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PSA tackles the stats

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, November 3rd, 2008 - 38 comments
Categories: election 2008, public services - Tags:

The PSA have put together some interesting numbers on the size of the public service. They appear to tell a different story to the one we’ve been hearing about from Mr Key who wants a” razor gang of cabinet ministers to trim state sector fat”. For example:

We’re on par with Australia:

  • Australian public service comprises 0.99 % of the population
  • New Zealand public service comprises 0.98, % of the population

Government spending as a proportion of GDP is down slightly:

  • 1999=32.4
  • 2008=31.8

The public service is mainly outside Wellington: 58.1% are outside Wellington with the fastest growing areas Otago, Northland, and Southland

These and other statistics (and some great graphs) are in an election special in the PSA’s election feature on their website or download the psreport.

Statistics are always open to interpretation but these provide some context for deciding whether we need a special Cabinet Expenditure Control Committee or not…

38 comments on “PSA tackles the stats ”

  1. Francois 1

    A very good article by Rod Oram:


    A fantastic line:

    These great shifts are at the heart of the global crisis. They are also a great opportunity. But only for the bold and prepared. Labour is. National isn’t.

  2. higherstandard 2

    Rod Oram is to Labour what Matthew Hooten is to National such that he’s so much in Helen’s pocket the top of his head hasn’t seen the sun in 9 years. Predictably Rod’s independent thoughts line up quite closely with Labour’s current spin.

    Perhaps Randal and others calling for a completely independent media are right – or we could just read a range of opinions and make our own minds.

  3. Carol 3

    Oram’s analysis does tend to support Labour’s policies very often. But I think it’s a bit of a stretch to equate Oram’s analysis with Hooton’s spin. Oram doesn’t spin, but reaches conclusions based on analysis. Oram has never been a PR person for Labour, and is independent of them.

    Sometimes independent analysis just does give credence to Labour. But, I’m sure righties will try to spin this against Labour.

  4. John 4

    I have no problem with Rod Oram and others pushing their own political barrow, but he should have the courage to admit that he has always been a Labour supporter.
    I met him approx. 10 years ago and he was very pro Labour then.

  5. Felix 5

    Anybody care to discuss the post?

    (hint: Rod Oram isn’t in it)

  6. Bill D 6

    At last some discussion of the real issues. I have sometimes felt like a lone voice trying to get the following facts out. It would be nice if supporters sent this to all on their email list.

    Before you vote, consider this. National were in power for nine years up until 1999. Labour have now had nine years. Here are the stats:

    Total Government spending as % of GDP:

    1999 (National) ….. 32.4%

    2008 (Labour) ……. 31.8%


    1999 (National) …….. 7.1%

    2008 (Labour) ……. 3.1%

    Number of people on benefits:

    1999 (National) ……. 360,000

    2008 (Labour) ……… 245,000

    Spending on Health (adjusted to 2008 dollars)

    1999 (National) ……. 8.7 billion

    2008 (Labour) ……. 12.2 billion

    Spending on Education (adjusted to 2008 dollars):

    1999 (National) ……. 7.5 billion

    2008 (Labour) ……. 10.1 billion

    Prescription charges:

    1999 (National) $15

    2008 (Labour) $3

    How have the last nine years been for you?


    Have you personally been prosecuted for smacking your child? Have you found chipping your dog, a gay couple being married, Government flunkies discussing showerheads, Winston’s follies, Helen’s manner and artwork – a serious infringement on your liberty and happiness?

    During the past nine years, Labour has added to the “bureaucracy” by providing an additional 4000 Nurses, 2500 Police, 1200 Doctors, 675 other Health Professionals, 7500 extra cataract operations and 10,000 extra hip and knee replacements, an additional 10,000 elective surgery procedures.

    Do accusations of corruption stand up in the light of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2008 that places New Zealand 1st equal with Denmark and Sweden for the least corruption in the World?

