Te Whatu Ora with a strong undermining connection with the prime minister.

Further, this head adheres to a culture likely to make the already dysfunctional organisation even more vertically controlling (and consequentially even more dysfunctional).

In other words, Health New Zealand would most likely become more prone to making the wrong service provision and fiscal decisions as well as further demoralising an already demoralised workforce.

Few things would marginalise and damage the credibility of a health minister than this.

 

 

Ian Powell was Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the professional union representing senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand, for over 30 years, until December 2019. He is now a health systems, labour market, and political commentator living in the small river estuary community of Otaihanga (the place by the tide). First published at Otaihanga Second Opinion

Government called to suspend Rakon exports used in Gaza genocide

PSNA has written to the government asking it to suspend military-capable exports from Auckland-based company Rakon pending an independent investigation into their use in Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza.

Rakon makes crystal oscillators used in the guidance systems of smart bombs. Their 2005 business plan says the company’s objective was to dominate “the lucrative and expanding guided munitions and military positioning market” within five years.

Rakon sends these “smart bomb” parts to US arms manufacturers which build the bombs which inevitably end up in Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza.

Already the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a resolution calling for a halt to all arms sales to Israel and last Friday the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its attacks on Rafah because of Israel’s indiscriminate slaughter of Palestinians.

The New Zealand government has been muddying the water telling us New Zealand does nor export arms to Israel.

“Exporting parts for guided munitions and JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) bombs which end up in the killing fields of Gaza means we are actively supporting Israel’s genocide”, says PSNA National Chair John Minto.

An Amnesty International investigation has highlighted two incidents involving JDAM bombs which appear to be war crimes. It is highly likely the bombs used in these mass killing events (43 civilians killed – 19 children, 14 women and 10 men) have parts manufactured in Rakon’s Mt Wellington factory.

The UN’s Genocide Convention requires New Zealand to take action to prevent genocide.

Suspending and investigating Rakon’s bomb-related exports will be a small but important step in the right direction.

John Minto

National Chair

Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

BEN MORGAN: Putin knows Russia is in trouble

Putin is reportedly ready to negotiate, on the condition that the current borders are frozen. This information is from Reuters, quoting senior Russian officials. Essentially, Putin realises that he does not have enough soldiers to take Ukraine and knows Russia will be ruined economically if he continues the war.  He also feels that he can claim victory based on the land he has taken to-date. So is making ‘back channel’ enquiries about negotiation.

This information has a ring of truth. Putin is not stupid and knows that at present, he is able to negotiate from a position of strength.  His armies are making incremental progress, Russian glide bombs are battering frontline towns and his missiles and drones are damaging Ukrainian infrastructure.   In another year, after losing a thousand soldiers per day and dragging the Russian economy further towards collapse he may not be in the same position.

Ukraine’s campaign against Russia’s oil and gas industry is impacting on the economy.  New mobilisation laws will increase Ukraine’s manpower, so more soldiers will be available to operate the US $ 61 billion of artillery, armour and missiles that is on the way.  Europe’s contribution cannot be overlooked and as it mobilises; more ammunition and equipment will flow.  Already, ATACMS and other missiles are delivering powerful strikes far behind Russian lines.

Internationally, France’s President Macron again refused to rule out sending French troops to support Ukraine. A series of events that initiated another round of Russian nuclear ‘sabre rattling,’ by conducting a large exercise of tactical nuclear capabilities including missiles and bombs near Crimea.

The land campaign, are we at Russia’s limit?

Last week, we discussed Russia’s strange operational planning.  How by opening a new front in the Kharkiv Oblast, Russia was dissipating effort.  Using resources to make minor gains near Kharkiv, instead of reinforcing the attack on Chasiv Yar.  It is most likely that Russia’s command is fractured, generals competing for personal glory rather than working together.  Hence, the diversion of 50,000 soldiers from a potentially successful operation to starting a new offensive.

