Jobs for the mates indeed

July 23rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Labour is accusing the National-led Government of cronyism after Social Development Minister Paula Bennett hired her former adviser – a Cabinet minister’s sister – as Chief Families Commissioner.

Mrs Bennett defended the appointment of Belinda Milnes, saying she was the right person for the job. As minister, she had been careful in the hiring process because of the candidate’s ties to the National Party.

Ms Milnes was previously a senior adviser to Mrs Bennett and is Cabinet minister Amy Adams’ sister.

I know Belinda well. She is a star, and will do a great job. I would also point out she has been involved in the welfare area for at least 10 years before Amy became an MP. I think few would claim she should not be considered for a role, because of her sister.

Now Belinda can be considered a political appointment as she has worked for Roger Sowry and Paula Bennett. However here’s what I blogged in July 2008 on political appointments:

  1. Never have those with political connections forming a majority or even close to a majority on a board.
  2. Unless someone was already a professional company director (or widely seen as possessing similar skills), they should not be appointed to more than a couple of boards.
  3. Appointees must bring genuine value to a board – their appointments must be based on merit, even if they have political connections.
  4. The more important a board, the more critical it is that the appointees be top class.

So what I have consistently said is that of course Governments will appoint people who are fairly like-minded to boards. But the key thing is that they should not be close to a majority on a board, they should not get multiple boards unless highly qualified, and they must bring value and make it there on merit.

I have no doubt Belinda will be of great value to the Families Commission.

Labour was also accused of political appointments while in Government, but its MPs felt National was especially guilty of this.

This is so outrageous that I can’t let it pass. Let me say that many in National actually complain that so few of its supporters have ended up with board positions, and the contrast with Labour is enormous. Here’s just a few political appointments made by Labour when they were in office.

