Insufficiently Qualified To Object: Why Labour Ministers Can Be Lied To With Impunity.


DAILY BLOG EDITOR, Martyn Bradbury, has lambasted the state bureaucracy for its failure to tell its political “masters” the truth. While entirely justified, his criticism does not go far enough. There’s an old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” When, as has happened on multiple occasions since 2017, public servants have been caught out lying to their ministers, why haven’t the individuals responsible (and their superiors) been sacked? What is it that prevents Labour politicians from taking steps to ensure both the transparency and accountability of the public service? A coherent answer to this question would not only explain much, it would allow even more to be improved.

The most obvious answer to these questions lies in the deliberate legislative separation of the political from the operational. The State Sector Act (1988) restricted politicians to the formulation of policy. The implementation of that policy was the responsibility of the CEO of the relevant ministry or department. Hiring and firing, and holding his or her underlings accountable for their mistakes – was the CEO’s job – not the Minister’s. Politicians had no role to play in “operational matters”.

That this arrangement constituted a drastic reduction in the power of government ministers to “make things happen” was (and remains) entirely deliberate. That it also profoundly disempowers the people’s representatives, working through the Executive, to give practical expression to the people’s will is, likewise, completely intentional. The neoliberal revolution has always been about limiting the effectiveness of democratic institutions. The State Sector Act fulfils this revolutionary function admirably. (Astonishingly, the SSA’s replacement legislation, of which the current government is the ostensible author, shifts even more power from elected MPs and ministers to unelected state bureaucrats!)

The arguments in favour of this legislation, like just about all the other laws associated with “Rogernomics”, go back to the era of the National Party prime minister, Rob Muldoon. By combining the powers of the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister in his own person, and using the enormous powers available to him under the Economic Stabilisation Act (1948) Muldoon amassed sufficient authority to both overawe his bureaucratic advisers and execute a series of constitutionally dubious end-runs around Parliament itself.

This was the “Unbridled Power” that the former law professor, Geoffrey Palmer, then Labour’s deputy-leader, railed against in the run-up to the 1984 general election. He and his colleagues in the Labour caucus were not only determined to put an end to “Muldoonism”, they were equally determined to put a bridle on all future “Muldoonist” politicians – lest they make a similar bid for political and economic omnipotence.

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Palmer’s constitutional lawyer’s outrage at Muldoonism was skilfully interwoven with the neoliberal programme of the Fourth Labour Government’s economic string-pullers – sorry, “advisers” – at Treasury and the Reserve Bank. What began as a perfectly reasonable effort to prevent the rise of another Muldoonist “economic dictator”, ended with more and more economic and administrative decisions being removed from the hands of elected politicians and placed in the hands of appointed officials. New Zealand had escaped from the clutches of a democratically elected (and unelected, let’s not forget) economic dictator, only to find itself, four years later, in the hands of a clutch of non-elected neoliberal administrators – with quasi-dictatorial powers.

Labour MPs at the time – and ever since – have found it almost impossible to conceptualise the profound redistribution of power and influence that Rogernomics made possible. They still see the period as one of shaking-off shackles and opening up New Zealand to the bracing winds of free markets and free trade. They simply cannot place themselves in a drama which has at its heart a deadly attack at the democratic right of the people to shape not only their political future, but their economic and social futures as well. They came to view the economic controls imposed upon capitalism by the likes of Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Fraser, Walter Nash and Norman Kirk as well-meaning, but wrong. They believed that Muldoon’s over-regulated society was where even “good” countries like New Zealand ended up when politicians were permitted to lead them down what the neoliberal guru Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992) called “the road to serfdom”.

It’s not quite enough, though, is it? What remains to be explained is why Labour leader after Labour leader – from David Lange to Helen Clark to Jacinda Ardern – has been unable to see neoliberalism for what it so self-evidently is – an ideological excuse for transferring more-and-more power from the poor to the rich. Ironically, the answer has everything to do with the astonishing success of Labour, and social-democratic parties like it, in the years following the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The success of the economic and social reforms of the post-war period transformed society into what its citizens were encouraged to believe was a “meritocracy”. Public health systems brought a large measure of physical equality, while, for the first time in human history, public education made equality of opportunity possible. Welfare states, it was argued, brought everyone up to the same line: after that, how far you went was a matter of individual merit.