    If you’re in business and the past nine years has been tough, maybe you’re in the wrong business. New Zealand ranks 2nd in the World according to the World Bank “Ease of doing business” survey 2008.

    Problems with the RMA? The RMA was enacted by the Bolger Government after a thorough going over by Simon Upton.

    I suspect that the real reason that the opposition has campaigned on non-issues is obvious given the performance stats above.

    Think about it.

  7. Carol 7

    My only query about the post, is to do with public spending per capita being equivalent for both National and Labour led governments. Doesn’t surprise me that the Nat spin is way off on this. But I would like to know what the similarities or differences are in the break down of that public spending: ie was it spent on the same or different ways for both governments?

    PS: John, then are you equally critical of analysis by economists who support National?

    Bill D has provided some of the stats for the above question. So what did the Nats spend the money on?

  8. RedLogix 8


    If you really cannot tell the difference between “Hootenpiffle”s embarassing rants, and Oram’s researched and considered work then you have failed.

    A just and fairminded person can acknowledge and respect the work of an ideological opponent without necessarily agreeing with it. Oram has done a tonne of work over the years on all manner of business topics with little overt political bias. He has very largely kept his personal partisan convictions out of his public agenda, while holding his work together with a self-consistent underlying philosophy. He is almost the only heaviweight business commentator with a track record in this country.

    At the same time it has always been clear that Oram is no slavish creature of the Business Round Table. (Just as when you read something from Ron Trotter you just know he is not a CTU delegate), yet it is only in this last article that he has explicitly stated which party he believes is capable of managing the economy and why. The article itself lays out a detailed and reasoned case for this conclusion.

    On the other hand all you have been capable of is a lazy, fatuous comparison that achieves nothing of worth.

  9. John 9

    I’m not critical of Rod Oram’s analysis, just his attempts to be regarded as non-politically biased.

  10. higherstandard 10

    Bill/Spoff makes some excellent points but fails to take account of what the Labour inherited both in terms of the world and local economy at the beginning and during their nine years compared to what the Nats inherited in 91.

    Let’s face it whoever gets in is not in for an easy economic conditions for the next few years.

    Some more stats from the PSA website

    “Oh, but New Zealand’s public service is soaring, right?”

    Not really, no. Yes, it’s grown since 1999. But it’s still smaller than in 1990—even with almost a million more Kiwis since then:

    In 2008, 42,000 public servants for 4.2 million people (1:100)
    In 1999, 29,500 public servants for 3.7 million people (1:125)
    In 1990, 50,500 public servants for 3.5 million people (1:69)

    “As New Zealand’s population and economy grow, the need for strong public services grows, too. And service delivery accounts for 85% of the growth in the public sector—with support functions accounting for much of the rest.”

    What the PSA needs to very clearly outline is why as the population and economy grow, the need for strong public services grows – because there is a strong perception that much of the growth has been in bums on seats that don’t add a great deal.

  11. Felix 11

    Bill D puts it very well.

    Is there anyone here who feels like they’ve been doing it hard?

  12. RedLogix 12

    And yes back on topic.

    The underlying problem with National’s approach to public service is that they do not really understand it.

    National is the party of property and business owners whose principle, and to a degree legitimate concerns, revolve around profit, cutting costs, and retaining personal and market privileges. As a result all of their internal language and dialogue are evolved from it, and all of their policies (such as the ACC privatisation) are instinctively rooted in it.

    Government by constrast is collective tool of the nation. At every turn the very nature and purpose of public service wrong-foots the right. This is why they talk nonsense about out of control numbers of bureaucrats, because from their limited perspective the depth and complexity of modern goverment is just too big and baffling to grasp.

  13. Felix 13

    “there is a strong perception that much of the growth has been in bums on seats that don’t add a great deal.”

    I’ve seen that perception expressed by the National party and repeated on the blogs and to a degree (but not much) in the MSM.

    I haven’t seen it expressed in the 3D real world. Quite the opposite actually.

