Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spending, Saving and the 'Gone By Lunchtime' List (updated)

In the face of constant calls to release policy, John Key has been insisting against all the evidence that he already has, 14 polices, to be precise -- but these are not even 14 blocks of cheese (as David Slack points out they're barely even 14 cheese slices ).  The biggest slice includes a still vague post-budget promise to cut taxes "somewhere north" of Michael Cullen's stake in the ground.

Conventional wisdom however suggests he will have a problem answering Michael Cullen's block of cheese with more than even a small slice of cheese.  Not only is it still conventional post-budget wisdom that we all just got a tax cut (when all we got was a partial inflation adjustment), and that tax cuts are inflationary (which they aren't), it's still conventional wisdom that when National comes to put together a fat tax-cutting budget, they're going to find that the cupboard is bare, and Michael Cullen has already stolen the last of the chocolate. The oncoming economic woes only underscore the problem, say the conventional pundits -- and when it comes to punditry, there's none more conventional than the Listener's Jane Clifton, who says this week,

 it looks very much as though Cullen has used up all available oxygen in the scary chamber of fiscal responsibility. He has even – reluctantly – plunged us into a likely cash deficit, and with the economic downturn upon us, only a buccaneer would try anything bolder.

Ooh er.  A buccaneer!  How swashbuckling. 

Well, not for the first time, the pundits are wrong -- and just for a change I'm going to help National by showing they're wrong.

First of all, as Fran O'Sullivan points out [via The Hive], there's no need at all to buckle a swash.  Alan Bollard's "gloomier economic prognosis" than Cullen's actually "gives National the room it needs to campaign on even bigger tax cuts" without going into deficit, since with things in the toilet even Bollard might gather together enough sense to see he's been a macroeconomic fool.

And second of all, the cupboard they're confusing with Mother Hubbard's is just dripping with fat that can be excised.  It's laden down with sacred cows that need killing.  As PJ O'Rourke points out, the first secret when you're trying to balance the budget and give tax cuts the size of Texas is "to avoid looking for ridiculous examples of government waste."  When you're looking to make spending  cuts you don't want to "page through the minutiae in the "Notes and Appendices to the ... Budget," sifting the "Detailed Budget Estimates by Agency" section until you come up with something like the Department of the Interior's Helium Fund," at which point you "grow very indignant or start making dull, budget-critic-type helium jokes."  No, you want to slash wholesale, cutting bone if necessary -- after all, this is only government bone, with most of it concentrated around government skulls.

There's no need at all to worry about what to cut when without too much effort you can put together a list for the chopping block like the one below, a list my colleague Luke Howison calls 'The Gone By Lunchtime List'.

Luke points out a something crucial most of the conventional pundits have overlooked in their ministrations:  there are 407 -- four hundred and goddamn seven! -- government departments, offices, organisations, councils, SOEs and quangos just waiting, nay demanding, to be chopped down to size, in which hundreds of thousands of people spend their days drawing down a tax-paid salary paid to get in our way.  Given the parlous economic conditions, it would be foolish indeed not to liberate these guys and gals just to get them off our backs.  Fortunately for you all, Luke and his brother Phil have already done the job, helpfully sorting them out for an incoming government into categories. Here's the list a new PM could announce in November:

Gone by Lunchtime, ie., Don't Come Monday:

