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John MacDonald: What actually is this waste we're cutting?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Apr 2024, 12:50pm
Photo / File
Photo / File

John MacDonald: What actually is this waste we're cutting?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Apr 2024, 12:50pm

Savage and rushed. That’s how the Public Service Association is describing the Government’s crackdown on public sector spending, after another 1,000 job cuts were announced yesterday alone. Taking the total so far to more than 3,000. 

I’m going to add “flying blind” to that description. Because I think these cuts are starting to look like cuts for the sake of cuts.  

And I think everyone involved —the Government, the bosses of all the government departments, the unions— I think they’re all flying blind. More on that shortly. 

But first, I’m going to do my Nicola Willis thing. Although, she’s not the only politician who does this. 

What I’m talking about is the way the Finance Minister and other politicians sometimes describe running the country as if it’s the same as making decisions in our own personal lives. 

Example: Remember when the Government pulled the pin on the contract for the new inter-island ferries, and Nicola Willis was talking about buying Toyota Corollas instead of buying Ferraris? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. 

So, I’m going to do the same thing and tell you how the Government’s obsession with not wasting money is similar to the way I run my life. 

I’ve got an iPhone, right? Couldn’t even tell you what model of iPhone it is. I got it in December 2019 - so it’s not far away from being four-and-a-half years old. And the kids have been telling me for ages that it’s way past its use-by date and I should be getting a new one. 

But I’m like the Government and I don’t want to blow money on a new iPhone, so, I’ve stuck with it. I don’t want to waste money.  

Only thing is, it’s reached the point now that whenever I make a call on it, I either sound like I’m underwater or people can’t hear me at all. Or I keep cutting in and out.   

So, I’m at the point now, that —whether I like it or not— I’m going to have to go and buy a new phone. I’m at the point now where my stinginess is backfiring on me. 

The point I’m making is that there are some things we just have to keep spending money on. And whether we like it or not, we have to spend money on the public service. And, whether we like it or not, the public service is expensive.  

And I think the Government needs to look very carefully at what it’s doing with all these public sector job cuts. Because I think it’s starting to look just like me with my phone.  

Not wasting money. That’s been the reason I haven’t replaced my phone. But now I have to go and buy a new one which might have been cheaper if I’d done it ages ago. And I have to do it now because it’s packed a sad.    

And, just like me, not wasting money is the sole driver behind the Government putting the screws on the public sector. 

If you want proof of that, consider what Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said yesterday in Thailand when reporters brought up the job cuts announced by Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Education. 

He was asked what he thought about claims by a children's advocate that the cuts at Oranga Tamariki would, ultimately, impact on the kids who depend on our child welfare agency. 

He said he didn’t think the cuts were excessive and that “New Zealanders expect us to cut the waste”. Which seems to have become the excuse for anything. 

Yes, he’s right. None of us like money being wasted, especially our money. But, with respect, I reckon you personally have no idea what is waste and what isn’t waste when it comes to spending on public services. Just like I don’t. 

I also don’t think some of the people jumping up and down about the cuts know, either.  

Yesterday one of the union people was describing the 1,000 cuts announced yesterday as “savage” and “rushed”, and that it was a black day for the public service. 

But, again, do they know what waste is and waste isn’t? Probably not. They just want to save jobs. 

So, if the only way we have to measure the Government's waste-busting is by the number of public sector jobs that go, how will we ever know that what’s being cut is actually wasteful? The answer to that, is we won’t. 

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