In politics, things are often not what they seem. That’s why an opinion piece published in the Herald last week by the Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins, defending the expansion of the public service, raises some interesting questions.
Since it is unusual for Cabinet Ministers to publish newspaper articles at this stage in an election cycle, one has to wonder whether Labour’s internal polling shows opposition criticism is too damaging to be left unanswered - or whether this is the start of a positioning campaign ahead of a leadership pitch?
Is Chris Hipkins anticipating that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is planning to step down – and perhaps move onto higher office at the United Nations? If so, is he now signalling he’s a serious challenger for the top job?
It’s important to remember that late last year, the Labour Party streamlined the way they elect their leader by removing the right for the unions and party members to have a say, which in the past had led to disruptive and divisive leadership contests. Now, if two-thirds of Caucus agree, the decision is theirs alone.
Labour’s rule change was most likely influenced by the experience of the previous National Government, which had been blindsided by the surprise resignation of Prime Minister John Key midway through his third term. He moved on, while the party still had plenty of popular support, and in time for the new leadership team to settle in and find their feet before the next election.
While Jacinda Ardern is only midway through her second term, the mood of the nation has turned against her. As the pandemic death toll approaches 1,000, with more than a million Kiwis infected, not only can she no longer claim Covid success, but breaking her promise not to impose vaccine mandates, and blocking New Zealanders from returning home, has undermined trust.
Furthermore, the cost-of-living crisis – which is being exacerbated by Labour’s reckless spending – is hitting families hard, with all areas of Government incompetence and waste now coming under scrutiny. With inflation on the run, these are issues that will not go away quickly, and not without a certain amount of pain to homeowners - especially those with high debt.
In addition, the Prime Minister is having to deal with a belligerent Maori caucus which, by continuing to push their extremist tribal rule agenda - despite mounting public opposition - is undermining public support for the Party and threatening their future prospects.
For Jacinda Ardern, the bottom line is that she is likely to be defeated at the next election. The alternative would be to take a leaf out of the John Key playbook and leave before suffering the humiliation of being tossed out.
So, who would succeed Jacinda Ardern as leader of the Labour Party? Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson stand out as the leading contenders.
While Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson appears the obvious choice, it’s important to remember that he has attempted to become Party leader a number of times in the past. He lost out to David Cunliffe in a formal contest in 2013, and again to Andrew Little in 2014 – along with a failed informal leadership bid in 2013, with Jacinda Ardern as his deputy.
After the loss to Andrew Little, Grant Robertson is reported as saying, that he would not be putting his name forward again for leader: “I am taking the idea of me running off the table. I am not going to do it.” Whether that still stands remains to be seen.
Chris Hipkins holds the fifth ranked spot in the Party, with the Covid, Education, and Public Service Cabinet portfolios and the Leader of the House position. He also won his electorate seat of Remutaka with over 17,000 more votes than his nearest rival - the biggest margin of any MP in the country, even greater than the Prime Minister in Mt Albert.
Minister Hipkins is now also taking a lead role in defending the Government’s record, including a massive expansion of the Public Service which has seen the number of full-time employees grow by almost 30 percent in just over four years: “The number of permanent employees has grown between 2017 and 2021 from 47,252 in 2017 to 61,100 in 2021.”
He claims the growth of the bureaucracy by 14,000 additional employees at a cost of over $2 billion a year is “a positive story, one of innovation, flexibility and better services.”
Claiming innovation within the Public Service is surely a joke. Does Chris Hipkins not realise that bigger bureaucracies destroy wealth and stifle innovation?
The reality is that expanding the size and scope of government is what socialist politicians do. With their ‘the State knows best’ worldview, they ignore the debilitating effect their bureaucratic red tape has on private sector wealth creators. Not only do governments consume wealth – the total cost of just paying Government workers has ballooned 30 percent under Labour from $22 billion in 2017 to almost $30 billion a year in 2021 - but much of their excessive spending provides little public benefit.
Just look at the dismal failure of Labour’s ‘flagship’ KiwiBuild policy. Or the $1.9 billion “invested” in mental health with no appreciable benefits. Or the Ministry of Transport’s spending of $145 million on consultants and only $200 million on construction!
Or what about the $500 million on restructuring costs to create the Maori Health Authority and abolish the District Health Boards, which medical professionals are now warning is going to create deadly chaos that will worsen health care instead of benefiting it - and will ultimately cost many New Zealanders their lives.