Office for the Children's Commissioner (he hasn't stopped the killing, has he)
Families Commission (ditto)
Commerce Commission  (AKA Communist Commission)
Ministry for Women's Affairs
Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
Ministry for Maori Affairs  (let all 'their people' organise their own damn affairs)
Race Relations Conciliator  (have you noticed him successfully conciliating any races? No, me either)
Ministry of Youth Development  (let hoodie-wearers buy their own spray cans)
Ministry of Economic Development (the economy would develop quite nicely without Jim Anderton's attentions, thank you)
NZQA (provides neither quality, nor assurance)
Housing New Zealand (let the bureaucrats pay for their own holidays, and private house-builders do what they do best)
Department of Building & Housing   (why impoverish home owners and house builders to pay for a ministry that does things worse than any house builder in the land?) 
Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand
Asia New Zealand Foundation
Audit New Zealand, part of Office of the Controller and Auditor-General
Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game Council
Broadcasting Standards Authority
Broadcasting Commission
Central South Island Fish and Game Council
Child, Youth and Family (have they done any of the three any good?)
Creative New Zealand (let creative New Zealanders pay their own way)
Department of Internal Affairs
Department of Labour
Eastern Fish and Game Council
Electrical Workers Registration Board, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Electricity Commission (nice work, guys, well done)
Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (ditto)
Energy Safety Service, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Environmental Risk Management Authority
Environment Bay of Plenty
Environment Canterbury
Environment Court, part of Ministry of Justice
Environment Southland
Environment Waikato
Family and Community Services, part of Ministry of Social Development
Fish & Game New Zealand
Gambling Commission (I'm betting they'll object to this)
Governor-General (we're a republic now!)
Hawke's Bay Fish and Game Council
Heartland Services, part of Ministry of Social Development
Human Rights Commission
International Services, part of Ministry of Social Development
Investment New Zealand, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Measurement and Product Safety Service, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Ministry of Consumer Affairs, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Ministry of Economic Development
Ministry of Tourism, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Motor Vehicle Traders Register, part of Ministry of Economic Development
National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, part of Department of Labour (bet there's some unemployable women on this 'council,' right?)
National Health Committee, part of Ministry of Health
Nelson/Marlborough Fish and Game Council
New Zealand Climate Change Office, part of Ministry for the Environment (haven't changed much climate so far, no?)
New Zealand Export Credit Office, part of The Treasury
New Zealand Game Bird Habitat Trust Board
New Zealand Geographic Board
New Zealand Sports Drug Agency (if it can't be funded voluntarily, what argument is there for keeping it?)
New Zealand Teachers Council
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
New Zealand Valuers Registration Board (let them register themselves)
North Canterbury Fish and Game Council
Northland Fish and Game Council
Overseas Investment Commission (whose only job is to stop overseas investment!)
Otago Fish and Game Council
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
Personal Property Securities Register, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Plant Variety Rights Office, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Registrar of Unions, part of Department of Labour
Removal Review Authority
Remuneration Authority, part of Department of Labour
Residence Review Board
Southland Fish and Game Council
Sport and Recreation New Zealand (we did sport well, back before governments started paying for it)
SPEaR, part of Ministry of Social Development
Taranaki Fish and Game Council
Takeovers Panel
Te Mangai Paho ((if Maori broadcasting can't be funded voluntarily, what argument is there for keeping it?)
Te Matatini Society Incorporated
Tenancy Services, part of Department of Building and Housing
Toi Te Taiao: The Bioethics Council (oh please)
Tourism New Zealand
UNESCO Secretariat for the New Zealand National Commission
Wellington Fish and Game Council
West Coast Fish and Game Council

Phew!  And here's more, to face a slightly later axe:

Deadlock Holiday, ie., Don't come back in August:
Ministry for the Environment (all it takes is codification of common law and abolition of the RMA, and they're gone) 
Ministry of Social Development (let's face it, our social life hasn't been developing well for years, has it)
Ministry of Arts and Culture (aka Ministry for Subsidising Middle Class Tastes)
Ministry of Education (it's been some years since any education was fostered by the fount of political correctness and illiteracy
Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit, part of The Treasury
Crown Health Financing Agency
Employment Institutions Information Centre, part of Department of Labour
Employment Relations Authority, part of Department of Labour
Employment Relations Infoline, part of Department of Labour
Employment Relations Service, part of Department of Labour
Health and Disability Commissioner
Health Research Council of New Zealand
Health Sponsorship Council
Insolvency and Trustee Service, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Inland Revenue Department (who among us won't enjoy that day)
Labour Inspectorate, part of Department of Labour
Ministry of Health  (bureaucrats, not health workers) 
New Zealand Artificial Limbs Board
New Zealand Debt Management Office, part of The Treasury
New Zealand Food Safety Authority  (can't people just pay Sue Kedgely to advise them?)
Occupational Safety and Health Service, part of Department of Labour (they do stop people performing their occupations, but there's blessed little safety or health been seen)
Office for Disability Issues, part of Ministry of Social Development
Office for Senior Citizens, part of Ministry of Social Development
Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector, part of Ministry of Social Development
Office of Ethnic Affairs, part of Department of Internal Affairs
Office of Film and Literature Classification (we're adults, thanks, we'll classify our own films and literature)
Office of Human Rights Proceedings, part of Human Rights Commission (properly known as the Human Wrongs Commissariat)
Office of the Children's Commissioner
Office of Treaty Settlements, part of Ministry of Justice
Retirement Commission, Whiriwhiria!
Securities Commission
State Housing Appeals Authority, part of Department of Building and Housing
TeachNZ, part of Ministry of Education
Te Puni Kokiri
Tertiary Education Commission
Waitangi Tribunal, part of Ministry of Justice
Work and Income, part of Ministry of Social Development

