Public service under the hammer

Colin James speech to the Institute of Public Administration

I shall start with some politics. It is familiar to you since you live and breathe it or at the very least have to work around it. But it is a useful starting point to set my scene.

The logic of MMP was a sort of two-group system, as Germany has. There the Greens are allied with the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats (who these days occupy a slot akin to ACT’s) are allied to the Christian Democrats. That looked like where our system was heading; a winnowing of small parties until Labour squared off against National, each with an ally or two. read more

A change in mood?

Colin James speech at NZ Herald lunch 29 November 2002

Michael Cullen presents a coherent and well-honed explanation of the government’s overall economic policy. He is the most lucid Finance Minister of the eight I have dealt with. He convincingly draws links between fiscal and monetary settings, balanced regulatory settings, facilitative interventions, restoration of the infrastructure and development of consensus. Accept Michael’s premises and it is difficult to challenge the logic. read more

Watch out for the elephants

Speech by Colin James to the United Future conference, 16 November 2002

This time last week I was listening to a disorganised ramble by a former colleague of Peter Dunne’s. Pauline Gardiner was urging on New Zealand First delegates zero tolerance of drugs. United Future would agree.

Pauline was one of the six serving MPs, four from National and two from Labour, who joined Peter in the United party in 1995. Peter served in the National cabinet in 1996. He had been a Labour party minister in 1990. Richard Prebble, a colleague of Peter’s in that 1990 cabinet, defeated Pauline for the Wellington Central seat in 1996. He was leading ACT. Graeme Lee, a former National MP, led the Christian Democrats in that election. For the 1999 election the Christian Democrats renamed themselves Future New Zealand, which was the name Peter gave the party he formed in 1994 before later joining United. Peter was most put out about that usurpation of his party’s name. read more

Two million voters in search of a rationale: The campaign, factors and issues

Draft paper by Colin James to the Victoria University post-election conference, 23 August 2002

“They haven’t settled down yet.” So said Barrie Leay, the National party secretary, at the 1978 election, which decimated the National government’s huge 1975 majority and slashed its vote by 9% to below Labour’s. Ditto for the 2002 election. read more

Michael Cullen's inefficient peasants

Speech to Primary Resources Forum, 26 June 2002

So let me start with peasants. The peasants I have in mind are Michael Cullen’s. Well, not his exactly. They are the ones the Asian tigers pulled out from behind water buffalos to build electronic boxes. The ex-peasants’ productivity lifted dramatically and so did their economies’ economic growth rates. read more

Getting up to speed — or not

Summing up the Skill NZ “New Directions” conference, 21-22 May 2002

Colin James’s summing up of first day of Skill New Zealand “New Directions” conference

I am the outsider here.

That is in part because I am a journalist, the “rapporteur” who is supposed to reflect back to you something of what you have been musing on — though I suspect through a distorting mirror. I am an outsider also because I am profoundly uneducated about education. These two days are a learning experience for me. read more

Summing up regional development

Colin James, regional development conference, Rotorua, 29 November 2001

Lesson No 1 out of this conference is that, as Peter Kenyon said this morning, we all must embrace change. We’ve even got to get to like it. It’s good for our souls — if we still have souls in this godless age.

In fact, you can’t go to a conference or guru’s peptalk without being told to embrace change. Change is wonderful — or at least inevitable — and we’ve all got to get to like it. Change is the new permanence. read more

Paddling round the archipelago

E-vision interactive breakfast, 27 November 2001

When I leave here this morning I will drive to Rotorua, where I am to sum up at a regional development conference hosted by Jim Anderton. This ought to be the sort of thing to bring tears of ideological joy to the eyes of Mr Anderton’s phalanx of critics in the Alliance. It sounds like good old-fashioned 1960s subsidies, which Labour used to obsess about before it changed tack in the 1980s and deregulated the economy and al-ienated Mr Anderton. read more

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Speech by Colin James to the Polytechnics Association conference, 2 November 2001

Here we are in “knowledge city” in the decade in which we are supposed to become the “knowledge society”, catch the “knowledge wave” to the “knowledge economy” and thereby fashion the “knowledge nation”. It’s a fad in our sorts of countries. And it’s your business. read more

An ethnic accident

Colin James’s paper to Stout Centre/IPS conference on Australia-New Zealand, 27 October 2001

This is the tabloid slot. After two days of erudition, a journalist — and did not Professor Mackay admonish us on Thursday evening that nothing disturbs the “enduring stability” of the Australasian relationship except the “popular” press? I stray into discord at my peril. read more