Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of State Services)
: I move,
That the State Sector Management Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I will move that the State Sector Management Bill be considered by the Education and Science Committee, that the committee report finally to the House on or before 24 November 2010, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 187 and 190(1)(b) and (c).
This bill is an omnibus bill that provides for machinery of Government changes across several sectors that have been well signalled. This bill provides for the amalgamation of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology into a new Ministry of Science and Innovation. It provides for the Minister of Research, Science and Technology to appoint boards to make independent funding decisions, and it provides for the amalgamation of the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs.
Many State sector agencies will not receive increases in their Budget baselines for a considerable period of time, reflecting the tight economic times. At the same time, the New Zealand public’s expectations of what the Public Service can do for them continue to rise. We expect the Government sector to organise itself in a way that makes it more accessible to New Zealanders and delivers its services more efficiently. These changes are made in that context. These amalgamations are expected to improve services within the existing baselines, reduce costs in the short to medium term, and future-proof the long-term delivery of Government services. This is consistent with the Government’s overall direction for the State services and the Government’s aim of improving State service performance by moving resources to support the front line.
There are three parts to this bill. Part 1 amalgamates the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology into a new Ministry of Science and Innovation. It abolishes the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology as a separate entity, and it repeals the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Act 1990, which is to be replaced with the provisions in this bill that are to be enacted in a new Research, Science and Technology Bill. This amalgamation addresses a number of perceived weaknesses in the present fragmented system of government support for research and development and for innovation. It addresses the duplication of policy advice on research, science, and technology planning and prioritisation between the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the
Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. It addresses the confusion and complexity in relation to funding programmes, and streamlines those. The bill also deals with concerns about the long-term ability of two small agencies to retain critical skills and maintain services at the required level in a tight fiscal environment.
The bill will enable the Minister to establish one or more boards to make independent decisions on proposals for the allocation of specified funding for research, science, and technology. The funding decisions will be made for the purposes described in this bill, in accordance with criteria that will be set and notified by the Minister in the
Gazette. They will also be made on the basis of information provided to the boards by the chief executive of the new ministry. The decisions must be made in an independent, fair, and transparent manner, and must be referred to the chief executive for implementation.
The bill transfers the staff of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to the new ministry, which is being established by Order in Council.
Parts 2 and 3 of the bill provide for the amalgamation of the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs. These amalgamations recognise the increasing role that technology will play in enabling the Government to manage information efficiently and effectively, so that New Zealanders can access information in ways that suit them. Each of these three agencies stores and provides information that is collected by the Government for the benefit of New Zealand and New Zealanders. All three are investing to deliver information online 24/7, so bringing the National Library and Archives New Zealand together with the Department of Internal Affairs will support that development, with less cost and less risk. It will also provide opportunities for greater capability, economies of scale, and better public access. As the Minister responsible for the National Library, the Hon Nathan Guy, has already made clear, a large number of countries maintain their services in a similar way to that proposed in this bill. In undertaking this amalgamation, the legislation has preserved the statutory roles of the National Librarian, the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, and the Chief Archivist.
Part 2 amends the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa) Act to reflect the change of status of the National Library from being a Public Service department to being part of the Department of Internal Affairs. It maintains the statutory role of the National Librarian and preserves the National Librarian’s functions within the Department of Internal Affairs. It maintains the statutory role of the Library and Information Advisory Commission and of the Guardians Kaitiaki of the Alexander Turnbull Library. It also continues the Alexander Turnbull Library and the functions of the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, who is to be appointed by the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs on the recommendation of the National Librarian. The bill also provides for the transfer of staff from the National Library to the Department of Internal Affairs.
Part 3 amends the Public Records Act to reflect the change of status of Archives New Zealand from being a Public Service department to being part of the Department of Internal Affairs. It maintains the statutory office of the Chief Archivist and preserves the constitutional role requiring the Chief Archivist to make decisions independently of the Minister and the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs in relation to public offices and local authorities on the following: the disposal of records, the issuing standards, the provision of advice, the monitoring of compliance with the Act, and the exempting of a public office or local authority from compliance with a standard or instruction issued by the Chief Archivist. Part 3 also maintains the statutory role of the
Archives Council and provides for the transfer of staff from Archives New Zealand to the Department of Internal Affairs.
