No Minister

Making progress with Progressivism

It’s a bog-standard feature of every Labour government that the state will expand, not just in terms of money spent, but people employed.

So I’m not surprised to see this information from a recent post by Don Brash, Do We Need So Many Bureaucrats?:

  • Land Information New Zealand, 25.5%
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 30.7%
  • Ministry of Education, 32.4% (not teachers)
  • Ministry of Defence, 35.3%
  • Ministry of Primary Industries, 36.7%
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 38.9%
  • Oranga Tamariki, 40.7%
  • Ministry of Transport, 40.8% (not including NZTA)
  • Ministry for the Environment, 41.0%
  • Public Service Commission, 42.6%
  • Ministry for Women, 45.8%
  • Ministry for Maori Development, 69.8%
  • Ministry for Pacific Peoples, 81.1%

As Brash points out, this would not be so bad if there was evidence that the government was getting stuff done with all these extra people. But as is increasingly obvious to anybody who ignores the NZ MSM, it’s not.

A person at the polar opposite end of the political spectrum from Brash, Danyl Mclauchlan, has noticed the same thing:

Which raises an awkward question. If policy is developed by ministerial staff and implemented by DPMC, what do all of Robertson’s ministerial colleagues and their thousands of highly paid advisers do all day? Because the description of the Implementation Unit sounds an awful lot like the current role of a ministerial office.

Given Adern’s lightweight nature, it’s not surprising as to where this idea came from:

The Implementation Unit is a Blairite idea, as the Stuff journalists point out. He called it “the Delivery Unit”, inventing it in his final years in Downing Street to try and overcome what he perceived as the failure of both the civil service and his junior ministers in achieving his policy ambitions. Blair’s critics disagreed, arguing that Blair’s tendency to grandstand in the media by announcing visionary, aspirational goals without figuring out how to deliver them was the deeper problem with his administration.

Helpfully the Stuff article reminds us that Jacinda Ardern once worked for Tony Blair.

Chuckle. Danyl also takes a shot at other Lefties who have been banging the drums for a 21st century Ministry of Works, by quoting a senior government advisor that he knows:

“It’s the same mistake National made with MBIE. Let’s build a new entity to do the economic transformation the rest of the government can’t deliver. And how’d that work out? Imagine you’re a Labour minister and you decide to fund a Ministry of Works to deliver all these projects that NZTA and HUD and Kāinga Ora seem unable to do. You’re going to spend two years and, I dunno, a couple hundred million setting it up. You’re going to end up staffing it with people from NZTA and Kāinga Ora, because who else are you going to get? But once it’s built you’ve just replicated these same dysfunctional organisations. So it’s not going to build anything and your political career will be over.”

You could also add the ACT Party’s dopey idea to establish a Productivity Commission. How’d that work out?

That and the MBIE, plus all this other stuff, really go to the heart of the problem, which is not just the mindless acquisition of new bureaucrats by Labour but the fact that National and ACT refuse to shut down a lot of these useless government departments and worse, create new ones themselves. It’s Public Choice theory on steroids.

Speaking of which, let’s recall this blog’s namesake, as well as one of the key writers who seemed to well understand that theory as he wrote delicious lines like this for a show that seems ageless:

Perhaps it’ll all be okay. As I have said before, having a government that’s useless beats one that’s actually doing stupid shit. I just wish they could do all this nothing for much less money.

Besides, the new National-led coalition government of 2026 will freeze those numbers at that year’s level and hold them there until they lose power 2-3 terms later.

The idea of abolishing a bunch of these ministries, starting with the last three on that list, will be rejected as “too extreme and divisive” – plus Woman, Maori and Pasifika political activists and “journalists” who will never vote National, will tell National that they’d be awful people if they did such things.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 1, 2021 at 12:00 pm

9 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Utopia, you are standing in it!.

    Jim Rose

    June 1, 2021 at 9:51 am

  2. The criticism of the Ministry of Defence is a little unfair, in that after years of being hammered for allegedly poor capital procurement projects, the Ministry and the NZDF recently reformed their major procurement structure. Many NZDF staff were moved to the Ministry, and the project group was enlarged to better handle procurement of new aircraft, ships, vehicles and systems. I suspect this accounts for much of the 35% increase in MOD numbers.

