Urgency Makes The Earth Move

by Desk Editor on Thursday, July 4, 2013 — 12:03 AM

MPs spent most of Wednesday night under Urgency debating the largest overhaul of the state sector since 1988, which made the earth move for at least one MP.

After the dinner break MPs returned to the interrupted committee stage debate on the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill.

After changes made to the bill in select committee, mainly around employment matters, Labour reversed its position and supported the bill.

Amongst other things the bill makes sweeping changes to the way departments report and account for their spending in an attempt to get more clarity about what money is spent on and what it achieves.

Labour’s David Cunliffe spoke about his frustration as a minister at discovering the wage of a social worker in a remote location was one quarter of the departmental overhead cost of supporting that social worker.

He believed the bill would help drill down into how money was spent and enable more to be achieved with less.

The Minister in the chair Nikki Kaye replied this was a “seismic shift’’ in Labour’s thinking on state sector spending towards National’s position, to which Labour’s David Parker replied with some incredulity he was pleased his colleague had “made the earth move’’’ for Kaye.

Much of the rest of the debate around the Bill was about it giving new tools to the State Service Commission, Ministers and the wider public service allowing agencies to work with each other and take a cross sector approach to issues and policy.

More controversially, Chief Executives will have greater ability to delegate powers to those outside the public service, and there would now be a new organisational structure working across agencies. This new cross department agency structure will have powers to override departments to achieve a ministerial directive. How this will work in practice is something yet to unfold.

Labour MPs indicated they still held some concerns about a number of aspects of the bill, including the new redundancy provisions and the broad ability for a chief executive to delegate powers, however these and others were matters to be watched for possible future amendment and not enough to oppose the bill’s progress.

The Greens opposed the bill saying it did not go far enough to protect public servants.

Debate was interrupted on part two of the bill just before midnight and will resume tomorrow at 9am.

The following Bills remain to be dealt with under the Urgency Motion.

• the committee stage and third reading of the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Amendment Bill and any bills into which it may be divided
• the committee stage of the Taxation (Livestock Valuation, Assets Expenditure, and Remedial Matters) Bill
• the committee stage of the Airports (Cost Recovery for Processing of International Travellers) Bill
• the committee stage of the Administration of Community Sentences and Orders Bill
• the committee stage of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Covered Bonds) Amendment Bill, and
• the committee stage of the Medicines Amendment Bill
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