Anne Daniels, President
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa
Misinformation is incorrect or misleading information. An example of this it the recent incorrect ED wait time data given to the Minister of Health to use in the media.
Hon Ayesha Verrall used the Northland ED figures to claim there was a huge improvement in the ED response times, when in fact, the opposite was true. (Te Whatu Ora admits figures used by Health Minister are ‘not accurate’ – NZ Herald).
Nurse shortages have put us in crisis mode, and decisions affecting nurse staffing vacancies could have been made on the back of the incorrect data, which has now been corrected.
Disinformation is the creation and distribution of intentionally false information, usually for political ends. I recently attended the CTU conference that focused on organising and campaigning. A misinformation expert and historian researcher Kate Hannah spoke there about the exponential rise in disinformation that originates from a small number of sources, often right wing. Reasons for people and groups to generate and spread disinformation include financial or political motivations, to increase distrust in Government, the media and experts, or just to generate discord.
Disinformation is a symptom of long-standing societal issues such as misogyny, racism, nationalism, distrust in government, and anti-intellectualism. Countering mis- and disinformation can be difficult because of the speed and scale at which digital information can be replicated and shared.
Accountability will only happen if people care enough to do more to actively resist the tide of disinformation. Kate Hannah has concerns as often “New Zealanders generally want to let things slide”.
Recently, I worked with several media outlets who had identified that the information regarding apparent similar rates of pay comparisons between New Zealand and Australian nurses were incorrect. This information had been posted on the Te Whatu Ora website.
Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall used that information and made inaccurate claims that the pay rates for nurses in New Zealand and Australia were now similar. A Kiwi nurse in Queensland was interviewed at the time and said there is nearly a $20,000 difference in base pay. He went to say the Minister had made a sad and unfair statement that was disingenuous. Kaitiaki did an in depth story to demonstrate the facts of the case.
But was it really the Health Minister’s fault? The disinformation came from a trusted source. Are they being held accountable? One must ask what vested interests were in play here? Misinforming the largest health workforce in the country, and the public can only have one outcome – a strengthening of NZNO members commitment to stand strong and act. Further, it is not okay that a Minister of Health is put in a position where an entity she should be able to trust is not doing right by her.
Going forward into election year, I expect disinformation to continue to rise particularly around our NZNO members. It will be up to every nurse, everywhere to stand up and counter disinformation, and be activists in demanding trust, truth, and accountability.