Damned lies and statistics: why you should care
Forget the surge in gun violence and ram raids; one of the century’s greatest crimes is happening right under our noses in Wellington. Moreover, it’s gone virtually unnoticed.
“Nowhere else in the world have changes of this sort been made, or in this manner…”
That’s the impression from people as different as Former Labour PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer, ex-Government Statistician Len Cook, and Te Pāti Māori.
“Nowhere else in the world have changes of this sort been made, or in this manner…” thunders Cook.
“…a sea-change,” notes Palmer, adding that the issue hasn’t had enough scrutiny.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer of Te Pāti Māori is more succinct. “This Bill should not proceed.”
They’re talking about the innocuous-sounding Data and Statistics Bill, which just passed its third and final reading in Parliament and will now become law.
“It will do serious damage to public trust in government by turning Statistics NZ into a data broker,”
Critics argue that this legislation will allow the Government to dilute the independence of Statistics New Zealand, conferring some of its tasks to other Government departments.
“It will do serious damage to public trust in government by turning Statistics NZ into a data broker,” says the NZ Civil Liberties Council.
In short, politicians will be more able to control data. When that happens, controlling the narrative will get easier. Inflation may cease to be so…um… inflationary. Gun crime could be reclassified as a noise control matter. Black becomes in grave danger of being white.
Statistics Minister David Clark disputes this, asserting that—far from being a Trojan Horse for Government meddling with truth—the bill is, in fact, attempting to protect it.
That dataset is now to be updated, with 233,000 people being added to it.
“The Data and Statistics Bill modernises and futureproofs our statistics system for decades to come.” he says, adding, “When the Government Statistician does delegate collection responsibilities to an agency this Act will ensure, for the first time, proper legal safeguards are in place for that to happen safely.”
To be fair, the bill was supported by Labour, National and the Greens: a cause either for celebration… or heightened suspicion.
The two-dose coverage in the eligible population aged over 12 falls from 95 to 90 per cent.
Why this argument matters was demonstrated the same week of the Bill’s third reading. Statistics NZ recommended a raft of improvements to the Ministry of Health’s own population dataset, which has been widely criticised for under-counting Māori Covid-19 vaccination rates.
That dataset is now to be updated, with 233,000 people being added to it. The result? The two-dose coverage in the eligible population aged over 12 falls from 95 to 90 per cent. Among Māori, coverage rates will drop from 88 per cent to 83 per cent, and for Pacific peoples, from 97 per cent to 89 per cent. In short, the Government’s vaccine rollout is less impressive than it claimed.
Who can you believe?
However, the Public Health Agency’s Deputy Director-General, Dr Andrew Old, maintains that the ministry’s dataset is “ideal” for supporting vaccination efforts.
Translation: It’s all about the narrative.
With the Data and Statistics legislation now virtually enshrined, the question becomes: Who can you believe?go back