Political Debates – facts are optional?

By Michael Edmonds 27/03/2012

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, that would seem to be MP for Ilam, Gerry Brownlee’s approach to political debate. In order to counter David Shearer’s positive comments about Finland, Gerry Brownlee launched a series of untruths about Finland including that Finland:

“hardly educates it’s people”

Wrong, Finland has an exceptional education system. In 2009 OECD figures ranked Finnish students at 3rd highest in reading, 6th in mathematics and 2nd in science. New Zealand students ranked 7th, 13th and 7th, respectively.

At tertiary level, the University of Helsinki is ranked 91st, while the University of Auckland is ranked 173rd in rankings of universities worldwide. Interestingly enough, New Zealand does seem to produce more tertiary graduates (around 50% compared to 43% in Finland according to OECD figures for 2009, though it is possible that international students studying in New Zealand have artificially inflated our graduate figures.

“have no respect for women”

Wrong, Finnish women gained the right to vote in 1906, and to stand for Parliament. In 2006, Finnish Parliament had 38% representation by women. In New Zealand, women gained the right to vote in 1893 but not to stand for parliament until 1919. In 2011, women represent just under 33% of MPs. In 1987 an Equality law came into effect committing the country to full equality for women in many aspects of society, including pay parity and career opportunities.

“has a terrible homicide rate”

According to wikipedia, Finland’s homicide rate is only slightly higher than New Zealand’s.

Mr Brownlee has claimed that the speech was “meant to be humorous and … should be seen in that light”, however, I find it embarrassing and concerning that a politician will just make up “facts” to suit his argument.

Is it any wonder that politicians don’t seem to make much headway on issues such as climate change, family violence etc, if they have no respect for the truth?

0 Responses to “Political Debates – facts are optional?”

  • Carol,

    Sounds like a good homework assignment. I’m sure a smart 12 year old can do better research than Mr Brownlee.
    Thanks for the clip – the Finns are certainly not pulling any punches.

  • “In 2009 OECD figures ranked Finnish students at 3rd highest in reading, 6th in mathematics and 2nd in reading”. Did you mean 2nd in science?

  • Matt,

    yes, inevitable – though at least in my case the error was due to poor reading skills – Brownlee’s is due to making up “facts” to suit ones own agenda.

  • Facts aren’t just optional in political debates, they’re also actively discouraged.

  • Only the inconvenient facts, anonymous. Convenient facts are twisted into arguments that suit a politicians position.