Review into Thompson and Clark finds widespread breaches of Citizens’ rights of privacy

Written By: - Date published: 7:43 am, December 19th, 2018 - 129 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, activism, democracy under attack, Politics, Spying - Tags:

This Government gets criticised by the opposition for having so many inquiries, too many inquiries according to National. Why is it spending so much money?

Well given the findings of one of the findings, the investigation into the actions of Security Firm Thompson and Clark (“TCIL”), they should be investigating more.  Because the findings are utterly damning. They bring back strong memories of the Dirty Politics era. And all those involved ought to hang their heads in shame.

From the SSC press release:

A State Services Commission investigation into the use of external security consultants by government agencies has uncovered failings across the public service, including breaches of the code of conduct.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said the system was not operating in a way New Zealanders would expect and has introduced new standards that will strengthen transparency and consistency across all government agencies.

However, the inquiry found no evidence of widespread inappropriate surveillance by external security consultants on behalf of government agencies.

An underlying theme of the inquiry was the balance between a citizen’s right to privacy and the public interest.

“Any decision to use surveillance requires careful judgement,” said the Commissioner.

“It must be lawful, it must be proportionate, and it must be ethical.

“It is never acceptable for an agency to undertake targeted surveillance of a person just because they are lawfully exercising their democratic rights – including their right to freedom of expression, association and right to protest. That is an affront to democracy.”

The inquiry, led by Mr Doug Martin and Mr Simon Mount QC, looked at the use of external security consultants, including but not limited to Thompson & Clark Investigations Limited (TCIL). The inquiry covered 131 State sector agencies, including all public service departments. It looked at whether public servants or contractors may have breached the State Services Standards of Integrity and Conduct (code of conduct).

The inquiry focused on the last 10 years but also looked at events going further back.

Some of the specific findings are highlighted in this article by Andrea Vance.  From the article:

– that a Thompson & Clark employee recorded several closed meetings of Southern Response insurance claimants in Christchurch between 2014-2016. The contractor was not a licensed private investigator, which is potentially unlawful. The activity is the subject of Hughes’ complaint to police.

– Two Ministry of Primary Industries staff were also working for Thompson & Clark, and accessed New Zealand Transport Agency information on behalf of the security firm. They are now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

– MPI hired the firm to monitor animal rights activists, and spy on them at conferences in 2005 and 2006.

– Crown Law hired investigators from another firm to dig up information to cross examine witnesses in a court case alleging abuse in state care – known as the “White case”. The investigators may have used “low level surveillance”.

– inappropriate email contact between a Security Intelligence Service staff and one of the firm’s directors, which risked harming the reputation of the government spy agency.

– unprofessional interactions between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Thompson & Clark investigators, working for the oil and gas industry, that “created at least a perception of conflict of interest”.

– Thompson & Clark reported to government agencies on the activities of the Green and Mana parties, Taranaki and Northland iwi groups and Greenpeace, described as “an affront to democracy”.”

The last allegation is particularly concerning.  How can any Government Department think that spying on the Green Party can have been justified.

Heads should roll.  The first, that of Southern Response chair Ross Butler, has been delivered.  But there should be more.

The basic problem is to allow private entities to engage in activities that the State authorities should be engaged in allows them to neatly sidestep oversight and legal restrictions.

And the role of the last Government should be subject to further scrutiny.  After all it was under their watch that this has occurred.

129 comments on “Review into Thompson and Clark finds widespread breaches of Citizens’ rights of privacy”

  1. patricia bremner 1

    Well this is just a proven case. I’m sure there have been other cases.
    Paula Bennett’s attitude to people’s privacy was a window on National’s view of Privacy rights. We had no rights as far as they were concerned.
    No one from National would front Morning Report to discuss how this happened under their watch. Surprise surprise.

    • Rosemary McDonald 1.1

      Whoa there, Patricia! Some of the nastier breaches happened under Labour’s watch.

      Open mike 18/12/2018

      Glass houses and thrown stones and all that.

      That particular section of the report deserves a close read in the light of the upcoming Inquiry into abuse in state ‘care’.

      • mickysavage 1.1.1

        Crown law. Not subject to political direction of any sort.

      • mickysavage 1.1.2

        And yes there were breaches but Labour dealt to them when it discovered them.

        From Nicky Hager:

        “PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS working for the state-owned coal company Solid Energy have defied a direct government instruction and again tried to infiltrate an environment group that opposes Solid Energy’s coal mining plans.

        In meetings over the last two months, private investigator Gavin Clark offered to pay a Christchurch man, Rob Gilchrist, to report on the Save Happy Valley group’s activities and to provide passwords for access to the group’s communications.

        A year ago the Sunday Star-Times revealed that Clark’s firm, Thompson and Clark Investigations (TCIL), had hired a Christchurch student, Ryan Paterson- Rouse, to join the Save Happy Valley core group and regularly pass the group’s internal communications and other information to Gavin Clark.

        Prime Minister Helen Clark said at the time that the spying was “unacceptable behaviour from a state-owned enterprise” and should stop. SOE Minister Trevor Mallard gave formal instructions to Solid Energy’s board that the practice must cease. But TCIL has been caught out trying to do the same sort of spying on Save Happy Valley again.

        Mallard said on Friday that if this was the case, either the private investigators’ contracts should be terminated or the jobs of the Solid Energy staff involved should be in question.”

        https://www.nickyhager.info/coal-mine-spies-return-despite-govt-ban/

        • Rosemary McDonald 1.1.2.1

          A pity Labour didn’t find out about the ‘low level surveillance’ of the man claiming abuse in state care and his supporting witnesses.

          “Crown Law Office/Child,Youth and Family / Ministry of Social Development

          In 2007, Crown Law, on behalf of MSD, instructed private investigators to assist with a civil case alleging abuse in state care(the White case). Crown Law’s instructions were broad, including seeking any information that could be used to cross-examine a group of similar fact witnesses to be called by the claimants.