It is intended that the bill be divided into the following three separate bills at the Committee of the whole House stage: a Research, Science and Technology Bill, a National Library of New Zealand Amendment Bill, and a Public Records Amendment Bill.
The substance of this bill has been well signalled. Its purpose is to streamline and improve the delivery of the public services of New Zealand. Important safeguards and constitutional arrangements are maintained in order to enhance and protect the role of some designated officers. It also brings New Zealand into line with the way in which a number of other jurisdictions deal with these areas. I certainly commend the bill to the House.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: I intend to move that all the words after “Education and Science Committee” be omitted from the motion to refer the bill to a select committee. The reason I do is that once again in this House we have the National Government creating a completely different kind of process for dealing with legislation, which ignores the Standing Orders about people being able to participate in this House. Once again, for a bill that the Minister himself has delivered to us in its first reading in a deadpan “there is nothing to see here; move along” kind of tone, he has come to the House and said “But, having said that, we will ignore all of the processes of Parliament.” This is happening with bill after bill, and it is simply not acceptable to members on this side of the House to see the Standing Orders overridden in that way by the Minister.
While the Minister is still here, I also note that participating in this debate is extremely difficult when he has chosen to withhold most of the information requested under the Official Information Act about the merger of the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs. That complaint is currently with the Ombudsman, who is waiting to hear back from the Minister on the Ombudsman’s recommendation. It would have been interesting to know from the Minister what about these papers is so difficult and so controversial that he will not release them so that parties on this side of the House can participate with the full knowledge of what lay behind the Government’s thinking in putting this bill together. But we stand here today without that information; the Minister is withholding that information from us.
Is it not ironic that in a bill that is all about access of New Zealanders to information in our public records, the Minister is withholding all of the information that led him to put this bill before the House? We would like to see a little more openness and a little more transparency from the Minister—not so much colour in the ties, but a little bit more transparency about this bill, because it is an important bill.
Before I return to the other aspects of the bill that I want to discuss, I think that given that this is a State sector management bill, it is timely to acknowledge the excellent work being done by State sector agencies in the Canterbury region at this time—in particular, in terms of local government, civil defence, the Ministry of Social Development, defence personnel, the police, and other State agencies that have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the last few days. I heard the Prime Minister even refer to Work and Income staff, who have rung all the elderly people who live alone in Christchurch. That is why we need a strong Public Service in New Zealand. Those people are there in times of need, and it has been great to see them step up in Christchurch.
Labour will oppose this bill, but I make clear at the outset that that does not particularly relate to the merger of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology
and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. We believe that there possibly is some value in that, although, as my colleague David Shearer will refer to at a later point in this debate, we are not sure that it is the biggest and most crucial and important issue for research and development in New Zealand. However, we do not take a position of opposition to that merger.
I shall concentrate in my speech today on the merger of the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs. It is worth noting that it was only a decade ago that Archives New Zealand was separated from the Department of Internal Affairs, and it is only 20 years ago since the National Library was separated from the Ministry of Education. There were important reasons and justifications for those separations, and they were about the important constitutional, democratic, and historical roles those two institutions play in New Zealand, and we should not understate the importance of those roles in our future. It is only through the work of the Alexander Turnbull Library, the National Library, and Archives New Zealand that we have information for Treaty claims, for instance. It is only through those institutions that we know where the power cables are when people go to do developments. Those are the practical things that people get out of those kinds of institutions. But the sense of national identity given to us by these institutions, and the importance of their independence, cannot be overstated. That is why they were separated, and that is why their re-merger into the Department of Internal Affairs, for the flimsiest of reasons, needs to be opposed.
This legislation is unnecessary. The Cabinet paper that was put forward by Minister Ryall about this merger said that Archives New Zealand and the National Library were “well-regarded and successful institutions”. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? These institutions are performing better than they ever have. If any stakeholders in the library and archives sector had actually been asked for their views—which they were not—they would have told the Minister that the two institutions were operating better than they ever had. Yet now we find them being merged into the Department of Internal Affairs, where, in the case of Archives New Zealand, there were significant problems in the 1990s. A court case was taken to try to solve those problems, because Archives New Zealand was not getting the attention it needed. It was being subsumed into a larger agency that did not have the concerns of our future archives, our future records, and the accountability of the Government at heart.