  • Geoffrey Palmer invited to conduct review of Law Commission, appointed to the International Whaling Commission, made Chair of the Legislation Advisory Committee, appointed as President of the Law Commission in November 2005
  • Lesley Soper (Labour candidate and later MP) appointed to the Southern Hospital and Health Services Board (HHS)
  • Simon Mitchell appointed to the LTSA
  • Louisa Wall appointed to LTSA
  • Shane Jones appointed to the Industry New Zealand board, appointed to the Poutama Trust, appointed to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, appointed him to the RMA Reference Group
  • Jill White appointed to the board of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, later appointed chair of Bioethics Council. 
  • Graham Hill appointed to the MetService. 
  • Rosslyn Noonan appointed Human Rights Commissioner
  • Warren Lindberg appointed to Human Rights Commission
  • Ella Henry appointed to Human Rights Commission
  • Maryan Street appointed to the board of the Housing New Zealand corporation and also appointed to the board of the Centre for Housing Research in August 2003
  • Alison Timmsappointed to the Radio New Zealand Board, appointed to the New Zealand Parole Board, a member of the Casino Control Authority 
  • Stan Roger appointed to chair Pay Parity Working Group for Kindergarten Teachers, also appointed to a new panel providing independent advice to the government on injury-related information, also appointed as a Commssioner of the Electricity Commission 
  • Kathie Irwin was appointed head of the Teacher’s Council
  • Judy Callingham appointed to the board of NZ on Air and to the Film and Literature Review Board: 
  • Ken Douglas appointed to Industry and Trade agency, appointed Chair of Whanganui DHB
  • Ray Potroz appointed to Biology Taskforce and appointed the ACC Board
  • Andrew Little  appointed as member of the Transition Tertiary Education Commission and also appointed to the Manufacturing Advisory Group.
  • Gregory Fortuin appointed to Accident Compensation Corporation, Families Commission, NZ Post, Kiwibank, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, and Transpower
  • Dave Morgan, appointed to the MSA board
  • John Wright appointed to the Transit Board
  • Sandra Lee, is appointed as High Commissioner to Niue.
  • Eamon Daly is appointed to the Bioethics Council, to the Human Rights Review Panel
  • Helen Kelly appointed to Fee Maxima reference group
  • Graham Kelly appointed New Zealand High Commissioner to Canada.
  • Sam Huggard appointed the Lottery youth committee
  • Dame Anne Hercus appointed to TVNZ Board.
  • Philida Bunkle, appointed to the Alcohol Advisory Council
  • Charles Chauvel appointed to the Lotteries Commission
  • Angela Foulkes to the board of the NZQA
  • Alick Shaw to Creative New Zealand and ALAC.
  • Dr Rajen Prasad appointed as Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission
  • Polly Schaverien appointed to the Correspondence School’s board and a director of Meridian Energy and the MetService.
  • Bryan Gould appointed to TVNZ Board and to chair of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology
  • Carol Beaumont appointed to the Food and Beverage Taskforce, appointed to the Government’s Small Business Advisory Group, appointed to the Workplace Health and Safety Council
  • Russell Marshall made chair of the Tertiary Education Commission 
  • Ross Wilson appointed to Tertiary Education Commission
  • Sue Piper, appointed to the Local Government Commission, appointed to the board of Te Papa, appointed to the board of Quotable Value, the New Zealand Law Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal.
  • Greg Presland appointed to the NZ Film and Literature Review board and LTSA
  • July 2006 – Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Judith Tizard today announced new appointments to the Board of Te Papa Tongarewa.
  • Bob Harvey is appointed to the NZ Film Commission, Te Papa Board
  • Jenny Agnew appointed to the Government’s Small Business Advisory Group
  • Robyn Northey to the Alcohol Advisory Council.
  • Peter Conway appointed to NZTE Board
  • Garry Moore have both been appointed to the board of Transit New Zealand.
  • Andrew Casidyappointed to the Workplace Health and Safety Council
  • Paul Jarvie appointed to the Workplace Health and Safety Council
  • Ross Wilson appointed ACC Chair
  • Sandra Lee appointed to Te Papa Board
  • David Shand appointed TEC Chair:, chair of  a Local Government rates inquiry, chair of the Tertiary Education Capital Investment Fund, board of Meridian Energy
  • David Caygill, appointed Chair of the Electricity Commission
  • Phil Harington appointed to Lottery Grants Board
  • Mike Williams to board of Genesis Energy and Ontrack and ARTA and Transit NZ and GNS.
  • Alick Shaw to NZTA Board
  • Garry Moore to NZTA Board
  • Christine Caughey to NZTA Board
  • Dianne Yates appointed to FSANZ Board, board of Learning Media, Trust Waikato and Waikato Institute of Technology.
  • Helen Kelly appointed as director of the Growth and Innovation Advisory Board.
  • Chris Eichbaum was appointed to the board of the Reserve Bank.
  • Penny Hulse appointed to the EECA board
  • Richard Northey appointed to an Arms Control Advisory Group
  • Andrew Campbell appointed to the Fee Maxima reference group [UPDATE: Andrew was there as President of NZUSA, not a Govt appointee]
  • Richard Pole to Doctors in Training Workforce Roundtable
  • Kevin Hague to Quality Improvement Committee 

I’ve probably missed heaps. but that gives you an idea of how rampant these appointments were under Labour. Now as I said previously the fact they had political connections does not make them all bad appointments. But if Labour ever again try and suggest they did not do political appointments when in office, I’ll republish this list. Feel free to add on in the comments any I have missed!

The Human Rights Review Tribunal

December 19th, 2009 at 1:40 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn criticises some of the recent appointments to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

While I don’t endorse his language and descriptions, I do agree with him that the appointments look too politically loaded. Generally National has been much better than Labour in this area, and this is the first set of appointments which look unbalanced. It may be that each individual is qualified, but to have four out of nine members with a political background is not desirable.

The one that puzzles me is Brian Neeson. Brian quit National and actually stood against John Key in 2002. Generally parties don’t have a lot of time for people who quite and break their written word not to stand against the official candidate. So why is National appointing Neeson? It is hardly rewarding a supporter.

