- Date published:
12:55 am, May 13th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, democratic participation, human rights, public services, workers' rights - Tags: public service
It goes far too far and is a clear attempt by the Nats to make sure the civil service is ‘politically correct’ for their purposes. Perhaps they’re tired of getting official advice that says ‘don’t cut that, it’s good value for money’, ‘don’t fund that, it’s stupid’, and ‘don’t pass that law, it might cause more murders’.
Being a civil servant does not mean getting a brain-wipe. A civil servant has always been allowed to have their personal beliefs and there is no need to renounce them on becoming a civil servant. The only rule is that they behave neutrally, not that they are neutral in their hearts. The code of conduct advice says that it’s OK to have political beliefs and be part of political organisations.
As a general rule, we are free to belong to any lawful organisation. Our rights to participate in social campaigns and the activities of political parties, unions and professional associations are not precluded because we work in the State Services… participation in party politics is not likely to affect the confidence that the Government has in the organisation we work for, and is not likely to undermine our ability to work with future governments. What we must do is ensure that we do not confuse our political rights with our employment responsibilities… It means we must always be conscious of our shared responsibility to ensure that our organisation maintains the confidence of Ministers.
Under Labour, National MPs-to-be John Hayes, Tim Groser, and Hekia Parata were all civil servants and, quite rightly, their association with the National Party was no problem because they behaved professionally.
It’s outrageous, then, that National is now trying to make windows into men’s souls, that they want civil service managers into thought-police:
We are encouraged to discuss actual or intended political activities with our manager who should be in a position to clarify the relationship between our employment responsibilities and our freedom to exercise civil rights.
So suddenly, unprecedentedly, civil servants are meant to tell their managers if they belong to a political party. There can be no reason for the civil service to have this information, unless they intend to treat workers differently on the basis of their politics (frankly, too many civil servants are already afraid to join a union or political party because they think it is frowned upon). Civil servants will be treated differently not, on the basis of their work or professionalism, but on their beliefs. It is a fundamental attack on their democratic rights.
It gets worse:
Our political interests and activities (and possibly even the political interests of a close family member) have the potential to conflict with our obligations as State servants. The effective management of such conflicts must balance the role of the organisation we work for and its relationship to the Government, the importance of encouraging a strong democracy, and our personal rights as New Zealanders.
Wow. So you can get a mark against your name if your partner or your siblings or parents are involved in (the wrong kind of) politics.
This actually serves to undermine the neutrality of the public service. It is like hanging a notice on the door saying ‘only politically correct applicants need apply’.