Thank you Michael Morrah – the state is not our friend.


Unite Union represents workers in the hotel industry including now the quarantine facilities.

We have been demanding proper personal protective equipment and mandatory use of that equipment inside those facilities from day one. We have been asking for regular testing from day one.

So it was disappointing to see some government representatives imply there was some resistance on our member’s part to that happening. That is nonsense.

Of course, criticism from the like of National and Act who have hypocritically echoed the criticism while they previously had simply echoe the “reopen now” line of big business should be treated with the contempt it deserves. 

Nevertheless, what has become clear is that large parts of the government bureaucracy is simply incapable of doing a job to protect working people. They appear institutionally paralyzed when it comes to seeing workers as anything other than an expense to manage rather than a power to enhance to get things done effectively.

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This includes ministries like health and education that we think are there to serve the people. Not true. They are set up to manage a hostile relationship with their own workforces to minimise costs. They do this even when it is obvious that shortages keep emerging that have to be plugged by importing labour from still cheaper countries to fill the gaps.

The Ministry of Health seemed institutionally incapable of demanding the use of masks in public spaces until the entire world was doing it. Why? They also seemed institutionally incapable of ensuring that widespread testing was being done unless people were actually lining up for tests themselves. Why? They couldn’t even comply with a direct request from the government to ensure testing was being done of all frontline staff. Why?

Almost the entire executive leadership team has been forced to resign at Canterbury District Health Board to try and stop a bullying cost-cutting board and crown monitor from forcing through. The Labour government appointed the same crown monitor as the National government used to impose cost-cutting budgets when they were in power.

We have the same problems with the agencies supposedly responsible for protecting workers. Unite had one proposal for the incoming Labour government to make our job a little bit easier. That where we had a collective agreement, new workers would be given a genuine choice to join the union and the collective agreement or go on an individual agreement. We lobbied the CTU and got support, we lobbied the Labour Minister responsible, we lobbied the Green MP’s on the parliamentary committee. At the end of the day, the proposal was derailed by the bureaucrats behind the scenes. Why?

When there was a huge fire at SkyCity this year we asked Worksafe – to government agency for work safety – to test if the air was safe to work. Not their job they said.

When workers were being sent back to work in fast food joints after moving to levels three and two we asked Worksafe to check if social distancing could be maintained. They couldn’t do that at Level 3 because they only worked from home. We told them they could request video footage from stores. They didn’t bother.

Immigration NZ seems to operate as a protection racket for employers to bring in cheap labour to exploit and lie to their potential clients about the possibility of transitioning to permanent residence.

WINZ has been turned into an institution with a culture to deny beneficiaries access not enable them.

ACC is an institution with a culture designed to deny access to cover not enable it.

Child, Youth and Family became an institution that kidnapped children not protect them

The government encouraged schools, tertiary institutions and low-quality Private Training Establishments to bring in fee-paying students to subsidise the existing education system rather than as a way to expand access for New Zealand residents. Existing inequalities were magnified by the school’s ability to “market” themselves with “whiter” more middle-class schools and suburbs preferred.

When journalists like Michael Morrah at TV3 and Phil Pennington at Radio NZ expose the lies of the bureaucrats (and misinformation from the government) they should be applauded not criticised.

If Labour and the Greens are able to form a government after the election we need to demand that there be radical changes at all these institutions of the state, incluing a cleaning out of a bureaucracy serving wealth, power and privilege. That starts by radically enhancing workers’ power within those agencies and in the communities they serve more broadly.



  1. I think the answer lies in embedded National and Act party sympathizers in these official circles. They know very well that ‘letting a small slip through’ would be political dynamite to undermine this govt. We have already seen statements by those party’s and their supporters and their sentiments of ‘opening up the borders to foreign students and business’.

    This how ruthless these types are.

    They couldn’t care less about peoples health or whether large numbers of elderly die if it suits their agendas. For them it is simply massive profits and power that is their only motivation.

    They are scum.

    • I know laying all the blame at National and Acts door will go down a treat on this blog but the reality is that since 1984, and the changes that the Lange/Douglas government brought in, we have had 18 years of National and 18 years of Labour in government. Can you really say that all the blame lies with only one of those? In that time Labour has done very little to truly transform things and the underlying systems are largely the same. I think it is a fool’s dream to think that Labour is going to be truly transformational.

      This is not a plug for National – I’m not a supporter of any party. I consider that true change usually comes at a grass roots level in spite of, not because of, government. All governments, whatever their hue, have always got an eye on the polls, what they think they can and can’t get away with. self promotion and so on. It doesn’t really matter who gets in next election – the sort of change that Mike is writing about is probably beyond most governments as you are talking about institutions that survive all governments. And do you really think the PSA would allow the transformation of the Public Service that would be required? Many of those PSA members are in middle and senior management positions.

    • @Katipo, it’s deeper than that. The bureaucrats think they are politically neutral and the neo liberal model is the best model available. Except they don’t call it that, in fact they don’t call it anything, in much the same way that a fish doesn’t really notice the water.

      All parties currently in parliament, except NZ First, have absorbed this into their very being as well, as has our kind PM, which is why she is kind during a crisis and impotent the rest of the time.

      Most of the media also lives and breathes this stuff which is why Morrah asking Dr Ashley Bloomfield if he should resign is going about it completely the wrong way. Both men are part of the problem and both are incapable of seeing the big picture.

