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Nine years on, public servants still take fall

Gerry Brownlee MP
National Party State Services Spokesman

16 October 2008

Nine years on, Labour still makes public servants take the fall

National Party State Services spokesman Gerry Brownlee says after nine years and billions of taxpayer dollars, Labour is still making officials take the fall when things go wrong.

“Labour claims that under its watch the public service is now so much better. Yet today, we have apologies from the Inland Revenue Department for being ‘slow’ and an apology from the Ministry of Health for ‘false’ election-year surgery figures.

“Where is the Ministerial responsibility? We now appear to have a culture in our public service that when things go right, the Ministers take the credit, but when they go bad it’s the public servants who are sent out to take the rap.

“The politicisation of the public service has to stop.”

Mr Brownlee says that before Helen Clark came to office she said: ‘Ministers themselves should appear at committee hearings to defend controversial policies and actions rather than letting the public service bear the brunt of criticism’.

“But after nine long years we’ve seen nothing of the sort. What we’ve seen is a situation where responsibility for any mistake, large or small, is palmed off on officials. Under Helen Clark, Ministers appear to have become mere observers.”

Mr Brownlee says a recent example includes the scandal over Mary Anne Thompson, where everyone but the responsible Ministers have so far shouldered the blame.

“New Zealanders deserve to know that their government is spending their taxes wisely. At the end of the day it is the Ministers who are responsible for writing the cheques and they should be accountable.”


“I have said many times that there is a major clean-up to be done in Parliament and in the public sector. Those who have given public service a bad name will have to change their ways … And to those in public sector management who have forgotten how to spell the words ‘public service’, I say get ready for change. The party is over. You have let down the public, and you have let down the loyal hardworking public servants in your agencies who toil on for lower salaries than you do. We want a culture change starting at the top – driven by basic principles of moderation, thrift and service to the public.” – Helen Clark (November 1999) Speech to Wellington Campaign Rally.

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