Thursday, January 27, 2005

Simply doing his job

Judith Collins has seized back her welfare portfolio long enough to attack Families Commissioner Rajen Prasad for being "overtly political" in his criticisms of Don Brash's latest bout of beneficiary bashing. Except that there's nothing political about it: Prasad is simply doing his job.

The Families Commission Act 2003 lays out the functions of the commission, which include a broad role of being an independent advocate for "the interests of families generally". This includes encouraging and facilitating informed debate, and advocating for "policies designed to promote or serve the interests of families" - no matter where they come from. Prasad would have been remiss in his duties had he not commented on Brash's family-unfriendly proposals.

What about public service neutrality? The Families Commission is a Crown Entity, not part of the public service; its empowering Act also includes a clause making it clear that no commission member or employee is part of the public service - meaning that the Public Service Code of Conduct does not apply. These are the same sorts of conditions which Don Brash was under when he was Governor of the Reserve Bank. At the time, he was more than happy to advocate for policy and criticise that of political figures, despite it being no part of his job description to do so. He can hardly complain now when others with a formal policy advocacy role do the same to him.