This wasn’t just political rhetoric, either. By the 1960s and 70s, thousands of working-class children, whose working-class parents had voted the welfare state into existence, were becoming the first person in their family’s history to study at a university. They emerged from the experience much changed. Not only did they possess a brand new professional qualification, but also a brand new way of looking at themselves and the society they lived in.

In the past people had been respected for reasons over which they exercised little or no control. Who their parents were. The colour of their skin. Their religion. Where they had come from. How much wealth their family possessed. Now it was different. What mattered more than anything else in the new meritocracies was what you were qualified to do. Crucially, a qualification was something achieved individually, through personal talent and hard work. Professional qualifications conferred status and enhanced earning power, but they also conferred something else: the right to offer advice; the right to be consulted; the right to be heeded.

It was one of the distinguishing features of the Fourth Labour Government – how many of its MPs possessed professional qualifications. They were successful members of the meritocracy, which meant they had succeeded where the vast majority of their fellow citizens had failed. The primary political obligation, understood by all members of the First Labour Government, was to listen to the people. Fifty years on, however, the direction of that obligation was reversed. Now it was the duty of the people to listen to – and heed – the instructions of political leaders better qualified than themselves. Moreover, what was good for “the punters out in punterland” was also good for the politicians.

Advised by impressively credentialled and highly experienced public servants, today’s Labour MPs feel obliged – by the meritocratic principles central to their personal identities – to do exactly what they’re told. And if they discover subsequently their advisers have lied to them, well, they must have had a very good reason for doing so. A reason they simply aren’t qualified to understand – or challenge. Not when the only alternative is allowing the people to decide. Because, seriously, what do they know?


  1. Interesting observations and commentary.

    ‘Advised by impressively credentialled and highly experienced public servants, today’s Labour MPs feel obliged – by the meritocratic principles central to their personal identities – to do exactly what they’re told.’


    I’m trying to work out whether you are being sarcastic, Chris, or whether you are serious.

    All I now for certain is that ‘pubic servants’ are amongst the most ignorant, poorly qualified people in the professional-economic sphere, and their level of incompetence and self-serving is a major reason we are in this dreadful predicament.

    With no accountability being the prime functional directive of the system and gross incompetence at the helm, we can be certain we will to continue to slide off the cliff (and eventually onto the rocks below) via money-printing, squandering of energy and resources, and degradation of the environment.

    On second thoughts, denial of reality is now the prime direct, followed by no accountability.

    • Are they un qualified or ov a very different political ideology. Selection of key public service staff does seem to indicate a backroom political bias.
      Then we also have outright lying which brings into open speculation of motives either political or straight graft from outside of the public service.

      • Nah after reading Selwyn Maanings blog published today it gave me a gut feeling that Chinese influences are paralysing Parliament.

  2. Well said @ Mr Trotter (If you’re the author). Just as well I’m on the road or this comment would be a tl;dr.
    You’ve captured the how and why of it all well. It’s become a bit like the legitimisation of Sir Humphrey in law with a shitload of supposedly ‘unintended consequences’ as a result, because we were frightened of Muldoon’s unbridled power.
    And of course the bullshittery and lying of a lot of it can be dressed up as ‘doublespeak’ or ‘mis-speaks’ and the ill-defined ‘operational matter’ until there is a major embarrassing fuckup such as when people start dying or are severely abused or exploited and it happens to hit the media.

  3. Excellent article. Eggheads, we used to call them. And eggheads don’t always get it right. Science, for example is repeating an experiment and seeing if the results are repeatable. However, – how many times down the thousands of years of history have pet theories been overturned when a new set of data later bears out the error of that pet theory?