Nandor appointed to Arts Council

July 28th, 2009 at 5:25 pm by David Farrar

Chris Finlayson has announced:

Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson announced today the appointment of former Member of Parliament Nandor Tanczos and the reappointments of Pele Walker and Michael Prentice to the Creative New Zealand Arts Board.

I can’t believe how many Labour and Green people are being appointed to positions. I’m not complaining (except about Cullen’s one) but it is such a change.

If this keeps up, I expect a future Labour/Green Government to appoint me to the Board of the Reserve Bank!

Public Service Politicisation

May 2nd, 2009 at 8:02 am by David Farrar

The Herald Political Diary notes:

Treasury announces that Mike Munro – former press secretary to Helen Clark – will be its communications manager. It’s not quite the same as working for Finance Minister Bill English but Munro’s talents in public relations and the importance of Treasury in the global recession can only help the Government. And even if anyone in Government did have misgivings, they could hardly express them after the fuss made in Opposition about political interference by ministers in the Environment Ministry posts.

Far from anyone in Government being upset, I would say everyone thinks it is a brilliant appointment. Munro is genuinely liked by all sides, and recognised for his talent.

Talking of politics and the public sector, NBR has further info on the “secret” purchase advisors that Labour are claiming are political appointees. They are:

The advisers include two former Treasury secretaries, Murray Horn and Graham Scott, and former deputy state services commissioner Ross Tanner.

Sounds like the sort of people I would want advising me on multi billion purchase agreements. Again, I call for more of them!

Back to the diary, I was amused at this:

Lewis Holden is announced as the new chief executive of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. It is a familiar name to journalists who receive regular press releases from the Republican Movement. Fortunately for relations between the Government and the public service, Lewis David Holden the chief executive is not the same as Lewis Joseph Holden the agitator and they are not related. Holden the CEO is deputy secretary of the economic strategy branch at the Ministry of Economic Development. Coincidentally, Holden the younger got a part-time job at the MED when he was student and found out about his namesake when he found out his email address was already taken.

I think everyone in the Republican Movement should start calling Lewis, “Holden the Younger”. Reminds me of Pitt the Younger.

Other Board Appointments

April 8th, 2009 at 10:50 am by David Farrar

Most of the focus yesterday was on Dr Cullen’s appointment. There were some other interesting ones.

The Dom Post reports that Don Brash was appointed to the Transpower Board and Judy Kirk to chair the Lotteries Commission.

Transpower is a good choice for Don. It’s the only SOE that he doesn’t believe should be sold off at some stage 🙂

The Lotteries Commission is the traditional repository for senior party officials, and Judy has six years of board chairmanship skills to bring to it so her appointment is no surprise and I would say uncontroversial. I would caution though that National should never get to the stage they did in the 1990s where every single member of the Board was a senior National official. That was an awful look.

I have blogged in some detail in the past on Government Appointments. The summary of my advice was:

  1. Never have those with political connections forming a majority or even close to a majority on a board.
  2. Unless someone was already a professional company director (or widely seen as possessing similar skills), they should not be appointed to more than a couple of boards.
  3. Appointees must bring genuine value to a board – their appointments must be based on merit, even if they have political connections.
  4. The more important a board, the more critical it is that the apointees be top class.

Another interesting aspect is that Phil Goff a couple of weeks ago, unwisely complained that National was engaging in a witch-hunt against Labour Party supporters. His whinging was because Tony Timms and Polly Schaverien were not reappointed to Meridian Energy Board.

The appointment of Cullen should show how stupid his whining was. But to further highlight how off the beam he was, I quote from Simon Power:

“Joanna Perry (Genesis), Polly Schaverien (MetService) and Ian Donald (Transpower) have been elevated to deputy chair,

So Polly Schaverien has been elevated to MetService Deputy Chair despite being a former Labour Researcher and Mallard staffer. So again where is this witch hunt Goff complained about?

