Written By: - Date published: 7:46 am, October 31st, 2013 - 86 comments
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Why is Treasury providing the government with advice on spinning and disguising widespread changes to Education?
Treasury urged education minister to keep `ambitious agenda’ for schools low-key
Controversial changes to education should be kept as low-profile as possible, official advice to the Government says.
Documents obtained by the Herald cite Education Minister Hekia Parata’s “ambitious agenda for change in the schooling sector”.
Treasury officials informed Finance Minister Bill English on the scope of the changes and asked him to speak to Ms Parata about how they could be scaled back, and implemented with less attention. Their advice is outlined in a report to Mr English in July last year, obtained under the Official Information Act.
Would Treasury have been asked how to present the information? Or have they become a branch of John Key’s spin machine? How they claim sweeping changes to Education should be presented:
“Communicating change across a broad front is difficult,” Treasury officials warned. “Overseas experience in education reform suggests focusing on communicating a positively framed ‘crucial few’ at any one time.”
This can be done “while making smaller incremental changes in a less high profile manner across a range of fronts”.
Themes such as “supporting quality teaching” and “measuring performance to focus support” can be used to help communicate change, the Treasury suggested.
“More harder-edged changes could be pursued in parallel, incrementally and without significant profile.”
A spokeswoman from Ms Parata’s office yesterday distanced the minister from such advice: “It is important to reiterate that the paper contains Treasury advice or comment – this does not mean this advice was accepted, and in this case it was not.”
Averill Gordon, senior lecturer in public relations at AUT, said she was surprised by the approach suggested by the Treasury.
It bothers me that this approach is part of the MO of Key’s government: i.e. developing a raft of changes embedded within different parts of Bills and across several Bills that add up to a significant shift in policy. This way, seemingly small changes mask massive changes that will have significant impacts, as with employment laws.
In this way, NZ’s democracy is undermined, and changes are continually made that benefit the few and make life more difficult for the many.
Has Treasury become an enemy of the people?