This measure is unnecessary, and it will not add anything to the way in which New Zealand’s constitutional framework fits together. The main justification that has been put forward in the Cabinet paper, and also by the Minister today, is about savings. Well, let us be absolutely clear about that. The Cabinet paper shows that the potential savings from this exercise will be between $3 million and $9 million over 4 years. But we have to take out of that figure a $2 million set-up cost, so we are talking about less than $150,000 a year in savings—and 15 jobs are going. We will have less than $150,000 a year in savings and 15 fewer jobs. That does not stack up on financial grounds, let alone on constitutional or democratic grounds.
The other justification that has been put forward—and it was put forward by the Minister in his speech moments ago—is about the importance of digitisation, the information technology justification. But I caution the Minister that the record of government in large super-platform information technology projects is not great. We are seeing it right now in Housing New Zealand Corporation; we have seen it before with the INCIS system for the police. The vision that somehow or other we will get a super-platform of information that will bring together all of our Government records, and all of our historic and civic information, is in fact likely to be paved with difficulties. I do
not believe that that justification is enough for upsetting the arrangements that have been in place for the last decade and that are working well.
It is quite clear, when we look at the Government’s philosophy here, that it wants fewer Government agencies, and that it wants fewer departments. The Government is not looking at what these agencies and departments are actually doing. On this side of the House we are all for an efficient and effective Public Service, so let us find the savings and find the efficiencies. But why should we go looking at agencies that are actually doing a good job, that are performing the role that has been asked of them, and that have that important historical and constitutional significance? If we want to look for savings and if we want to look for efficiencies, then by all means we should do that, but I ask why we must upset the entire structure of these organisations. Reinventing the wheel seems to be the speciality of this Government.
I will quote from one piece of correspondence that I received from someone about this bill. It begins: “Dear Mr Ryall, I am now in my 90th year and I cannot believe that I have to write yet another letter to members of our Government because some of its inexperienced members are not able to grasp the significance of our national treasures.” The person goes on to say: “Does the British Parliament try to squeeze the governance of the British Library into some minor department, or the US Senate do the same to the Library of Congress? The scale may be different in New Zealand, but the significance to the respective nations is the same. These national repositories are unique.” That person is speaking for a lot of people across the library and archives community who do not want this merger to take place, and who know that it is an ideological exercise in creating fewer Government departments rather than in preserving our heritage.
In the brief time remaining, I will refer to one or two of the specific clauses in this bill—which, no doubt, will pass its first reading in the House today—which we want to look at when the bill comes to a select committee. In particular, I ask whether we can really be assured that there is independence for the Chief Archivist and National Librarian in this bill. We know there is some extension to that independence, but in the end it is not for the functions and powers but for the person to exercise his or her professional judgment. That is a big difference. That person is no longer independent in terms of his or her functions and powers, only in terms of his or her professional judgment. That is a limitation.
The other thing I will draw to the House’s attention is that with the way the bill is worded, these departments could be controlled by any large Government agency. The definition of “department” just states that it is the department that “is for the time being” in charge of these agencies. That means in future the Alexander Turnbull Library could be given to yet another department or agency, and that whole collection will have to be moved again. I am not confident that this bill gives us the independent and high-quality constitutional facilities that Archives New Zealand and the National Library provide. I think the Government is going down a very dangerous path. At the select committee we will want adequate time to be given to all submitters to be able to raise their concerns, because at this stage we are unconvinced that this is the way we should proceed.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki)
: The significance of the speech of the previous Labour speaker, Grant Robertson, will not have been lost on members on this side of the House, nor will it have been lost on the people of New Zealand who are listening in, because that member just advanced an argument against efficiency in government. It was an argument against efficiency in government.
One of the purposes of the State Sector Management Bill is to absorb Archives New Zealand and the National Library into the Department of Internal Affairs. That is an act of efficiency in government, and the Labour Party has made it very, very clear this afternoon that that is what it is opposed to—efficiency in government. The best figures
that I have seen suggest that the potential savings from this merger alone will be in the order of $8 million a year—$8 million a year. So not only is the Labour Party arguing against efficiency in government butalsoit is arguingagainst thrift in government. The money that will be saved from this action, from the passage of this bill, is not the Labour Party’s money. It is not the money of individual Labour MPs. It is the money of the taxpayers of New Zealand. It is beyond me and beyond members on this side of the House that, in the difficult fiscal times New Zealand is living through, with all the other demands that the Government has upon it, the main Opposition party can get up in this House and argue against, firstly, efficiency in government and, secondly, thrift in government.
