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John MacDonald: The public service needs to pull its head in

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Sep 2022, 12:38PM
Ministry of Social Development. (Photo / Bevan Conley)
Ministry of Social Development. (Photo / Bevan Conley)

John MacDonald: The public service needs to pull its head in

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Sep 2022, 12:38PM

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the Government being too full of themselves and arrogant.

And I actually think that is rubbing off on the public service which does the grunt work delivering the Government’s policies and services.

In fact, I’m going to go further than that and say that I think the public service is even more arrogant than the Government itself.

It’s not necessarily a new thing. EQC, for example. How arrogant and full of itself was that outfit after the Canterbury earthquakes?

But a couple of new examples of public service arrogance have emerged in the past 24 hours that I think are further proof that the outfits funded by us have got so big for their boots, so out of touch with the people they serve, and so full of themselves - that they can only be judged as being way more arrogant than the Government itself.

First up, there’s this shambles with Northland going into an 11-day lockdown last year after the Ministry of Social Development issued travel documents to two women which allowed them to travel into the area.

They shouldn’t have been allowed. But they got the paperwork and off they went.

They were the two women that Chris Hipkins - who was Covid Minister at the time - said had used false information to travel across the border into Northand, and other politicians were slagging them off saying were prostitutes with connections to the Mongrel Mob.

All of those claims, by the way, were found subsequently to be a load of old nonsense.

The galling thing about all of this is that three days before Northland went into lockdown, MSD discovered it had cocked things up but no one in that outfit put their hand up and said ‘we’ve made a mistake here’.

No one. They said nothing. Silence. And what happened was the people of Northland were locked-up unnecessarily for 11 days and these two women were called all sorts of things by some of our most powerful politicians.

And the only way this has come to light - there hasn’t been a mea culpa or admission of mistake by MSD - the only way we know about this is through a request for info under the Official Information Act.

Which I suppose you could say is an example of the OIA process actually working, but it doesn’t excuse the Ministry of Social Development (or MSD) for the cock-up in the first place but, more importantly, not saying anything about it even though it knew three days before the lockdown.

Now whether or not the lockdown could have been avoided even if MSD had come clean at the time, I don’t know. Because one of the two women tested positive for Covid and, back then, one case and everything was shut down.

How things have changed since then.

Nevertheless, the fact MSD said nothing when it discovered it was the cause of the problem reeks of arrogance and, I think, is a prime example of why the public service needs to be told to pull its head in.

The other example that’s come to light in the last 24 hours involves Labour and Green Party local body politicians appearing in Waka Kotahi ads promoting the “streets of people” initiative which is pushing cycleways and public transport.

Waka Kotahi is arguing that it’s fine to use local government politicians in its propaganda because they’re not political party politicians. And that it’d be a different story if they’d used central government politicians.

But if it’s ok to use local body politicians, why has it only used councillors aligned to Labour and the Greens? So Waka Kotahi is pushing it uphill with that argument.

And, again, it just shows how the public service in this country has reached a point where its arrogance knows no limits.

Waka Kotahi, MSD, the whole public sector in my mind very obviously thinks it can get away with whatever it wants.

Well it can't. And we deserve much better from these outfits. Much better.

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