          Crown Law did not rule out low-level surveillance in the lead up to the trial. There were indications in the file that the investigators did use techniques involving low-level surveillance, or something close to it, together with a covert approach for at least one person of interest. The Inquiry found the broad nature of the instructions to the private investigators, without explicit controls to protect privacy interests, breached the Code of Conduct requirement to respect individual privacy and avoid activities that might harm the reputation of the State Services.

          The Ministry of Social Development was aware of the potential use of low-level
          surveillance and a covert approachin the White case.
          The Inquiry did not see any evidence that MSD queried this or sought any assurance that individual privacy would be properly weighed and protected. Accordingly, the Inquiry found that MSD was in breach of the Code of Conduct, although at a lower level than Crown Law.”

          3.54
          From approximately 2000 Crown Law acted on behalf of the Department of Child,Youth and Family to defend a civil claim brought by two brothers who alleged they were abused in state care (the ‘White’ case).

          The litigation was treated as a test case, in part to address
          questions of limitation, financial loss and damages, which would be of broader application in future claims. ”

          Now take a close look at that last bit mickysavage…in the light of the upcoming inquiry into abuse in state care…and ask yourself if its any wonder those affected are not exactly brimming over with confidence and wallowing in the bath of lovingkindness knowing that Labour are again in charge when these issues are being investigated.

          Yes…it might very well be the case that this shit is all in the past and there’s a new Labour, committed to putting right the wrongs of the past. First though, they have to admit the wrongdoing.

          • Rosemary McDonald 1.1.2.1.1

            And if you don’t remember the White case….https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/07/02/137652/an-ironic-case-of-foxes-and-henhouses#

            Oh, the irony.

            “Hughes was the boss at MSD when the Crown defended the White case in 2007. The civil case was about many things but it was essentially a test case about the Crown’s liability for abuse of children in state welfare institutions. Crown Law and MSD chucked millions of dollars at defending it because they knew if they lost there were thousands of other victims they’d be paying out substantial damages to.

            The Crown won on statute of limitations, although the judge accepted the allegations of sexual abuse by one of the main plaintiffs. This judgment set the precedent the Crown wanted and allowed the state to pay negligible amounts to claimants on terms that suited the Crown’s budget. If victims don’t like what they are offered, their only option is to go through the invasive interrogation of a QC acting for the Crown in a court, with little to no chance of winning. Despite a Royal Commission of Inquiry that’s still their only option.”

            How’s the kindness????

          • mickysavage 1.1.2.1.2

            Can you point out where it is shown the Minister knew what was happening. This was a prosecution. There is no Ministerial oversight.

            The one example I have found (Solid Energy) where the Minister did find out what happened there was an immediate and decisive response.

            • Rosemary McDonald 1.1.2.1.2.1

              mickysavage.

              Read the article by Aaron Smale.

              Understandable if you are not familiar with the case…as…

              “The case received no media coverage, probably because of heavy suppression orders.”

              This was a concerted effort to block claims from those who were abused in state care.

              I know a little about this having been myself blocked from making a claim of discrimination, and also many of those abused in state care were children with disabilities.

              With all due respect mickysavage, you’d have to have an enviable naivety if you truly believe MSD and CL were not acting under instructions from Higher Up.

              • Rosemary McDonald

                More from Aaron Smale….

                “1999 was when Helen Clark’s government started developing a litigation strategy, which included the White case, that was focused on the needs of the state not the victims. The current staff of Crown Law, MSD and the current Labour government for that matter don’t want the actions of the Clark government, and the bureaucrats who served it, exposed to the scrutiny of a Royal Commission.”

                Although flexible application of the Terms of Reference might allow some scrutiny of this shameful episode.

                http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2018/0223/latest/LMS118772.html

                “The strutting roosters aren’t the problem, although they are foul. It’s the foxes watching over the henhouse who are now trying to distract from their own behaviour by saying, with apparent earnestness, ‘Hey, look over there’.”

              • lprent

                Rosemary, there are two years in your quoted material.

                2000 when the legal maneuvering “white” test case was started in the courts, and 2007 when the crown law started to use private investigators.

                Now this is a civil case, not a criminal one where the police would have been used. Crown law would routinely use investigators on civil cases to dig up information.

                That would have been as mundane as using records to confirm dates of care, if witnesses could have been able to observe what they say they saw, etc etc. Mostly the dot the I and cross the tee As far as I am aware crown law offices seldom have in-house investigators. They will have to use PIs if it goes beyond the resources of their office – just the same as any other civil lawyer or criminal defense lawyer would do when they need to investigate something in depth.

                What I am saying is that the use of investigators to look at facts in a case is not a prima facie reason to say that the behaviour on the case violated ethics or law.

                Aaron Smale in another article you linked to appears to be daft enough that he hasn’t figured that out. A lawyer could and frequently does a lot of this legwork themselves – but they are trained in law, not in how to investigate, and are too bloody expensive to waste in doing that kind of time wasting investigation.

                So what I am left with with both your quote and with the dumbarse artie by Aaron Smale is questions of timeline. Specifically when exactly were did the breaches of privacy take place?

                The White case dragged on forever. Well after 2007. After that change of government in 2008. I think it only came to a decision in the courts in recent years.

                And when did the relevant minister hear about it or when was a privacy complaint laid and dealt with.

                Asserting that the Labour government acted the same as National did with inappropriate use of PIs simply isn’t backed by anything you have presented. My instinct based on the way that assertion was made, tends categorize it as being in the same level as something that Cameron Skater would make up. Half digested and largely irrelevant facts taken out of context to support a predetermined point of view and designed to fool readers rather than to inform them.

                Note I haven’t said that what you are suggesting isn’t the case. I suggest that you try harder in how you present. At present it reads to me as like deliberately formulated faux news and classed as clickbait spam.

          • greywarshark 1.1.2.1.3

            Gee Rosemary you certainly know how to throw brickbats at Labour with apparently poor aim. You criticise government roundly for not doing anything but you have a chance of improvement under a Labour government. So don’t be too quick to ‘eave half a brick at just anyone, make sure your trebuchet is lined up properly.

