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Commission seeks assurance on poll questions

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes today announced details of his examination of the circumstances which led to Inland Revenue commissioning a public poll that included a question about the political leanings of taxpayers.

This follows the Minister of State Services, Mr Chris Hipkins, writing to the Commissioner and asking him to examine what happened and to provide an assurance that the principle of political neutrality is understood.

The Commissioner said he would look into the Inland Revenue matter as well as other government departments.

To avoid any doubt about the issue, Mr Hughes has issued a clear reminder to chief executives about the importance of political neutrality.

“I have told them that it is never acceptable for a government agency to seek or collect information on the political leanings or party affiliations of citizens,” said Mr Hughes.

“Political neutrality is a fundamental principle of the Public Service – one that cannot be compromised for other interests.

“New Zealand’s public service has an international reputation for political neutrality and it is vital we uphold those standards.”

Mr Hughes said he will form a view once he has considered the facts, which is expected to take about six weeks.

The Commissioner will not be making further comment until he has reported to Minister Hipkins.

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