    How do the eggheads cope then when their cherished beliefs are overturned so brutally?

    Same goes for politics, be it it theocracy, democracy or autocracy. There is no egghead alive who has a crystal ball and see 50 years into the future, – or indeed has that right. So for the egghead to think they can pass legislation that curbs a democracy such as the The State Sector Act (1988) and limits the power of elected representatives,- and then limits the power of people to decide and get rid of unwanted CEO’s running govt dept’s via their political representatives, is akin to allowing petty despots to embed themselves quite snuggly and remain unaccountable.

    Whish is EXACTLY the same thing, but in inverse, – of the very reason the law was passed in the first place ! Except this time, – it is uncurbed, unaccountable and dictatorial behavior by unelected officials.

    So the take home here is,… JUST BECAUSE some certificated egghead says something doesn’t mean its actually true, right or proper. And if you dont believe that, think of the sick minds of eggheads who invested mustard gas, atom bombs and the like. And the billions of dollars these over qualified eggheads make each year and indirectly ending the lives of hundreds of thousands in the arms trade….

    Just a few dramatic examples to illustrate a very ‘ undramatic’ situation brought about by eggeheads on the quiet domestic front ( and they like being under the radar from the general publics perusal) and how when these eggheads are taken off the leash, this is what they are capable of doing.

    The early years of the Labour party had, I am told,… few of these eggheads among their ranks, – they were workers, trade unionists, farmers,… just people with common sense and a generally honest disposition. Yet they got things done in such a way that those who are old enough, those who have taken the time to learn admire that era of the Labour party. That same admiration does not extend to the post 19984 Labour party.

    And for very, very good reasons it seems…

    • Read John A Lee. “Simple on a Soapbox”is a good place to start. Also Trotter’s “No Left Turn”and Michael Bassett’s biography of Peter Fraser. All on Trade Me and should be in any local NZ library. All great read’s WILD Katipo. NZ ‘s 20th Century political history is as fascinating as that of any other country on the globe. Cheers.

      • Shona it is worth reading most of John A Lees books about the political arena.
        Many things John describes can be reflected upon on retrospect to give new importance to his then observations.
        If you can get a copy of the now rare paper so freely distributed based on his speech then do read it.
        The flimsy booklet/pamphlet ages and the paper turns brpwn making copying of it difficult/
        Its called
        Debt Finance for War And Peace Vs Democracy
        A speech that aroused NZ.
        By J. A. Lee, MP.
        Price 3d.
        I have a third edition but they sold widely and are as relevant today as when printed.
        My scanned version is available

  4. This certainly explains why Arderns government has so few achievements and why her lofty rhetoric is light years from reality.

    Each major policy plank had been carefully slowed then stalled. It’s just plain embarrassing. And one might be tempted to say the bureaucracy pushed the envelope a little too far! It seems even the few crumbs she has managed to get don’t get implemented anyway, mental health being the latest.

    I wrote the other day that her government reminds me the impotent elected representatives of Auckland City. They go to work and do what the Council Controlled Organisations let them do and nothing more. Certainly not what voters want. A situation so bad bugger all of us bother voting in local body elections anymore.

    Well, Jacinda leads to a majority government. Either they use that opportunity to rewrite this outmoded legislation that belonged to another era for reasons long since dead which hold this country back from its voters or they get out. Her government is not making a noticeable difference anyway.

    No more excuses!

    • Agree with X-RAY.

      The Auckland Council is a great case study for what afflicts us at national level. The “Council Controlled Organisations” are nothing of the sort. Actually being undemocratic, sealed business units, with booby traps galore for any Council that dares to try and direct or control them.

      The Labour Caucus could roll back the neo liberal state, but they have neither the ideological position or tactical fighting skills to do so. That is why I always call for community organisation and appropriate direct action. Ihumātao was not a perfect result but it was way better than the ignominious original deal, unity between Māori and non Māori forces made it possible. The Govt. and cops knew they were in for a mass turnout on the ground if they pushed it any further.

      That is the position we need the Govt. to be in over housing and other matters.

