A new public service act. So a better public service?

Public service failures in the recent news have raised serious questions of competence and oversight.

A muddle involving Housing New Zealand (HNZ), the Ministry of Health and Standards NZ needlessly caused mayhem and cost to a large number of tenants and landlords and taxpayers through evictions and cleanups. Prime ministerial chief science adviser Peter Gluckman’s report was trenchant. read more

Holiday, Her Majesty, honours and how to progress

A random thought, 1 June 2018

Queen’s Birthday weekend: holiday; genuflection; showers of honours on the deserving and undeserving.

The holiday marks winter for us but not for the monarchy, warm-glowed by The Wedding of Harry and a divorcee from Canada.

It also marks a corner of the constitution in which the sixth Labour administration shows no inclination yet to be a “government of transformation”. Republican Jacinda Ardern kneels to the monarchy, her republican party alongside. read more

Chris Hipkins’ plans for the public service and Parliament

This appeared in the February issue of Policy Quarterly, published by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies this week. It is a very brief scan of what State Services Minister and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins proposes for what is now known as the state sector (but for which there is growing pressure to rethink it as a public service) and for Parliament. read more

The (enduring) public background to public service

Prepared for the public sector CEOs Retreat, 6 March 2014

State or public: Do public servants serve the state or the public? “State” and “public” are generally used as if they are fully interchangeable but are they?

If public servants serve the state, that is, if they were state servants only, then the duty would be simply to carry out the lawful instructions of the minister who (though, as a member of Parliament an elected representative of the public) is appointed by the head of state to be a minister of state. read more

Getting the measure of the regulatory risk in 2014

[Filed 18 November and published in Boardroom Magazine December 2013]

Elections change politics but not necessarily policy direction. So there are two questions for 2014: will the politics change much; and will the policy direction change?

In 2011 the politics changed little. National stayed in office, supported by the same three parties as after 2008 but needing at least two for a majority instead of ACT alone as in 2008-11. read more

Forum proposes big changes in water controls

The Land and Water Forum wants water use rights “easily transferable between users, to allow it to move to its highest-valued use”. So “barriers to transfer and trading” should be removed.

This is the major finding in the forum’s third report. It stops short of recommending a resource rental — Federated Farmers blocked that. But, if its recommendations are adopted, it would set up a regime that could be adapted (for example, by a Labour-Green government) to include resource rentals. read more

Who should do electoral reform?

The Minister of Justice says she will seek consensus from the political parties about what aspects of the Electoral Commission’s MMP reform proposals to implement.

This was the process followed by her predecessor, Simon Power, in respect of electoral finance. That was much better than the ram-it-through-on-a-narrow-majority approach taken by his Labour predecessor. But it was limited in what it achieved because of the need for consensus in advance. read more

Will Key still be cruising in a choppy second term?

Colin James on Key’s management in the context of the 2011 election for Management Magazine August 2011

John Key looks to be cruising to a second term. But will that term be as cruisey as the first? Will he then have to place bigger bets? Does he have at 50 the nerve he had at 25? Will his decentralised management style still work or he need to exercise stronger and more definitive leadership? read more

Rethinking how to get richer

Colin James for The Australian, 20 June 2011

How does a tiny economy ride the turbulent 2010s? By playing to strengths and thinking its way to new strengths. New Zealand has yet to do that rethinking.
The 2010s global economy is more interdependent and interconnected than five years ago. Pathways, technology and platforms are changing rapidly and unpredictably. Rising (but potentially unstable) Asia and its destabilising scramble for resources are reshaping the global order. People are moving to cities in huge numbers and cities increasingly drive global economic growth. read more