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Maharey’s WINZ Relaunch A Nonsense

Sunday 18th Jun 2000
Dr Muriel Newman
Media Release -- Social Welfare

The Government is planning a major PR exercise this week to relaunch WINZ under the leadership of Christine Rankin, a move ACT Social Welfare Spokesman, Muriel Newman says is like ‘trying to relaunch the Fire Service afresh under Roger Estall’. The Government will release its response to the Hunn report into WINZ on Tuesday. Social Services Minister, Steve Maharey will try to use the response to sell a ‘fresh start’ for WINZ calling it the ‘Department of Work and Income’ and telling New Zealanders that it’s time to ‘draw a line’ across the disasters of WINZ and look to the future. Muriel Newman said that the fresh start for WINZ is simply window dressing by Steve Maharey. “Some of the cosmetic changes will include new names and titles for old practices and schemes, reviews of benefit debts including the special benefit, and superficial changes to the Work for the Dole scheme. He will once again state that “we have drawn a line in the sand over WINZ’s first 20 months, and we are starting afresh,” she said. “The question that will be foremost in the mind of the public on Tuesday is: How is a fresh start for WINZ credible under the leadership of the CEO responsible for the charter flight debacle, that has to date cost taxpayers upwards of $700,000, the student allowance and loan fiascos, and the inappropriate glitzy corporate style that is Ms Rankin’s hallmark?” said Muriel Newman. “The Minister’s weakness in relation to his Chief Executive, Christine Rankin, will be exposed on Tuesday if she does not play a central role in the re-launch,” she said. “For the Minister in charge of WINZ, its Chief Executive is his Achilles heel. In Opposition Mr Maharey relentlessly, personally attacked Christine Rankin and called for her resignation. After becoming her Minister and receiving legal advice that he could not publicly criticise her, in a stunning flip flop he described her as a dedicated and impressive public servant,” she said. “The Hunn Review was the Government’s attempt to find a way through this minefield. The problem was that because of the legal risks caused by Steve Maharey’s earlier attacks, Mr Hunn was prohibited from commenting on the CEO’s performance,” said Muriel Newman. “To get around this, the report focussed on the objectives, culture, and structure of WINZ. However, despite being clearly directed not to reach conclusions about Ms Rankin’s performance, the leaked first copy of the Hunn Review was implicitly damning in its conclusions,’ she said. Dr Newman said that the merger of the Employment and Income Support Services into WINZ had effectively seen a take-over by Income Support and this resulted in a major loss of Employment expertise, critical to the new Department. “The Hunn report’s initial response, which included the creation of new Deputy Secretary positions to support the Chief Executive, was effectively a statement of no confidence in Senior Management,” she said. “However, at a cost to taxpayers of around $25,000, on the instruction of Ms Rankin, Crown lawyers ensured that several of the most serious criticisms were removed in the final draft,” she said. “The Government’s response to the final draft of the Hunn Review on Tuesday will be a charade. Unwilling and unable to remove Ms Rankin, but needing to appear to be acting, Mr Maharey will try to sell a "fresh start”. He will hope that no one asks the key question: Will Christine Rankin be in charge of this “fresh start”, and if so, how can the Minister possibly argue that she is the right person to lead the new frugal, open, public service style re-birth of WINZ? There is no credibility to this stance and the public will not be deceived,” said Muriel Newman. “The only solution is to bring in a new Minister who is strong enough to manage the portfolio; pay off Christine Rankin, and find a new Chief Executive who can credibly lead the fresh start this critical Department so badly needs,” said Muriel Newman.

ENDS.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.


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