            • Rosemary McDonald 1.1.2.1.3.1

              Gee greywarshark I have the benefit of having no political affiliations whatsoever so I am not obliged to sing from a particular song sheet.

              It could very well be the case that the Previous Labour government knew nothing about the White case and therefore gave not a jot as to the outcome.

              But, I do know that it was the case that the Previous Labour government knew about this Human Rights case (https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-and-complaints/faqs/caring-disabled-adult-family-members/) and chose not to fix the problem but to allow it to go to the Tribunal.

              And shed what was accurately described as crocodile tears by the Natz when those bastards rushed through the Part 4 amendment to the Public Health and Disability Act.

              As some of us listened in tears to the 3 readings of that little legislative pile of crap in the House that day it was with the knowledge that some those Labour MPs who spoke out against the Bill had been in the position a few years earlier to prevent that outrage.

              Had they have had the guts, sorry, puku (a nod to the one honest MP who had the right to sputter indignantly that day) to stand up to the gone- rogue bureaucrats at the Ministry who ‘advised’ them all.

              Easy for me to imagine that a Minister might have an inkling the White case was progressing and could have long term impacts and trusted the Ministry and Crown Law to handle it as they saw fit.

              Even if the handling verged on harassment of the complainants.

              • Jum

                Rosemary, I remember you thinking Roger Douglas was the ‘bees’ knees’?
                Or do I have the wrong person?

                Therein lies your particular loyalty to a cuckoo’d outcome.

                • Rosemary McDonald

                  Jum. I don’t know you. I have no idea where on earth you got the idea that I thought Roger Douglas was the ‘bees’ knees. But you are wrong.

                  Can you prove I have ever espoused such sentiments?

                  I thought not.

                  And I guess its quite ok for commenters on TS to spout bullshit about others without properly referencing.

              • Win

                Thanks Rosemary. The poor little twinkles on this site can’t stand having sand thrown in their faces. The people who need their support are obviously not going to get it if the Labour government is in power.

          • Win 1.1.2.1.4

            Wasn’t Peter Hughes in charge of MSD at that time? Wasn’t he also going on about bullying in the public service? Ho, ho, ho. What a joke!

            Labour was/is into it big time. Have we not forgotten the Tuhoe raids? If the government didn’t know this was going to happen then what does that say about the public service and wagging dogs’ tails? Don’t tell me Labour didn’t know and don’t condone this sort of thing.

            • Jum 1.1.2.1.4.1

              To Rosemary and Win,

              You seem to have forgotten sentence two. ‘Or do I have the wrong person?’

              I asked if you were not the person.

              The fact that you both then went on to attack me is not a good look. It screeches 2 try-hards.

              Do calm down dears.

    • Mr Marshy 1.2

      Ridiculous comment. You do know this was also happening under labour? Forget that bit did you?

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1

        No, it was an absolutely accurate comment. You just don’t like it because it shows National as the scum that they are.

        They did it too is not a viable excuse especially when the ones you’re saying did it too took steps to stop it.

    • NZJester 1.3

      The Nats seemed to have had people spy on every party they were not on friendly terms with. They likely didn’t need to pay to spy on the other parties they were supposedly friends with as they had those patties already full of there own people to manipulate them and report back so already knew everything going on in them.
      Remember also their excuse for one of their own spying on Labour in collusion with a slippery cetacean blogger by accessing a Labour party server. “The Back Door was Left Open”.

  2. Cinny 2

    The Herald dosen’t seem to want to talk about it, either that or they are burying an extremely important story.

    Newsroom is covering it..

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/12/18/368880/behind-southern-responses-smokescreen-of-security

    • Ed 2.1

      Id imagine a quick look at who the owners, donors and advertisers are would explain the Herald’s cowardly behaviour.

      • Cinny 2.1.1

        You know it Ed.

        Remember “The Moment of Truth”…… when Snowden etc told us we were being spied on by the government, and johnkey was like.. that’s not true.

        Meanwhile under dodgy key the government as such didn’t spy, rather they contracted it out.

        The nat’s were obviously extremely paranoid about the Green Party. If anyone thinks that the Greens will go with the nat’s next election, after this news, they are delusional.

        • Mr Marshy 2.1.1.1

          The delusional one here is you, do you actually know how these departments work? Nothing to do with Key. Go find a conspiracy elsewhere. Like Sroubek for example, now there’s a cover up by our ‘honest’ PM

          • Cinny 2.1.1.1.1

            Hi there Mr Marshy, trolling again?

            No helpful links for me to understand how ‘these departments actually work’.

            Instead an attempt to ‘change the narrative’ good luck with that.

            Do you think the spying was just fine?

          • Michelle 2.1.1.1.2

            don’t know why you are sticking up for key marshy he oversaw huge inequalities something his party is very familiar with having done it last time they were in power and we all know key is johnny rotten and we are seeing the rot he left behind. But yes labour are guilty of rot too look at the Urewera mess
            and the foreshore and seabed and they better pull their finger out for maori or else we will put our vote somewhere else.

          • Gabby 2.1.1.1.3

            Who’s been reading the Hardcore Kickpuncher’s texts Messes Marsh?

        • Ed 2.1.1.2

          And the media chose to ignore Snowden’s message and made it all about Kim Dotcom.
          I wonder if we’ll ever find if there’s a connection between our secret services and the media – like the British have just discovered.

          https://www.mintpressnews.com/the-integrity-initiative-and-the-uks-scandalous-information-war/253014/

          • Kaya3 2.1.1.2.1

            Our media are the most controlled on the planet, and I include Russia and North Korea in that comment. Farcical, clickbait echo chambers.

            • Win 2.1.1.2.1.1

              Ah Russia is bad again. That’s the trouble with the West. They believe all lies spewed out by the so called Western papers of record, which is then regurgitated by our puppet news media. And you think Russia and North Korea are comparable with us the ‘news’ reports we are fed from our big brothers and sisters. Watch a Russian current events show. They are very robust.