Hypocrisy alert

March 24th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I almost choked as I read in the Dom Post:

Labour leader Phil Goff said the moves were “a witch-hunt” against board members simply because they were not National Party supporters.

“National is determined to go back to the old days when you needed to be a card-carrying National member to get appointed.”

There is standard hypocrisy and then there is this. Did Phil Goff remember voting to appoint Mike Williams to six different boards? Did Phil Goff remember appointing Di Yates to three or four boards as the “price” for getting her to leave Parliament?

And we won’t even talk about the the fact that the reason Wellington got called Helengrad is that because anyone who dared to disagree with Labour was put on a blacklist. Not only would they not get board appointments – their firms would be ineligible for any government contracts. This was all common knowledge. Dozens of business leaders said they would never publicly criticise the Labour Government as they would be shut out.

And what is Goff complaining about anyway:

A spokesman confirmed yesterday that State-Owned Enterprises Minister Simon Power had written to “a number” of directors telling them that when their terms ended on April 30 they would not be reappointed.

Oh my God. How dare National not reappoint directors that Phil Goff and Helen Clark personally chose. This is not a “sacking” as with the ACC Chair. This is just a normal expiry of term. Of course that doesn’t prevent the hsyterical claim:

National has launched its night of the long knives on state boards, with a range of mostly Labour-leaning directors being told they no longer have a job.

Now most readers are educated people and know what the night of the long knives was, but for those who do not it is when Hitler had his political opponents (in his own party mainly) killed. Personally I think a reference to Nazi executions is somewhat over the top, Vernon. Again these are not sackings – just terms expiring. And who is not being reappointed:

It is understood the casualties include Meridian Energy director Polly Schaverien and former Labour staffer Tony Timms from the board of Quotable Value.

Tony Timms is the former Labour Party General Secretary and senior staffer in Helen Clark’s office. Polly Schaverien has been a staffer both in the Labour Party Research Unit and in Trevor Mallard’s office.This does not automatically disqualify them of course, but you know the outrage from Goff is just so hypocritical.

What is amazing is the sense of entitlement that Goff exhibits. How dare National not reappoint people he and Helen Clark selected.

One saw in Canada the same culture of entitlement in the Canadian Liberal Party after they were in power for many years. They had such a sense of entitlement that they handed out government advertising contracts to their mates, who agreed in turn to donate a portion back to the Liberal Party.

Incidentially NZ Labour once considered doing something similiar. Their general secretary in the late 80s floated the idea of having the Government give some contracts to Labour’s advertising agency, as Labour owed them lots of money and was having trouble paying. Luckily the idea was never taken forward but it shows the danger of having that sense or culture of entitlement.

More appointments the Government could consider

March 7th, 2009 at 11:35 am by David Farrar

Reflecting more on the Dom Post story that the Government is looking to appoint Dr Cullen to chair a major SOE, here are some other appointments they can consider:

  • Winston Peters to chair the Asia 2000 Foundation
  • Peter Brown to chair the Immigration Review Board
  • Clint Rickards as CEO of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs

Make your own suggestions below.

UPDATE: Many good suggestions so far. Some of my favourites:

  • David Benson-Pope as Children’s Commissioner
  • Ruth Dyson for ALAC
  • Brian Tamaki to the Aids Foundation
  • Keith Locke, trade commissioner to Israel
  • Philip Field as head of the Pacific Island Immigration division
  • Winston Peters, Chairman of the Electoral Commission
  • Kyle Chapman, Race Relations Commissioner

Williams resigns off boards

December 7th, 2008 at 5:25 pm by David Farrar

On Agenda this morning John Key was asked whether he thought Mike WIlliams should go off all his Government boards, and Key said yes.

To give credit to Williams, he has taken the hint and resigned, according to Radio NZ:

Mr Williams says he was advised by the agency that oversees Crown owned companies, the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit or CCMAU, that his resignation was expected by ministers in the new government.

Mr Williams says he has now resigned from Genesis Energy, the New Zealand Transport Agency and GNS Science.