And now for the one Helen Clark has been waiting for, the 'Sell, Sell, Sell!' list -- assets that should be sold so they become real assets instead of a drain on taxpayers; sold to pay off government debt and extinguish some contingent liabilities:

Sell, Sell, Sell!
Accident Compensation Corporation (after their monopoly has been broken)
Accounting Standards Review Board
AgResearch Limited
Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust
AgriQuality Limited
Antarctica New Zealand
Airways Corporation of New Zealand Limited
Animal Control Products Limited
Asure New Zealand Limited
Aviation Security Service, part of Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
BIZ Information Centres, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Building Control, part of Department of Building and Housing
Career Services rapuara
Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
Crown Minerals, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Dispute Resolution Services Ltd , part of Accident Compensation Corporation
Earthquake Commission
Education Review Office
Electricity Corporation of New Zealand Limited
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Foundation for Research Science & Technology
Genesis Power Limited
Healthline, part of Ministry of Health
Immunisation Advisory Centre, part of Ministry of Health
Maternity Services, part of Ministry of Health
Medsafe, part of Ministry of Health
National Screening Unit, part of Ministry of Health
New Zealand Health Information Service, part of Ministry of Health
HortResearch
Housing New Zealand Corporation (assets on a building-by-building basis sold)
Industrial Research Limited
Industry Capability Network, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited
International Accreditation New Zealand, part of Testing Laboratory Registration Council
Landcare Research New Zealand Limited
Landcorp Farming Limited
Land Transport New Zealand
Leadership Development Centre
Learning Media Limited
Mediation Service, part of Department of Labour
Meridian Energy Limited
Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited
Mighty River Power Limited
Ministry of Fisheries
Ministry of Research, Science & Technology
Ministry of Transport
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited
National Radiation Laboratory, part of Ministry of Health
New Zealand Blood Service
New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Limited
New Zealand Lotteries Commission
New Zealand Lottery Grants Board
New Zealand Post Limited
New Zealand Qualifications Authority
New Zealand Railways Corporation (we won't get much for the 'infrastructure,' true but we'll save a mint on annual running costs, and the real estate on which the tracks sit should be worth a quid in the major cities.)
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra  (if Auckland's APO can make themselves pay, then Wellington's orchestra can too)
New Zealand Venture Investment Fund Limited
New Zealand Film Commission
Pacific Business Trust
Pharmaceutical Management Agency Limited
Public Sector Training Organisation
Public Trust
Qualmark New Zealand Limited
Queen Elizabeth II National Trust
Quotable Value Limited
Radio New Zealand Limited
Road Safety TrustRadio Spectrum Management, part of Ministry of Economic Development (sell the spectrum, keep the registry)
Reserve Bank of New Zealand (after removing their monopoly on printing money, and introducing restrictions on new fiduciary media)
Research, Information and Capability Group, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Royal Society of New Zealand (let the Queen pay)
Scion (scientific research)
Solid Energy New Zealand Limited
Standards New Zealand
Statistics New Zealand
StudyLink, part of Ministry of Social Development
Television New Zealand Limited (freed of the charter, it's bound to make its owners a profit again)
Testing Laboratory Registration Council
Transit New Zealand
Transmission Holdings Limited
Transpower New Zealand Limited

And finally, stuff in which ownership should be distributed as shares to existing and past taxpayers.