          • Chris T 2.1.1.2.2

            No

            Kim Dotcon made it all about KimDotcon

      • mary_a 2.1.2

        Too true Ed (2.1) …

        Keep the great unwashed masses in total ignorance. That way, what they don’t know won’t give them reason to ask awkward embarrassing questions, which will require some straight up answers!

        So much for the media being the proxy of the people!

      • Kaya3 2.1.3

        The Whoreald ceased to be a newspaper many years ago. One of the first examples of clickbait and advertorial “journalism” to surface in NZ. It has now spread to all media outlets. There are NO journalists in NZ. They can’t be journalists, their jobs depend on not being journalists.
        RNZ is the finest echo chamber on world news to be seen anywhere on the planet.

        “What’s happening in Yemen/Syria/Saudi Arabia/Ukraine/Kosovo these days RNZ?”

        “Hold on, we’ll just ask the BBC……….”

        “Cool……..that was interesting”

      • patricia bremner 2.1.4

        Yes +++

    • Michelle 2.2

      nah the herald would rather put the boot into Haumaha and be hypocrites like national are being at the moment

  3. Ad 3

    Looking forward to Federated Farmers and National going under taxpayer funded surveillance.

    • SaveNZ 3.1

      Yep they can find all the pollution breaches, slave labour and over use of water rights from businesses while they are about it

  4. Ed1 4

    If it is not acceptable for the public service to use recordings where the other participant was not aware of the recording, should that apply to Members of Parliament? If they did offend, what should happen? (thinking of Mark Mitchell’s release of a recording involving a prisoner and his wife; where it is not clear that both agreed to the public disclosure)

    • Ed 4.1

      Prison sentences need to be handed out.
      Long ones.
      As a deterrent and a message to others.

    • mary_a 4.2

      @ Ed1 (4) … ah, Mark “the mercenary” Mitchell, Natz cracking knuckle dragging thug.

      Natz to go to heavy when the going gets tough for HM NZ Opposition!

  5. Anne 5

    If anyone thinks this kind of conduct is relatively new for the Public Service then think again. It goes back thirty years!

    In those days there was no comeback for innocent victims. Nobody would assist them for fear of retribution against themselves. Everything was swept under large carpets and the perpetrators were never brought to justice.

    I concede this inquiry is better late than never, but it sticks in my craw that it did not go back far enough to enable me to come forward with my experiences – or indeed other individuals who were likely subjected to similar behaviour.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      If anyone thinks this kind of conduct is relatively new for the Public Service then think again. It goes back thirty years!

      Actually, it goes back centuries. There are recorded instances of spying on citizens from at least 1000 years ago. Hierarchies always work to protect themselves.

      In those days there was no comeback for innocent victims. Nobody would assist them for fear of retribution against themselves.

      And that’s the difference. We’re finally getting to the point that we just won’t put this type of action by governments.

  6. OnceWasTim 6

    The thing that amazes me, and others is why it’s taken so bloody long for all this to come to a head.

    As Kevin Hague put it this morning (on RNZ MR) ‘the public service has lost its way”, but it’s been clear for a long time that is was losing its way with all the f***ups that have occurred, and a lot of what’s mentioned above was known.
    And then we have Paul Buchanan’s concerns – the very concerns quite a few retired public servants have been banging on about for ages. He says you could drive a truck through the Code of Conduct. In my own experience, even that Code of Conduct was something people had a brief read of, and then never ever worried about afterwards.

    The Public Service has become toxic – i.e. toxic to the public it serves and that’s predominantly at a senior management level across a range of departments.
    What the hell made them think some of the stuff that’s in the report was OK?

    There’s been a fair bit of incrementalism to it all too as its descended into what it has become today. (e.g. collecting air points for personal use whilst on PS travel becomes normailsed … I may as well delve into one or two databases for personal benefit …. I’ll just share a bit of data or knowledge with my mates in xxxx.Ltd )

    Part of it is down to ‘The Market! The Market’ culture that’s now all pervasive – even our approach to immigration policy on the one hand and the belated concern for worker exploitation on the other.

    Now time for a few heads to roll to get the message across that a lot of this shit is NOT OK

    • SaveNZ 6.1

      + 1 OnceWasTim

    • Anne 6.2

      Part of it is down to ‘The Market!

      All of it is down ‘The Market”. It began 30 years ago when certain senior public servants saw it as a way to create fiefdoms for themselves. The notion they were there to serve the public flew out the window and anyone who dared to question the wisdom of the new market orientation was booted out of the Service.

      • OnceWasTim 6.2.1

        /agree actually
        I mean – here’s another example. Procurement of goods and services – a bloody fool in a hurry could have seen that establishing ‘preferred suppliers’ might need a bit of proper oversight so that it didn’t allow certain “opportunities” and cosy relationships to develop

        • SARAH 6.2.1.1

          That was one of my bugbears working in Education, and once the relationship is established the supplier can charge whatever they like and it always got paid, despite being able to save many $’s elsewhere. This came from HO so nothing someone working in the regions could do about it, despite trying. That special relationship probably had all sorts of freebies attached for the ones setting it up.

        • RedLogix 6.2.1.2

          Yes and no. The alternative which is to have every contract get let out to the lowest bidder, results in another kind of chaos. A different product or service every time, a legacy of unsupported systems, and suppliers with no long term commitment or ability to maintain anything.

          Yes there does need to be good oversight and strict rules around govt purchasing, but there is nothing inherently wrong with a ‘preferred supplier’ status if it’s managed correctly.

          The US based companies I’ve worked for were especially rigorous around Government Business. The ethical and procedural rules were strongly communicated and strictly audited. Every six months, even as an employee who would never deal with the US govt, I had to pass a non-trivial online exam on business ethics and get a 100% pass rate. Fail three times and you were goneburger.

