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Dr Greg Clydesdale

Looking for places to cut expenditure: Tax-payer funded lobby groups

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The National government is now considering areas where they can reduce government expenditure. I would like to draw attention to a class of government departments that have been created with the intention of maximizing welfare for certain groups of New Zealanders. These departments have admirable goals which they aim for by providing information and policy advice. They have now been in existence long enough to give us an idea if they have been successful in achieving their goals, or have they just become tax-payer funded lobby groups.

To begin with, I would like to draw your attention to the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs (MPIA). All New Zealanders with a heart will approve of our governments support of the tsunami victims in Samoa. However, this aid was not directed by MPIA but by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. MPIA’s concern is people in New Zealand of Pacific Island descent. I recently encountered MPIA’s activities regarding information and policy advice when I released a paper saying that immigration was fueling a Pacific underclass in New Zealand. The CEO of MPIA responded by saying this is wrong and attacked me personally.

If we accept the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs’ view that their peoples are doing well, we have to ask why ‘do we need this department?’ Pacific peoples are the only migrant group that get their own department. We do not have a department of British Affairs or South African Affairs. They seem to be acquiring a status equal to the signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi. The irony is Samoa, for example, was a German colony. New Zealand only took it over on the request of the British government on the outbreak of the First World War. After that we only ruled the island for 48 years.

Although given special treatment, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs has revealed itself to be nothing more than a propaganda Ministry.

The number of Pacific People living on low incomes has risen from 13% in 1982 to 29% in 2004 (and it has been as high as 44%). In this time the Pacific population in New Zealand has grown from approximately 120,000 to approximately 250,000. This data tells us that the number of Pacific people living on low incomes in NZ has risen from approximately 15,600 to 72,500.

If there is one statistic that helps explain the poor performance of NZ’s social programs, it is an increase in 57,000 people on the lowest income groups. An increase in this number places a huge burden on social services, and deprives other New Zealanders of resources needed to advance. Clearly the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs is failing to improve the livelihood of Pacific people.

There are too many government departments that exist on the rationale of improving welfare but in reality are political tokenism. This Ministry is one of a number of tax-payer funded lobby groups. Another is the Office of Ethnic affairs. Earlier this year, this office spent your money bringing Philippe Legrain to our shores. Legrain had written a book entitled Immigrants: why your country needs them. In this book, he claims that all countries benefit from all types of immigration under all circumstances.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs paid for Legrain to tour the country, so he could tell New Zealand businesses they would be more successful if they had a multi-ethnic workforce. His logic goes that diversity of thought leads to innovative thinking, therefore having people on your staff with different ethnic backgrounds should lead to innovation and economic growth. Therefore, we need more migrants from diverse ethnic backgrounds. His prime evidence seemed to be the fact that Arsenal was a successful British soccer team and it was comprised of players of different racial back grounds. He seemed to ignore the fact that Arsenal had spent millions securing players with the best skills – it had nothing to do with ethnic diversity.

There are many departments charged with raising productivity in New Zealand, and the Office of Ethnic Affairs does not have expertise to enter the productivity debate. In fact, government sponsored research reveals that people from minority ethnic cultures have trouble fitting in our labour market. Ironically, the Office of Ethnic Affairs was partly set up in light of the problems such migrants face. The OEA is a government department set up to remedy the failings of our immigration policy. It is a tax payer funded solution to the failings of another government department. And what is the OEA’s solution? – to suggest we need more of these migrants that are causing the problem.

What makes the OEA even scarier is they now think they can tell New Zealand managers who they should employ and who make the best workers.

The OEA also use tax payer money for event management. They organize seminars with groups, like Chinese Business groups. I personally would find these seminars of interest. I just don’t understand why tax-payer money is involved.

The last of the tax-payer funded lobby groups that I shall refer to is the Ministry of Woman’s Affairs created in 1984 under the guidance of Anne Hercus who was concerned with women’s secondary role in society. Mrs Hercus expected the department to have a short life-span. She told the Press that the

‘ultimate aim of the Ministry was to phase itself out of existence. Mrs Hercus said that she was optimistic that that could be achieved in her political life time’ (The Press 20/11/84). Mrs Hercus’s political career ended some time ago, but her department still perpetuates its existence. Its budget has grown as has its staff numbers.

These departments have many things in common. First, they are created in the belief that their existence will solve social and economic problems, but have failed to do so. Second, the continued existence of these problems is used as a justification for these departments to get tax payer money. Third, their role of advising the go

vernment places them in an advocacy role which is too frequently not neutral. This puts them in the role of tax-payer funded lobby groups.

We need less advocates and statistics collectors – The government departments that are truly in the front line are the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development. I personally would like to see the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs(MPIA) budget re-directed to these departments, to target poor performing people of all ethnic groups. These departments have people working in the front line trying to make a difference.

Many government departments seem to perpetuate their immortality. The government’s current cost –cutting regime is a good time to ask ‘Do these departments truly make a difference that justifies the expense?’

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. – Publisher Earnest Benn