Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: February 23

Reports say a Russian computer hacker is unlikely to have taken hold of Murray McCully's emails. Photo / Supplied
Reports say a Russian computer hacker is unlikely to have taken hold of Murray McCully's emails. Photo / Supplied

The major restructure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs looks to be this Government's most significant reform in the core public service during this parliamentary term. Little wonder there is considerable interest, not only in the content, but the timing and source of Murray McCully's email leaks. John Hartevelt reports that the source was unlikely to be a Russian computer hacker, but rather 'appear to have been stolen and leaked from within New Zealand - possibly by a disaffected staff member' - see: McCully email thief could be Kiwi. Meanwhile, the No Right Turn blog questions why Ministers like McCully are using private email accounts and suggests that there should be some investigation to see if Ministers are trying to hide official emails from scrutiny under the Official Information Act - see: There is no escape from the OIA.

The Government's first term promise that public sector cuts wouldn't be at the expense of frontline staff is looking shaky as the Waikato DHB confirmed that frontline jobs could go as they struggle to save $20 million next year - see John Hartevelt's Frontline health jobs on the line as cuts bite.

Danya Levy reports that the plan to re-introduce competition into the workplace accident insurance is proving difficult, mainly because private insurers may have difficulty making it profitable. Levy says ACC Minister Judith Collins is trying to distance herself from a paper by the former minister Nick Smith which proposed forcing ACC to include a profit margin in it's charges so that private companies can compete - see: Delays in privatising ACC work account. Such a move would undermine the basic credibility of the ACC and the wider state sector reforms that are supposed to deliver lower costs and greater efficiencies.

With the Government focusing on state sector reform, it's useful to have the latest issue of Policy Quarterly released today by Victoria University of Wellington's Institute of Policy Studies. You can download the entire issue as a PDF, or look at some particularly relevant PDF articles from it, such as 'You Say You Want a Revolution'... The Next Stage of Public Sector Reform in New Zealand, and Managing for Efficiency: Lessons from United Kingdom's Efficiency Agenda 2004-2010.

With a huge amount being written lately on poverty and inequality in New Zealand, the Business Roundtable puts the case that there is actually no poverty in New Zealand - see: Talking about Poverty. Using the absolute international benchmark of $2 a day and pointing to growing obesity amongst the poor as evidence that hunger is not really a problem. As is often the case, the difference between relative and absolute measures of deprivation seems to have both sides of the debate talking past each other.

Also on the topic of inequality, the latest issue of Policy Quarterly has two important academic PDF articles: The Effect on Household Income of Government Taxation and Expenditure in 1988, 1998, 2007 and 2010, and Evidence-based Evaluation: Working for Families.

Issues about foreign investment as well as ethnicity provide very interesting items today. Danyl Mclauchlan responds to Brian Rudman's column yesterday to ask if opposition to the Shanghai Pengxin bid to purchase the Crafar farms is really based on xenophobia or racism - see: Opposition to Crafer sale: alternative theory. And Emma Beer's Flag war erupts reports about Maori Wellington City Councilor, Ray Ahipene-Mercer, speaking out against the unilateral decision of Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to fly the Tino Tangatiratanga flag from the Town Hall on Waitangi Day, saying it does not represent all Maori.

In other political items well worth reading today include: Claire Trevett's Shearer missing some big targets, David Farrar's The one-seat threshold, Kate Chapman's Treaty obligations to stay in SOE sales law (http://bit.ly/y5nb1W) Max Harris' State-Owned Enterprises Reform: A Wrong Turn for New Zealand, and Brian Fallow's NZ faces big calls over climate pledge.

Finally, political commentator Chris Trotter is currently on a week-long guest visit to the University of Otago where he's participating in a number of public forums. As part of this, tomorrow at midday I will be interviewing Trotter on campus - and you can watch this live-streamed here or enter the discussion and put your questions to Chris Trotter using the Twitter hashtag of #nzpoliticschat. For more on this, see my blog post, What would you like to ask Chris Trotter?.

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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