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Mike's Minute: Govt departments need to butt out of politics

Author
Mike Hosking,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Thursday, 21 February 2019, 7:36AM

COMMENT:

Peter Hughes, who is the State Services Commissioner, has done a couple of things. One, written some letters. And two, launched an inquiry.

In the letters, he is reminding the heads of the various government departments that they must not do political polling, because it is important that they remain to be seen, at least in part, to be impartial or neutral.

He perhaps also asked them not to rob banks, bash old ladies, or steal from fellow workers. For as farcical as those latter actions might seem, I would've thought the concept of political polling, if you are a government department, is equally as stupid and defies any adult logic.

And yet, the inquiry has been launched as a result of exactly that problem. The IRD decided as part of their polling on tax and globalisation to ask just what the recipients' political leanings were.

Now, despite asking Revenue Minister Stuart Nash and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just who was behind this sort of indescribably stupid decision, they didn't seem to know.

Which at least in part goes to show one of two things: either these guys are loose around the edges and are out of touch with their ministries, or they're actually fully aware it was going on - and polling was being used for broader purposes.

Both reasons are unacceptable.

It also goes to the competency of public service leadership. If they acted alone what sort of mindset is operating in a service specifically, and legally, set up to remain outside the political spectrum. They, off their own bat, decide to play a game of Colmar Brunton.

And having got the insight from the polling, what are they doing with it? Departments don't form policy, they enact policy, they are the servants of the government.

So the Government would be fascinated to know, would they not, what our views were, who holds those views, and how they might approach the business of selling their ideas to us.

And who better to slip them that information than the IRD? And they just happened to be asking a few penetrative questions on the issue as part of a wider polling project, how convenient.

'Oh, what a conspiracy theory!' Really? Prove it. When I asked who's behind it, they don't know - why not?

In the most open, honest, and transparent government this country has ever seen (their words not mine) this is an another example whereby no one really seems to know what's going on. Or if they do, aren't saying. and in not saying that's not exactly open, or honest is it?

ON AIR: Simon Barnett and Phil Gifford Afternoons

12PM - 4PM