Official back in cabinet committees

July 25th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Just noticed this in a speech by John Key:

As Prime Minister, the most difficult, hard-to-tackle issues of public policy inevitably end up passing across my desk.

In working through those issues, I rely heavily on the advice and judgement of public servants.

It’s crucial that ministers know all the sides of a particular issue, have all the relevant information and fully understand the implications of different courses of action.

Since becoming Prime Minister in late 2008, I’ve been impressed by the professionalism and competence of public servants in my own departments and across the public sector as a whole.

The approach of my Government has been to respect people’s professional skills and to back public servants who want to get on and make New Zealand a better place.

As just one small example, we have reintroduced the practice of having officials regularly attend Cabinet committee meetings.

That’s for two reasons.

We want to get advice from the people who have the greatest knowledge of particular issues.

And we actually think it’s good for officials to see where ministers agree and disagree, what they feel comfortable with and what drives their consideration of a particular issue.

If I recall Labour kicked officials out a few years ago, as they didn’t want to have “political” discussions with them in the room. I think it is a good thing the Government trusts officials enough that Ministers can disagree in front of them.

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16 Responses to “Official back in cabinet committees”

  1. Fisiani (1,040 comments) says:

    National does what is best for New Zealand.
    Labour does what is best for Labour.

    In a nutshell that is why I vote National.

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  2. ephemera (557 comments) says:

    I thought Key liked to refer to public servants as “muppets”. It depends on which audience he’s pandering to, I suppose.

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  3. tvb (4,432 comments) says:

    Officials attending cabinet committees was the old way though officials may not be present the whole time. I remember having a ding dOng argument with Geoffrey Palmer which impressed the PM and my Treasury colleagues. They admired the way I stood up to him I lost of course as Ministers have the final word.

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  4. Nookin (3,361 comments) says:

    “It depends on which audience he’s pandering to, I suppose.”

    I would not have thought that having officials in cabinet meetings was pandering — esp if there is contentious debate. Can you give a reference to the mention of muppets?

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  5. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    Of course that was back when a ‘new standard of transparency’ (or was it ‘accountability) was being introduced by the Great Wrecker and Hater.

    Can you imagine what banner headline the slime rag Herald would carry if John Key had done the same thing?

    Hell, they didn’t even report it. Too busy quoting ill informed inanity from David shearer.

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  6. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    tvb, was your ding dong bigger than Palmers ding dong?

    Mind you, given the size of ding dong Palmer is, I find that highly unlikely :)

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  7. iMP (2,387 comments) says:

    Churchill was a master at this. He sidelined the Cabinet in terms of war strategy during WWII and built a special overseeing cmte that comprised 2 poli.s and 2 ultra bureaucrats (2 Brits & 2 Americans) to decide war direction. It worked brilliantly and Churchill’s strength (over the Americans) was his ability to utilise public servants to their best capacity.

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  8. tvb (4,432 comments) says:

    I actually held my ground with palmer meeting his arguments point by point

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  9. wreck1080 (3,924 comments) says:

    I wonder, how often politicians ignore official advice.

    Politicians generally are not recognised as experts in their portfolios. eg, cullen was a history teacher and was in control of the government finances.

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  10. Keeping Stock (10,342 comments) says:

    Once again, Key has shown that one does not need a lifetime in the dark arts of politics to be a successful politician. The individual effect of small steps such as this and the decision to make MP’s more accountable for their expenses may be small, but the cumulative effect of a series of steps is far more significant.

    If only the old guard of Labour, and those who have come straight from university into politics like Hipkins and Ardern could get their heads around this, there might be a future for Labour. But until there is a 180* shift in their mindset, they will struggle to be relevant.

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  11. tvb (4,432 comments) says:

    Helen Clark was always suspicious of officials which did not assist her much

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  12. kowtow (8,524 comments) says:

    No you don’t need to have a lifetime in the dark arts politics to be a successful politician.

    you only need to be a BBC fan of Sir Humphrey

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  13. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    And back in the day, it was National that stopped post cabinet press conferences.

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  14. Danny-boy (102 comments) says:

    I wouldn’t have thought there’d be any difference in opinion between Ministers and officials under Labour. Surely Helen would’ve just told them what to think?

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  15. Jinky (185 comments) says:

    Obviously the trust only extends so far
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7345081/MPs-to-discuss-pay-in-secret

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  16. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    Shades of ” YES Minister ” !!!..

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