          • OnceWasTim 6.2.1.2.1

            Edit: Hopefully you’d agree the lack of ‘proper oversight’ has been sadly lacking.
            I agree with much of what you say, however I could also tell you about a number of cosy little relationships with preferred suppliers that come with big screen TV’s and all the shit – usually for the benefit of the masters of the universe running their little fiefdom

            • RedLogix 6.2.1.2.1.1

              Agreed. In my world that sort of thing would almost guarantee a fairly short career.

      • Marcus Morris 6.2.2

        So right Anne – think Tomorrows Schools” and all the little fiefdoms that were set up as a result – advisory services as well as financial services- all creaming the Education budget money that would otherwise have gone into real education. And I presume that Roger Douglas is still getting the benefit of all those perks that retired MPs are entitled to.

    • Ad 6.3

      Lot of truth in that Tim

      • OnceWasTim 6.3.1

        Now what we need is to ensure all this isn’t just filed to gather dust, and that there is some accountability with a few “not to be re-employed in a PS role” put on files.

    • Ed 6.4

      More than heads rolling.
      Prison time to send a message.

      Martin Bradbury nails it on this issue.

      https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2018/12/19/public-service-spying-scum-are-the-biggest-threat-to-the-people-of-nz/

    • Draco T Bastard 6.5

      The Public Service has become toxic – i.e. toxic to the public it serves and that’s predominantly at a senior management level across a range of departments.
      What the hell made them think some of the stuff that’s in the report was OK?

      https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/is-there-public-service-in-our-public-service

      Thus it was with the 1988 State Services Act. Scholars will report a serious discussion over the years preceding the act, but many of the act’s central ideas popped up only just before. They were based on untested assumptions without any supporting evidence. Basic principles which had evolved over 70-odd years were swept aside to be replaced by ideology – as was common in those days.

      The state sector has since limped along. Attempts to patch up the worst have left a system looking like a Heath Robinson contraption. You have six weeks to propose some new patches.

      https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/the-unprepared

      The problem seems to be that increasingly the top echelons of departments are being filled by generic managers who have little knowledge of, or interest in, the particularities of the departments they manage. Their ambition is to move on to a more senior (i.e. better paid) jobs in another department which will have different particularities.

      Apparently, the specialist expertise and a knowledge of the department are a threat to their management style so those with these attributes need to be kept far away from the senior leadership team, especially as they could show up the generic managers’ ignorance.

      Basically, over the last thirty years governments have governed by the ideology of neo-liberalism and it has fucked things up.

      How to fix it would be to start governing using science and research for the benefit of the nation as a whole and not just for bludging rich people.

      But, apparently, that’s too extreme.

      • Anne 6.5.1

        Thank-you for those quotes DTB. Will read links later today.

        Exactly what I was saying… the latest examples began 30 years ago. There will be a lot of people who are cheering that at last it looks like the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

      • RedLogix 6.5.2

        By complete contrast on the large scale engineering projects I’ve been working for, if a senior manager doesn’t understand the project to a reasonable degree of competence (no-one can be a specialist in everything) … they get very quickly exposed and moved on.

        The big difference seems to be this; engineering demands, mandates and is essentially focussed on one thing … “does it work?”. Sure lots of other politics and side agendas will try to get in the way, but innately they’re all secondary to delivering a result. The project must perform, there is no hiding from this.

        The public service however seems to have been more tilted towards ideological capture, more turned towards a purity of process than an effectiveness of outcome. It’s a subtle difference, but one that has big implications.

        • Ad 6.5.2.1

          Plenty of bullies, swindlers and pricks on major engineering projects Red.

          • RedLogix 6.5.2.1.1

            Dear God yes … but fortunately it’s usually just a matter of keeping your nose clean and outlasting them. 🙂

            Odd you should say this; right now in real time I’m reading a work email thread that has a very demanding, almost bullying participant at one end. The guy at our end is handling it perfectly … logical, firm and assertive.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.5.2.2

          By complete contrast on the large scale engineering projects I’ve been working for, if a senior manager doesn’t understand the project to a reasonable degree of competence (no-one can be a specialist in everything) … they get very quickly exposed and moved on.

          Didn’t happen in Telecom over the last thirty years and yet I’m sure that a nations telecommunications would be defined as a ‘large scale engineering project.’ Which, of course, is why the government had to step in which has then resulted in this ballsup:

          A number of individuals – migrant and non-migrant – have contacted Newsroom to report alleged labour law violations, health and safety problems and issues with unsuitable workers.

          One subcontractor even went as far as emailing a breakdown of expenses associated with a fibre installation job. According to the subcontractor’s figures, the “cut” taken by the four big infrastructure companies directly contracted by Chorus, left little to no amount for subcontractors and those who carried out the actual field work.

          I’d expect a CEO to at least have some understanding making contracts as well.

          The public service however seems to have been more tilted towards ideological capture, more turned towards a purity of process than an effectiveness of outcome. It’s a subtle difference, but one that has big implications.

          I’m not sure if it’s that subtle but it certainly has a big effect upon outcomes.

    • Tamati Tautuhi 6.6

      Time to Drain the Swamp and get rid of the grubby Old Neoliberal’s that have infested the Public Service here in New Zealand IMHO

  7. Ed 7

    If you ever need proof the Herald can’t be relied on to follow important news, remember this day.
    Look to their headlines.
    The Daily Fail of New Zealand.

  8. ianmac 8

    Chris Eichbaum with Katherine tells how it works in Public Service.
    https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018676258

  9. Rosemary McDonald 9

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018676258/spying-on-citizens-has-the-public-service-lost-its-way

    Good interview.

    Don’t listen if the very hint of a mention that it may not all be the fault of the Natz and their mates had maybe best avoid.

    Reality might hit a little hard.

  10. ianmac 10

    Note that Simon Bridges was the Minister in three of the Ministries lately under scrutiny. Coincidence?

  11. cleangreen 11

    We need all decisions over the last nine years re-examined to see whether this rouge agency MBIE and their spies have corrupted the decisions made by those “advisers – and their (so called experts)” the John Key Government have relied on to make there decisions upon.