      A real journalist would ask the PM when she is going to redesign the public service to actually serve the public and then when she fails to answer that they would start looking for someone with a vision that could solve the problem.

      Of course it won’t happen this way because the politicians, the bureaucrats and the MSM have all drunk the Neo-liberal kool-aid and the real revolution will be coming from outside the established power structure – when the general population decides it has had enough.

      I don’t know on which day this will happen but every time they double down on the neo-liberal way of life they bring that day a little bit closer

        • look at western history long term – like over the last thousand years – and you’ll see a steady increase in democracy and rights for the lower classes. Zoom in close and you’ll see a lot of ups and downs.

          We’ve going through a longish downward trend right now but despite that we are still miles ahead of where we were 100 years ago – things like free health care are just not up for debate anymore

  2. An excellent depiction of the dismal state of so much of New Zealand’s bureaucracy, Mike.

    The bits you left out are cronyism and trough-feeding, whereby the same self-serving liars and sociopaths shift from one organisation to another, or get promoted within organisations, not on the basis of qualifications or achievements, but on the basis of whose agenda they are serving or whose nephew/niece,/husband/wife/lover they happen to be.

    These grossly overpaid, and frequently utterly incompetent, sociopaths can make monumental cock-ups and never be called to account because the system has been set up to ensure there is no accountability.

    How an incoming government can deal with such a albatross around the neck of common folk is the big question, especially now that the financial-economic system is in catastrophic failure mode, with all the chickens [of dysfunctional policy] coming home to roost mega-fast.

    I link the following, not because it provides any workable answers to our predicament but because it details just close to the crumbling cliff edge we now are. And the graphs are stunning.

    ‘The 4% Rule Is Dead. What Should Retirees Do Now?’

  3. Excellent Mike – the senior positions at all these government agencies have been infiltrated with private sector neoliberals appointed by both Labour and National governments to run as “businesses” rather than as government services. A huge cleanout and culture change is essential.

    • Ain’t that the truth! The sad bit is that many of our political “representatives” can’t yet see it – even NOW when we’re going through the once-in-a-century big ‘P’ (with the likelihood that big Ps will become more regular), and when this is probably the best opportunity for change, progress and hopey hopey stuff. They still want to go through the processes of a failed cistern (in this space, going forward)
      Yea/nah ….. pivot pivot …… next
      Hopey hopey hoprefully when JA and the best of her colleagues win the election (taking a few of her loafers with her), plus a few wet and woke Greens clutching some of their superior policies, she’ll let that stubborn streak that’s pulled us through COVID 19 be applied to realistic reform of that cistern

  4. Govt depts and ministries are like the HR depts in private sector they are there to enforce policy and minimise litigation…..for the state not for the people. I mean look at how the state handled this fiasco Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin Matthews got sacked from his role, wtaf how does this happen incompetence that’s how at many levels!!

  5. Yup, alot of foreigners running our govt depts, Indians are best on the front line i.e. call centres as they stick to the script in front of them. Senior management are full of Brits who have all worked for you guessed it the NHS where they failed there and now we let them in here to run our DHB’s, btw they only like to hire their own kind. Then there are the Sth Africaaans who absolutely love it in our govt depts cause they really hate NZers especially brown/pacific ones. Then there are the career seat warmers these are the ones that are first to morning tea and last to leave, you can also spot them from the size of their stomach or if they are wearing a brown cardigan.

  6. M. Morrah is a journalist. A proper journalist who asks direct questions and gives balanced opinions based on the facts evidence, unlike todays ‘news influencers’ who make shit up and present it as news worthy.

  7. Oh, bring on the demise of NZF, as fast as possible… We are at the point in our history, when the excesses of tory colonialism, has become blatantly obvious in it’s drag on our natural evolution.. We need a majority government that actually wants to make it right.. Every other choice on the table cedes sovereignty, and prosperity to the corporate ghouls that John Key willingly sold our country out to..
    To the rational, and humane mind, there is only two choices.. Having a real life, under a labour government with no impediments, or servitude, and poverty for the majority, while serving the interests of those who would see us perish if it suited their agenda..

  8. “Thank you Michael Morrah…….”
    Indeed!. And thank you to a few others that haven’t forgotten the principles of the 4th Estate. They’re becoming a rare breed.
    The likes of Steve Kilgallons and one or two others at what was once Stuffed but now has new legs; and Dileepa Fonsekas, Melanie Reids and others at Newsroom; Barbara Dreavers and John Campbells at that commercial, publicly-owned fuckup TVNZ that really should have whatever profits it now produces returned to supporting the Public Sphere; and the Gill Bonnetts, Kim Hills, RNZ Media Watch contributors and others at RNZ.
    And then of course the likes of Bradbury and Treen and Macskasy and Bruce, and others (dare I say it, some at the very ‘precious’, well-intentioned TS – even though they do seem to spend their time worrying about the luxuries associated with the 1st Whurl )

  9. Yes, & the galling thing is that these arseholes get paid bonuses to maintain K P Is to keep the public at bay while they laugh all the way to the bank, a reset is way over due.

  10. A bit like parachutes for the fliers in World War One — we’ll get round to looking at it one of these days, old chap. When the war is over.

  11. It’s perfectly possible to be a rigorous critic of the state without being an egregious dickhead like Morrah. What Morrah is in fact doing is substituting opinion for fact, lowering the quality of journalism. We live in a barbarous age when thickets like this can gain control of major news streams.

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