      • @ Tiger Mountain
        You rail against Council controlled organisations which you describe as undemocratic, yet the alternative to them is to revert to the 90’s model of private contractors delivering core services. All good you might say, but take a moment to consider that the vast majority of organizations capable of taking these contracts are overseas companies and of those the vast majority are australian owned, and so the profits derived are sent offshore, something that has been frequently railed against on this blogsite. That in itself is bad enough but following this flawed model through to it’s logical conclusion would see critical services such as drinking and waste waters privatized. Now you would find yourself enslaved by these overseas companies as they then have the right to not only charge what they like for service delivery but to deny service to person’s who cannot pay, remembering that without water the average human will die in around three days, likely in complete agony, possibly having been driven mad. If the choice is between Watercare who for all their faults are not allowed to cut off water supply to residential properties, but only restrict them or say Veolia as network utility operators (ie owners) I would say to you better the devil you know. These public services are best delivered buy publicly owned entities.

        • Councils have tried to take CCO function back into house but jonkey altered the regulations to block that happening CCOs are a step to privatisation and they ignore what councils demand of them.

  5. Excellent article. The unholy trinity of State Sector Act, Reserve Bank Act and SOEs has poisoned the well for working class New Zealanders for over three and a half decades.

    Neo liberalism and monetarism are structurally embedded in the NZ State, there is massive penetration of public infrastructure by private capital, and gifts to the bastards via previous asset sales. Removing the parasites, and smashing the Parliamentary monetarist consensus, has to be the key political task for the generational replacement voters who will come to the fore in 2023 and beyond.

    Muldoon is long dead in case anyone missed it. NZ’s version of the “the Chicago Boys” has failed and condemned our huge underclass to a life of misery in a land of plenty. 50% of the people own just 2% of the wealth! The SSA is insidious because it operates in the background, largely unobserved by people that need a warm dry house, mental health care, or any thing else from the institutions that should be there for all of us.

    Our TBD colleague Dave Brown will urge Revolution not reform–that will happen when the consciousness is there. Things will change quickly if we do get into a “fortress AotearoaNZ” situation. Right now it is time to wake up and campaign for an end to neo liberalism. Send those bludging CEOs packing. Unite all who can be united and go for it–the Greens and Māori Party could play a significant role here, but so could nutty “5G authoritarians” if the left does not realise Labour is beyond help or change, and get into direct action.

    • Agree with you 100% Tiger Mountain. But I hold little faith in the Greens or the Maori Party. Both appear easily diverted. Even our Unions have been taken over PMC types who are scared to jeopardise their standing.
      If our political and social representatives are failing us, who does that leave?
      My conclusion therefore is it will ONLY be when people, in their anger & frustration, take to the streets and start engaging in a bit of gilets jaunes style activism – repeatedly and regularly, that hope of change will truly begin.
      And the chances of that happening? Sadly, very low. Not whilst the middle classes are convinced TINA & they feel no intolerable pain. Not whilst our “fourth estate” promote pure unbalanced manufactured consent ( a perfect example at the minute is the completely unbalanced, with zero to little opposing view, propaganda push for “the border Bubble”).
      I hold little hope. Only when environmental collapse forces the issue, will the pain become intolerable and the protests ensue.
      But by then, it will be too late 🙁

    • TM
      I noticed that you left out the Mana Party who have exhibited some of the clearest political thinking in recent years. Was that deliberate.

  6. Perhaps you’d like to take this lying further as in not hearing hundreds of NZ returnees with commercial insights that blog groups could mobilise.


    The TDB blogger wrote, “Today’s Labour MPs feel obliged – by the meritocratic principles central to their personal identities – to do exactly what they’re told”.
    Including accepting it when they’re deliberately lied to. By advisers who they view as “must have had a very good reason for doing so”!

    “People “simply aren’t qualified to understand – or challenge… Because, seriously, what do they know?”

