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The PSA and loyalty between staff and Ministers

  • November 6th, 2008

My companions in the lift  on the way up confirmed my suspicion that lunch was supposed to include some chewing on me. Yet the audience and the questions were courteous at Monday’s lunchtime debate with the Labour candidate before 60 – 80 members of the Public Service Association.

Scrupulous chairing and the natural good manners of the public servants made it a pleasure.

My key point was the one I have made throughout – that I want to be their strong advocate inside a new National government.  Wellington will need that if the rest of the country turns to grumpiness in tighter times. An electorate MP outside government will have far less influence for Wellington than the city has been used to. 

The PSA’s partisan support for Labour is not in doubt, but some at least of the audience were looking for a change in government, because they told me so (though discreetly as they left).

When a question led to the issue of Ministerial disloyalty to their public servants, audience faces showed I did not need to labour the point. The PSA’s ideological suspicion of National has not blinded them to Labour’s unworthiness to loyalty. 

If it had not been so obvious I had a little reminder list of public servants who’ve been slagged off or otherwise damaged by Labour:

  • Madeline Setchell
  • Erin Leigh
  • Kit Richards
  • Six involved in the motorcade scandal (five police and one ministerial driver)
  • Immigration officials: former Minister Lianne Dalziel lashed out at immigration officials in 2000 after a bungled dawn raid on a Filipino family wrongly deported this week
  • SFO – Cullen attacked them re Privileges Cttee evidence against Winston.
  • Treasury – advice to cut taxes dismissed as "ideological burp" but then this year Clark said govt had not considered tax cuts til now because never had any advice from Treasury that it was possible
  • MFAT – Air NZ ferrying troops to Afghanistan.  Simon Murdoch had to carry the can
  • Peter Doone
  • MSD speechwriters: Ruth Dyson claimed that she never delivered the "triples" speech, because often the speeches that were written for her weren’t up to scratch
  • Kevin Brady, Auditor General, for his finding regarding the pledge card
  • Human Rights Commission when they criticised the Electoral Finance Act
  • Helena Catt, CEO of the Electoral Commission, who has had to understand and interpret the EFA
  • Mark Prebble who carried the can for H Clark during the Corngate storm in the 2002 election campaign when she promised full disclosure of documents because her government had nothing to hide but it became apparent that a key memo had been withheld.
  • Te Puni Kokiri blamed by Trevor Mallard and Helen Clark for not providing good advice to Parekura Horomia (when Parekura Horomia was unable to answer questions about Te Mangai Paho in the House ”the Minister is sitting at the top of an advice structure which has served him very, very badly”   
Clark has also said that Labour doesn’t get its policy ideas from the public service


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