Saturday, June 24, 2023

John MacDonald: Is the public service still Gliding On?

Remember the Gliding On TV show about New Zealand’s tired old Public Service?

It was a sit-com written by Roger Hall - adapted from a play he’d written called Glide Time and, if you remember it, you’ll know how it was about four staff working at a government supply office in the early 80s. I use the term “working” quite loosely.

The show ran between 1981 and 1985 which meant it came to an end right at the beginning of the Rogernomics years. Imagine how the plot would have thickened if it had kept going? Given all the restructuring David Lange’s government did in the public service in that first term between 1984 and 1987.

I mention Gliding On because I’m wondering how much things have actually changed in the public sector because a new report out today is saying it needs to up its game.

It’s come from the New Zealand Initiative think-tank, which has been putting out all sorts of stuff recently. Dr Bryce Wilkinson is the person who’s done the research and who’s written this report out today. The title of it pretty much says it all: “Public Service Bloat - The Evidence”.

It says that, despite the number of people employed in the public sector increasing by 28 percent in the past five years, we’re not seeing the outcomes we should be seeing in areas like crime prevention, health, education, housing and welfare.

Bryce Wilkinson says most of the extra money that’s gone into the public sector seems to have gone into paying more managers and more PR people. And we’re not getting the bang-for-buck we should be getting.

He’s come to this conclusion after setting out to try and answer a pretty simple question: Is New Zealand’s public service bloated?

His report says the large, ill-justified increase in New Zealand’s public service is disturbing; there is an utterly inadequate interest in New Zealander’s wellbeing when spending taxpayers’ money; this situation will foster fraud and corruption; New Zealand’s past high rankings for low corruption are at risk; lack of in-house competence is suggested by an increased reliance on outside contractors; spending on managers and comms teams has outstripped spending on analysts, and most other occupational categories; and those wishing to get quality information from government agencies often find that they hinder more than help.

So remember the question he set out to answer was: “Is New Zealand’s public service bloated?”

Well, if you take those seven points from the report, what do you reckon they add up to? Bloated or not bloated? Has to be bloated, doesn’t it? In fact, I’d say bloated and reckless.

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. This article was first published HERE


Anonymous said...

Corrupted useless drones.

robert Arthur said...

It is a cultural tragedy that cancellation and PC considerations have eliminated many humour aspects from our heritance. As a former public servant I can confirm that there was a great deal of truth in Gliding On. (In the office one bloke was the absolute image of "Jim"', even down to the pullover and overnight bag) The likes of Tom Scott could have a field day with a modern make work department, operated recognising principles of the treaty, with a myriad biasses and favouritisms toward maori staff and clientele; the scope is inexhaustible
But sadly such sit coms have disappeared from TV, as has in consequence the audience. Whist maori and others can laugh and sneer at colonists (as Tisiata Avia does) the reverse is now impossible.