- Date published:
1:30 pm, April 25th, 2012 - 14 comments
Categories: business, health, housing, public services, science, Steven Joyce, tenants' rights, workers' rights - Tags: Department of Everything
So Steven Joyce’s personal fiefdom is confirmed; his Super-Ministry will come into being on July 1.
Many will not see how Economic Development, Science and Innovation, Building and Housing, and Labour are an obvious combination. Or any combination. As David Cunliffe puts it:
[It’s] a bit like combining a butcher’s shop, a toy shop, a candy store and a childcare centre. It may sound great to an accountant but there are likely to be serious practical difficulties in the real world.
It’s meant to be a “business-facing” ministry – designed to help business. Quite how the Department of Labour fits in with its responsibilities for upholding employment law and health and safety is concerning at best.
Indeed there’s a real worry about how any non-“business-facing” tasks will fare in the new ministry. We need more “blue-sky” research science done, but that is typically ignored by business as too risky – as Science has been dropped from the new ministry’s name, how much can we expect from government now either?
Building and Housing? Our current housing stock is one of our country’s most pressing concerns, both in quality and quantity. We need 10,000 houses now in Christchurch, but Auckland also needs about 10,000 more built per year as well to cope with its expansion. And then there’s the quality – far too many children are dying from our unhealthy homes. Is a “business-facing” department going to be concerned with health concerns? With providing the housing warrant-of-fitness our tenants need? Or with providing a bottom line for Fletchers and landlords?
But of course – as with most things this government does – this is primarily a cost-cutting exercise. Better public services? No – cheaper by the dozen.
Estimates vary from 140 job losses to hundreds, but it’s clear this is about quantity, not quality. Policy jobs are the first to go – although I guess as with many cuts we’ll have to see how many come back in contractor guise. But the cut back of policy work on Housing and Science and Innovation – two areas we need some serious ideas for improvement – should worry us all.
At least we won’t have to worry about any Ministers losing their jobs, despite their loss of Departments.
But shuffling the cards in reality is unlikely to create any real cost-efficiencies. It’s more likely to just create a “business-facing” hydra, pulling in conflicting directions and making a mess of its conflicting responsibilities.
Once we’ve wasted 2 years and millions of dollars bringing it up to speed that is.