Time to zero-base the public service

Thu, 03 Feb, 2022

ACT Leader David Seymour has today outlined the party’s approach to ensuring the public service is serving the public, ensuring we have healthy and thriving communities.

“ACT says we need to zero base government. By that I mean going back to zero and ask ourselves, if the departments and bureaucracies we have now didn’t exist, would we establish them today?” asks Mr Seymour.

“We need to stop assuming government departments and activities should continue because they always have. It’s easy to think of New Zealand companies that no longer exist. Anyone shopped at Warnocks or Deka lately? Read the Auckland Star? Got a loan from South Canterbury Finance? Had Mainzeal put anything up for you? Anyone had a night in thanks to Video Ezy this decade?

“For a variety of reasons those national brands along with a lot of other local businesses are gone. But when was the last time you heard of a government department being surplus to requirement and closed?

“How many zombie departments and zombie bureaucrats does this country have? People who just carry on collecting a paycheque for their own purposes instead of any public purpose. Why do we put up with the idea that Government can get bigger, but it can never get smaller?

“Take just one department, the Ministry of Education. There are about 2,550 schools in New Zealand, and Labour inherited 2,632 full-time equivalents at MoE. They earned an average of $82,600 when the top of the pay scale for a senior teacher was $78,000.

“Today there are 3,900 full-time equivalents at the Ministry of Education. They earn an average salary of $93,900. Total spending on salaries at the Ministry has gone from $217 million to $366 million in just four years.

“How is it possible that the Ministry of Education has got bigger, while its achievements shrink with every generation?

“The justifications for each department and ministry will have to fit with a robust view of what government can do:

  • Can the private sector provide this service?
  • Is there a genuine conflict between citizens’ interests that cannot be resolved without Government intervention?
  • What are the costs and benefits of this activity, and do the benefits outweigh the costs?

“I would be amazed if we couldn’t get the size of Government back to where it was in 2017 by eliminating activities that don’t fit with these simple questions. In fact, I suspect whole departments would go.

“Another cycle of National holding the line for a time so Labour pick up where it left off just won’t do. We need a strong ACT influence in Government. Changing the Government isn’t enough, we need to change direction - with ACT as the navigator.”