Monday, February 15, 2010

Just wrong

One of the recognised strengths of our democracy is our MPs' focus on constituency work. If you have a problem with a government department or service - a school or hospital, Housing NZ, WINZ, IRD etc - your MP can and will investigate it, advocate for you and sort it out for you to the best of their ability. They will do this regardless of whether you voted for them or not, because it is their job. Its both a vital means of ensuring that people get the services they require, and also a vital check on government to ensure it is acting lawfully. It requires the cooperation of government departments, but that has always been forthcoming.

At least, until now. Last week, Labour MP Ruth Dyson made a routine inquiry on behalf of a constituent to the Ministry of Education about why their child had lost special needs funding. The response?

"I have requested some guidance and the advice received confirmed the current process whereby operational issues raised at a local level by government MPs can be dealt with locally. On the other hand requests for information from non-government MPs have to go to the relevant Minister formally for a response."
(Emphasis added)

This is a gross politicisation of the public service, and a blatant attempt to prevent non-government MPs from doing their jobs and effectively representing their constituents. And that is just wrong. This is not how politics is done in New Zealand (in fact, it smells more like Baltimore), and National should be deeply ashamed that they have introduced this sort of corruption into our political culture.