Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Leaving the bunker

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  • Shep Cheyenne,

    RB - "Bureaucrats" is simply egregious, meaningless spin

    Agreed we now have outsourced incompetence as well. I think it was 45 schools in and around Christchurch that didn't pay some of the teachers for the 1st month - 6 weeks of this year.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Russell C,

    Craig said

    You'll excuse me if I wish the IRD staffer who wasted over an hour of my time this morning would die a lot. Or is it an unreasonable expectation that someone you've made an appointment to see be competent, well-trained and civil?

    I'm not so sure that you can generalize basic poor customer service as the sole domain or norm of the public service, it's an unfortunate human condition that can be found in all walks of life, be it tradespeople (whatever happened to that Landscape Gardener who repeatedly promised me a quote 18 months ago), insurance companies, banks, retail stores, etc.

    As the other Russell points out, it's disingenuous of Key to throw the term bureaucrat around in the nebulous and negatively toned way he is. Just as it is disingenuous to try to justify his dog whistle spray by rolling out anecdotes of poor service from state agencies.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    it's a safe labour seat! he has nothing to fear.

    We have MMP now. Every (party) vote counts.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • 100 Word,

    i thought it was common knowledge that although the "bureacracy" shrank in the 1990s, all the work was shifted to contractors?

    Bit of a myth. Spending on core services has increased substantially since the 90s, even controlling for special ed type things.

    Following the dollars gives a better picture than the numbers of bums on seats.

    Since Sep 2007 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Belt,

    "[Corporate blogging] Rule One: Don't be a doofus"

    Rule Two: A blog is not a string of press releases.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 49 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Spending on core services has increased substantially since the 90s, even controlling for special ed type things.

    ahhh... i see. thanks 100.

    do you know if the spending increase is particular to salaried positions, or does it also encompass plant and "infrastructure" like flashy computer systems?

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Dykes,

    I worked for the public sector in the early to mid 90s when a number of cuts were being made to public spending. I worked 60 hours a week on a 40 hour/week salary (partly for the work experience, partly because I felt I was doing a public service). We had cuts to our budget. I asked the department's finance manager why. We got on quite well and he probably shouldn't have, but he showed me a memo telling him the Dept had to cut its total budget by 5% that year. The Govt at the time when questioned by news media denied they had told Govt Depts to cut their budgets. I wish I had been able to copy the memo. There was no Web then. Would probably be different now.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm not so sure that you can generalize basic poor customer service as the sole domain or norm of the public service...

    Quite right, Russell C. And if I ever say something that stupid, you have permission to kick one in the head with your best pair of hob-nailed stilettos.

    But here's the difference. Shit customer service in a cafe, and there's dozens of other alternatives where you can obtain a drinkable latte without wondering if the surly nitwit behind the counter has pissed in it.

    Not quite such a range of choice when dealing with the Inland Revenue. Being a freelance writer, it does actually matter that I get accurate advice so I can meet my legal obligations. Nor do I particularly wish to waste time, money and energy better expended on productive labour (and the taxable income derived thereof) cleaning up the mess because some fuckwit didn't do their job in the first place.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kotare,

    Key's comments about faceless paper shuffling bureaucrats, while crass, are par for the course and rolled out at every election.

    Once people like Key get into power, they quickly realise that they need the "bureaucrats" to get things done. The ultimate aphrodisiac for ministers is having officials who provide them with reports, Cabinet papers and verbal briefings, and run around arranging things.

    For better or worse we have a concept of active government in New Zealand. That applies to National as much as Labour.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Key is just tapping into what a lot of people believe. The "too many civil servants" comment is a pretty common one when discussion politics outside of Wellington, if my recent travels in NZ are anything to go by. To counter that one can mention the starving of the civil service in the 1990s, the type of work these people do etc, but at the end of the day there are a lot more civil servants in Wellington now than 10 years ago and that worries a lot of people.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Judi Lapsley Miller,

    But is there a lot more civil servants per capita than 10 years ago?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Maybe not - we've grown quite a bit since then right? But people tend to look at raw numbers

    Perhaps part of the problem is that central government is so far removed from those who live outside of Wellington that it is hard to really understand what they do. Or is the cetralisation of the Civil Service also a misconception?

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • Kotare,

    The big government departments have a lot of staff outside Wellington, doing practical things. For example, Internal Affairs has regional staff who work with communities on community development, and assist community groups to apply for funding for various projects, along with regional civil defence staff. DoC is another obvious example, and the fisheries protection officers of MFish.