    This scandal may eventually dwarf the ‘deep lengthy congress run ‘Mc Carthy Inquisition’ of many public over the ‘communist infiltration inquiry.’

    MBIE now must be under a deep held inquiry and must be broken up into fully separate entities again as it was under the Helen Clark Government, as it was safer than the ‘mega agency Steven Joyce constructed to ram his toxic policies through.

    Anything that Steven Joyce did during the last decade now must be placed under deep scurrility in the inquiry into this Thompson /Clark scandal.

    Steven Joyce tried to make Ministry of transport defunct and put then road controlling authority (NZTA soley as the principal ‘transport agency to push through all his roads of National significance, as Ministry of transport was them actual “Principal agency advising Government and were pushing for more rail rather than his roads so he tried to destroy MoT and make NZTA a only transport agency so he could control them.

    NZTA do not manage rail freight in this country so we may now save our rail system.

  12. Dennis Frank 12

    It’s good that the SSC has produced these findings. Whoever decided to launch the investigation deserves credit, but it does rather raise the question why it took so long, eh? Makes our public service culture seem extremely suspect. Why have a code of conduct if there’s no accountability enforced for breaching it??

    Just another example of left/right collusion in wrongdoing continuing for so long that it became an historical institutionalised corruption. But how many rotten apples spoiled the barrel? And who are they? Accountability requires that each manager who authorised wrongdoing by staff be punished. Public trust in the public service will be at a low ebb until this happens. Sad for the good people in the public service who have been guided by their conscience into doing their job properly.

    So next we must see if the bad apples get sorted from the good. Traditional sweep the wrongdoing under the carpet responses from the decision-makers are to be expected. We must nip those in the bud! And nothing less than a total transformation and regeneration of public service culture and governance is required to eliminate the rot.

    • OnceWasTim 12.1

      Geeez Denis! You used the term ‘institutionalised corruption’ in there, Surely Not! Not in little ‘ole Nu Zulln that punches above its weight. We’re 100% pure surely!
      Yea/Nah, I now realise you’re not being serious

      (/sarc)

      • Dennis Frank 12.1.1

        Oh, I suppose I ought to make an explicit technical correction: not corruption in the sense of money-driven behaviour producing warped decision-making, but moral corruption, which is an element of culture inadmissable in court due to being unproveable. You can sense it in an institution, like a smell.

        When I was emerging into adulthood the strictness of punishment integral to the patriarchy was still prevalent. So doing the right thing was (relatively) normal – not just due to conscience but also the threat of public shaming etc. Both left & right lost the plot, starting during the seventies…

        • RedLogix 12.1.1.1

          When I was emerging into adulthood the strictness of punishment integral to the patriarchy was still prevalent.

          In a word; trustworthiness. The foundation of everything.

          • Dennis Frank 12.1.1.1.1

            Yes, not so much in particular colleagues but the system itself. Integrity thereof. I have residual faith that ours hasn’t degenerated too far, but far enough for countervailing action to be essential for recovery. Can’t reboot it like a computer, but the equivalent of that.

  13. Liminal 13

    Why have the two beastly ministers largely responsible for the agencies/ministries concerned, Brownlee & Joyce, not been put under the spotlight of the investigation here? Surely major “initiatives” such as these would have received ministerial consent, if not actual instigation?

    • OnceWasTim 13.2

      Err, maybe because Chris Finlayson has given them the thumbs up? And he’s such a reasonable and likable kinda guy after all.
      I’m more familiar with the out-of-favour Cat’s Grammar, Christ’s and Te Aute College ‘types’ so I had to ask a friend who is more “in-tune” with the Catholic Mafioso about Krus (going forward).
      The veneer of the modest, knowledgeable, nice guy. My impressions are that although he might be all that, he’s not exactly riddled with humility.
      Gerry Browlee FFS!; John Key FFS!.
      But I ‘spose he does attend the occasional Sympathy Orchestra concert, so he can’t be all bad

      (Muppetry and ego often invites /sarc and it’s a damn shame there’s no longer a venue for plitikal ridicule going forward – eh NuZulln on Ear?)

  14. lprent 14

    I always remember my shock when my niece Rochelle (occasional author here /author/rocky/ ) turned up with a tracking device that they’d found planted on the under side of their car.

    She left a statement on scoop in 2010.

    I am confident that that tracking device found on April 22nd was placed by TCIL on behalf of the New Zealand Pork Industry Board. We know the Pork Industry Board has in the past used the services of TCIL, and are currently desperate to avoid further PR damage caused by activists exposing the conditions on NZ pig farms.

    Just last week I was confronted by two men who turned up at my community board meeting to deliver a trespass notice for the Roto-o-Rangi pig farm. The men refused to say who they were or who they were working for. Two other activists were confronted at their places of work for the same thing. While I have no issue being trespassed from private property, this is clearly an attempt by the Pork Industry Board to intimidate us and prevent us exposing the practices on their farms.

    It is pretty clear in retrospective that the only likely candidates were The NZ Pork using Thompson Clark to doing quite illegal surveillance.

    But consider just how unethical this is.

    At the time (and still to today) various animal rights groups had gotten tired of groups like NZ Pork and Ministry of Primary Industry or MAF were failing to do the task that that they were required to do by legislation or regulation. At the time they definitely weren’t monitoring the quality of the living conditions of some animal farming and they were definitely ignoring some of the proven worst repeat offenders. I suspect that they still aren’t doing their job.

    So various voluntary animal welfare groups around the country started to identify the worst offenders for them – usually with video cameras. The almost universal response of the organisations that were meant to do those jobs wasn’t do their damn job. Instead there was some pretty clear and systematic targeting of those highlighting the problems. Sure they were using illegal entries to identify those who were violating the animal welfare legislation – because this meant that they could do the unannounced inspections required to actually reveal the problem.

    Personally I think that most of the regulatory bodies responsible for animal welfare now need to be carefully audited for the performance of their duties both now and in the last decade. The process should identify individuals who haven’t done those duties and charge them with the various criminal offenses that are in place for dereliction of duty.

