Herald political editor Audrey Young last week described Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones — the boy from Awanui as he has been known to refer to himself — as part jester, part genius.
Ms Young wrote that he was "carving out a role for himself" not solely as a champion of the regions but also as a maverick for the regions, having had a go at Air New Zealand for cutting some (more) regional services, then blaming "bantam bureaucrats" for slowing the decision-making process relating to his taxpayer-funded regional largesse.
His suggested solution, to allow politicians to appoint the people who run various departments and ministries, had the PSA choking on its coffee and croissants, and can safely be said to have not a snowball in hell's chance of happening. Nor should it.
It is hardly a secret that the supposedly neutral civil service is not averse to dragging its heels when it comes to turning policies it does not favour into action. Mr Jones might be the first Cabinet Minister to express his anger so publicly and bluntly, but he will not be the first to have experienced frustration.
The current Westminster system of government, which Mr Jones said he would like to change after the next election to "Axminster" if public servants didn't lift their game, is fundamental to the protection of New Zealanders from rogue governments.
The civil service is supposedly stable and neutral — although the latter is questionable — shielding us from politicians who,unhobbled, might go mad. As if!
The alternative is the American system, where politicians appoint people who will do their bidding without question. That is not a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Many people will have some sympathy with Mr Jones' view, however. He has discovered, again perhaps, that far from being the voice of reason, this country's bureaucracy can be a sea anchor that slows progress to a crawl.
Mr Jones' ire was raised by the realisation that many of the projects he is funding with the government's annual $1 billion provincial growth kitty won't be finished, or possibly even started, by the time we go to the polls again in 2020.
Mr Jones, who clearly fears electoral repercussions if that comes to pass, has made it clear that if he is to be pilloried, "that lashing is going to be spread around".
Even if his proposed solution doesn't appeal, however, he has a very good point. It is hardly a secret that the supposedly neutral civil service is not averse to dragging its heels when it comes to turning policies it does not favour into action.
Mr Jones might be the first Cabinet Minister to express his anger so publicly and bluntly, but he will not be the first to have experienced frustration.
The malaise that he says he wants to cure goes far beyond the civil service though. It infests many levels of government in its very broadest sense, as was revealed once again last week by a South African doctor who is finding it all but impossible to practise here.
Claire Terblanche said she had graduated in South Africa, then spent 14 years working as a GP.
Last year, when she came to New Zealand, which she (rightly) understood was suffering a shortage of GPs, she was told that she would have to sit two examinations, each costing $4000. She sat the first one in February, and passed, but because of the time it took to declare the result she would not be able to sit the second one until March next year.
The exams, she said, were only offered three times a year (it used to be five) and were limited to 28 candidates. The June and November exams were already fully booked. She had not been told why opportunities to sit the exams were so restricted.
But it gets worse. If she passes in March, which she surely will, she will have to apply to one of the DHBs for a two-year internship, along with the current crop of med school graduates.
Those internships are apparently firstly allocated to New Zealand and Australian med school graduates, meaning she will have to wait for someone to drop out before she can complete the process and finally continue her career work as a GP.
Meanwhile the exam passes have a use-by date. At some point they will expire, and the papers will have to be sat again.
Dr Terblanche said she knew of a number of overseas-trained doctors who had been unable to practise in New Zealand because of that process, and had given up. She didn't understand. Nor will most rational people.
It is fair enough that medics who train overseas should be asked to demonstrate that they are suitably qualified to work here. That is a fundamental protection that patients are entitled to. But Dr Terblanche's experience, which is far from unique, smacks more of the way in which the watersider and freezing worker unions once used to function.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the process is more about patch protection than ensuring the highest standards on behalf of the 'customer'.
Medicine seems to have an especially dodgy record. Years ago a young ophthalmologist from Canada, if memory serves, got a hospital job in Palmerston North, and immediately set about slashing the cataract waiting list. This did not impress his colleagues. They liked the waiting list, perhaps because those who did not wish to wait, or got tired of waiting, would seek their services privately.
They objected strenuously to the presence of the interloper, who was stood down while his qualifications were scrutinised. That took quite some time. A very long time. Longer than most people were waiting to have their cataracts removed. He eventually packed up and left.
Another ophthalmologist didn't even get that far. He was older and more experienced, but he too had trained overseas, and never got to first base. He too eventually left, if memory serves, for a teaching post in Edinburgh.
He worked there happily for some years, training ophthalmologists, who, ironically, included New Zealanders. He was good enough to teach them in Scotland, but not good enough to work in New Zealand.
There was a time too when the teacher unions got their backs up when overseas-trained teachers came here, arguing that their training might not be/was not good enough for our standards.
They still don't look upon imports kindly, despite the fact that this country exports New Zealand-trained teachers at an alarming rate, and the recipients are expected to be grateful. Talk about double standards.
It wasn't always like that. Within the writer's lifetime overseas-trained teachers were welcomed, on the condition that they would start with two years' 'country service'.
Kaitaia College benefited from that enormously. It was a big school, in a relatively big town, and qualified as country service. It could also offer houses for the teachers to live in, so attracted plenty of them.
Many of those teachers were very skilled. And loyal.
Some who taught the writer in the 1960s were still there 20 years later to teach his children.
Mr Jones might not have been thinking of teachers and eye surgeons when he threatened to shake the civil service tree, but his frustration should not be reserved solely for recalcitrant bureaucrats.
This country is awash in handbrakes that do not serve us well, and even if he doesn't get what he wants he will be doing us all a great favour if he can encourage the anonymous, unelected people who to a great extent run this country to start doing what is best for us, rather than for them.