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NRT: “Shoulder-tapping” vs public service values

Written By: - Date published: 11:39 am, April 23rd, 2014 - 59 comments
Categories: accountability, Politics, public services - Tags:

no-right-turn-256No Right Turn points out the other issue with Shane Jone’s “new” job. The jobs for cronies with taxpayer money.

Another angle to the Shane Jones resignation:

Mr Jones said he would leave Parliament next month after he was shoulder tapped by Foreign Minister Murray McCully for a new role as a roving economic ambassador across the Pacific.

This is of course a total violation of public service values, and an unlawful exercise of Ministerial power.

For more than a hundred years, New Zealand has had a professional, politically neutral public service. In 1912 the Public Service Act removed Ministers from the appointment process, ending their ability to treat the public service as a means of rewarding their cronies. That ideal is given modern form in section 33 of the State Sector Act, which requires Chief Executives to act independently in employment matters, including appointments, promotions, demotions, transfers, disciplinary proceedings, or sackings. Chief Executives are explicitly not responsible to Ministers for these decisions. Ministers “shoulder tapping” preferred candidates for public service roles is precisely what the law is supposed to prevent. Instead, it looks like we’re back to Seddon and his infamous “learn him”.

Just a few years ago, both a Minister and a Chief Executive were forced to resign over unlawful interference in employment matters (the former by demanding that someone be sacked, the latter for obeying, then bowing to the “suggestion” of the next Minister to employ a crony). That lesson appears not to have been learned. Clearly we need to put some more heads on spikes, until Ministers and Chief Executives start obeying the law.


59 comments on “NRT: “Shoulder-tapping” vs public service values”

  1. Sacha 1

    McCully has form for constantly interfering in Ministries he oversees. Didn’t he get fired from government in the late 90s for doing exactly that?

  2. Marksman33 2

    Fuck,it never ends.

  3. Maryan Street 3

    This is pure McCully: reach way down into the public service and pull out those whom he doesn’t want and install those he does. I have criticised him every time he has done it, both in the Overseas Aid and the State Services portfolio. Even as recently as yesterday. The list of professional casualties is growing by the day, as is the list of beneficiaries. I am promoting nothing less than a wholesale review of the state services. Get back to 1912 principles, I say.

    • Puckish Rogue 3.1

      Jones didn’t have to take the role but he obviously saw more of a future in the offered role then in a labour opposition

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2

      ..and put heads on spikes.

      If it’s illegal why aren’t the courts involved?

      • Puckish Rogue 3.2.1

        Fortunately just because the left doesn’t like something doesn’t mean its against the law

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          If you can’t see that removing political interference from public service appointments would apply equally to Ministers from all parties then I can’t help you.

          • Puckish Rogue

            Well how about we go through the process of how it actually happened before we start deciding its illegal, you know due process and all that stuff

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              I can’t imagine a more obvious example of interference than a shoulder-tap.

              This government has a habit of appointing people this way, and before you say it I’m sure Labour did it too.

              How many tonnes of powdered milk will Oravida have to sell to afford the kind of donations that buy appointments as well as audiences and promotional photographs?

              • Puckish Rogue

                🙂 keep talking about Oravida its doing wonders for the left 🙂

                • anker

                  Sure does do wonders for the left, that’s because there is a real issue here, mark my words.

                  • Puckish Rogue

                    No there isn’t, its a beltway issue but by all means keep going on about it 🙂

          • srylands

            It is not a public service appointment. If you don’t get that I can’t help you.

            • Lanthanide

              So who would Shane Jones be ‘serving’, if not ‘the public’?

              • srylands

                The Government. He will not be serving the public at all. And he will not be a public servant.

        • srylands

          How so?

      • Once was Pete 3.2.2

        Because it is not illegal. I can tell you for a fact that both Labour and National ministers have appointed from outside when they deemed there was good reason.

    • Blue 3.3

      1912 principles eh? Is that how far back you want to take the country Maryan? Please make it an election slogan.

      • Hanswurst 3.3.1

        I’m sure Labour would be happy to adopt that slogan… if National adopted the slogan, “We don’t know what principles we want, so actually we’re quite happy to let them slip back to a time before 1912, although we haven’t really thought too hard about what that means, or something… dunno.”

      • karol 3.3.2

        Early Labour Party principles, implemented in accordance with 21st Century circumstances seem good to me – better than the return to Victorian times that NAct are taking us to:

        Labour speech from 1912:

        <blockquote>"We intend to gather in all classes of the community. There are some people who are under the impression that the party comprises onlylabourers and waterside workers. This is not so. ' The Labour Party is to include all sections of useful people. We ■wish, to gather in the people of the town, of the country, the shopkeeper, the farmer, or any useful person who is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder •with us in the fight against privilege aud monopoly."

        Street cars, gas and so on, should be in the hands of the municipality, and the railways controlled by, the Government.