    At this very vital time when zoom closed doors need to be challenged by blogging groups open to all, are we not trying to exit this Neowhatever age? An age as the TDB blogger expressed it, “Duty of the people to listen to – and heed – the instructions of political leaders better qualified than themselves”?

    And professional academics like in TheConversation dot, will they continue to hold professional sway over NZ’s future directions? Also the media that walks in lock-step?

    How much do we want the overseas insights of hundreds among the thousands of NZ returnees? Enough to not let MMs’ professional jealousy cancel their input?

    Like me, recently cancelled. Yet a returnee in the vanguard of the Covid war. Back with OE in interstate transport and trade association management as in Sydney’s buildIng trade with 80 members transacting with 20,000 builders. “A 75 year old, what could he possibly contribute,” say they who profess inclusivity.

  7. Excellent points that deserve to be explored.

    The ‘dumbing down’ of the next generation of politicians and other people seems deliberate policy by the Rogernoms. Domestic tertiary education numbers down, foreign low level degrees up…. yep another generation of sunset businesses on the rise and now they get even more support from the taxes with wage subsidies and free loans to individual private practises running fish and chip shops and cleaning businesses or overseas companies threatening to sue/leave taking away from the traditional tax spend on education and health.

    Remember how farm hands and chefs were considered so important. With Covid and Droughts, we might have been better to aim a bit higher with up skilling our youth to tertiary levels in science and arts just like the old days so we could do the ‘value add’ idea that we never quite mastered the hang of.

    Instead the managers give away our water and open our borders to Covid on the back of cricket teams and low wage jobs and foreign students on the back of $100k donations for list MP seats to drive donations into political parties.

    Traditional tertiary education of the old BA or BSc tended to create a well balanced education with ability to up skill and make better decisions overall as things change … instead as the bean counters and money bureaucrats and lawyers take over we get Global Financial Crisis after Global Financial Crisis and a lack of practicality and risk control, in everyday thinking. Apparently the occupation with the most psychopaths is commerce.

    Did Rogernomics and turning education into a business (with a recent Rogernomics innovation of importing in chefs, aged care workers, farmhands, labourers and retail/supermarket managers and laughable IT level skills keeping NZ wages at slave levels) help NZ’s productivity? The answer is low wages in NZ have decreased/stagnated NZ productivity as more productive More experienced and expensive workers are made redundant while side arrangements (pay back wages, work for cash, swindle materials to save costs) have become the norm in NZ with foreign workers keenly sought to keep the scams going. Meanwhile those with real skills still try to head overseas for real wages

    The NZ politicians and advisors to NZ government are truely the idiot yet intellectual class with their powerpoint presentations and Neoliberal gobbledegook. (without even the intellectual in most cases as we now prefer experts in NZ without a qualification but just ‘networked’ experience and a strong sounding buzz list of organisations to refer to, where they often did nothing).

  8. “Because, seriously, what do they know”. As much as they are told.. This, to me, goes to the heart of a democratic reality.. The one that requires “an informed” electorate.. The best way to keep control, and power is to keep the electorate ignorant.. And haven’t the fourth estate done a wonderful job of doing that over the decades/century that they have been the only source of information? Yes, this government can do something about this self defeating situation, but to do so will ignite ww3 in the form of unending, and strident propaganda by those that have the control of our knowledge and livelyhoods.. Considering that the bulk of the population are still utterly captured by the bullshit artists in the editorial offices, and boardrooms of our civil service, this may well be democracy’s “Gallipoli” moment.. To my mind, the biggest weakness of the current Labour party is the lack of true “labour” people.. How many mp’s in the govt actually came up through the labour movement, and worked at the “coal face” so to speak? As far a I can tell, none of them… How can they possibly know what life is like when one is subject to the whims of the owners, and investors? When I was a teenager, we had a union movement that banded together and fought tooth and nail against the predation of the moneyed classes.. After three decades of unrelenting assault on our rights to argue against this behavior, where are we now? Up shit creek is where.. As a society and a country..

