State sector reform is set to be another political battleground between Labour and National after new legislation was aired for the first time in Parliament tonight.
MPs debated the first reading of the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill with State Sector Minister Jonathan Coleman saying the bill would “reshape’’ the public service so it was fit for service.
Opposition parties had been consulted and Coleman hoped they would support it.
The bill, he said, would allow agencies to work more closely together under stronger leadership with the State Service Commissioner given a larger role.
Chris Hipkins said the Labour party had three main areas of concerns and it could not support the bill in its current form. He urged the Government not to pass major reform covering the state sector without a general consensus.
The main concerns were around:
– the power for chief executives to delegate statutory powers to a private entity outside the public service.
– changes to the rules over parliamentary scrutiny by combining the estimates and financial review promises. (Hipkins said it was unconstitutional to pass laws changing standing orders, thus by passing the Standing Orders Committee’s convention of working by consensus).
– changes to the way collective bargaining is conducted and controlled by the Government.
National had not sought to form a cross-party consensus on the contentious issues and Labour was open to talks on the issue, he said.
There were many parts of the bill that were good and deserved to pass, but Hipkins said the contentious issues were too serious for it to support the bill.
The Greens and New Zealand First also expressed opposition, but debate on the first reading was interrupted before a vote could be taken when the House rose at 10pm.
Earlier there was general agreement about the need for reform of financial reporting standards.
Commerce Minister Craig Foss said the Financial Reporting Bill rationalises financial reporting for companies and entities to make it more standard and appropriate for the size of the company.
Current requirements were expensive and time consuming and the bill would cut red tape.
Labour’s David Parker said the legislation was good and Labour would support it.
He would want to look at other areas where technical accounting requirements were more than needed.
The bill completed its first reading on voice vote and was sent to the commerce committee for consideration.
Earlier in the evening the Advanced Technology Institute Bill completed its committee stage and was reported on a voice vote, though the Greens and Mana did vote against various parts of the bill.
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