Without a doubt, National’s criticism of Labour’s wasteful spending is resonating in the community. So too is ACT’s alternative budget, which suggests a multitude of ways to save money for tax cuts, including abolishing the woke “Demographic Ministries” - the Ministry for Maori Development, the Office for Crown-Maori Relations, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the Ministry for Ethnic Communities, and the Ministry for Women.
These government agencies are not “colourblind” and working for the good of all New Zealanders - but instead are politically correct taxpayer-funded lobby groups pushing an identity politics agenda to advance the rights of one group of New Zealanders above all others.
This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is former University lecturer and author Dr Greg Clydesdale, who has long argued that these agencies have outlived their useful life. He shares with us an extract from his book “The Politically Correct Economy”, that outlines why the Ministry for Women should be abolished:
“One crusade pursued by the Ministry for Women, using taxpayer resources, was to get more women on corporate boards. This is part of a global movement that has seen the introduction of quotas in some nations. The Ministry justified their position by saying that having more women on corporate boards is ‘good for business’. By that, they mean having women on the board improves a company’s effectiveness, and they cited a number of international reports to back their position.
“But the biggest problem with the Ministry’s use of these reports is that there is much more research available on this topic, and a lot of it has different results to the reports they used. In other words, the Ministry have not objectively reviewed the literature. They have only cited the literature that supports their case. Sadly, they are perfectly entitled to do this, as their mandate is to progress the position of women. They have no obligation to be provide a balanced perspective. Herein lies the problem with taxpayer funded lobbying groups. Their obligation is only to one group in society, not society as a whole.”
Dr Clydesdale concludes, “The early feminists have achieved so much, not just for women, but for men in that they have liberated us from forced roles. Time has moved on but many feminists remain political with an explicit desire to juxtapose women with men. It is time to stop focusing on power and… disband the Ministry for Women.”
Briefing Papers prepared in 2020 for the Incoming Government, provide useful information on the size and scope of these Demographic agencies identified by ACT for abolition.
The Ministry for Women, which had 39 full-time staff and over $7 million in funding, works across government and non-government agencies pressuring organisations to adopt pro-women policy positions.
The radical nature of this strategy was highlighted only too clearly, by the former Minister, Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter, who issued a stinging criticism of “old white men in their 60s”, who make up around 85 percent of the country's board members: “If we're going to improve the diversity of boards, then we will need some of the current positions vacated so there can be room for new diversity and talent.”
The ideological call for “diversity” is now undermining the traditional objective of hiring ‘the best person for the job’, which has long been the foundation of success.
Once the Ministry achieved their target of 50 percent of women on state sector boards and committees, they began collaborating with other Demographic agencies, including the Ministry for Ethnic Communities – which had 39 staff and an annual budget of $13 million - to push for greater ethnic representation in positions of influence.
Those other Demographic agencies include the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, which has clearly become a priority for Labour, growing from 45 staff and a $10 million budget in 2017, to 75 staff and $118 million in funding by 2020. The Ministry for Maori Development (Te Puni Kokiri), which had 350 staff and $77 million budget to deliver a radical race-based agenda, which includes He Puapua and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And the Office of Maori-Crown Relations (Te Arawhiti), which, with 233 staff and a budget of $12 million, is responsible for embedding the Treaty partnership concept across the whole of Government “to achieve true cultural change” by ‘re-training’ “50,000 people in the core public service, and a further 350,000-plus in the wider state sector.”
Where this is all leading can be seen in the reported comments of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council chief executive John Holyoake, who is calling for greater diversity, not only around the council table but within the organisation itself: “We need to look like, sound like, be like, the people that we’re representing – the people we’re making decisions for. We need diversity of age, culture, experience, and skillsets. We need more Maori at the table so that we can ‘hand on heart’ work in partnership with Tangata Whenua. We have a very clear demographic sitting around our council table and we need diversity. We need to recognise other things besides the traditional privileges around being wealthy and white.”
Is this really the sort of New Zealand we want, where race and ethnicity become more important than talent? Don’t Western Bay of Plenty ratepayers – and New Zealanders across the country who are now victims of agencies where this progressive agenda has taken hold - want good services delivered by the best and most effective people for the job, rather than woke employees hired to make bosses feel more “inclusive”?
In their alternative budget, ACT also identified the Human Rights Commission with its staff of 42 and budget of $14 million for the axe, claiming they have become a hard-left organisation masquerading as a government department. Established in 1977 to defend human rights – including our right to free speech – the Commission has now become a radical advocate for hate speech and divisive minority causes, including the creation of a Treaty of Waitangi constitution, promoting the Treaty partnership fiction, and enacting the UN Indigenous Rights Declaration, that are now fracturing society and harming our Kiwi way of life.
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