      • felix 3.3.3

        That word, principles. It always confuses the righties.

  4. Once was Tim 4

    Public Service values? There haven’t been any since the mid 1980’s. It’s something the NZ Labour Party need to re-learn.
    Christ – we don’t even have a Middle or Senior PS management who abide by a basic code of conduct. It’s all very ISO900 – the standards and procedures that only need to be documented, and then promptly discarded when inconvenient.
    It’s why the peons work in spite or their management, rather than because of them.
    Hey – got any airpoints going spare bro?

  5. Matthew Poole at Public Address:

    Before anyone chimes in to echo No Right Turn’s suggestion that McCully appointing Jones as an ambassador is illegal, I’ll point out that heads of mission/heads of post are appointed by “the Governor General”, and we all know what that means.

    This reeks to high heaven, and it looks worse, but from a legal/procedural standpoint it’s entirely legitimate for the Minister to establish a new diplomatic role with the status of a head-of-mission/head-of-post and pluck out a sitting MP to fill said role.


    Just passing this comment on.

    • wtl 5.1

      Rich of Observationz at Public Address:

      He’s going to be a “roving economic ambassador across the Pacific”.

      Is that a head of mission / head of post?

      head of mission means a person who is appointed by the Governor-General to be—
      (a)High Commissioner for New Zealand in any Commonwealth country, or in the Cook Islands; or
      (aa)High Commissioner for New Zealand in Niue; or
      (b)Ambassador of New Zealand to any State that is not a Commonwealth country; or
      (c)head of mission for New Zealand at any international organisation; or
      (d)head of mission for New Zealand (not being a high commissioner or ambassador) to any State

      head of post means a person who is not a head of mission but is appointed by the Governor-General to be the head of a New Zealand government office in any State

      I don’t think some sort of “roving ambassador” post counts. The only way they could elevate that role would be to create a special government office on some Pacific island, and even then one could argue that a “post” is the sole NZG diplomatic presence in a state, so could not be in a place where we already have one.

      Just passing this comment on.

      • Pete George 5.1.1

        Matthew Poole again:

        They could appoint him as Ambassador/HoM for New Zealand to the Pacific Islands Forum, which is a treaty-established international organisation. We do not appear to have representation there at present, and it would work perfectly in terms of the focal area of the Forum (of which NZ is a member).

        Do not underestimate McCully’s cunning.

        • One Anonymous Bloke


        • wtl

          I’m not going to continue reposting a debate on another forum here. I have no idea why you are choosing to do so, my point was to simply counter your point which was apparently that “everything is perfectly legal and there is nothing to see here”.

          The thing is no one knows any details because nothing has been finalised. Until then, speculating is pointless. Regardless of the actual legality, the whole thing is unethical – a minister ‘shoulder tapping’ an opposition MP and creating a special role just for him? You seem to have a rather low standard of ethics.

          • Pete George

            I simply contributed information on the topic, I didn’t imply in any way that I thought everything was legal and there was nothing to see.

            The thing is no one knows any details because nothing has been finalised. Until then, speculating is pointless. Regardless of the actual legality, the whole thing is unethical – a minister ‘shoulder tapping’ an opposition MP and creating a special role just for him?

            You say no one knows any details, speculating is pointless – and then you speculate.

            • wtl

              I simply contributed information on the topic, I didn’t imply in any way that I thought everything was legal and there was nothing to see.

              Actually reposting the comment does imply that you thought that.

              You say no one knows any details, speculating is pointless – and then you speculate.

              Okay, let me rephrase because my point went over your head. The details surrounding this appointment are not yet clear, therefore speculating about the legality of the appointment is rather pointless. However, the appointment does appear to me to be unethical for reasons I outlined. Your failure to criticise this deal and you reposting comments indicating it is perfectly legal suggest that you do not find it unethical and I therefore believe that you have a low standard of ethics.

              • felix

                “That Pete George chap sure is a dishonest shitbag. He never owns anything he says.”

                Something I overheard someone say. Don’t mean to imply that I agree or disagree, just providing the information.


                • I don’t believe you. No evidence, and you have a habit of making things up. People here often call that sort of thing lying. That would make you a dishonest hypocrite.

                  • felix

                    Weirdly the next thing I overheard was “That Pete George, he exhibits no self-awareness at all. It’s like he has the soul of a mollusk, but without the self-awareness.”

                    Not that I agree or disagree. Many people post quotes here that don’t match their own thoughts. Often the opposite.

                  • Murray Olsen

                    I have been told that Pete George is a blithering idiot who has never been known to contribute anything worthwhile and waffles on, and on, and on, and on……. I don’t think the person who told me this was talking about another Pete George.

                    I won’t imply that I agree. I’ll be 100% specific about it.

              • Actually reposting the comment does imply that you thought that.

                No it doesn’t. You just assumed incorrectly.

                Many people post quotes here that don’t match their own thoughts. Often the opposite.

