Friday, 14 March 2008


i think of them as my cousins. navel-gazing must be the antonym to stargazing, in that in implies introspection and a focus on the self. which it not to say that it's a useless activity. actually, it's a very useful one - it's important to look inwards, assess one's own faults and weakness, appreciate one's strengths, and think and plan about one's future. navel-gazing is about building a strong sense of self, and a strong sense of direction.

john key thinks navel-gazing is a total waste of time. it's apparently useless activity carried out by pencil-pushers and bureaucrats, nasty little people hiding in offices in the capital, craftily working out how to fleece taxpayers. one of the things i love about opposition attacks on our hard-working public servants is that it virtually guarantees labour the seat of wellington central! and grant robertson is an excellent candidate who will make a great MP.

but this regular insult to the public service needs to be seen for what it is. i know some of the people mr key is talking about.

they are the staff at the office of ethnic affairs, the office of pacific island affairs and te kaunihera maori. many of them work during the weekend and evenings (as well as the full working week) because this is when community groups meet. while minority communities are becoming a larger proportion of the population, mr key doesn't want these offices to have any increase in staff to deal with their needs.

they are the staff at the human rights commission, the families commission, the ministry of women's affairs and the children's commissioner. presumable mr key believes that minority groups, families, and children should not have advocates within government. they should not do research to see what impact government legislation and policy has on vulnerable groups.

they are the health and disability commissioner, the independent police conduct authority, the prisons inspectorate and the ombudsman. presumably mr key doesn't believe members of the public should have someone to complain to if a government department provides shoddy service. he doesn't want independent oversight of the public service, to ensure that everyone gets fair and proper treatment?

they are the department of conservation, the environment commissioner and the crown research institutes. perhaps he thinks we shouldn't bother protecting endangered species, nor investigating the impact of the agricultural sector on greenhouse gas emissions. perhaps he's not interesting in funding good research which can lead to innovation and underpin our economic success. this may be why he has rejected the $700 million government funding proposal.

they are the special education services staff, the truancy service, the new zealand qualifications authority, and the education review office. does he want to reduce funding or staff numbers for children with special needs? does he think we shouldn't have independent reviews of our schools, so that we can ensure they all meet the high standards we expect of them? maybe he thinks we should do away with external exams - i know my kids would love that, but would most parents? and here is hon chris carter's response today during question time regarding truancy:

The Ministry of Education has introduced significant enhancements to truancy services this year. A new contract has been signed with the Non-enrolment Truancy Service, and the Ministry of Education has picked up responsibility for managing the most difficult cases and indeed has hired 10 extra staff to do this work. According to the Leader of the Opposition we should not have hired those extra staff. Does Mr Key want me to sack the 10 new truancy staff in order to cut staff numbers in the Ministry of Education?

i could go on, but i'll stop there. mr key insults good, honest, hard-working people doing difficult work under what are often very trying circumstances. he has insulted them all, because he refuses to name which of these staff will lose their jobs, or exactly which one of them are the pencil-pushers and navel-gazers he so casually derides. he also rules out the possibility of implementing any new programmes or policy, because to do so would mean hiring new staff, and he says he will keep the numbers capped. or if he does implement anything new, it will mean that some existing staff would have to lose their jobs.

well, i would like to pay a tribute to our public service, the least corrupt in the world. it's time we valued them for how much they contribute to our wellbeing.

1 comment:

Terence said...

Thanks Anjum - that post is absolutely spot on.