Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Do we need a Royal Commission on the public service?

Opinion: Do we need a Royal Commission on the public service?

by Grant Duncan
August 7, 2014

The Labour Party has announced that it would establish a Royal Commission to inquire into the public service. This arises from concerns about threats to the political neutrality of public servants.

It would look at whether pressures from ministers have interfered with public servants' willingness to give 'free and frank advice' and whether there are growing risks of corruption.

The present Minister of State Services, Jonathan Coleman, has written this proposal off, however, claiming that it would be 'wasteful' and that it was unnecessary, as both National and Labour have recently supported amendments to the law on the state sector and public finance.

These amendments were significant, but they do not really address the concerns that Labour's spokesperson, Maryan Street, was raising. There are still genuine concerns surrounding the behaviour of ministers towards public servants and the extent to which this may compromise the political neutrality of the public service and its willingness to offer free and frank advice, as opposed to simply telling ministers what they want to hear.

There's a fine balancing act for public servants. They tend to be better informed than the average citizen about political life, and of course they have their personal political opinions. And yet they are required to act as professionals in a way that is politically neutral. This means that they should serve the government of the day loyally, regardless of their personal views.

At the same time, they should be able to offer advice to ministers that evaluates all options. Advice that conflicts with what the government may prefer should not be withheld out of fear of courting displeasure. Public confidence in public services and in policy development relies on our being able to trust that ministers get to hear the whole story (and not just carefully edited highlights) from their advisers. There have been some scandals recently emerging out of Wellington that raise strong suspicions that 'free and frank advice' is no longer welcome in the Beehive.

As for corruption, New Zealand is ranked by Transparency International as the least corrupt country on earth. But no-one seems to know how we got to that position, and it certainly gives us no cause for complacency. Maintaining a relatively clean record in the public services is vital, and we could do with a close examination of what works and what doesn't.

So, yes, a full commission of inquiry into these questions would be great idea.

Associate Professor Grant Duncan is a lecturer in the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University. He teaches public policy and political theory at the Albany campus, and has published a book on social policy in New Zealand. He has also published more widely in the field of public policy and public management.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Patience: Drive Safe

Be patient before passing is the AA's message for drivers this Labour weekend.

"People taking crazy risks to get past other vehicles is one of the most dangerous things on the road,” says AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.

“The weather is looking good for the long weekend so the roads will be busy. Unfortunately, that also increases the chances of people getting frustrated and trying a risky passing manoeuvre. When they get past, there will probably be more traffic up ahead anyway so it won’t get people there faster.” More>>

 
 

Parliament Today:

Employment Relations Bill: Govt Strains To Get Tea Break Law Through

The Government has been left with egg on its face - failing to get its much-vaunted, but hugely unpopular, meal break law passed in the first week of its new term, Labour spokesperson on Labour Issues Andrew Little says. More>>

ALSO:

Guns: Police Association Call To Arm Police Full Time

"The new minister gave his view, that Police do not need to be armed, while standing on the forecourt of parliament. The dark irony was that the interview followed immediately after breaking news of a gunman running amok in the Canadian parliament in Ottawa..." More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Tokenism Of New Zealand's Role Against Islamic State

Our contribution against IS will be to send SAS forces to train the Iraqis? That’s like offering trainers to General Custer just as the 7th cavalry reached the Little Big Horn. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Shell And Todd Caught Drilling Without Approval

Multi-national oil company Shell’s New Zealand arm and local energy giant Todd Energy have breached the new law governing New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the Environmental Protection Authority says in an Oct. 10 document released by the Green Party. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Pharmac, Gough Whitlam And Sleater-Kinney

We’re not at the outset of these negotiations. The outset was six years ago, and negotiators were hoping to have some sort of ‘framework’ deal finished in time for the APEC meeting in a few weeks’ time. These ‘extreme’ positions are what we’ve reached near the intended end of the negotiations… More>>

ALSO:

PM Of Many Hats: Questions, No Answers On Whale Oil

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister: How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. More>>

ALSO:

Aussie Investigation Dropped: Call On Minister McCully To Pursue The Case Of Balibo Five

West Papua Action is deeply concerned at the lack of any clear outcome from the Australian Federal Police inquiry into the 1975 deaths of the ‘Balibo Five’ including NZ journalist Gary Cunningham. More>>

ALSO:

'Feed The Kids' Bill: Metiria Turei To Lead Fight On Feeding Hungry Children

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei is urging all political parties to support the Feed the Kids Bill which she inherited today from Mana leader Hone Harawira. More>>

ALSO:

Parliament Today: State Opening Of Parliament

The House sat at 10.30am on Tuesday before MPs were summoned to hear the Speech from the Throne in the Legislative Council Chamber. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news