Some extracts from John Key’s speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce:
The first change I’m announcing is that there will be a new results-driven focus for the public service.
So I have identified 10 challenging results that I want to see achieved over the next three to five years.
Achieving these results will be difficult and demanding. In fact for some of them it will be extremely difficult.
This is very welcome, but very risky. Voters will hold the Government to account if these are not achieved, and it is inevitable some of them probably won’t be as the Government doesn’t control all the variables. But it will focus all of Government on meeting these outcomes, rather than just focusing on outputs. The 10 outcomes sought are:
- a reduction in long-term welfare dependency, in particular a significant drop in the number of people who have been on a benefit for more than 12 months
- more young children, and particularly Maori and Pacific children, in early childhood education
- immunisation rates for infants to increase, and a substantial reduction in rheumatic fever cases among children
- a reduction in the number of assaults on children
- an increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification
- a more skilled workforce, with an increase in the number of people coming through with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees
- a reduction in the crime rate, not just total crime, but also violent crime and youth crime
- a reduction in the rate of re-offending
- a one-stop online shop for all government advice and support that businesses need
- see transactions with government completed easily in a digital environment
I am pleased to see the crime focus is not just on total crime, which is a fairly meaningless figure which counts a minor cannabis offence the same as a murder. Also pleased to see the focus on improving the government’s online presence.
I have appointed Ministers to lead each of these 10 results, along with a public service chief executive who is accountable for demonstrating real progress against his or her result.
Excellent, you need the accountability of a Minister to drive things.
Underneath each of the results will be a measurable and stretching target, like a certain percentage increase or decrease within a particular time.
We have already decided one of these concrete targets.
For example, the Minister of Education has told me that for result number five she has set a target of 85 per cent of 18-year-olds having NCEA level 2 or equivalent in five years.
The current figure is around 68 per cent, so achieving the target will be very tough.
But I don’t want easy targets. I want targets that are going to stretch the ability of the public sector to deliver them, and that are going to force change.
Because if they are easy targets they aren’t worth doing.
This is in fact the most significant part of the speech, rather than the ministry merger which most of the media seemed focused on.
This term, there will be no more than 36,475 full-time equivalent positions in core government administration.
We are under that number now and we will stay under it.
The cap will count most people working in government departments and in some Crown entities, but doesn’t include frontline staff like teachers, police officers, hospital staff or prison officers.
When we came into Government in 2008, we immediately imposed a cap of just under 39,000 FTE positions in core government administration.
That cap was successful in turning around what had been a huge increase in public service numbers.
The definition of core government administration wasn’t around at the time, but we know that from 2002 to 2008 the number of people employed in government departments increased by around 12,000 FTEs. That’s an overall increase of 38 per cent in just six years.
Our cap changed that. The number of FTE positions in core government administration stopped growing, and then dropped by about 2,400 over three years.
So the cap of 36,475 is still massively higher than the 29,000 it was just a decade ago.
Our intention is to create a new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on 1 July this year.
This new department would integrate the functions of:
- The Ministry of Economic Development.
- The Department of Labour.
- The Ministry of Science and Innovation.
- The Department of Building and Housing.
I have long advocated that we should carry on doing what Labour did in their last term (reversing what National did in the 90s) and have fewer government departments, and fewer Ministers incidentally. You both reduce backend costs, but also make collaboration easier.
And I do want to say that this is the only departmental merger we are currently planning.
I’m not ruling them out in the future, but there is no plan for wholesale reorganisation.
A pity, but that will at least give some certainty to public servants who are having a tough time of it.