What we owe policy wonks

Written By: - Date published: 1:35 pm, August 26th, 2011 - 21 comments
Categories: public services - Tags: ,

Yesterday William commented to Cuts and Consequences to the effect that who needs policy analyst and that big private companies don’t bother with them and so neither should government. I’m paraphrasing a little bit but it did strike me that many people (including it seems some very senior ministers in this government – but not – funnily enough – Graham Scott the former ACT candidate who found that there was no suplus of policy anaylists in his comprehensive Policy Advice Review)

My point is that policy wonks do cool stuff that saves money, lives and makes NZ better.  For instance:

In Customs, we were the first country in the world to get mutual security recognition with the US after the September 11 bombings. That meant NZ exports got immediate priority clearance into the US because our security was so good. This was a huge advantage for business – and all the work of our policy wonks.

New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS) for fisheries was a world first. It created tradeable property rights that provided the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry and established NZ as a world leader in sustainable management. Again, it was designed by policy advisers.

Inland Revenue officials help recover billions of dollars from companies and individuals who want to avoid paying their fair share of tax. In 2009, they reached a settlement that saw the big 4 NZ banks paying $2.2 billion – after claims that the banks were evading tax through so-called structured financing transactions.

Policy advisers also do a huge amount of work on issues such as biosecurity. The economic and social cost of diseases in New Zealand can be seen from the rare times when one of them reaches the country, as with the unfortunately named PSA  virus currently threatening our kiwifruit industry. The fact that so few diseases get across our borders is a testament to the work of the officials who, in conjunction with scientists, come up with our biosecurity policy and make sure it is enforced.

The road toll is great example of the work that policy wonks do. It’s half the level it was in the 1970s, and not by accident (no pun intended). Tackling dangerous driving is the result of years of work by officials in the Ministry of Transport, culminating in a series of government-designed public education campaigns that woke people up to the dangers of  drink-driving, speed and the great value in the simple act of wearing your seatbelt.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

 

21 comments on “What we owe policy wonks”

  1. lprent 1

    …that big private companies don’t bother with them and so neither should government.

    Well that is bullshit for a start. When I’ve worked for or with corporates, many of the people I have worked with have been policy wonks. They are one of the main reasons that I prefer smaller companies because I prefer to spend my time coding rather than planning*. I will build it . But they are definitely there..

    * If you want me to help plan how to build the system into the organisation, then you’ve just hired the wrong person. I specialize in building systems that are usually viewed as being too tricky to build – but which are absolutely required. Main reason I prefer greenfield systems – the task hasn’t been done before by me.

  2. crashcart 2

    I love when the right say a Government shouldn’t do something because buisness don’t then out of the other side of their mouth say government should be cutting cost not increasing revenue. Not many succesful buisnesses out there who don’t aim to increase what they earn so that they can provide a better product to the customer. Oh except monoploies who plan on asset stripping. Wonder how many printing fatories are selling printing presses to pay power bills.

    • TightyRighty 2.1

      your example makes no sense. Hardly surprising given the over all imbecilic tone used in your comment. The government isn’t partially privatising some power companies to pay the bills? It has indicated it will spend a chunk of the revenue from the sales to reduce the bills and to invest in further infrastructure. If a print company sold a press to finance the purchase of a new, better one that cuts down overheads and improves performance isn’t that a good thing for the company?

      • McFlock 2.1.1

        Don’t be retarded. The government is selling revenue-generating assets in order to subsidise tax cuts for the rich – in other words a publisher is selling presses in order to charge one or two of its favourite customers less. They are forsaking regular income for the shareholders (the public) over the long term so their friends get a taste of the action. 
           
         
        It’s a racket, pure and simple – if Key managed a New York construction company, he’d be under indictment.

        • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1

          It’s a racket, pure and simple – if Key managed a New York construction company, he’d be under indictment.

          Perhaps. But if he managed the NY Fed, he’d be fine.

      • mik e 2.1.2

        Selling your best performing assests is Dumb and Dumber Any private company doing so Would see it as a failure two companies that spring to mind that have made this grave mistake are loyds of london sell off of the National bank while keeping under performing assets and now fairfax failng to recognize the the business of making a profit.Doesn’t make sense to hold onto dying forms of media while flogging off newer better performing assets while holding onto loss making assets Dumb& dumber

  3. ropata 3

    …that big private companies don’t bother with them and so neither should government.
    Stated by someone who obviously never worked for a big corporation. I worked most of the last decade for a large mulitnational and was drowning in policies and procedures. It’s a big reason why I prefer being self employed these days.