                • wtl

                  No it doesn’t. You just assumed incorrectly.

                  Yes it does. If I am wrong, you could simply clarify your actual opinion on the matter but you have not yet done so and instead appear to be trying very hard to avoid addressing the issue directly.

                  Many people post quotes here that don’t match their own thoughts. Often the opposite

                  Yes, and when they do they usually provide they own opinions or criticism of the quotes, rather than simply reposting comments from elsewhere with no comment of their own.

        • ghostwhowalksnz

          The Catholic Church have being doing this for millenia.

          A good number of bishops are appointed to ‘titular’ dioceses, which are generally ones that only exist on paper throughout Africa and Middle East. Back in the days before those pesky fellows Mohammed and Martin Luther came along.

          There has also been non existent cabinet posts as well- Vice President of the Executive Council anyone

  6. srylands 6

    The premise of this post is incorrect. It is an ambassador role, which is a Ministerial appointment. All governments have made extensive Ministerial appointments to overseas posts.

    So it is laughable to suggest it is unlawful.

    Arguably McCully has made such appointments more open by making them available to outsiders, including advertising diplomatic posts in the press for anyone to apply. Such openness has never happened before.

    So you may not like the result, but in criticising the process, you are displaying woeful ignorance of both the State Sector Act and the practice of all New Zealand Governments in such appointments since the 1950s!

    Very sloppy indeed.

  7. Skinny 7

    Shrillands has made a very good point, if incorrect please correct. It must be said that ethics wise very poor taking a plum appointment offered by your opposition.

    Winston gave Shane some very sound advice that National have under funded our Governments contribution to the pacific nations economic development in the tune of tens of millions. He also advised Jones to have a good lawyer to check over the employment contract carefully.

  8. Populuxe1 8

    You mean like Helen Clark shoulder-tapped Jim Bolger for Kiwibank?

  9. Foreign Waka 9

    The whole affair is a farce. Mr Jones is in my opinion an opportunist, given that he now implies that he better suited to a right leaning party. In other words, he did not get a leadership role so he is now searching for something else and to make it count under the Key Government. Tribal laws, tribal behavior and tribal government. There is nothing to say to this other than why bother to vote for anybody with this kind of going on. Who knows what the dealings behind the scenes are and quite frankly, I am loosing interest. Perhaps it is time to look for somewhere were some kind of law and order exists, meaning for EVERYBODY.

  10. Whatever next? 10

    Seems like National have strategically placed “their people” in all positions of influence.Not sure if this is a strategic position for Shane, more of a strategic distraction.

  11. emergency mike 11

    “…roving economic ambassador across the Pacific…”

    Where is this on the ‘Sweet Gig’ scale exactly?

  12. Jrobin 12

    Who cares, it’s great to see him gone. Kelvin Davis gets his chance to shine at last . Thank you National this will backfire Nicely.Shane can join with his kindred spirits at last and sail off into the sunset. David Cunliffe handled this with dignity too unlike the leering gloater we have the misfortune to call PM. I congratulate the protesters who egged the BMW ! And the children who showed more discernment than many adults by showing Key up. Kia kaha.

  13. red blooded 13

    Shane Jones is a self-interested blow-hard. It’s a pity he’s a bit of a media darling boy. I’ve worried about the high profile he’s had recently cos it’s seemed to me like an undermining of the actual leadership team. Having said that, it’s also a worry that there’s enough unhappiness and division in the caucus for him to throw a grenade like this at this stage if things. We can’t pretend that this is good news for Labour. Part if the problem, of course, is that we don’t see many sitting in caucus who have a proactive media presence and thus are seen as talented. I also think that the party has to actively rebut the “party of academics” label that’s being used as an insult (how dreadful – people who are trained thinkers on parliament!).

    As to whether this is legal, I suspect it pushes the boundaries significantly – where’s the open process that identifies a role and advertises it in irder to choose the best applicant? I’m sure people have been shoulder-tapped in the past, but at the very least there should be a chance for others to apply and for their skills and experimences to be weighed up against a job description.

    Overall though, I see this more as an issue of ethics (on the SJ/Nat side) and team management (on the Labour/Cunliffe side).

  14. red blooded 14

    What are you questioning? That SJ is a self-interested blow-hard? That his media presence has been undermining for the leadership team? That more in Labour need strong media skills? That the lack of open process and opportunism inherent in this appointment push ethical boundaries? That the whole situation suggest problems within the wider caucus and in particular the relationships with the management team..?

    Notice how I manage to be specific?

  15. red blooded 15

    Just an observation: the order of these comments is mangled (it may be different if I wasn’t using my phone?). Plus, Srylands, you seem to be living in the past. I’ve suspected it for some time, and now the date label on your latest comment confirms it.

  16. No matter how obvious it seems, we still have to go through the due process and all that stuff.

  17. Let’s just hope that due process is properly served.

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