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Cuts and consequences

Written By: - Date published: 12:10 pm, August 25th, 2011 - 23 comments
Categories: bill english, employment, jobs, national/act government, public services - Tags:

The government reckons it can cut the number of public sector workers without cutting services.

That wasn’t the experience of the 80s and 90s when vital institutional knowledge and expertise were lost in a frenzy of asset sales,  privatisation and brutal job cuts– when public service numbers dropped from around 85,000 public servants  to under  30,000 when Labour took office in 1999.

Yesterday MAF announced that241 positions are being cut – that’s 144 real jobs as so many of those positions are unfilled (another tactic
of this government that adds to work load stress to the remaining staff).

Around 80 of those jobs are Wellington policy analysts – they’re the people who help protect our forestry, biosecurity, fisheries and  agricultural industries.  Fairly important I would have thought.

You can trace major tragedies like Cave Creek back to underfunding. The Commission of Inquiry into the disaster  found that the platform collapsed, killing 14  people, in part because the Department of Conservation didn’t have enough funding… the “root causes of the collapse lie in a  combined systemic failure against the background of an underfunded and under-resourced department”.

Likewise at Pike River. In order to save money – around $1 million – the number of mines inspectors employed by the Department of Labour was  drastically reduced, leaving just one  covering the whole of the South Island. As the enquiry into the disaster progresses, bet your boots that the number of inspectors along with inferior safety standards will be found to be a contributing factor.

Plus 89,000 leaky homes as a direct result of slack building codes and self regulation costing hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts and heartbreak beyond count.

And let’s not forget monumental failures in financial regulation that’s opened the door for finance companies to act illegally,  immorally and unethically. Bridgecorp, Nathans Finance, and countless others are testimony to what happens if the public sector doesn’t regulate companies  property.

Already there’s been over 5000 public sector jobs lost under NACT – if this was any other industry there’d be a public outcry.  As it is, we have a finance minister who  claims the rest of the country “have tears of joy in their eyes ” at the thought of public sector job cuts.

Wake up NZ and get the facts at www.keepNZworking.co.nz

23 comments on “Cuts and consequences ”

  1. fermionic_interference 1

    Well said, well put and an accurate summary of the issues we face as a result of extremely blinkered and short term thinking that has currently befallen our country, with solid example of the pitfalls of underfunding our public service.

    Also I believe that the despicable Didymosphenia geminata accessing this country, is another severe and costly example of underfunding our bio security departments as well as being an example of short sighted thinking.

  2. Afewknowthetruth 2

    It is interesting that the words ‘consequences’ and ‘collapse’ should occur in the item.

    Western societies have constructed complex systems on the back of coal and oil, and people have been living in the ‘Age of Entitlement’.

    We are now progressing rapidly into the ‘Age of Consequences’ as the resources necessary to maintain the complex systems become increasingly difficult to acquire and the pollution generated by burning fossil fuels generates ever greater havoc.

    There is no way out of the bottleneck we have entered, and everything people currently take for granted must inevitably slowly disappear (or rapidly disappear): that will be very hard for a lot of people to cope with.

    In this ‘shrinking cake economy’ (which is an inevitable consequence simple mathematics relating to global population overshoot and the rapid squandering of finite resources) we have two schools of thought:

    The National/ACT mob believe it is fair and justifiable that an ever greater portion of the shrinking cake should be allocated by those who already have far more than their fair share.

    True humanitarians and real environmentalists believe those who have more than their share need to be heavily taxed to redistribute wealth, and that everyone is going to have to cut back.

    Faux humanitarians and faux envrionmentalists imagine we can somehow maintain unsustainable living arrangements and population overshoot by tweaking the system slightly.

    The Greens and Labour seem to be completely lost at this point of time, trying to maintain business as usual, i.e. maintaining the bankers’ Ponzi scheme and industrialism, whilst at the same time trying to come up with policies that redistribute the shrinking cake in such a way as to provide the masses with more.

