Monday, May 23, 2005


Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton is reportedly feeling betrayed by our ambassador to the WTO, who has resigned his position to stand for National - but this seems to be just a little hypocritical. To put it bluntly, high-level civil servants resign to stand for Labour all the time. Sutton can hardly complain when one of them decides to bat for the other team.


I don't think they should - either way.. It does beg the question of how someone can provide good policy advice and implementation to a government they fundamentally disagree with.

And in a number of cases (Mr Grocer isn't one) the government is getting especially poor policy advice and implementation from the public service.

Posted by Rich : 5/23/2005 10:30:00 AM

Rich -

Do you agree with every policy and decision made by your boss? Sutton's hissy-fit aside, there is no suggestion that Mr. Grosser has ever conducted himself in an unethical or unlawful manner; and I've seen no serious suggestion that he is in breech of state sector ethical rules surrounding political activism.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/23/2005 12:47:00 PM

Who's boss? - I'm a Green supporter if I'm anything.

I didn't say that Grocer specifically has done anything disallowable under current rules - though maybe those rules should be changed so that senior public servants who want to run for parliament (for any party) should give extended notice of this.

I think there are a number of areas (police, education) where the public servants involved are doing a crap job, and I do have a suspicion their hearts might not be in it. Have you ever heard of a left-wing cop?

Posted by Rich : 5/23/2005 12:57:00 PM

Rich: If you check the SSC's guidance for public servants for the 2005 general election, you'll see that any public servant pursuing a political career must take leave or stand down at least from nomination day until the first working day after the election - and resign immediately if elected. They are also warned that they need to consider the consequences of standing unsuccessfully and the effect this may have on their relationship with future Ministers. Generally, this isn't a problem for relatively junior staff (IIRC the Labour Department employee Tamihere and Mallard defamed and forced to resign last year had unsuccessfully run for Parliament once already) - but those higher up the pecking order would have to resign. As Mr Grosser has done.

As for your intimations of political bias in the public service, I'd like to see some actual evidence of this. I think its more likely that policy advisors have simply ignored the question of how to "sell" policies such as NCEA or road safety, as it is an essentially political question.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/23/2005 08:14:00 PM

Idiot -

You're right up to a point. I still think Clark and Sutton aren't on the high ground undermining the chairman of the WTO Agriculture Committee at a critical juncture in its work.

This is not an appointment of the New Zealand Government, but the whole organisation and it would be in the national interest for Sutton to think very carefully about any comminications he has with the WTO over the next few weeks.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/23/2005 11:35:00 PM

Craig: the Public Service Code of Conduct naturally applies only to a position he holds from the New Zealand government.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/24/2005 07:41:00 AM

Of course. Dr. Cullen handled Don Brash's resignation from the Reserve Bank much better. There's something wrong when you're holding up Cullen as a model of how to bite your tongue. :)

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/24/2005 01:14:00 PM

I know that is the current guidance - I think it should be changed to institute, for top level policy staff, a longer "quarantine" period before they make the switch from being an allegedly impartial advisor to being a candidate for office. This could reasonably be brought in as new candidates are recruited/promoted.

As for the competence/bias of public servants, I think many have been very lax in flagging when their service is failing to meet expectations in time for pre-emptive action to be taken. I don't believe the current "output" based system is a sensible way to run politically sensitive public service organisations - it would be sensible of the next government to find a better way.

Posted by Rich : 5/24/2005 02:33:00 PM

IS - my faith in you is re confirmed. pretty fair minded kind of fella. sooner or later you will settle on the right side.

Posted by sagenz : 5/28/2005 10:57:00 AM