    I also think that Thompson and Clark should have their PI licenses completely removed wholesale, and charges should be laid against the directors of that company for their obvious use of criminal acts.

    Now just to clarify exactly why I think that this needs to happen. I’m not exactly a vegan nor anti farming. I spent much of my teens on my parent’s weekend 88 acre farm. Did a year working as a farm worker on a dairy farm and on a sheep station before deciding that I really needed to go to Uni. And I was a hearty eater of fresh meat.

    After the police seized Rochelle’s and other activist’s computers and held them for more than a year, I wound up seeing far too much raw footage of the state of intensive farming of chickens and pigs in New Zealand. She processed then on my systems. The worst cases can only be described as horrifying. The clips played on media really don’t even give more than a taste of how appalling some of those farms were.

    These days I’m really picky about what meat I’ll eat. The only chicken, eggs and pork that I will eat is done by reputable firms that have a policy of full freedom farming. And my intake of those has dropped considerably. With the increasing use of feedlots here, I’ve recently been applying that same type of criteria to beef as well. Partly this is simply health issues. I simply can’t see how factory farmed meat could be be good for my health with everything that they’d have to do to the animals to attempt to keep them healthy under the conditions I saw in the well-run farms.

    And I think that the regulators of our farming industry need to do more than make fatuous and meaningless PR blurbs like the NZ Pork favors. They need to actually do what they paid lip-service to rather than using criminal organisations like Thompson and Clark as their intimidation shock troops against valid criticism and attempts to get them to do what they are required to do.

    I also think that the police need get more interested in actually enforcing the laws of this country without their extremely selective focus that doesn’t look much at protecting the wider population. A lot of the time it seems more intent on picking on the easiest to convict – like young activist citizens pickling up on derelictions of duty..

  15. Ed 15

    Remember he did not resign until he was caught.
    He thought what he was doing was ok till then.

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/378591/southern-response-chair-resigns-following-spying-revelations

  16. McFlock 16

    So the question that comes to my mind is (and I’ve no idea how even an official inquiry could answer it) was T&C deliberately formed for this very purpose?

    Did the founders merely spot a need and leverage their public service networks from the private sector, or were they simply asked to form a front operation from which the reactionary elements of the public service could plausibly deny commissioning activities that they always knew would be unacceptable?

    Did the tracking and bugging sort of snowball unexpectedly from some basic investigative work (maybe originally hoping to get ACC/W&I fraud detection work), or was that always the plan and a private-sector corporation was merely a cut-out for the NZSIS?

    • Dennis Frank 16.1

      I suspect your suspicions are valid, but I’d go for both/and. The need for such a flexible operation would have become apparent over many years. Public servants have their hands tied and one can readily sympathise with those who see smart individuals rorting the govt system as tempting targets. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

      From a public policy perspective, the ideal solution could be to retain such a private intelligence-gathering option, but constrain it to operate in accord with the public service ethos via both law & contract. That would give govt the efficiency the right prefers, while retaining the accountability the left prefers.

  17. mosa 17

    I would’t rely on Newsroom doing any serious work on this.
    The editor is one Mr Murphy ex editor of the New Zealand Herald and has made no secret of his anti left views.
    He would have wholeheartedly supported the last governments approach of using Thompson and Clark’s methods here as long as it stayed under the radar and there could be no evidence that it was initiated by Key and his cronies.

    • Ed 17.1

      All of New Zealand’s media’s owners and editors are puppets, propagandists or compromised.

    • RedLogix 17.2

      Without attempting a defense of Tim Murphy specifically; the one thing many right-leaning people have in common is they place a very high value on rules, boundaries and trust.

      Often they’ll play the rules right up to the very limits, know all the loopholes and dodges … but fundamentally knowledge of the rule book in detail is often very important to them.

      Know your opposition, what they value, what they don’t. That way you get to successfully negotiate with them.

      • Dennis Frank 17.2.1

        I agree with this, with the caveat that it only applies to a large minority of the right. Finlayson is typical. In this sub-tribe, the rule of law plays the role of anchor & foundation, so money comes second. Reminds us that money-makers were once incidental to the status hierarchy that the law was designed to protect. Functionally, money was a useful lubricant that endowed the system with flexibility to provided a measure of resilience to the otherwise-rigid structure.

        Trump is from a different sub-tribe: those to whom the law is a matter of (in)convenience, and a matter of opinion – you can amuse yourself in conversation with any lawyer or judge by observing their ready agreement to the latter, outraged rejection of the former, and total inability to grasp their inconsistency. This group of rightists are slippery enough to be infinitely adaptable to circumstances, and long ago learnt that rules, laws & systems can be manipulated with ease much of the time. And, as Stalin demonstrated, they have their counterparts on the left too.

        A third sub-tribe of rightists are big on morality, but tend to define it in terms of their social niche of origin when capable, or reference it to prevalent social norms when not (just like leftists). When/if they mature sufficiently, they can provide appropriate moral guidance, particularly if they have spent years immersed in foreign cultures. Same for leftists & centrists of course. The fourth sub-tribe on the right is the largest (arselickers).

        Incidentally, the view that trust functions as the glue in social groups was usefully clarified in relation to neoliberalism in ’95 by Fukuyama in his book Trust. Here’s part of an online review that suggests ongoing relevance: (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/francis-fukuyama/trust/)

        “Fukuyama probes the impact of culture (broadly speaking, any society’s inherited ethical habits) on economic life. Focusing on such factors as trust (a community’s shared expectation of honest, cooperative behavior outside the family) and social capital (the values created by tradition, religion, or other means), the author examines the ability of various peoples to organize effectively for commercial purposes without relying on blood ties or government intervention. Fukuyama surveys emergent as well as established industrial powers (the US, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, et al.) to determine which might have superior reserves of social capital. These reserves are important, he points out, because market-oriented societies in which there is a high degree of moral consensus and cooperation have lower transaction costs and hence greater competitiveness. The author puts paid to any idea that the US is a nation of rugged individualists; indeed, Americans are joiners without peer.”

