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MICHAEL BASSETT: DEALING WITH ENEMIES OF THIS MINISTRY

Ever wondered who or what is constantly trying to block the new government’s policies? Why is it that announcements by ministers about the economy, educational changes, new health proposals, reducing the runaway numbers of public servants and combating juvenile crime, are quickly met with so-called leaked bits of advice about how the new ideas have been “tried before and don’t work”? Leading to cocky assertions from the Labour Opposition that the media then highlight. Frequently, the minister is the last person allowed media space.


Remembering the ways in which the same sorts of people tried to block progress when I was a minister during the major reforms of the 1980s, I detect a similar pattern emerging amongst those opposed to change. Many influential people seem born to resist it. Their positions depend on the status quo. Several bad eggs around the Public Dis-Service Association are constantly receiving information from unhappy civil servants, and in turn the P(D)SA provides it to selected journalists who then produce columns that used to be called “stinky fish articles”. They attack the new policies before the wider public have been able to get their heads around what the Cabinet is actually proposing. The difference between now and the 1980s is that Chris Luxon’s government doesn’t know how to handle such blockades, and too often shuffles about like Joe Biden on a bad day.


Stinky fish material appeals to many journalists at the New Zealand Herald and to the likes of TV One's Te Aniwa Hurihanginui, Maiki Sherman, Jacob Johnson, and to Radio NZ which often just chronicles criticisms of ministerial intentions. Such journalism sends reassuring messages to the lack-lustre lot that believed in Jacinda, Chippy, the Greens and those even nearer the lunatic fringe of politics.  The media quibble about what ministers are proposing, blowing them up to headlines criticising policy. “Don’t ban smartphones for school kids”; “Don’t remove urban limits for housing”. Journalists get away with not finding any alternative policies to report, and often don’t even acknowledge there are serious problems in need of fixing. They just let the criticisms do their wicked work.


The current strategic political problem stems from the fact that National Party politicians don’t instinctively think of reform. They are more used to administering the status quo. Right now, they are faced with a slew of problems because a recklessly spending Labour government was convinced that anything could be solved if money was borrowed and thrown at it. So far, National has slowed the wasteful spending juggernaut, but restructuring is another matter. Its two partners in government are less traumatised by the thought of reform, particularly ACT, which was founded on an understanding that significant structural social and economic change is vital if New Zealand is to keep abreast of the world. But convincing National is clearly an uphill task


If the Coalition wants to be re-elected in 2026 it needs a more cohesive approach to pushing ahead with change. David Lange’s government that took office forty years ago this month faced problems of a similar magnitude to those facing the Luxon-led ministry today. Trade unions, the P(D)SA and elements within the Labour Party tried to stop the remedial actions that were taken by Lange’s new cabinet. Roger Douglas, who was Minister of Finance, had been around politics long enough to understand his opponents and decided early in the piece to speed up the reform process. Before long, so many new policies were appearing that opponents didn’t know how to prioritise their attacks. Speed is a key to achieving reform. Occasionally the Lange government suffered from speed wobbles, but as ministers held their nerve and explained what they were doing, and why, new ways of doing things were consolidated. The public bought devaluation and floating of the dollar, the introduction of GST, and the turning of loss-making government trading departments into State Owned Enterprises. A clear overall plan kept the show on the road. Rapid momentum and clear explanations were vital. The government’s share of the vote increased at the following election. 


Public divisions between ministers, and hesitations over policy implementation, tell the voting public that something is amiss. Blurting out general intentions without specifics as to policy is also careless. This last week’s announcement that law and order would be a ministerial goal for the next 100 days invited immediate questions about specific policies which Luxon then dived for cover rather than answer. Better to say nothing than start shooting half-cocked


More is needed. The Lange government reformed key parts of the State Services as well. Luxon and Nicola Willis have insisted on some reductions to the bloated bureaucracy they inherited. Civil Servants need to realise that if they continue to play games leaking material and being truculent over policy implementation then further staff retrenchments will occur, and the salaries saved will be put into buying services from consultants. A few fires lit in your critics’ backyards can also be powerful aids to progress. But the process requires determined, consistent leadership, which these days is rather too intermittent to leave me feeling confident that enough reform will be achieved to stop New Zealand’s downward slide.

4,111 views126 comments

126 commentaires


Have to clean house of political state operators nestled within bureaucracy.


Have to destroy left wing MSM (not save them Luxon)


Dismantle funding for corrupt left wing institutions: University, school unions, public media (red radio)


As we have seen in France, the Nats are actually like Macron and would prefer to side with the communists and form a large Uniparty, rather than enact socially conservative reform. Given the revealed criminal nature of the Green politicians don’t be surprised when all politicians act corrupt, and serve mephisto.

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I now seriously think Willis is the problem, along with Luxon who either doesn't understand that short sharp action is needed, or is simply on the same trajectory. Just look at hte RBNZ board: Political activits with zero monetary policy experience would be a fairly accurate summary. Willis has just past up on the opportunity to replace the chairman of the baord, but chose the stauts quo instead. It is in serious need of reform. Then go to the Public Service Commissioner. That post has been vacant nor for 4 months without any replacement, with the 2IC becoming the 1IC, and another Labour loyalist in hte 2IC position. We have simply gone from a Labour-left govt to Labour-right. Don't expect…

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neilharrap
neilharrap
6 days ago

Right on target as usual Michael. You're a national treasure!

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rc13o848
rc13o848
6 days ago

One of the biggest issues for NZ is our extremely left wing, woke and biased media. This includes the likes of Stuff, TVNZ, RNZ, and The Herald. Their bias is blatantly visible, and what really annoys me is these organisations are sucking on the public tit for financial support. There needs to be a rationalisation of the public financial support of these woke 'left wing' anti-demoncratic influencers. For a start, TVNZ & RNZ, and Te Reo broadcasting should be consolidated into one organisation, greatly reducing staff, and the public funding reduced by 50%. Furthermore there must be no public funding of Stuff and their publications, or The NZ Herald, or any other private media organisation.

Sadly NZ media has gotten…

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Tiglath Pileser
Tiglath Pileser
6 days ago
En réponse à

Yep, I get an australian viewpoint too.

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Picker N Grin
Picker N Grin
6 days ago

It is way too easy to sabotage the intentions of a new government if the public servise are inclined that way, just little things like slowing things down, losing things and missunderstanding, on purpose will work. Staff that do this sort of thing should imediatly be fired for 'white anting' policy, but that wont happem because they are protected by all sorts of workplace 'agreements' Its way past time some of this 'protection' was dumped

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