    Of course, you don't hear about that side of things from the National Party.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Of course, you don't hear about that side of things from the National Party.

    Yeah, Kotare, and nine years ago you could be forgiven for thinking WINZ staff spent all their time jetting around the country with Christine Rankin buying gaudy ear-bobs.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    nine years ago you could be forgiven for thinking WINZ staff spent all their time jetting around the country with Christine Rankin buying gaudy ear-bobs.

    DOH! You had to remind us didn't you. I had conveniently forgotten about our Christine, do you think she was a product of the Peter Principal? I can just see it now "Wow look at those danglers, she should be da boss"

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    It was not so much her dangly bits that were so offensive, but her politics--which have become more overt in recent months.

    You do wish folk like her would go away forever. Dare I whisper the name again of Duncan Fallowell but there is a review by Simon Carr of his 'Going As Far As I Can', in the latest New Statesman (10 March)

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    It was not so much her dangly bits that were so offensive, but her politics--which have become more overt in recent months.

    Yes and if national get in can we expect the Dept. of social welfare being pared back to Ms. Rankin running the show alone? I can imagine the scene........
    In a dark room in the bowels of Gummint, Rankin answers the phone to a potential "Client"
    Client "Hi, I've been let go by the Ministry of social Development and I have no money"
    Rankin "Get a job, bludger!"
    Client "Thank you Christine."
    (Advisory. This scenario subject to change by the voting public)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    It was not so much her dangly bits that were so offensive, but her politics--which have become more overt in recent months.

    You do wish folk like her would go away forever.

    Really, Geoff? First, I'd make the observation that "in recent months" Rankin has been a private citizen, and I assume doesn't actually have any obligation to follow the State Sector Code of Conduct.

    And considering that the Madeline Setchell shit storm has cost one Minister and one Chief Executive their careers, I do hope you're not coming out of the closet as an advocate of ideological purges of the civil service every time there's a change of government. Now that would be a damn sight more worthy of outrage than the orgy of nappy-filling going on because that nasty John Key used the b-word.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I think he was just making the personal observation that he wished she'd go away, and stop reminding us that she exists.

    I'm sure we all have our own list of public figures who we wish that of, political or not.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    You do wish folk like her would go away forever. Dare I whisper the name again of Duncan Fallowell but there is a review by Simon Carr of his 'Going As Far As I Can', in the latest New Statesman (10 March)

    It's here.

    Not bad, either.

    I'll go so far as to say that Rankin's behaviour since she departed Work and Income makes me wonder if she was really ever suited to the job.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Carr calls us "pathologically reserved" which seems to be getting a bit carried away.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    But here's the difference. Shit customer service in a cafe, and there's dozens of other alternatives where you can obtain a drinkable latte without wondering if the surly nitwit behind the counter has pissed in it.

    Not for mobile phones though. If you don't want a phone that doesn't work overseas and won't work here in a few years, your choice is Vodafone or Vodafone.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Something I've noticed is that way back when in the UK (and presumably NZ) something like water supply would be run by a person like the Chief Clerk of Waterworks on the equivalent of $80k.

    Now it's the CEO of WetWater on $400k plus bonuses - and a whole executive team behind him or her.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I do hope you're not coming out of the closet as an advocate of ideological purges of the civil service every time there's a change of government

    No, but does it make for efficient government if senior management is ideologically opposed to the policy direction that has been decided upon by the elected government.

    The private sector doesn't do this - you don't see Microsoft hiring Richard Stallman or Body Shop employing Donald Rumsfeld, do you?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    No, but does it make for efficient government if senior management is ideologically opposed to the policy direction that has been decided upon by the elected government.

    Well, considering that the whole point of an apolitical civil service is the provision of free and frank advice which the Government is under no obligation to accept it might be rather useful. As long as your hypothetical senior manager also remembers it is their ultimate obigation to implement government policy whether they personally agree with it or not.

    If National wins the next election, I'm sure the resignations of any senior civil servant who cannot do so will be accepted with regret. I'd just strongly suggest John Key not waste any time trying to sniff out ideological deviationalism.

    The private sector doesn't do this - you don't see Microsoft hiring Richard Stallman or Body Shop employing Donald Rumsfeld, do you?

    No, instead in the United States we see the horror show of a whole tier of the civil service being political appointees -- which, I think, any fair-minded observer would say was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be something of a mixed bag.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

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