    Tony B

    June 1, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    • It’s a fair point but here’s the thing, as with all those other Ministries and Departments surely the key question is whether the front-line is being better supported?

      Tom Hunter

      June 1, 2021 at 10:47 pm

  3. Tom … to a large extent we are singing from the same song-sheet. Just why we need a Ministry for Women and a Ministry for Youth Development fair escapes me. I agree that an incoming National/ACT administration should freeze public servant numbers at current levels but also initiate a line by line review of staffing levels starting from a zero base perspective.

    The Veteran

    June 2, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    • They could start by saying they’ll disband the MBIE and the Productivity Commission, which would at least show that they’re not being partisan about such an action.

      Not that it would matter to the supporters of the Ministry for Women, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and other such. Shutting them down will always result in the scream of “sexism” and “racism” from the start, amplified by interviews with the likes of that breathy, pleading ball of greasy empathy known as John Campbell.

      Tom Hunter

      June 2, 2021 at 12:44 pm

  4. Tom … I always thought ‘failure standards’ had much to commend whereby any organisation, government or private, should publish a series of failure standards on which they can be judged … eg COVID vaccination failure standard … we will have failed if the vaccination level has not reached x% of the population by (date). It is better to hold orgnisations to account for their failures rather than their successes … successes can be ‘low hanging fruit’.

    The Veteran

    June 2, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    • It’s a nice idea but I think it can only work in certain situations like the one you provided. Aside from such, it’s falling into the same trap as setting up an MBIE or such in the first place, the trap of thinking you have control and management towards a productive outcome. What would be a failure standard for the MBIE? What could it be for the Ministry for Women?

      Which is of course driving back to the question of what all these government bodies are for? What are they supposed to achieve? If they’re nebulous targets they can be fudged. If they’re hard targets you might actually be acting unfairly towards them, like judging the MFW on the reduction in rape?

      But then I’ve never encountered a bureaucrat that could not finagle any such measurements to obtain their desired outcomes, including avoiding responsibility for the failure.

      Better to just not have the damned body in the first place where it can’t be captured by bureaucrats of political activists.

      Tom Hunter

      June 2, 2021 at 3:23 pm

  5. But then I’ve never encountered a bureaucrat that could not finagle any such measurements to obtain their desired outcomes, including avoiding responsibility for the failure.

    This is not confined to the public sector, but you already knew that.

    Many years back I had a good friend who was the Managing Director Australia & New Zealand of British book publisher Thomas Nelson. Barnie told me the secret to his success was to write 5 year plans, and towards the end of year 3 write a report highlighting his few successes and explaining all the new challenges in the market place and setting out a new 5 year plan.

    Little Dorrit

    June 3, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    • Well I’ve worked in the private sector all my life, but sadly that has included dealing with departments of both local and central government, and in my experience:

      a) I’ve never known private sector managers to go around writing “five year plans”. The most they ever did was put up targets for where they’d like the company to be in five years, but that was not a plan. That’s because things usually change much faster than that. To be fair I can’t think of any public sector manager who wrote five year plans either, at least in the post-1984 era. Smacked too much of Soviet stupidity.

      b) There are always clever-dick managers, up to and including CEO’s, who think they can pull stunts like this with all sorts of bullshit pseudo measurements in their proposals. But at the end of the financial year they’ve either increased revenues, profits and shareholder wealth (whether private or publicly listed) or they get tough questions to answer, as well as up-and-coming managers eager to push them out. If they’re lucky they get a second shot at it, but that’s about it. About the only exceptions to this are family-owned firms where nepotism can reign for quite long periods of time. The massively higher turnover between managers in the private vs public sector is the obvious answer to your assertion and again to be fair to the public sector, they’re usually not expected to cope with such unchangeable and unavoidable measures of success or failure.

      c) Assuming you’re not pulling this story out of your butt it explains much of why traditional book publishers have fallen so far.

      Tom Hunter

      June 3, 2021 at 5:31 pm

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