Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: March 5

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive John Allen. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive John Allen. Photo / Mark Mitchell

State sector reform is one of the most boring topics in politics. That is, until, you start being affected by it. The Public Service Association - the union for most public service workers - has been trying for the past three years to build awareness amongst voters about the Government's reforms and cuts in the state sector. They have had very limited success to date as, until now, National has trodden carefully, ensuring that cutbacks wouldn't have too much of a direct impact on the public. Like the late 1980s and early 90s, the pace and scale of reform seems to set to be significantly increased for National's second term. This will inevitably start to impact on the delivery of public services - but will it be for the better or for worse? John Armstrong and Andrea Vance both have must-read analyses of what may be coming in the Government's renewed push for reform - see: Andrea Vance's New model in store for state sector and John Armstrong's Public service cuts: The big stretch.

Writing in the Sunday Star Times, John Hartevelt also paints the new push as a major change in approach from John Key, saying that the PM is about to 'cross into the void'. Hartevelt argues that National's masterplan acknowledges that the Government will take some hits next year, but bounce back in time for the next election. But the difficulty in actually realising significant savings with restructuring is highlighted by Andrea Vance in another article, 2500 jobs gone but state service saves only $20m.

It's timely that an academic book entitled Future State: Directions for Public Management in New Zealand has just been launched. Colin James, a commentator with a longtime interest in public services has explained why the book should be read in his comments from the launch - see: The next public service.

Having the right personnel to implement wide-ranging reforms is crucial and Adam Bennett profiles Director-General of Health Kevin Woods and Kevin Snee, CEO of Hawke's Bay DHB, who both have a record of slashing public health spending in Britain, including large cuts to nursing staff.An independent review subsequently found that that Dr Snee had put cutting costs ahead of patient interests - see: UK health slashers on NZ's case.

There are those who see the need for changes to go further, such as Matthew Hooton who says Mfat needs a major overhaul in attitudes, as well as scale and structure - see: Right-sizing just first step for Mfat. For a biting parody of Mfat diplomatic cables purporting to show why the Ministry needs a large budget, see Martin van Beynen's 'Kiwileaks' expose, Send cash urgently, NZ's honour at stake.

But the genuine 'Wikileak' story from the weekend is a must-read -see: WikiLeaks proves brutal US diplomacy. In this, Anthony Hubbard and Nicky Hager dig through the just-leaked details of what senior US policy analysts really think about New Zealand and our importance in the world.

Other articles of interest today include Matt McCarten looking at the heightened 'class war' currently occurring in New Zealand's workplaces, identifying the end of the cold war as a turning point that enabled capitalists to confidently strip away workers' rights and conditions - see: Corporate sadists free to drive workers into dirt.

John Armstrong has a very interesting column on Winston Peters' latest political re-incarnation and he warns Labour that the good relations they currently enjoy with him will not last - see: New-look Winston drops the Mr Angry. Anthony Hubbard looks at the funny side of Peters and the use of humour by past political leaders - see: Winston Peters still bringing the house down.

Stephen Church looks at the much-unexplored issue of list MPs and whether MMP is disadvantaged by New Zealand's very strong embrace of 'dual candidacy' in elections - see: The identity crisis of list.

The other political items worth reading today are: Tracy Watkins' At home with Mai Chen, Toby Manhire's Revealed: the election day social media comments referred to police, Lois Cairns' A new house of pain for Dunedin, Hamish Rutherford's Predictions website in talks with polling firm, and Seamus Boyer's He has to live here just 44 days a year, and Lincoln Tan's Plan to favour wealthy immigrants.

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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