He says the only complication is that he needs to have his name removed from an upcoming $150 million bond issue by Genesis.

Mr Williams says otherwise he would have liability, without accountability, for the bond issue.

I don’t think being Labour Party President per se meant he had to resign. People such as former Labour Deputy Leader David Caygill give very good service. It was Williams involvement in trying to smear John Key with the H-Fee that made his continued service impossible – in my opinion.

Just retired Labour MP off to Aussie as can’t get job in NZ

August 15th, 2008 at 7:51 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner reports:

Former Labour MP Georgina Beyer plans to move to Australia because she cannot find work.

The three-term Wairarapa MP, the world’s first transsexual politician, said she was disillusioned with life after politics and upset at the treatment she had received from her former Labour Party colleagues.

Ms Beyer said that while other former Labour MPs were appointed to boards, she had received nothing and was turned down for a position on the Human Rights Commission.

Good God. How dare they not appoint her. I mean how can you possibly get a job, unless your mates appoint you to a taxpayer funded board.

“That I’m of no further use to my country is why I’m considering Australia, that my former parliamentary colleagues seem not to want to appoint me to anything, but are quite happy to accommodate others who have left or are about to, so as to shut them up from whingeing from the sidelines in election year.

“One could be forgiven for being a little vexed.”

What a disgusting sense of entitlement she is exhibiting.

Board Appointments

July 26th, 2008 at 8:29 am by David Farrar

The Herald picks up on the stacking of half the new Transport Agency board with Labour affiliated politicians.

In the last few months almost every Labour Party activist in the country seems to be picking up taxpayer funded board jobs.

Now I have never advocated that those with political involvement and experience should be ineligible for board appointments. And in some cases it can be useful to have a board member with some political saavy. And likewise it is understandable that a Minister will want perhaps one or two people on the more critical boards who understand politics to the degree that they can help the Board avoid actions which will put them on a collision course with the Government.

And being realistic, if a Minister has several candidates of equal quality, then the one personally known to the Minister will be at an advantage.

Now having defended some appointees with a political background, why am I critical of the latest rash of appointments? No not just because it is Labour. I will give some guidelines I think all Governments should use, and that National also has broken in the past.

  1. Never have those with political connections forming a majority or even close to a majority on a board. That threatens good governance. National was guilty of this in the 1990s when I think every single member of the Lottery Grants Board was National connected. Now sure that only doshes out money but it is a very bad look. If a board has more than a couple of persons with political connections, then it loses credibility.
  2. Unless someone was already a professional company director (or widely seen as possessing similar skills), they should not be appointed to more than a couple of boards. An individual should not have so many appointments that they earn a close to or higher than six figure income from board appointments. The appointment of Di Yates to four separate boards is an example of that. If they put her on only one board, no-one would probably grumble (except her fellow board members) – but four boards is ridiculously venal.
  3. Appointees must bring genuine value to a board – their appointments must be based on merit, even if they have political connections. Appointments are always somewhat subjective but there are some clear differences in competence. For example I wouldn’t criticise the appointment of Garry Moore to the Transport Board as he has significant governance experience. But I can’t see how the appointment of Christine Caughey is in any way based on merit. The same for Di Yates on on Food Standards Authority – they were so desperate to justify it they had to include living in Waikato as a credential.
  4. The more important a board, the more critical it is that the apointees be top class. I don’t get particularly worked up about an appointment to the Waikato Sports Trust or the Lottery Grants Youth Committee etc. But the boards of the large SOEs are critically important, as are the top regulatory boards. The Electricity Commission has been stacked with Labour affiliates – which is a massive concern. And this week I have focused on the Reserve Bank Board – a prime example of a board which needs the highest calibre of appointees, and those who can bring some real value to the area of monetary policy.

No-one should think a National-led Government is never going to appoint some of its former MPs, or others politically connected, to various Boards. Of course they will. But if appointments are in line with my proposed guidelines, then they should face significantly less criticism.