    None of it will work, of course, since maintenance of present arrangements is a mathematical impossibility. As I was recently reminded, Professor Albert Bartlett said it all decades ago.

    ‘He first gave the talk in September, 1969, and subsequently has presented it an average of once every 8.5 days for 36 years. His talk is based on his paper, “Forgotten Fundamentals of the Energy Crisis,” originally published in the American Journal of Physics, and revised in the Journal of Geological Education.

    Professor Al Bartlett begins his one-hour talk with the statement, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

  3. Afewknowthetruth 3

    The link to reality, should anyone else be interested in reality.


    • ianmac 3.1

      Afewknowthetruth from alBartlett”“You cannot sustain population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources.
      I still wonder why we/they insist that NZ must have population growth in order to be successful economically????

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Because the more people there are the more clipping the ticket can be done by the capitalists and thus making them richer. Also, the only way to grow the economy (Make it use more thus increasing demand pushing up prices and profits) is to have more people.

        • ropata

          Or governments could invest in better health, better education, and basic research, all helpful in generating wealth and quality of llife.

        • aerobubble

          But that does not make any sense, Auckland is hopelessly inefficient at clipping the ticket.
          Are NZ capitalists just going through the motions and don’t actually get the whole
          emphasis on gouging and extorting rent? Is that why we didn’t load our government
          soviegn debt and the debt is held by the priavte sectors. Is Key’s rush to grow debt
          all to do with needing to keep up with true savanger capitalists who hit bonus heaven
          on earth? Funny National are not either passable capitalists.

  4. Jenny Michie 4

    BTW, we now have as many public servants as we did in 1966. So you kow when the government is talking about a bloated public sector it really is talking rubbish. NZ is also rated 5th in the OECD in terms of government effectiveness. And 3rd in terms of an easy place to do business.

    • sweetd 4.1

      In 1966 you also had things like typing pools, something you don’t find these days. Comparing staff levels from over 50 years ago without taking anything else into account is meaningless Jenny.

  5. Jenny Michie 5

    It would never be my only arguement but I don’t think it’s a meanlingless comparison. Apart from anything else the population was about half what it is today and we spend a helluva lot more money on technology and plant than we did back then.

    • Afewknowthetruth 5.1

      Bartlett on population:

      “Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by
      further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?” – Prof. Al Bartlett

      Spot on, of course. It is only the bankers’ Ponzi scheme that derives benefit from an increse in population ….. and that is only in the short term.

      As far as quality of life and sustainability go, more people = worse.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        As far as quality of life and sustainability go, more people = worse.


        I truly find it amazing how many people fail to realise this simple truth.

        • aerobubble

          You have a right to sustainable population renewal. i.e. one child per person.
          So two children families. After that its abusive of the planet. And mother
          earth is getting very angry, lashing out.

  6. ChrisH 6

    Let’s try and add up the cost of public service cuts shall we? Hmm let me see. $15 billion for leaky homes (mid range estimate). $6 billion for finance company dysregulation. Another billion or two for the merely financial effects of Pike River etc. Plus of course the lost lives and heartache. And the enormous, almost unfathomable cost of dumb planning in Auckland. The costs of no longer having Plunket Nurses. Pretty soon you carry on like this and you are talking real money (and lives).

  7. Zeroque 7

    Population growth does prop up the current growth model. It’s convenient that 99% of the western worlds population (there you go I just made up a stat based on gut feeling) helped along by the churches believe reproduction should go unregulated. As long as you can provide the child love etc etc… Whatever the actual situation I think the point I should be making on this forum is that population management seems to seldom be discussed by any poly’s I read about, here in NZ or overseas.

  8. william 8

    80 policy analysts fairly important, you say.

    we are analysed to a point of inertia… let’s just get things done without the endless planning thanks.
    How many policy analysts do Fonterra, Fletcher Building, Fisher and Paykel, Rakon, Mainfreight, Charlies, etc. etc. employ….. less than a dozen for all listed companies; let alon a fraction in private companies; I’d wager. Analysis and awareness is simply part of a good managers job- not something you need a human report writing machine for.