I am bound to say that as the chair of the Education and Science Committee I very much look forward to chairing the hearings on this bill, and I very much look forward to the Labour Party approaching those hearings in a positive way, as it always does in these matters. I am sure that we will work cooperatively on this exercise.
I will make just one observation about the National Library. It has been a pleasure to serve on the Education and Science Committee and to have been responsible for reviewing the performance of the National Library. That responsibility no longer rests with the committee, and I am sorry about that, because the committee worked in a most non-political way in terms of the interest that it took in the library and in fostering the library’s interests. As the chairman of the committee that had oversight of the National Library, I wanted to make that comment.
I move now to the other significant provision in the bill, which amalgamates the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology into a new Ministry of Science and Innovation. I am pleased to note that the previous Labour Party speaker indicated that the Labour Party was not in principle opposed to this action, and I express the hope that, in due course, that party will vote accordingly. There can be no doubt at all that this country, as part of its economic recovery and part of building a sustainable economy in the future, needs to rethink its approach towards science and the role that science plays in a growing, modern economy.
I can stand here and predict the next Labour Party speaker’s line on this. Do members know what it will be about? It will be all about more money—taking more money from the taxpayer to throw into science. I predict that now. Those members will want to throw more money at it, just as they did for 9 years when they were in Government. For any situation that came up, they threw other people’s money at it and said “She’ll be right.” But, of course, it was not right—it is not right. It is neither responsible nor correct. What is needed in the scientific community in New Zealand today is a coherent, planned, logical approach as to how this country can best develop and use science in the national interest.
Members on this side of the House are, obviously, supporting the State Sector Management Bill. I speak in favour of it. I look forward to chairing the select committee hearings on this bill, and I commend it to the House on its first reading.
DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert)
: I will make a couple of points straight off about the State Sector Management Bill. We oppose this bill because we oppose the amalgamation of Archives New Zealand with the National Library, which Grant Robertson spoke about. We are somewhat more agnostic towards Part 1, which relates to science and the amalgamation of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. I discussed the amalgamation with my colleague Pete Hodgson, who is a former Minister of Research, Science and Technology. He looked at the issue about 3 or 4 years ago, and he decided that although there were some advantages, it was not really worth the cost.
We do not have very strong feelings about this legislation, but I will make three points. The first point goes to what Mr Peachey was saying a minute ago about the costs. I do not know where he gets his costs from, but I have the Auditor-General’s report. The Auditor-General said about the amalgamation of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology that the cost in the next 2 years will be $7.4 million. By 2014, in 4 years’ time, we will have saved $4 million. I ask Mr Peachey whether we will make up $3.2 million in the coming decade. He is absolutely and utterly wrong in terms of the costs. Although Labour members are willing to stand up and say that we are agnostic about this issue, that member should not use that admission to warrant saying that this measure will save us lots of money and that somehow Labour spends lots of money. I tell Mr Peachey that his party is spending the money here, not us. That is my first point. In the short to medium term, this bill does not create any savings, which is one of its objectives. It may create some efficiencies that we are yet to see, but it does not address the turmoil and confusion that will be created, and it does not address the loss of productivity that will happen when those two agencies are brought together. It is a little bit more difficult to estimate the costs that New Zealand will suffer. Let us think about the $7.4 million that we will be spending on this issue and the $3 million that we will lose after 4 years that could be spent more effectively on real science rather than the shuffling of deck chairs that the National Government is proposing.
The second point I want to raise is that the Government has decided on a new name for this amalgamation, which is the Ministry of Science and Innovation. I commend the Government for the new name. It is a good name and I think it identifies where New Zealand should be going. I give credit to the Government for that. It inspires thoughts of what is going on in like-sized countries like Finland, Denmark, Israel, and Singapore, where they spend upwards of 3 or 3.5 percent of their GDP on research and development. We spend 1.2 percent of our GDP on research and development. Most of that expenditure is in Government circles, not where it is really needed, which is in the private sector. Although the name sounds very good and very inspiring, the reality of where this country will go in terms of its real science and innovation falls somewhat short. In a way, this amalgamation is the same wine in an old bottle. We will not really be getting the step change that we have been promised for so long. Colin James wrote about the Budget and mentioned the so-called step change in the science and technology sector. He said: “But we do know it is not a step-change. Mr Key talked in his RST pre-budget speech of ‘igniting potential.’ ”—which is the report Dr Mapp put out—“But he used a small match, well clear of all but a little flammable material.” In other words, it was a fizzle. There was no real flame; there was nothing to inspire or inflame people in terms of moving forward in science and innovation.
