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Better to look in the mirror

There’s no use in New Zealand looking over the fence at what could be viewed as greener pastures.

Individuals have been doing it forever.

Whether it be looking at a neighbour with a better-looking lawn or vegetable patch, or looking much further afield, perhaps as far as the other side of the world, and coming to the conclusion things are better ‘over there.’ I’m sure there are plenty of people currently weighing up whether they should leave their job, their home, or whatever situation they are in and head off for something they perceive will be much better. It’s human nature.

But the entire country? No.

Yet, as the general election draws ever nearer, the inevitable comparisons with other countries are made by politicians seeking to either provide worthwhile examples of what New Zealand should be doing, or examples of how we are supposedly measuring up. Or not measuring up.

Those who have their eye on the seat of power draw comparisons that make the current government’s performance look poor, while those who want to hold on to the reigns draw comparisons to show we are doing relatively well, all things considered. The subject matter for said comparisons usually revolves around economies and the management thereof, the public sector and how it delivers its service, and any number of more specific topics that are top of the news list at the time.

The comparisons are rarely relevant. They are much more likely to be point-scoring, or vote-getting, for the most part, and add little, if anything, to the debate.

To suggest that we could somehow compare our health sector with that of, for example, Canada, and then draw any firm conclusions about, or solutions for, our health sector is nothing more than fancy. Yes, we both have a health sector, but we are two very different countries with very different needs in this area. We would be thrilled to entice a few of their nurses and doctors our way. But that’s about as far as it goes. How Canada funds its health sector is unique to Canada. We simply couldn’t borrow their system and plant it in ours.

The most frequent and possibly the most meaningless comparisons are made with Australia. What Australia has and we don’t is a massive resources sector.

Here’s a very recent example. The world is moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes are increasingly battery-powered. Whether or not you agree with the reasons why this is happening doesn’t matter; sales of EVs are rising exponentially. A key component of those batteries is, among other things, lithium.

As recently as five years ago, Australia barely registered as a lithium producer. Today, they are the world’s leading producer of lithium. Five years. Goodness knows how many billions of dollars that new market will inject into their economy. No wonder they pinch our nurses and truckies and all manner of other people we can ill afford to lose.

But there’s no point looking across the Tasman and wishing we had their resources sector. We don’t.

We have other things, mostly food production and a tourism sector without poisonous snakes and spiders.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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