Chasiv Yar is the ‘key stone’ of Ukraine’s defensive network in the north-east.  Sitting on high ground, roughly halfway between Ocheretyne and Lyman. It overlooks the H20 motorway and the road and rail junctions in the town of Kostiantynivka. If Chaisv Yar fall’s into Russian hands it would have an operational level impact on Ukraine’s defences, providing a firm base for future operations that could include:

  • Using the H20 to advance north-west toward Kramatorsk putting pressure on Ukrainian forces located in the salient centred on Siversk.
  • Advancing south-west and closing the salient centred on Toretsk.

Both options could have an operational level impact on the campaign, capturing not only ground but dominating a key road network.

Immediately, Russia would improve observation of the surrounding countryside allowing accurate artillery fire on the H20 motorway and on Kramatorsk.  Additionally, an assault on Kostiantynivka becomes feasible supported by artillery fire directed from high ground near Chasiv Yar.  We discuss emergent technology a lot, and drones and missiles are highly effective but do not have the all-weather capability for continuous barrage fire.  Even now, only tube artillery has this capability and it will probably be a long time before it is replaced on the battlefield.

If the roughly 30,000 soldiers committed to Kharkiv Oblast and the estimated 20,000 on the border of Sumy Oblast were being used to attack Chasiv Yar, Russia’s situation could be very different.

Like the previous week Russia has made scant progress since the last post.  And, it is important to expand on this point. In military terms, ground is significant because of the value it provides. For instance, a ten-kilometre advance in Kharkiv Oblast will have relatively little impact on the campaign.  On the contrary a one-kilometre advance near Chasiv Yar will have a significant impact because capturing high ground there provides a range of offensive options to Russia.  Options that could quickly change the operational situation.  But instead of concentrating its force Russia has dispersed resources and not made operationally significant gains. Russia’s offensive appears to be culminating.

More detail about the Kharkiv front

Intense fighting continues, specifically near Vovchansk. President Volodymyr Zelensky claiming “Our soldiers have now managed to take combat control of the border area where the Russian occupiers entered,” on 24 May. A claim that is at odds with Russian reporting that indicates there is still fighting around the town, a couple of kilometres from the border.  The situation is probably that Russian forces are bogged down fighting in the urban area. This week there has not been a significant advance in the area, indicating that Vovchansk is holding.

Meanwhile Ukrainian sources report that Russian forces are concentrating near the border of Sumy Oblast preparing for future attacks.  The reported Russian dispositions are near Grayvoron and Sudzha could indicate that initial attacks will be near Sumy and Velyka Pysarivka.

Further attacks in this area contribute to the assessment that Russian command relationships are disjointed and their force is unable to achieve unity of effort at the operational level.  This is a significant weakness that is burning out Russia’s land forces for little gain.

Krynky and the Dnipro River

Last week, the small Ukrainian bridgehead near Krynky has been reported on by a variety of sources. Confirming that Ukraine still has an outpost on the eastern side of the river. This week there were also reports of fighting along the Dnipro River.  Recently, there has been little information about this area indicating the bridgehead could have been retaken. However, it now seems that Ukraine still holds a bridgehead and that there is an intense but little reported riverine war going on in this area.

Ukraine on the offensive in the air

Meanwhile, Ukraine is striking back using ATCAMs and European cruise missiles to hit Russian air defence, command centres and communications hubs deep behind the frontline, including destroying:

  • A S-400 surface to air missile system and its supporting radar at Belbek on 15 May.
  • On 20 May, French SCALP cruise missiles damaged a military administration building in Luhansk, possibly injuring Russian general, Gennadiy Anashkin.
  • Several ground attack aircraft were destroyed at Kushchyovskaya airbase. Although this base is on the far side of the Sea of Azov it is within range of Ukrainian drones and cruise-missiles.
  • A S-400 surface to air missile system at Mospino airfield on 22 May.
  • Russian missile armed corvette, Tsiklon was damaged on 22 May, by cruise missiles.
  • An air defence communications centre near Alushta, on the Black Sea Coast was damaged on 23 May.
  • Ukrainian drones damaged Armavir Radar Station in Russia’s southwestern Krasnodar Krai, strategic radar that monitors southern Russian airspace.  It is part of Russia’s anti-ballistic missile radar warning network.