  14. Janet 14

    Some of these comments reflect the common assumption of those on the right that their ideas are the norm and somehow neutral and that anyone who doesn’t think like them are either in someone else’s pocket or captured by ideology.

  15. Ianmac 15

    Bill D: It would be hard to dispute such clearly laid out facts. Ta. (Though I am sure some would try!) It intrigues me that this sort of information is not out in the open. Is it possible that the endless fuss about Winston is intended to drown out the facts?
    Imagine your data on a page in the Herald? Ha! Will try and get them into Letter to Ed in our local paper. OkBill?
    And having heard Rod Oram on radio I think that his enthusiasm and clarity of explanation for difficult topics is clear of bias.

  16. Bill D 16

    Astounding lack of focus in Labour’s campaign. They have allowed the Nats to battle straw men all along the way and to have mishandled the H-fee thing is unforgivable.
    That bloggers like ourselves are the only ones to stay on topic indicates a shakeup is needed in the back room.

    It is my most earnest desire that those stats are placed in every possible publication this week. Go for it.

  17. randal 17

    HS there is no comparison between rod oram and matthew hooton.
    oram has a degree and a recognised trade
    hooton is just a mouth who says what his paymasters desire
    and I must add that it is not necessary for the press to be independent although that helps but it is only necessary for the press to be fair and most of all mature.
    at the moment we are witnessing a preriod where the recruiting principles of mass journalism are having the unintended effect of bringing the press into disrepute
    one of the reasons is that the juveniles doing the writing have never done any reading!
    and secondly
    that the current generation are letting their unresolved childish desires creep into the discourse
    a very bad recipe indeed

  18. KiwiGirl 18

    Felix wrote:
    “Bill D puts it very well.
    Is there anyone here who feels like they’ve been doing it hard?”

    Maybe our soldiers who went to the wars didn’t feel like “they’d been doing it hard” but that didn’t stop them from offering their lives for the perceived loss of freedom if they allowed aggression on the other side of the world to go unchecked.

    Now like it or not, there are A LOT of people who perceive that future policies of Labour and the Greens will further impact on the personal freedoms New Zealanders enjoy – freedoms that seem to have been eroded over the last three years particularly.

  19. Vanilla Eis 19

    KiwiGirl: Sorry, what freedoms were those exactly?

    It’s just that I don’t see any mentioned specifically in your post, and can’t think of any ways my life has been impacted so I was wondering about which freedoms you “percieve” to have lost.

  20. Chris G 20

    Bill D,

    Fantastic, Post of the Year.


    Which of your freedoms have disappeared?

  21. Felix 21

    Yeah I’ve read that 3 times now KiwiGirl and I don’t get it at all. What are you not free from anymore?

    See the thing is, when all the rhetoric is all mopped up no-one seems to be able to say they actually feel like they’re having a really hard time of it.

    But I’ll ask again – who reckons they’ve been doing it hard for the past few years?

  22. Chris G 22


    The tories on here have gone unusually quiet everytime you’ve asked that (About three times now, am I right?)

  23. Chris G 23

    Bill D,

    I have a possible reason as to why Labour haven’t used those sorts of figures in their campaign. Its because people dont tend to respond to stats very well, especially a bombardment of the sort. I watched a doco on propoganda and politics and some professor of psychology and cognitive science said people just dont click to stats. Hence the use of buzz words in politics eg. in NZ: ‘Brighter Future’, ‘Fresh’, ‘Trust’ and in the US and here ‘Change’

    Heres the link, check it if you want. http://www.livevideo.com/video/Drachnid/9D2EB4710E7248B4AE6FF4ECFB8C6A51/propaganda-

    The professor guy speaks second, if I recall rightly.

  24. Felix 24

    Yeah I noticed that too. Truth is like kryptonite to them.

  25. Bill D 25

    Chris G.