    Anyone with any experience of the beltway knows there is still room to cut without any real loss of “service”for taxpayers.

    NZ is a village and we are realising it needs small and efficient governing; not fractured bureaucracy.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      More fucking lies

      We are already one of the most efficient government bureaucracies in the world and the loss of that talent is damaging the future prospects of this country for years to come.

      I could give you a long list of very capable experienced operators from DoC, MoH and MoRST who have been cut

      Guess what they are fucking off with their experience to places where people value the work they do

      And the work they used to do have typically been given to grads with 3 years of work experience, no institutional knowledge and no fucking idea of how NZ has come through the decades.

      In other words, innocent blank slates for a bullshit neoliberal agenda.

      How many policy analysts do Fonterra, Fletcher Building, Fisher and Paykel, Rakon, Mainfreight, Charlies, etc. etc. employ….. less than a dozen for all listed companies; let alon a fraction in private companies; I’d wager. Analysis and awareness is simply part of a good managers job- not something you need a human report writing machine for.

      What a FUCKING IDIOT

      Each of those private companies has a very narrow set of core stakeholders and far simpler objectives compared to a Government RUNNING A COUNTRY

      You MORON

      we are analysed to a point of inertia… let’s just get things done without the endless planning thanks.

      Yeah see how well that worked for Telecom and their XT Network

      Now do you want to see the same for life and death services that we all depend on. Like I said you are a FUCKING LOSER

    • ropata 8.2

      You get the government you pay for william. Do you want to follow the US example (government captured by the super wealthy, but crumbling public infrastructure) ?

      I prefer democracy to kleptocracy thanks

  9. RedLogix 9

    The difference between a good public servant, and a bad one is years of experience and excellent leadership.

    Industry needs competent oversight by bureaucracy in order to function sustainably long-term. All the examples Jenny pointed out (and there are more) are cases where the industry went for the apparent short-term gains of ‘self-regulation’ that turned out to be disasterously expensive in the longer run.

    But in order for public servants to do a good job of regulatory oversight they need to be competent in the industry they are supervising. There is a place for bringing some people from industry into the bureaucracy; they bring hands-on insight and fresh perspectives. But the huge danger in relying on this strategy is that you very quickly set up incentives for ‘revolving door’ corruption, where industry places people for a few years into senior civil service roles, get the rules skewed in their favour and then the person involved ‘revolves’ back into a very well paid ‘job’ (which is really nothing more than a pay-off) in the industry.

    This form of corruption is rife overseas, especially the USA.

    Jenny makes the case very clearly. Good public sector oversight and regulation is a vital strength for an economy. Sure we all love to whine and grumble when the rules get applied to us, but the only alternative to a rule-based system is a corruption based one.

    And frankly Bill English’s line that slashing the public sector will, “bring tears of joy to the rest of the country” is appalling. It reveals a total ignorance of the job he is supposed to be performing and a sneering contempt for everyone working in the public sector.

  10. just saying 10

    But the huge danger in relying on this strategy is that you very quickly set up incentives for ‘revolving door’ corruption, where industry places people for a few years into senior civil service roles, get the rules skewed in their favour and then the person involved ‘revolves’ back into a very well paid ‘job’ (which is really nothing more than a pay-off) in the industry

    So well put redlogix, and this goes for regulatory/watchdog bodies of all kinds. And these people change the culture of such organisations too. Those committed to doing right get cynical, and either leave or adapt to the ‘reality’.

  11. Marjorie Dawe 11

    What about the simple people like the poor beggars who answer the phone at WINZ or IRD. I was told by the electronic voice that I would have to wait 50-65 minutes so I hung up and sent an email. Why should the staff be abused by Joe Public because our stingy ( to the ordinary but not the corporates) government cant see the benefit in keeping someone in work rather than pushing them out of a useful job and encouraging them to go to Australia. This is nonsensic and short sighted and destroying our country!

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