  9. The workers don’t seem to be the ‘lazy’ ones, it is the managers and their thinking.

    OK so you know that the Ports of Auckland is dysfunctional and hates workers for the past decade, Ports of Auckland fined $40k for strike-breaking hire, so you ignore it at Auckland Council that many of their profits and ‘dividends’ are fake (because they are borrowing so the ‘profits’ are really coming from debt not profits), then even the fake dividends disappear.

    Then the Neoliberals answer is not to put in better management from POA and oversight from Auckland Council on behalf of the ratepayers but sell it off to private equity.

    OK so having POA run for profit and hands off from the council and ratepayers, certainly hasn’t worked so far, for the ratepayers, Auckland council, the POA workers, the taxpayers and people wanting a good service from the ports but has worked well for the executive team POA individual wallets.

    The easy answer is, get rid of the executive team and replace them with people who can run things properly for the owners who are the Auckland Ratepayers!

    • Could be done, but should it? they are certainly in effect fifth columnists, undermining the public sector while drawing thumping great salaries from it, but that would not fix much as satisfying as it might be.

      I would rather see the likes of the PSA educate its members at WINZ/MSD on why they have to deal with all these annoying people “wanting stuff”, though many just do not go there anymore, if you look at the Household Labour Force Survey–always more unemployed and underemployed than are actually in receipt of Jobseeker Allowance.

      And I would rather see political pressure generated that the Labour Caucus cannot ignore to make them take action, but hey, a bit of naming and shaming is the kiwi way.

    • We could yes. But to be fair to them, we’d have to provide instances of the results and outcomes of their wonderment. Bloody easy really. Even with what’s left of the 4th Estate, much of it has already been reported and it’d rival War and Peace.
      I could do bits of The Ministry for Everything, one or two OT’s, A Krekshuns or three, an NZTA or two and a couple of WINZ/MSD’z. And if you’re really into it, I can do quite a bit of ‘two degrees of separation’ material from elsewhere – the experiences of people both inside the tent pissing out (underlings of neoliberal masters of the Universe, and others outside the tent pissing in (their victims).
      Then of course to be totally fair, you’d have to include the so-called ‘responsible’ Munsters whose bullshit detectors have either been on the fritz for quite a while, or who’re quite happy with it all for various reasons.
      I’ve come to the conclusion it’s an inevitability that it will all turn to shit to the point of failure anyway, and the longer it keeps going as it is, the more restless and angry the natives will be.
      So be it

  10. I am reminded of the last time a Labour Government built vast numbers of houses and flats in response to a housing crisis, i.e. under Norman KirK and his first Minister of Housing, Bill Fraser (replaced by Roger Douglas a few days after Kirk died, read into that what you may). Anyhow, the bureaucracy said the target could not be met because of a shortage of toilet pans in NZ and so Bill Fraser got on the phone to Australian manufacturers and was told “Strewth cobber there’s no shortage of dunnies over here” (or words to that effect). And so the record that stood for the next 40 years even in the face of rising population was set. A secondary shout out is due to Keith Holyoake who in 1966 declared a housing emergency under the Economic Stabilisation Act, restricting the flow of funds to the construction of large houses and freeing up funds for small houses. Yes. that’s what even the National Party was like in the days before Rogernomics. The neoliberal emperor really has no clothes!

    • Chris in the later 60 Holyoake also closed down building activity by restricting Councils ability to issue permits. Housing slowed then almost stopped and the building industry lost a lot of people, dry timber became in short supply and materials became scarce. It took several years to restore the industry.
      National are not the golden haired suppliers of housing.

  11. It doesn’t matter to Jacinda for us to run up on these so call neoliberal bureaucrats and kamikaze them, shame them, cancel them, what ever. Take the gloves off. We are just numbers chipping away at the block.