    I have always enjoyed George Carlin’s dicta

    “Think of how dumb the average American (voter) is and remind yourself that half of them are dumber than that”

    However, I do believe that hard facts count in an election if they are presented properly. In this election I think Labour have neglected to focus the debate. It has not been easy to even locate stats that should have been out there in full view. I have highly literate and intelligent friends who have swallowed the kool-aid about big bureaucracy, beneficiaries, nanny state etc.

    Whatever the outcome of this election, there should be a re-shuffle in Labour’s backroom.

  26. Rich 26

    A huge percentage of public servants are doing grassroots service delivery: doctors, nurses, policeman, WINZ staff, etc. Policy people are only a small proportion and are neccessary to ensure that front line staff are given the environment to be effective.

  27. Ianmac 27

    Bill D: Have sent your data from 8:49, to Marl Express as a letter to “help John Key explain his position about Govt spending”, e-mailed to several friends, posted on blogs the most recent being Colin Espiner. Couldn’t accredit to you as only know you as Bill. Hope you don’t mind?

  28. tracey 28

    By loss of freedoms do you mean the EFA? It’s messy and it should have invloved absolute transparency of all donations by all parties. BUT really has the sky fallen because of it during this election? The only thing the electorate has been deprived of is information and education, and NOT because of the EFA

  29. Bill D 29


    Your blood is worth bottling!

    Accreditation don’t matter.

  30. Joanna 30

    Bill D – I found those stats very powerful – simple to understand and easily set out so as to not bog peolple down in too much detail. I hope you don’t mind but I have followed Ianmacs lead and passed them on too.

  31. Akldnut 31

    Kia ora guys I just wanna list my freedoms that have been eroded over the past several years.

    1. The freedom to give obscene amounts of cash to the political party of my choice anonymously! (making it harder for me to influence the outcome without my associates knowing what an immoral scumbag I am)
    2. The freedom to give my misbehaving children a thrashing “within an inch of their lives!” (or further if I wish depending on how much drugs or alcohol I’ve had)
    3. The freedom to use any damn lightbulb I want!
    4. The freedom to use a showerhead (that flows faster and harder than I can piss) thereby removing my right to waste as much water and money as I like!
    5. The freedom to pay my staff as little as I can, without the possiblity of union action!
    6. The freedom to choose an insurance provider for my staff who will deny cover from claims that arise!
    7. The freedom to put as much carbon into the atmosphere and produce as much pollution as I like!
    8. But most importantly the feedom to make as much “money” as I can while screwing the rest of our society and the world!

    Yep – Spot on Kiwigirl

  32. Chris G 32

    Akldnut, GOLD!!!

    love every bit of that, and if you dont mind I’ll be sending around yours and Bills comments.

  33. Vanilla Eis 33

    Akldnut: Some of those haven’t even been eroded… You can still choose any showerhead you want, and put as much carbon as you like into the atmosphere (just use that extra cash from #1 on petrol and leave the car idling whenever you feel like it) without any interference…

  34. confirming dancer’s post, BillD wrote:

    Total Government spending as % of GDP:

    1999 (National) .. 32.4%

    2008 (Labour) . 31.8%

    So.. can we take it that a ‘new’ national’s immediate goal would be to beat an olde national’s figures.. So.. why don’t its apologists and blogger frats admit this..?

    Any takers..

  35. Chris G 35

    You wont get any jo,

    the tories are decidely quiet with regard to this post and the stats. funny that.

  36. Ari 36

    So.. can we take it that a ‘new’ national’s immediate goal would be to beat an olde national’s figures.. So.. why don’t its apologists and blogger frats admit this..?

    Any takers..

    “Oh, but tax cuts aren’t spending, they’re saving!” is what I’m imagining they’ll say, assuming they’re forced to confront it. As if people actually save their few miniscule dollars of tax cuts rather than buying some “cheese” with them.

  37. Pete 37

    Hey Bill D,

    Thanks for the stats – do you have a source? I’ve posted this, with some of my own comments on some of today’s (7 November) stories on Stuff: and

  38. Pete 38

    Sorry lprent, can you help fix the link above.

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