    Any large organisation needs some kind of administrative structure otherwise it’s chaos.

  4. millsy 4

    What Im not keen on the most is the outsourcing. What is so un-PC about doing things in-house?

  5. randal 5

    Yes it is the job of Parliament to inspect the outcomes arrived at by policy wonks but they are too busy buying pies for the fatboys in the focus groups and polling orgnaisations. The national party MP’s have given up exercising their brains on reading policy statements because it is too hard for flakes.

  6. Afewknowthetruth 6

    ‘we were the first country in the world to get mutual security recognition with the US after the September 11 bombings.’

    Oh dear!!! It really is hopeless, Isn’t it?

    I thought everyone knew by now that there were no ‘bombings’ on September 11 and that it was a demolition job, carried out as a false flag operation, as a pretext for illegal wars and as a pretext for introducing fascist legislation, such as the Patriot Act.

    Those who celebrate loss of freedom and ever greater restriction really are insane. .

    As for this drivel: ‘New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS) for fisheries was a world first. It created tradeable property rights that provided the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry and established NZ as a world leader in sustainable management’ we have to ask: What has Jenny been smokin’?

    Sustainable management??? What a joke!! Wholesale looting and near extermination of fisheries by corporations using semi-slave labour would be a better description.

    And where are the polciy advisors who are telling the government that we need to completely change the nature of our society because the oil supply has peaked and current arrangements have no future? Nowhere to be seen, of course, because they have been advising that the oil supply will continue to grow even after the IEA admitted the gloal extraction peaked in 2005-6.

    The average polciy advisor is an overpaid moron, I’m afraid, which is one of the reasons we are such a terrible mess now .

    .

    • Maynard J 6.1

      “Sustainable management??? What a joke!! Wholesale looting and near extermination of fisheries by corporations using semi-slave labour would be a better description. ”

      Pull yer head out yer arse mate and think about what was happening before this was implemented.

      “And where are the polciy advisors who are telling the government that we need to completely change the nature of our society because the oil supply has peaked and current arrangements have no future? Nowhere to be seen, of course, because they have been advising that the oil supply will continue to grow even after the IEA admitted the gloal extraction peaked in 2005-6.”

      Take it easy, Cassandra. It’s not the policy analysts that decide this. Vote in a government that believes what you say and they will task ministries to do this, who will in turn get their policy analysts to do so. They are enablers, not drivers.

    • The Karori Kid 6.2

      On 9/11 I will chose to differ Afewknowthetruth, but I’m so with you on the fishing – and you’re probably right about our lack of a peak oil response too. But I wanted to ask Jenny, what about this claim:

      “Inland Revenue officials help recover billions of dollars from companies and individuals who want to avoid paying their fair share of tax. In 2009, they reached a settlement that saw the big 4 NZ banks paying $2.2 billion – after claims that the banks were evading tax through so-called structured financing transactions.”

      ..and the Policy shop involvement was …? Just kind of slipped that one in hoping we wouldn’t notice?

      TKK

  7. Maynard J 7

    The stupid thing is that it’s just a definition. Government departments put out policies, they have strategies and tactics. Corporates have tactics and strategies, and internal policies. They’re all doing the same things, but have different job titles.

    I’m a business analyst. Same damn thing. Get rid of all a company’s BAs and see how well they function. See how all your shiny new applications, processes and strategies are delivered. Try and deliver a project. Think about how you’ll get value for money from all your other employees, including the ‘front line’ when they have nothing behind them.

    If National understands business, they’re letting politics get in the way…

  8. Marjorie Dawe 8

    So who will analyse policy ideas from overseas? Oops I forgot. Business know that they need to make money so its simple and doesnt need analysing. Simply charge the masses more and make the workers slave away for wages they cant possibly live on.

  9. Blue 9

    Private companies do have their own equivalent of policy wonks. They’re called consultants, and they get paid quite a bit more than your average policy wonk.

    It’s okay for business to spend big bucks on consultants to try to improve their businesses, but it is obviously terrible for the government to spend a lot less on policy wonks to try to ensure that their policies are not shit.