We come to a significant point with this new ministry. It needs a new chief executive officer, and the new chief executive officer needs to be somebody who will inspire, who will lead, and who will be world beating in terms of the way that we address science and innovation. So what did our State sector do to advertise the position? It advertised the position for 2½ weeks in the middle of June and July, when in the northern hemisphere many people are on holiday. We have not really tried to find the best. We have looked around and said: “She’ll be right.” We will do the same old thing that we have always done: “She’ll be right.”—poke poke, nudge nudge—“You can have the job.” I do not have anything against the new person; I do not know who will be taking over this job. But I expect that person, whoever it will be, to have been picked out of an international pool of talent; I do not expect that person to be just the guy up the road who happens to be hanging around and giving somebody a wink and a nudge. That is not what we want for this ministry.
The third thing I want to mention is that this Government is always going on about how we need to catch up with Australia. Let us look at Australia’s spend on research and development and science compared with New Zealand’s. Australia upped its budget for research and development and science by 25 percent last year. What did New Zealand do? We spent 7 percent more, following the great Budget announcement in May. Of that figure, 5 percent will go towards inflation—we already know that—so in real terms it is a 2 percent increase in research and development spending by the Government, which is trumpeting this bill as a new march forward.
Hon Steve Chadwick: How aspirational.
DAVID SHEARER: It is not aspirational at all, and it is not inspirational. It is aspirational in the sense that it needs an aspirator in order to breathe. This bill is choking the innovation we want to see in New Zealand.
The Government’s new spending amounts to $56 million a year. Most of that figure will comprise grants and vouchers, for which companies will have to apply to the Government. This initiative will not lift the amount companies spend on research and development, as the research and development tax credit would have done. Rather than instilling a new culture in those companies as they think about research and development, it will instil in them what this Government has told us to avoid, which is dependence on the Government. Companies will now go cap in hand to the Government to ask for more money to spend on research and development. The Government will not increase the companies’ own innovations and thinking, or the new and exciting projects those companies are capable of.
Mr Peachey said he knew what I would say next, and I say to him that this spending is half of what National promised in 2008. It is half of what National took away from the previous Labour Government in terms of spending that was already on the book, in play, and functioning in the form of the 15 percent tax credit. The National Government has been money-pinching to a degree that has undermined spending on science and innovation in this country.
Amalgamating the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology may look like something inspirational, but it is far from what we need. It is an insipid, rather limp attempt to look like we are busy when, in fact, the real issues of the day are going untouched. Thank you.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: The Green Party will be opposing the State Sector Management Bill because it could have a disastrous effect on both the National Library and Archives New Zealand. Those two institutions are important not only for the present generation but also for future generations of New Zealanders.
We are particularly worried that making Archives New Zealand a subordinate agency within the Department of Internal Affairs could undermine its important constitutional role. We believe it should not and must not lose the independence it has gained, particularly through the Public Records Act, which put into statute the independence of the Chief Archivist. We see in this bill a step backwards to the situation that existed last century, when National Archives and the Chief Archivist were subordinate to the Department of Internal Affairs and to the chief executive officer of that agency.
We have been heading in a good direction since the passage of the Public Records Act and the implementation of the 1985 Unesco guidelines on national archives, which insisted on the constitutional independence of the archives of individual countries. To understand the need for that independence we need to look at the reason for the independence of other bodies that are Offices of Parliament. In the case of the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General, a key reason is that potentially both of those offices could be in conflict with the Government. The Ombudsman and the Auditor-General sometimes give what could be described as very critical reports on the behaviour of the executive, so maintaining their independence is critical.
The role of Archives New Zealand in holding Governments to account is not fully understood. The Archives and Records Association of New Zealand states that that independence is important to maintain the “ability to keep governments accountable for their actions through the records they create and maintain.” There will always be a tension—and this tension was brought out during the debate on the Public Records Act—between the Chief Archivist and the chief executive officers of various departments about which records will be kept and which will not. There is always a tendency for chief executives to define certain material as classified and say that it should not be transferred to the archives, or to say that if it is transferred it should be kept classified. There is also a tendency for the departments to say that we should get rid of material that is embarrassing, and that it should not be transferred to Archives New Zealand. There will always be those conflicts.
