26 Apr 2018

Govt bureaucracy needs 'political laxative' - Jones

12:47 pm on 26 April 2018

The Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones wants politicians to have more control over the state sector, even though state sector workers must be politically neutral and independent.

NZ First MP Shane Jones is Minister for Forestry, Infrastructure, and Regional Economic Development.

NZ First MP Shane Jones is Minister for Forestry, Infrastructure, and Regional Economic Development. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Mr Jones says new governments should be able to appoint people to key roles and he will take his ideas for change to his party conference later in the year.

But the Public Service Association says it will strongly oppose any moves to politicise the public service.

He told Morning Report he had been astounded at how long it took for projects like infrastructure to be rolled out in the regions.

He said bureaucratic culture was to blame and it needed a "political laxative".

"It's time for a dose of reform at the very, very top. Now it might be unsuccessful, but I will not be deterred from taking this to our conference later in the year.

"There's scope to look for different options to look for how, I as a politician can be more effective by tweaking the bureaucracy."

He gave the Australian system as an example.

"The Aussie model, where I was last year, enables a small group of CEOs at the apex of the bureaucracy to be replaced after an election.

"So the notion that we are going to have a dose of Trump go through the bureaucracy - that's catastrophising it somewhat."

But the head of the state sector union warned the system could return to the days of cronyism and corruption if politicians had more control over key roles.

Public Service Association national secretary Glenn Barclay said by law the sector must be politically neutral.

"On one level he's a new cabinet minister and wants to get things done, so that doesn't surprise me, I suppose. But ultimately I'm disappointed because an independent public service is an absolutely essential part of our constitution and that's the way it should remain.

"You just end up getting the advice that you want, and it's very important that with any new policies, particularly substantial policies, that they are open to scrutiny."

Mr Barclay said the politically neutral state sector was enshrined in the Public Services Act of 1912.

Mr Jones acknowledged he had no control over the state sector, but wanted to pitch ideas for change to the New Zealand First conference later in the year, which he hoped would become party policy to campaign on in 2020.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs