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Theme: "MMP - cleaning up Government"

Media Release

6 August 1999

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Rotorua Speech

Theme: "MMP - cleaning up Government"

Over the past fifteen years New Zealand has been through one of the biggest social and economic upheavals experienced by any Western democracy outside war.

It has been a time of enormous change.

Many of our most familiar and long serving institutions have disappeared and many of our traditional values appear to have disappeared with them.

One of the biggest changes has happened in the public service.

New Zealand once had public servants with the highest ethics.

They were regarded as pillars of the community, and it was rare to hear of a senior public servant in a compromising situation.

If this happened - it was quickly dealt with, and the offender was efficiently removed from the scene.

Now, we have the appalling situation of a former Auditor-General recently being jailed for fraud, millions of tax payer dollars paid out in golden handshakes to civil servants and state board members - and the fiasco of the high flying WORK AND INCOME NEW ZEALAND boss, Christine Rankin.

Ordinary people could be forgiven for wondering why she has been allowed to keep her $5000 a week job after the revelations of spending on self promotion at Wairakei.

They might also be wondering why WINZ is spending a fortune on Television advertising promoting its staff as movie tycoons.

WINZ was formed by a mixture of both Social Welfare and the Employment Service.

WINZ was never meant to be a captive gravy train for would-be corporate high flyers.

It was set up to help get people into work and to administer benefits for the unemployed, the sick, the elderly and the less fortunate.

It was meant to "case manage people to work" not "case manage people to benefits".

Mr Sowry never understood this. He was never committed to the employment ethic. He and his National colleagues, like Treasury, just thought it was a better way of handling benefit payments.

Now it has no credibility. And the person in the hot seat has had her wrist slapped and might have her 37 thousand dollar annual bonus reduced.

But is Christine Rankin really the problem - or is she just a product of a flawed system?

Is she being forced to be accountable for a minister who directs her department though some form of remote control.

Where was her Minister? Safely hidden behind his desk while she faced the glare of the spotlight!

The reasons for the recent problems in the public service go back to 1988, when Labour introduced the State Sector Act, which had a double effect.

The first was that politicians no longer had the responsibility of the day to day running of Government Departments.

Ministers were set at arm's lengths from their departments and they handed all the powers to chief executives.

The second effect was that the Public Service became politicised and inevitably, corrupt.

This is because political power was handed over to a group of people with their own agenda and who were never publicly accountable.

Remember the case a few years ago of the Secretary of Treasury, Graham Scott, spending $115 thousand dollars renovating his office.

He paid his staff big salaries and bonuses and then they got their forecasts wrong.

Treasury is supposed to be an independent forecasting and policy advisory department.

In reality it is a Right Wing think tank staffed with highly educated children who dispense selective information to government ministers.

These unelected officials believe that they are in charge and that they are running the show.

To them, politicians are a damned nuisance who get in the way of them running the country they way THEY want it - not the way the people want.

The public sector scandals cannot go on any longer.

We must restore a sense of ethics in the Public Service and clean up the Government in New Zealand.

After the election New Zealand First will totally revise the State Sector Act.

We will restore service and civility to the Civil Service.

The days of the power freaks, the unelected politicians and the big spenders are numbered.

We are giving them fair warning so they can make a choice of a career change now.

We wont limit these reforms to the public service.

New Zealand First will establish a clearly defined professional code of responsibility to govern the conduct of cabinet ministers.

This will include a clear job description , a limitation to ministerial powers and a clear line of responsibility between a minister and officials.

This code would also spell out when a minister should resign a warrant, and when a state servant overstepped the mark.

New Zealanders must have leadership they can trust.

Last week, New Zealand First withdrew from negotiations with the Energy Minister over power pricing legislation because of an issue of trust.

Max Bradford could not seem to accept that he is in an MMP environment and that some issues can only be advanced through negotiation and compromise.

Our Deputy Leader, Peter Brown, a skilled and careful negotiator negotiated the power price issue in good faith.

Remember, it was Mr Bradford who asked to talk to us claiming that without our support the bill would lapse.

We thought we had a commitment that we would keep everything under wraps until we had reached an agreement.

Max Bradford meanwhile told others last Friday that he was going to introduce the legislation anyway whether we "liked it or not".

We were only one small point apart when he had to pretend he was totally in control of the situation and that New Zealand First could take it or leave it.

The tragedy is that bill could still proceed if he would only bend over the one remaining detail and that is to act against monopolistic retailers who use their position to exploit consumers.

But the real issue here, and more important than power pricing, is National's complete failure to understand how MMP works since they simply refuse to understand that MMP is about power sharing in the people's interest. It's about trust and cooperation in the national interest.

Since we withdrew from the talks, we have received a letter from an electricity user group.

It explains how there is a new form of price gouging in the wind.

Some small consumers are going to be paying up to one thousand per cent more for their power.

One of them had an arrangement under which he operated his plant at night and his tariff reflected this.

He has now been advised that his supply capacity will be limited to only 25 per cent of his normal requirements.

The situation is complicated, but the end result is that if this consumer does not go along with what the power company wants to impose on him, his power bill will jump from $2,000 to $20,000 a year.

All the government had to do was make a slight change to its position and this situation would have been covered.

MMP is a new form of government - other parties need to get their heads around that.

It requires cooperation and all parties putting their cards on the table.

Unfortunately with the power pricing legislation, it was more important for the government to control the situation than to get lower power prices.

Voters should take careful note of that.

They should also take note of the voting in the amendments to the liquor laws to see who decided that teenagers should be provided with alcohol.

This so-called conscience vote was a nonsense. Who with any sort of social conscience, armed with the facts of life in New Zealand, would send our young people into bars and bottle stores?

New Zealand First MP's decided not only to vote against liberalising the drinking laws - we are also trying to persuade the MPs who voted FOR lowering the drinking age to change their minds.

We have written to each MP imploring them to keep the age at 20.

Your local MP has received one of our letters.

We were not surprised to see him voting for lowering the drinking age. Max is for liberalising everything.

Our belief is that young people are better off in jobs than pubs.

If these youngsters had jobs and more training and educational chances they would not be getting into trouble.

Unemployment is the curse of many regional communities.

New Zealand First is going to give tax breaks and other incentives to get people into employment and we will be targeting young people.

We cannot have another dependent generation lining up in dole queues.

Our other plans will unfold well before the election campaign.

They include reducing the interest rate of student loans to CPI plus 2%, increasing national super to no less than 67.5% of the average wage, and increasing war veterans pensions by ten per cent.

We will also change the Reserve Bank Act to include export growth, economic growth and employment in its policy settings.

Bold courageous action is needed to change the course of the country after fifteen years of blind ideology and navel gazing.

The time has come for the people of New Zealand to take their country back from bungling bureaucrats and weak politicians.

New Zealand First will give you the chance soon to do just that.


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