• Posted on: 20/08/2023
  • 2 minutes to read

The ACT party’s public service policy released today shows it has no concept of why the public service needs to be independent of the whims of Ministers.

"ACT wants to turn back the clock more than 100 years and allow our independent public service to be more susceptible to inappropriate political interference," said Kerry Davies, National Secretary for the Public Service Association, Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

ACT today announced it would amend the Public Service Act to allow Ministers to set three-year public performance targets for chief executives and set performance pay for them, among a range of measures it claims would drive better performance of departments.

"This is a solution looking for a problem with our public sector already one of the most trusted and efficient in the world according to the OECD.

"Ministers already have considerable power to set the direction of travel for departments. Now ACT wants to upset the balance between Ministerial oversight and the independence of the public sector.

"The problem to an effective public service is not about giving Ministers more power, it’s about resources and skills shortages and long-term planning, which is marred by a three-year Parliamentary term - those are the problems Mr Seymour should be focused on.

"Of course, chief executives need to perform, and Ministries need to be accountable - there are plenty of checks and balances in our system right now including rigorous oversight from Treasury, Select Committees, the Auditor-General and the Public Service Commission.

"A strong and independent public service got us through the pandemic, and Mr Seymour seems to now want a public service he can easily bend to his whims.

"ACT seems to be suggesting if chief executives are not performing according to their KPIs, they will have their pay docked or even worse, sacked.

"This is a slippery slope to political interference in the public sector. We decided in 1912 that we didn’t want to go down that route where jobs went to the mates of MPs and the country has been better off for it. [1]

"We know ACT wants to slash the public service, including halving the size of MBIE, and doing away with some Ministries altogether. Mr Seymour last week made violent and dangerous comments about disbanding the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

"That inflammatory and reckless language coupled with today’s policy shows why New Zealanders should fear what ACT has in mind for the public sector and the quality services public sector workers deliver around the country.

"This is a wake-up call for National which needs to tell voters where it stands on ACT’s dated and damaging policies.

"Mr Seymour, your inexperience and naivety has been laid bare today. National Leader Christopher Luxon should be worried."


[1] Public Service Act 1912 established an independent public service where chief executives could only be hired and fired by the Public Service Commissioner.