Hickey accepts Cullen’s challenge

Bernard Hickey blogged this morning in Show Me the Money that every day from now until the election he’s going to accept Michael Cullen’s challenge to identify some pointless or wasteful Government spending that could be cut.


This includes spending by state-owned enterprises and jobs being offered by all manner of agencies and quangos. This is going to be fun because there is a lot of low-hanging fruit.

The good doctor believes the government runs a tight ship and critics won’t be able to find much in the way of cost savings from government spending to fund tax cuts or to help reduce the inflationary pressures that are keeping interest rates high. He has challenged National and any other proponent of income tax cuts (although I am not one right now) to explain how they will be able to afford tax cuts without massive cuts in government spending and services.

My sense is that nine years of strong government spending growth have created an atmosphere where bureaucrats employ extra people, pay for more consultants and launch more projects without asking the basic question: Do we really need to do this and will we create more value for the economy by doing this than by allowing the private sector to use these resources?

 His first example was Transpower’s new website winterpower watch which was difficult to find and didn’t tell him what he needed to know.


He asked for other suggestions and this afternoon added Housing New Zealand staff’s weekend conference at the luxury Tongariro Lodge which has been widely reported in the MSM and on blogs including kiwiblog  and No Minister.

In the same post Bernard wonders why the Government is looking for a fulltime web communications advisor.

 I don’t get it. I can understand IRD and ACC and a few other government departments that deal with the public need fulltime webmasters to run sites that provide services to the public. That could actually be quite useful and efficient.

But the MSD is an policy advice body. It deals with ministers and other bureaucrats. Surely it’s not that hard. You put all the advice and research up on the site using the basic publishing systems already there. It’s either publicly available on the Internet or it’s available only to other bureaucrats via an Intranet. Do we really need someone doing this fulltime?

Here’s the most interesting gem from the job description. It explains why the MSD wants a fulltime web manager.

The Knowledge Sharing and Communications unit is based within the CSRE group in National Office and has a team of nineteen staff. It includes a Library team to provide effective and proactive library and information services to all Ministry staff.

Just the communications unit within the MSD, let alone the MSD head office, has 19 staff!

Add these examples to the areas ripe for culling suggested by The Hive and me and the potential for tax cuts might increase from just enough for a block of cheese to an amount that could buy a whole cow.




One Response to Hickey accepts Cullen’s challenge

  1. truthseekernz says:

    I can’t give much weight to any assessment of waste that is as subjective, superficial and seat-of-the-pants as the examples above.

    The winterpower web site looks useful enough to me. Thanks for pointing me to it.

    The HNZC conference story looks like a monster media beatup. I’ve attended much larger conferences at much more luxurious locations in NZ and overseas. They are often excellent value for a large organisation.

    If you have ever worked in government, or any large organisation, you’ll know how much information there is out there and you’ll know that Government is expected to know everything. Having good information storage and retrieval systems is critical to being able to operate effectively and efficiently. I’m not surprised a policy development body within government would have an extensive library. I’m not surprised they would would be seeking to make access more efficient and cheaper via a web interface to a back end library.

    Declaring any of these things waste without knowing the full story verges on being a stunt……..and not a useful exmaple of oversight of government spending.

    I’m not saying there isn’t waste. I have seen it first hand, but isn’t always what you think. The BIGGEST cause of waste I know of in the public service is the damage done to moral and motivation of public servants by cynical, ignorant politicians referring to them as “bureaucrats” as though it were dung on your shoes. The presumption they are worse than useless…..no matter what job they do or how well they do it or how hard they work is hugely damaging.

    Every time National, in particular, talks about public servants this way, they underscore for me and for public servants what horrendous people management skills National has as a party and as a would-be employer in government. If they were my boss and talked to be like that, I’d tell them to shove it where the Sun doesn’t shine. I have respect for myself even if they don’t. But I don’t respect them when they abuse and denigrate hard working people who, by virtue of their jobs, aren’t allowed to talk back.

    National too ften come across as a bunch of bullies kicking people – public servants – who aren’t allowed to fight back.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: