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Alarm bells over public service neutrality

Gerry Brownlee MP
National Party State Services Spokesman

14 November 2007

Alarm bells over public service neutrality

National Party State Services spokesman Gerry Brownlee says there are glaring gaps in the reports issued today relating to the politically motivated sacking of Madeleine Setchell.

“For instance, we know that David Benson Pope’s office spoke to the Prime Minister’s office about the employment issue and was supposedly warned not to get involved, yet the report makes no mention of this at all.”

Mr Brownlee says “as judge, jury, defendant, and prosecutor” State Services Commissioner Mark Prebble has given himself a slap over the wrist.

“It is extraordinary that the Hunn report devotes two pages to the memory lapses of the so-called watchdog of public service neutrality. Mr Prebble wrote a newspaper piece defending Madeleine Setchell’s sacking, so how could he forget that he knew David Benson-Pope had been involved?”

In a new twist to the story, Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton must also explain what went on at a meeting he had with his departmental CEO to discuss the employment of Ms Setchell.

“There was a meeting involving the Minister, his chief of staff, and the departmental chief executive about an alternative job opportunity. After that meeting, the department changed its mind about hiring Ms Setchell. What was said at that meeting?”

“The so-called ‘cryptic’ e-mail which these reports says excuses the Minister’s involvement reads: ‘I have discussed this with (the Chief of Staff) and he has discussed with the Minister. The answer is ‘no’.”

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Mr Brownlee says Mr Anderton needs to give a full recollection of the discussion over Ms Setchell’s employment.

“How politically neutral is the public service under a Labour Government when Ministers are able to veto staffing appointments which should be made by the CEO?”

Mr Brownlee notes that the report also makes it clear there was a much more substantial discussion between the Minister and the Environment Ministry boss than has previously been revealed.

“It not only appears the Minister said he would be less ‘free and frank’ with Ms Setchell working at MfE, but he also warned Mr Logan about how politically sensitive the communications job was about to become.

“This is rock solid proof that Labour plans to use these departmental budgets as a way to avoid the anti-democratic Electoral Finance Bill. Labour wants to silence its critics while spending millions of taxpayer dollars on election-year advertising.”

Ends


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