Thursday, October 20, 2011

Undermining the public service

Meanwhile, while National is slashing the public service and sacking and driving our professional, politically neutral public servants, they're also building their own parallel one, staffed with handpicked cronies. The latest example of this is the new Defence Amendment Bill announced yesterday, which provides for the establishment of a "Defence Advisory Board":

91B Defence Advisory Board

(1) The Minister may appoint a board of suitable persons to be called the Defence Advisory Board (the Board).

(2) The function of the Board is to provide independent and specialist advice to the Minister on matters relating to defence that the Minister from time to time refers to the Board....

Of course, they'll be paid as if they were a crown entity - which means lots of juicy crony appointments to hand out to former MPs. And for what? There's no justification given for the creation of such an entity; the 2010 Defence White Paper [PDF] which recommended its creation simply says there will be one, without making any case for it. And its hard to see what that case would be. After all, Defence already has a body to provide independent and specialist advice to the Minister: the Ministry.

This isn't an isolated case. Under National, these boards are springing up all over the public service (for example, in Treasury). And they are a threat to our professional, neutral public service. Public servants are employed to provide free, frank, and impartial advice. "Independent" boards, consisting of handpicked cronies employed at the whim of the Minister, won't. At best, they'll be a sinecure for former hacks, a waste of money. And at worst, they'll be there simply to tell the government what it wants to hear, and impede the actions of whoever comes after them. Either way, it undermines public service neutrality, and the quality of the advice the government receives.