        The competitive side of that coin has become over-exposed, so now we must all explore the collaborative side to develop a balanced overview. The integrity of the system derives more from that under-stated collaboration. Stakeholder design derives from it!

        • RedLogix 17.2.1.1

          That’s a brilliant response Dennis. Detailed and thoughtful, I whole-heartedly agree with it.

          It aligns with another theme I’ve been trying to put together some thoughts on; how do the moderate left and right go about winning back each other’s mutual trust?

          We don’t have to agree, indeed it’s best we don’t, but we do need to be able to negotiate stable agreements.

          • Dennis Frank 17.2.1.1.1

            Thanks, RL. The current govt may indicate a model for a basis for mutual trust. I’m aware that some here are averse to centrism as a label of convenience, but I’ll stay with it unless something more suitable emerges.

            In regard to your question, the moderate right will have to display initiative. This political space occupied by the current govt has been created by pragmatic centrists (the swing-voters who produced the election result), we can think of it as a chess-board, and the Nats in opposition are floundering in their play, reluctant to do anything other than advance a pawn every now & then. Mutual trust in this analogy derives from entertainment value. If they figure out how to be clever and enterprising in their moves, the game will get interesting.

            To deepen the analogy, consider the role played by mutual respect between players. That derives from acknowledgement of validity. Not from denial. Reminds me what Dylan sang in Talkin’ WWIII Blues (1963) “I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”. In politics, this attitude became known as peaceful coexistence. Parliamentary democracy, adversarial by design, trains participants in denial of this necessity.

            Would be good if intellectual endeavour emerges, shared across the political spectrum, that fosters non-partisan collaboration instead. I’ve been advocating such a paradigm shift almost 30 years, and anticipating it almost half a century. I have faith that it’ll happen when the time is right. We’re like surfers waiting for the wave…

            • RedLogix 17.2.1.1.1.1

              Parliamentary democracy, adversarial by design, trains participants in denial of this necessity.

              In this sense the CCCP model does have a superficial attraction; yet in the West we remain rightly suspicious of such monolithic ‘President for Life’ arrangements. Yet they might rightly look at the West right now and consider our adversarial model a Trumpian failure.

              My sense is that the left has been quite negligent at setting boundaries; it’s not something we’re typically good at because we’re naturally drawn to exploring new ideas. And because of this we’ve been irresponsibly reluctant to disavow the monumental failures of the 20th century.

              We’re like surfers waiting for the wave…

              Well let’s damn well ride it 🙂

      • OnceWasTim 17.2.2

        A bit like pushing the boundaries between tax avoidance and tax evasion as far as they possibly can. Avoidance is almost seen as a duty. Often though their sense of entitlement makes them come unstuck.

      • KJT 17.2.3

        You mean. They place a high value on not getting caught!

  18. mpledger 18

    There seem to be a lot of new names appearing under this post that I don’t recognise. It seems to me that it could be the same person writing under different names to make it appear there is more of a groundswell to a particular opinion then there really is.

    Would it be possible to have after a name how many times they have posted. If there suddenly appears all these people with 0 previous posts then it gives some guidance about how much trust we should put in their posts.

  19. marty mars 19

    A State Services Commission report has found the private security firm Thompson & Clark had an inappropriately close relationship with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment unit which manages the country’s mineral and petroleum resources.

    It also found that the firm, which was hired by some government agencies, treated so-called “issue motivated groups”, including Greenpeace, the Green Party and iwi as security threats.

    Ngati Ruanui has been actively opposed to a proposal to mine ironsand from the seabed off the South Taranaki coast.

    Leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer says the report reflects the iwi’s experience that government agencies were biased against it.

    “While we are outraged we’re also not surprised because this was exactly what we were complaining about and experiencing firsthand that the MBIE Petroleum and Minerals section had an absolute bias.

    “They’ve abused their powers and used delegations way beyond what’s expected ethically and I think legally as well.”

    Ms Ngarewa Packer said serious questions needed to be asked of the MBIE unit.

    “What it highlights to us as Ngati Ruanui is that there needs to be a full scale review of the New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals. They can’t be trusted.

    “And certainly in absorbing the shock, we’ll be assessing the possibility for official complaint to the appropriate services.”

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/378648/review-of-new-zealand-petroleum-and-minerals-called-for-after-state-services-report

    Serious questions DO need to be asked because this is shocking really.

  20. ScottGN 20

    Megan Woods v Gerry Brownlee. I know who I’m going to back in that stoush.

  21. Jum 21

    Do you have to keep displaying the keycreature from the black lagoon. It curdles my milk!

  22. SPC 22

    As to the use of external agents by government, one Edward Snowden was employed by an outside contractor, not the US government. Yet he was involved in industrial level spying on Americans, not legal under US law, as organised by the said US government.

    Their Congress on a number of occasions responded to exposure of illegal activity by making the spying legal after the fact (and never considered impeachment of the those invovled in this government conspiracy against the US people) – which was in effect tacit consent for continued illegal spying (beyond the newly expanded legal borders) – to the extent we must regard Obama’s assurances of an end to the illegal spying as a lie.

    The situation reported on here covers mere surveillance for government departments (and corporates), not the full kit of psychological warfare and active harrassment of targeted individuals that external agents operate, in not just the USA, but according to many reports, around the wider western democratic world.

    The complicity of the SIS, and police (and possibly GCSB) indicates the level of corruption necessary for this other activity to also be occuring in New Zealand.

  23. Gerald Davidson 23

    When is the $177,000 illegal payment to Thompson & Clark to be recovered Southern Response.

  24. Philj 25

    ” found no evidence of widespread inappropriate surveillance by external security consultants ”
    No evidence of widespread corruption. What a relief, only evidence of individual corruption over many government agencies? That’s reassuring. Lol. How does one re-establish public trust in the government after this betrayal?

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