Monday, November 24, 2014

How to get rid of the State Services Commissioner

Over the wekeend, Andrew Little effectively called for State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie to resign over his mishandling of the Roger Sutton sexual harassment claim. I'm inclined to agree. But as DPF points out, the SSC can't just be sacked, but can only be removed by a motion of the House of Representatives in response to a suspension by the Governor-General (which effectively means the government, because the G-G always and only acts on advice). But that's not quite the barrier that it seems.

To point out the obvious: as head of the state services, the SSC must maintain and be seen to maintain political neutrality - including (from their own Standards of Integrity and Conduct) the ability to work with future Ministers. If the SSC can't work with a future government, its time for them to go. So, all Labour needs to do is lodge a motion in the House calling for Rennie's resignation. It doesn't have to pass, it doesn't even need to be voted on - the mere fact that it has been lodged would be enough to make Rennie's position untenable. After all, he can hardly enforce political neutrality throughout the public service when the opposition has said publicly and formally that it cannot work with him. At that stage, the only way he could effectively do his job would be to quit it.

Sadly, I don't think Labour is actually serious about this. Instead, they're just trying to get some cheap PR without any intention of following through.