    If you support the eradication of policy wonks, just think about what would happen if you didn’t have them – your MPs would be making up all the policy themselves, with no research, no advice and no consultation with the people those policies will be affecting.

    Simply put, many are not qualified to do such a job themselves. MPs need have no other qualification than being able to get people to vote for them.

    • Roger 9.1

      “If you support the eradication of policy wonks, just think about what would happen if you didn’t have them – your MPs would be making up all the policy themselves, with no research, no advice and no consultation with the people those policies will be affecting.”

      So that would be a whole cabinet team of Anne Tolleys then.

      It isn’t just the MPs that would become troublesome, with the news that MAF were cutting policy staff an issue presented by a public servants union rep regarding the frontline/back office divide used to justify these cuts is that without the policy advice, field officer’s ability to identify threats to New Zealand’s biosecurity is diminished.

      A cut to policy staff numbers decreases the functionality of the frontline as much as actually reducing frontline staff.

      • ropata 9.1.1

        So that would be a whole cabinet team of Anne Tolleys then.

        http://www.3news.co.nz/Protest-over-Bucklands-Beach-school-for-troubled-kids/tabid/423/articleID/223532/Default.aspx

        Andrea:
        Anne Tolley is intentionally putting our children at risk. She was warned of significant disadvantages of putting Thurston Place College on the same site as a primary and intermediate school, particularly social and safety issues. The Ministry of Education recommended splitting the school over two sites – because having up to 100 students with severe behavioural problems on one site would be difficult to manage. Also, if there were two sites the younger students could be separated from the older, more difficult students. Anne Tolley ignored this advice too and chose one site. We only want the best for the proposed students, but Thurston Place College is not the best destination for them. In 2009 the Ministry of Education commissioned Cognition Education to write a report on Felix Donnelly College (which ultimately led to its closure). Cognition recommended three models for the future education of the Felix Donnelly students. Anne Tolley ignored all of them – including the top recommendation to put small numbers of the students into mainstream schools with wraparound services. It is fairly obvious that putting 100 students, boys and girls, ages 11 to 17, on one site is a terrible idea. Anne Tolley’s office has intentionally with holding this information from the public. The Ombudsman has been involved due to breaches of the official information act

        John:
        We need to remember that as New Zealanders we have the right to question decisions that the government make, especially bad ones…
        The Minister of Education blames the Ministry of Education for not consulting with the local community. This is a cop out; they are only following her orders. They told her that putting the school in this location is a bad idea and that there were risks to the local schools and community, however she went ahead anyway. The Ministry of Education told her other sites were more suitable, however she went ahead anyway. Anne Tolley does not have a clue and is completely stuffing up the education system in New Zealand, just ask her employees. I hope John Key kicks her off this portfolio after the election.

  10. Afewknowthetruth 10

    Maynard J

    Politicians come and go (apart from a few dinosaurs who hang around for decades).

    The bureaucracy remains largely the same whichever party is in power, and directs policy according to the agendas of corporations and money-lenders.

    Wake up!

  11. Jenny Michie 11

    I was remiss in not mentioning this at the time, but all the facts and information I get are supplied by our policy wonks.

  12. Adele 12

    I used to denigrate teachers until I decided to home-school my two children. After that little exercise, I truly got to appreciate the teaching profession. I forever more will never lambast the teaching profession as they make a valuable contribution to the ongoing sanity of parents.

    Policy developers are another professional body that receive very little recognition for the contribution they make to the workings of a stable and ordered democracy. I have written policy and the amount of research and critique that goes into good policy formulation is heady stuff.

    Business could not function without good policy in place – to drive the business environment. New Zealand happens to be one of the most business friendly environment in the world because essentially it has very little corruption. Legislation sets the framework, policy drives the actions for removing corruption from the marketplace.

    • The Karori Kid 12.1

      Lord I’m a malleable lump of clay in the hands of you lot. Every comment I read I change my mind again! – But this has the ring of truth. I realise I know people who write policy, and they are mostly very fine and passionate people, trying to do what they see as a very responsible job, well.
      There’s a well-known idea now of the corporation as psychopath – because no one has the job of ‘conscience’. On any given day, I suspect the policy wonks reach for higher ideals than what most of us take to work

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