Ukraine is clearly continuing its campaign against Russia’s air defence surveillance and command network.  This seems to be part of a larger trend, piloted aircraft on both sides being held back and air superiority over the battlefield being contested by highly accurate, long-range surface to air missiles like Patriot and S-400/300. The intensity of the frontline’s ground-based air defence is simply too great to risk manned aircraft.  In turn, a new long-range, operational level ‘Suppression of Enemy Air Defence’ (SEAD) battle is emerging in which both parties use a range of surveillance methods (drones, radar, ground observers etc) to target enemy air defence systems.  Examples include Russia’s successful drone directed missile strikes that destroyed Patriot missiles systems deep behind the frontline in March this year and Ukraine’s recent use of ATACMs and SCALP to hit both radars and missile launchers.

This aspect of the war is under-reported in commentary but should be studied because it will become a feature of future near peer conflict.  A Sino-American struggle for air supremacy is liable to develop in a similar manner, and the ability to use long-range, precision-guided missile systems for SEAD against an opponent’s long-range air-denial assets is now a war-winning capability.

Another important lesson, Russia is good at ‘Electronic Warfare’

Another lesson recently highlighted by reporting in the Washington Post is the effectiveness of Russian electronic warfare.  The newspaper reported that Russia can jam some of the sophisticated weapons provided to Ukraine by the US including HIMARs.  This point has been raised previously, for example the ineffectiveness of US Switchblade loitering attack drones highlighted concerns about the effectiveness of Russian ‘Electronic Warfare’ (EW).

The key lessons seem to be that Russia is capitalising on the enormous effort that the Soviet Union invested in EW during the Cold War.  This investment is paying dividends for Russia because it has lots of equipment and its planners actively consider EW in battle planning.  A facet of warfighting that I am not sure US and NATO armies pay as much attention too.

The second lesson is that Russia and its allies are clearly working together to share information about US and NATO systems.  Information like frequencies, guidance systems, transmission power and security measures.  Hence, Switchblade loitering munitions that were used in Afghanistan could be jammed in Ukraine because of information passed to Russia by the Taliban.  Similar intelligence will be being collected in Ukraine, Gaza, Syria and the Red Sea and filtered back to Russia and China for analysis and development of counter-measures.

Summary

This week’s key message is that Russia’s land offensive is probably culminating.  A push into Sumy Oblast is likely but based on Russia’s performance in Kharkiv Oblast is unlikely to become operationally significant.  Russia’s poor command structure squandering resources that it can ill afford to lose.

Meanwhile, Ukraine grows stronger, continuing to strike Russian oil and gas infrastructure and is now using ATACMs and NATO supplied cruise missiles to deplete Russian frontline air defence.  Perhaps opening a ‘window’ to deploy aircraft in support of a future ground attack.  Although Ukraine’s frontline units are tired and nearly exhausted, they are holding on and new brigades are being trained and equipped with NATO and US support.

It seems that Putin understands this situation and is responding in two ways, ‘back channel’ offers to negotiate and nuclear threats. Both of which indicate that he knows he is in trouble and needs to find a way out.  A situation that makes him dangerous, it is very unlikely that he will use nuclear weapons but during the endgame the risk increases.  The counter to this threat is resolve, if there is any hint that NATO and the US can be intimidated it increases the likelihood of him escalating.

The Ukraine War sets the conditions for conflict in this generation. If unilateral aggression triumphs in Europe, Putin will be emulated and nations that support the international rules-based order will be forced to fight new wars. It is vital that Ukraine and its supporters retain their resolve and do not incentivise Putin’s aggression by negotiating too early.

 

Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer, a former Officer in NZDF and TDBs Military Blogger – his work is on substack

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