Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

Voluntary redundancies are "a perfectly reasonable approach" to finding savings - PM

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Apr 2024, 8:08AM

Voluntary redundancies are "a perfectly reasonable approach" to finding savings - PM

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Apr 2024, 8:08AM

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says the public service has responded “fairly well” to the new government. 

Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking asked him this morning whether officials were giving the Government some “pushback” - pointing to changes to disability support funding and a proposal to shutter the Suicide Prevention Office, both of which appeared to blindside government ministers. 

Luxon said ministers had been inadequately briefed but it had been cleared up. 

He said to be fair to the public service, they had been “very poorly led” for the past six years. 

”Then they go off and do stuff, and often they do the wrong things because they get busy and they do lots of things but the things don’t add up. 

”That was the reason for bringing in the nine public service targets - because they were things that mattered to him, and to Kiwis - such as healthcare and education. 

”The bit that I can control is I’ve got to make sure that my ministers are being crystal clear about their priorities with those agencies.” 

Luxon said job layoffs, where many people would be getting voluntary redundancy, were a “perfectly reasonable approach” for CEOs to find the savings the Government is asking for. 

Luxon yesterday announced nine new public service targets that the Coalition Government has set. 

Surgery wait times, student achievement, less crime and big reductions in welfare and emergency housing numbers are all part of Luxon’s new public service targets to be delivered by 2030. 

The Prime Minister released them yesterday during his post-Cabinet press conference, saying they will require the public sector to think differently and do deep dives into the root causes of key issues. 

“These targets are not going to be easy to achieve,” Luxon said yesterday. 

“But we’re not here to do what is easy - we’re here to do what is needed to reduce crime, shorten healthcare wait times and improve educational achievement, no matter how difficult.” 

The nine targets are: 

-Shorter stays in emergency departments: 95 per cent of patients to be admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department within six hours. This was almost at target level in early 2015, when 93 per cent patients were seen within six hours. 

-Shorter wait times for (elective) treatment: 95 per cent of people wait less than four months for elective treatment. This was at target target level in 2015 and 2016. 

-Reduced child and youth offending: 15 per cent reduction in the total number of children and young people with serious and persistent offending behaviour. This would see the number fall from its current level of about 1100 to about 900 children and young people. 

-Reduced violent crime: 20,000 fewer people who are victims of an assault, robbery, or sexual assault. This will be measured in the New Zealand Crime and Victims’ Survey, and would be an 11 per cent drop from 2023 levels. 

-Fewer people on the Jobseeker Support Benefit: 50,000 fewer people on Jobseeker Support Benefit. This would see the number fall by more than a quarter, from about 190,000 in December last year. 

-Increased student attendance: 80 per cent of students are present for more than 90 per cent of the term. This coincides with the Government releasing its plan to reduce truancy, expected later this week. 

-More students at expected curriculum levels: 80 per cent of Year 8 students at or above the expected curriculum level for their age in reading, writing and maths by December 2030. Only one cohort is at the target levels, which currently are: maths (82 per cent in Year 4 and 42 per cent in Year 8), writing (63 per cent and 35 per cent) and reading (63 per cent and 56 per cent). 

-Fewer people in emergency housing: 75 per cent reduction of households in emergency housing. This would reduce the number of households using emergency housing to early 2018 levels. The number had ballooned in December 2023 to 3100 households and 3186 children in emergency housing; 60 per cent had been there for over 12 weeks. 

-Reduced net greenhouse gas emissions: On track to meet New Zealand’s 2050 net zero climate change targets, with total net emissions of no more than 290 megatonnes from 2022 to 2025 and 305 megatonnes from 2026 to 2030. 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon speaks to media at the weekly post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington. April 8, 2024. Photo / Mark MitchellPrime Minister Christopher Luxon speaks to media at the weekly post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington. April 8, 2024. Photo / Mark Mitchell 

Luxon said he had scrapped former PM Jacinda Ardern’s Implementation Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and would instead set up a delivery unit, which would keep a tight eye on the nine goals. That would include assessing whether various programmes were actually working, and pulling the pin on them if they were not. 

He referenced comments about his CEO approach to the Prime Minister’s job: “I make no apologies for that, because it hasn’t worked for us having the career politicians for the last six years.” 

Asked where those who would no longer be in emergency housing would go, Luxon said yesterday there would be an increase in state and social housing, while increasing the supply of housing in general. 

The targets come as the Government looks to find 6.5 to 7.5 per cent savings across government agencies and departments, a move that critics say will have downstream impacts on frontline services despite what Luxon has said about those being protected. 


PM’s Asia visit and public sector job cuts 

Luxon also announced yesterday that he will travel to Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines next week, along with a senior business delegation, Minister of Climate Change and Revenue Simon Watts, and Paulo Garcia, New Zealand’s first Filipino Member of Parliament. 

This trip was undoubtedly in mind when Luxon released his quarterly action plan last week, which included an item to “raise the energy” with respect to international engagements including in South East Asia. 

His visit to Thailand will be the first dedicated visit by a New Zealand Prime Minister since 2013, while the visit to the Philippines will be the first in 14 years. 

“South East Asia is a region that is more crucial than ever to our prosperity and our security. I look forward to meeting my counterparts and seeing firsthand what more we can do to deepen our relationships,” Luxon said. 

Luxon said 10 per cent of New Zealand exports went to SE Asia, valued at $9.1b, and the region’s economy was increasing faster than just about anywhere in the world. 

This week MPs return to Parliament after a one week recess to begin an unusual one week sitting block. It is the first sitting block since the Government announced its first quarterly plan last week, meaning we should see some legislation introduced to deliver on those plans. 

Cabinet meetings are expected to be contentious this month, as ministers finalise the Budget due for delivery in May. Luxon is meant is likely to face questions on what is in the Budget and the extent to which public sector cuts are needed to pay for his tax plan. 

Yeterday, the Ministry for the Environment became the latest department to announce cost-saving measures. 

Staff were told redundancies are “likely” as agencies rush to fund savings, which the Government hopes to turn into a saving of $1.5 billion a year.  

Agencies are tasked with finding savings between 6.5 and 7.5 per cent to trim off their budgets, which, at numerous ministries, is resulting in proposals putting jobs on the line. The Environment Ministry needs to slash 7.5 per cent from certain lines of funding, with final sign-off to be made by the Government in relation to the upcoming Budget next month. 

A voluntary redundancy scheme has opened at the Ministry, with no set target for uptake. 

Luxon is also likely to give his view on immigration changes announced over the weekend. Immigration Minister Erica Stanford made immediate changes to the Accredited Employer Worker Visa, to respond to what the Government called unsustainable levels of inward migration.  

In 2023, a near-record 173,000 non-New Zealand citizens migrated to the country. 

The changes to the work visa scheme include introducing an English-language requirement for migrants applying for low-skilled jobs. 

Stanford said the changes focus on using the local labour market first, while still attracting high-skilled migrants where there are skill shortages. 

“Getting our immigration settings right is critical to this Government’s plan to rebuild the economy,” she said on Sunday in a statement. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you