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Distractions, and teachers’ strike

Opinion Piece

The leaders of our two largest political parties both have someone they wish would just go away still bothering them as the week starts, with the names Jami-Lee Ross and Karel Sroubek continuing to rankle Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern.

National is better placed. Its rogue former MP Ross might have run his course with the embarrassing tapes he has released. Last week’s one was quickly forgotten by the media.

There is a general acceptance that Ross is not well and, more to the point, has limited credibility after revelations around his own behaviour — which takes a lot of the barb out of his sting.

Sroubek is another matter. The admission by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway that he spent just under an hour looking at the file of the Czech kick boxer and convicted criminal before deciding not to deport him is damning.

The issue has given National a great chance to badger the Government and has easily surpassed Ross in the public’s attention.

Ardern could be faced with dismissing her third Minister in just over a year. Many previous prime ministers would have done it by now, but Lees-Galloway is normally a good operator and he retains Ardern’s confidence — for now.

Both issues are really distractions compared with the primary teachers’ rolling week-long strike due to start today.

Education, along with health and social welfare, are the key anchors of any Labour Government and things are not looking good.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says they do not have enough funds to both pay the teachers what they want and reduce class sizes. Hipkins and the unions differ on how much the Government’s offer will really bring teachers.

All this comes in the face of an established teacher shortage. A September survey by the NZEI showed more than half of primary school principals said they could not get all the teachers they needed; a third said they had been forced to split classes after relievers could not be found.

Sroubek and Ross will fade from the public scene, but the teacher shortage is not going to go away any time soon.