Distribute as tradeable shares to existing and past taxpayers, ie., to those who paid for them
Alexander Turnbull Library (part of National Library of New Zealand)
Aoraki Polytechnic
Archives New Zealand
Auckland District Health Board
Auckland University of Technology
Bay of Plenty District Health Board
Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
Canterbury District Health Board
Capital & Coast District Health Board
Christchurch College of Education
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
Counties Manukau District Health Board
Department of Conservation (all it takes is the privatisation of government land, and recognition of existing rights in land and foreshore, and they're gone.  Could be incorporated with former New Zealand Historic Places Trust to form a wholly voluntary NZ National Trust)) 
Dunedin College of Education
Eastern Institute of Technology
Hawke's Bay District Health Board
Hutt Valley District Health Board
Lakes District Health Board
Lincoln University
Manukau Institute of Technology
Maori Television
Massey University
MidCentral District Health Board
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
National Library of New Zealand - Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa
National Rural Fire Authority, part of New Zealand Fire Service Commission
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
New Zealand Fire Service, part of New Zealand Fire Service Commission
New Zealand Fire Service Commission
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (could be incorporated with some portion of former DoC assets to form a wholly voluntary NZ National Trust)
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee
Northland District Health Board
Northland Polytechnic
Open Polytechnic of New Zealand
Otago District Health Board
Otago Polytechnic
School Services, part of National Library of New Zealand - Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa
South Canterbury District Health Board
Southern Institute of Technology
Southland District Health Board
Tai Poutini Polytechnic
Tairawhiti District Health
Tairawhiti Polytechnic
Taranaki District Health Board
Telford Rural Polytechnic
Te Wananga o Aotearoa
Te Wananga-o-Raukawa
Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi
The Correspondence School
Timberlands West Coast Limited
Unitec Institute of Technology
Universal College of Learning
University of Auckland
University of Canterbury
University of Otago
University of Waikato
Victoria University of Wellington
Waiariki Institute of Technology
Waikato District Health Board
Waikato Institute of Technology
Wairarapa District Health Board
Waitemata District Health Board
Wanganui UCOL, part of Universal College of Learning
Wellington Institute of Technology
Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki
Whanganui District Health Board
Whitireia Community Polytechnic
West Coast District Health Board

I'm sure it's possible to quibble over one or two of these on the list -- and even over a few that have been left off, like the Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand, the Mental Health Commission, and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management -- but frankly why wouldn't one want to relieve the tax burden of hard-working New Zealander by taking these drones from our shoulders?

For any incoming government looking to make savings, there's a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity just waiting for them.

UPDATE: Updated to reflect comments and suggestions from Ad Libertas and Comrade MOT.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Comrade MOT said...

Child, Youth and Family

May be ineffective and need an overhaul, or perhaps their roles transfered to a different department, or altered slightly, but unless I'm mistaken isnt their role to ensure welfare of children, ie to take them from abusive families, ensure kids are looked after if parents are imprison or not up to looking after them. I think they may also have a role in child "detention centers" for criminal kids.
(As I say I am open to your criticisms of the way they operate and their exact roll etc. but I don't know about gone by lunch time.)

I also think you put NZQA on 2 lists

6/10/2008 02:00:00 pm  
Blogger Comrade MOT said...

You have also done some double dipping e.g.

Department of Building and Housing
and
Building Control, part of Department of Building and Housing

You don't need the latter, you already got rid of it in the former.

6/10/2008 02:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Overseas Investment Commission (whose only job is to stop overseas investment!)

I think that die (pretentious) hard Libz as Rebel Radius would disapprove the chopping of the OIC since, he/she doesn't like foreigners investing in NZ such as the Auckland Airport.

6/10/2008 02:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Hi Mot, you miss the point. It doesn't matter if one or two are mentioned twice. The point is that there are *several hundred* parasitical public depts and bodies to be unceremoniously dumped. Happy days!

Big picture, baby.

6/10/2008 02:43:00 pm  
Blogger Ad Libertas said...

Great list!

But why assume all privisation means becoming a profit-making enterpise or be abolished?

Charities and non-profits could be a viable model in some cases. e.g. The MoH's various health advisory services could become a non-profit in the mould of the Consumers Institute. DOC and Historic Places Trust could become NZ's National Trust (which isn't taxpayer funded in the UK).

I suspect that embedded in the vast bureaucracy there are many teams or units that provide useful services that would prove themselves in an open market if detached from the govt. Why abolish them? Why not slice them into separate companies/non-profits/charities and let them sink or swim?

