Peter Williams: Free advice for a struggling National Party

Opinion 15/05/2019

We'll start by talking about the teachers, here’s an incident which pretty much sums up where the National Party is at the moment - disorganised, dysfunctional, and mostly inconspicuous - yet somehow still polling around 40 percent.

The incident in question concerns the Wairarapa MP Alistair Scott.

A 26 year old teacher from Greytown wrote to Scott as her local MP saying teachers were undervalued and that they deserved a pay rise.

She is being offered one of course, and at the age of 26 with a role as the senior syndicate leader, which I imagine will pay more that the basic scale, she is being offered a cumulative pay rise of more than 10 percent over the next three years.

Her beef is that she has to put in some pretty long hours to do her planning work and is often doing school work until 10pm.

That’s what you call dedication and it should be admired.

Although I again question a school system that requires so much work from a teacher team leader that she has to work so many hours to do her planning.

When we hear about a 26 year old who has a leadership role in a primary school you think, there’s an ambitious young woman who should be encouraged in her job.

When she’s one of your electorate constituents who is doing god’s work educating the youth of your district, and when you’re an opposition MP who could score some points against an under pressure Education Minister facing mass industrial action in a couple of weeks, you really want to encourage her in her work and say that the National Party supports her case for better pay and conditions.

Actually, you know there isn’t a hope in Hades that a National Party government would have offered the teachers any better, but that isn’t the point.

You are a politician and you’re in a party which is struggling to get air time and gain traction with the public.

So a letter back offering a bit of support for a hard working young teacher in your electorate might have given you a bit of good press, or at least put a smile on the face of the young teacher and some of her colleagues.

But no .. instead of backing her cause - as you can safely do as an opposition MP - you offer no real support at all and tell her that if she doesn’t like her employment circumstances, she should look somewhere else for a job.

That of course gives her every opportunity to tell the media about your cold hearted attitude and it gives the Education Minister a free pass to slag off you and your party about their attitude to education and teachers.

It was just a dumb political move from the MP for Wairarapa.

One that seems so very typical of a currently anonymous National Party.

And here’s another policy that could be the absolute nail in the coffin for the National Party to even have a chance of winning back the Treasury benches next year.

The concept of free universal dental care, it would seem, is actually being considered by the government, or in particular the Labour Party.

Any party which includes free dental care for adults, or at least some adults, in its policy would be on to a winner.

The Health Minister David Clark is said to be considering some advice from officials about the possibility of free dental care for everyone, being part of the platform at the election, although not before.

As I’ve noted before, it is quite bizarre that under our public health system you have every part of your body looked after for not much cost.

But what happens inside your mouth costs you an arm and a leg every time you go to the dentist.

And more and more people are putting off going because it does cost so much.

In case you haven’t been for a while, here’s a wee sample of the average prices for various types of treatment as provided by the New Zealand Dental Association:

76 dollars for the initial examination and X ray, 229 dollars to get a tooth pulled out and 138 per tooth after that, a root filling is over 700 dollars, a surface filling is 153 dollars and a visit to the hygienist is about 110 dollars.

So no matter what you have done, it’s an expensive day out.

There’s little wonder more and more people put it off or just don’t bother.

But under the heading of well being, you can see a big spend on oral health being a real policy winner on the campaign trail.

I doubt it would be universal, but don’t be surprised if there are big subsidies for dental care proposed for those who have community service cards - and maybe even pensioners gold cards .. although I don’t think that’s entirely necessary for a lot of pensioners.

There is of course no promise, no planning at this stage.

The truth is that it is great to see that the issue is at least being talked about.

As has been pointed out many times, having a healthy mouth is key to good health all round your body. Too many people neglect to look after themselves in there, and pay the price for it - literally.

It’s a political opportunity for somebody. After an undistinguished time as the Health Minister so far, David Clark might actually be on to a winner here.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Mornings.