  12. In the immortal words of Kim Hill… ; ” Yeah, but hang on a minute ? ”
    “Why Labour Ministers Can Be Lied To With Impunity.”
    Well, who isn’t lied to? We’re all lied to with impunity. That’s one of the great freedoms we enjoy. We fought terrible wars so as we can lie, and freely expect to be lied to in the name of Peace. Lying, per se, is a hard won luxury and we should cherish the dubious freedoms it affords us.
    And while one’s lying, or being lied to, one might ponder what, in fact, is a truth? The earth’s round! Is it? How do we know? Space is quite big! Really? Who says?
    Is it true to say we’re all idiots for swallowing the above shit or is it a lie that the above shit is true so we should ??
    I ask, look about? What do you see? Is what you see a lie? And if so, how do you know it is? What if that which you’re seeing is influenced by lies so you may never know how truly true it is? Must it be lies damn lies suffused with logical-fallacy statistics?
    That’s why I’m not so much interested in lies or liars. I am, however, hugely interested in truths. So what’s true, therefore? What do your eyes and ears tell you? What does common sense tell you? Never mind what others tell you and bearing in mind those ‘others’ might either be liars of are ready to expect to hear lies in return.
    The easiest thing in the world to do within this context is to be truthful.
    All Labour has to do is be ‘truthful’.
    Labour? Tell us the truth?
    While I’m no God botherer:
    “The truth is meant to represent Christianity, God or Jesus which will set you free from worldly impediments such as sin, misery, or ignorance. The Holy Bible.”

  13. Taking a look at the list of speakers at the economic Forum that was held at Waikato Uni a month or so back. Not one businessperson, CEO or anyone with a foot in reality was present . Economists and politicians only. That’s why we’re in a state

  14. Quite a few things I find sad/amusing/pathetic in all this, especially given the ‘smarts’ of Geoffrey Palmer and others going back to the last reforms.

    The concern over Muldoon’s unbridled power that freaked a lot of people out and which led to Something.Must.Be.Done. Something did need to be done, however at least he was accountable at the ballot box once in a while. The response (well intentioned as it might have been) however, gave what has resulted in unbridled power to unelected senior and muddle officials in the name of ‘serving’ us, AND let politicians off the hook by various means (including “the operational matter”).

    The appetite for public service reform brought about not just by a public’s disdain of bureaucracy that Selwyn Manning refers to on another thread, but also by many ‘failings and f**k ups across a number of agencies – from MSD/WINZ to Corrections to NZTA to Housing NZ to MBIE/INZ/LI to CYFS/OT to Health …..
    Excuse them how they might – whether it’s H1’s “lack of capacity” or lying/PR/Spin, the voting public in a supposed functioning 1st World democracy has a right to expect better.
    When it does all boil over or go up in smoke, the political party in power is going to have to wear it.
    The very able Chris Hipkins missed a trick. What amounts to tinkering and changing names from State to Public Service ain’t going to cut it.

    And do politicians worry about a public losing faith in democracy or whether they’re providing an opportunity for worse to come from their allies and opponents. It doesn’t seem so but it’s in their hands until it isn’t and there are signs of significant change ahead – just because of changing demographics and people being left behind while a select few continue to prosper.
    And while I understand JA has to operate with the hand she’s been dealt in terms of her Munsters competence and productivity, it doesn’t prevent her using one of the existing mechanisms for giving giving some of our uncivil servants a rark up. Or have things already got that bad?

  15. That state sector act (1988) is clearly a convenient block to any progressive reforms that our country may and probably should take. Until then, if we want anything to change we must seek the graces of the empowered and unelected bureaucrats whom favour only status quo. It brings up a line ex PM Jim Bolger on RNZ who said something like- ‘most organisations think they can achieve progress without change, yet change is vital step for progress.’

    • Geez, I used to love having things like mince on toast as leftovers from the night before, peas and some sweet corn in the mix, a fried egg or two, mashed spuds fried on both sides, – maybe some black pudding, all washed down with a good, strong hearty hot cup of tea as a young kid on a Saturday morn!

      • Don’t feel bad — the media legitimacy is encased in ‘good hearty meal’. Our michelin chef Gordon described on RNZ recently presenting a delicious meal based on Wattie’s spaghetti.

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