Also, why differentiate between those assets to sell and those to distribute as shares? After taking care of debt and such, why not distribute all of it to taxpayers?

6/10/2008 03:50:00 pm  
Anonymous hanso said...

I agree with every single one of these, except for the Governor General. I wouldn't support a republic untill I knew that all libertarian changes were complete and ireversible.

6/10/2008 03:57:00 pm  
Blogger Comrade MOT said...

While I see that the point is not in the detail, a big long list may look lovely but if it is repeating its self it actually looses its true meaning.

If there are so many anyway why not be accurate and not double dip.

6/10/2008 05:54:00 pm  
Blogger Clunking Fist said...

WTF is "UNESCO Secretariat for the New Zealand National Commission"?!!!

Oh, and I feel you have the very first two items in the wrong order: Families Decommission by morning smoko, if you ask me.

I'm sure I agree with 90% of the rest of it, though.

6/10/2008 06:44:00 pm  
Blogger Oswald Bastable said...

You missed all the local councils!

That should counter the odd double-up!

6/10/2008 08:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I suspect that embedded in the vast bureaucracy there are many teams or units that provide useful services that would prove themselves in an open market if detached from the govt. Why abolish them?


Ever even visited fucking wellington? By definition: that is not the case.

Why not slice them into separate companies/non-profits/charities and let them sink or swim?


Because it takes lots and lots of effort. Really the only question is: which to close down vs which to sell as going concerns. Distributing to "taxpayers" - how do you do that? Proportionally to their Income? Proportional to the square of their income before tax? (I might agree with that) Or equally to every taxpayer - it is ridiculously inefficient.
Closing down and selling the real assets is far lower overhead and far more efficient.

the problem, after all, is not to raise money as "refunds" to taxpayers. the problem is to get these out of the government as soon as possible and keep them out for ever Handing out shares in hospitals to everyone will not achieve that. Selling as a going concern to Kaiser Permanente (for $1) is better - but realistically they' want hundreds of millions to take them on with all their liabilies, staff contracts and so on.


Firing everyone, sell the real assets on trademe in a week - that will get the job done!


Also, why differentiate between those assets to sell and those to distribute as shares? After taking care of debt and such, why not distribute all of it to taxpayers?


Rather the opposite: don't distribute anything. The point is to make NZ more efficient - don't confuse this with one-off windfall gains. Better that we have to find 10 Billion dollars and pay to get these taken off the public books than we have to take three years to carefully corporatise everything and then distribute it.

But, much much better to dissolve the structures, release the staff, and sell any remaining real assets for whatever they will reach on trademe.

then we're done.


(Oh PS: don't forget the state schools, On prime real estate, most of 'em - they'd be no shortage of buyers if that was auctioned off, without the staff liabilities of course)

6/10/2008 08:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidently, I was talking to someone at the "national health committee" - they're expecting to be abolished by the incoming National government.

On the other hand - I was talking to a sustainability manager who said "yeah, well. I've got a big fat redundancy clause in my contract". I said: what do you do when the new employment law nullifies that contract and that clause?

Oh well. Such are socialists.

Which again is why these organisations need to be dissolved and the assets solved, not tried to be flogged off as going concerns. Railways, RadioNZ, TVNZ, even airNZ all fall into that category). Dissolve the company, sell the assets to anyone who will take them on, you're done!

6/10/2008 08:43:00 pm  
Blogger Luke H said...


If there are so many anyway why not be accurate and not double dip.


It took hours to go through the list (407!) and sort it into categories; it was mentally exhausting and I couldn't be assed, quite frankly, trying to remove duplicates.

What I did realise was how horrifically huge the beast of government is, and that is the whole point of the list.

6/11/2008 04:05:00 pm  
Blogger Paul Walker said...

In your "Distribute as tradeable shares to existing and past taxpayers" list you have the University of Canterbury and the University of Otago. But there is a problem, neither of these universities are a creation of central government - as all other universities are - so I don't think you would have the right to distribute any shares to anyone. Governments in the past from fallen foul of this fact.

6/15/2008 06:15:00 pm  
Blogger Clunking Fist said...

Fair point Paul....but the govt funding will STILL be withdrawn thank you.

6/16/2008 01:28:00 pm  

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