We will have those conflicts about the Department of Internal Affairs’ own records when they are transferred to Archives New Zealand. If the Chief Archivist is subordinate to the chief executive officer of the Department of Internal Affairs, it will create a problem. We have already seen public debate over, for example, the transfer of some of David Lange’s papers to Archives New Zealand. There was an argument over some papers of the Government Communications Security Bureau and whether they were secret or classified, what should be done with them, and whether they should be culled from the archives. We have had a debate about SIS records and found out that, before the Public Records Act was passed, the SIS got rid of a lot of records it should not have. People have written recently to ask for their records, since the SIS, rightly, adopted a more open policy on the release of archives, but have found that their records were destroyed a few years ago. The archive on my own father, which the family asked for, was destroyed by the SIS a few years back. That was very bad, not only for the family but for the historical record.
That conflict over archives management is quite important. When we use the parallel of the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General we can see that if the Office of the Ombudsmen was made subordinate to the chief executive of the Ministry of Justice, it would undermine the independence of the office. Similarly, if the Auditor-General’s office was placed under Treasury, the Auditor-General’s independent role would be undermined.
Various lobby groups have been active since this move was announced, including a lot of people formerly in Archives New Zealand, leading people in Archives New Zealand, and librarians. All sorts of people have been very concerned about this move, and they have described what happened previously. When National Archives was subordinate to the Department of Internal Affairs, the result was the unlawful destruction of records, court actions, weakening of regional offices of the archives, and, not least, budgetary problems. It is easy for a chief executive of the Department of Internal Affairs to say it is a bit short this year because the Government has asked for cuts of 5 percent or 10 percent—whatever it might be—and that a body should slow up on the purchase of materials for the National Library or the transfer of material to Archives New Zealand for a year. They might say they could save a bit of money that way for a year, that few people would notice, and that they would get away with it. That is why it is important to maintain the organisational and budgetary independence of Archives New Zealand, so that they can continue to get their collections up to the proper standard. Once it has fallen behind it is very hard to catch up, and to purchase books that were in print and are now out of print.
The argument for all the affected agencies—such as Archives New Zealand, the National Library, and Births, Deaths and Marriages—to be under the Department of Internal Affairs is that it is all to do with digitisation of records and making records more accessible to the public. In fact, the role of the different agencies is significant. The Minister of State Services said that there is a common focus on using digital technology and making Government information widely accessible to citizens on the Internet. In fact, that would mean we are developing a more populist role for Archives New Zealand, rather than collecting information that we do not even know will be useful in the future. There was talk by a previous speaker about some of the archive material that iwi now use in Treaty claims. It was not necessarily collected because it was seen as useful at the time, but it is the historical record and was made use of by future generations.
There is nothing wrong with cooperating on digital platforms. Independent agencies can use the same platforms, exchange technology, use the same payroll systems, contract out for payroll systems, and whatever they might think appropriate. But they do not need to be merged in the way that this bill proposes.
There is also the question of the different roles of the Department of Internal Affairs, libraries, and archives. It can be argued, for example, that libraries are about the provision of information to people, to the public. Archives are about accumulating evidence, whether or not it is useful to the public at the present time. That is the importance of its constitutional role. A section of the Department of Internal Affairs is about the very opposite: censorship. In fact, the Library and Information Association of New Zealand in some of the stuff it has written about this move, which it opposes, said: “Libraries adhere to the general principle of Freedom of Information whereas the Department of Internal Affairs has a censorship role which could potentially result in a conflict.” So there are different roles. Librarians may want to put some material into a library, but the censors in the other part of the Department of Internal Affairs say that it should be banned or excluded, and it should not be made available. We see a conflict of roles here.
If we are to be true to the basic principles underlying our National Library collection and Archives New Zealand, they should remain separate from each other and independent of the Department of Internal Affairs, so that the Chief Archivist is not a subordinate player to the chief executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. Thank you.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare. I am all for holding the State sector to account, particularly in respect of the Crown’s accountability to Māori. But just because a bill says it is about achieving “gains in terms of financial efficiencies, effectiveness and future viability of agencies”, that does not mean that there will naturally be any benefit to Māori. In fact, the restructuring of the State sector over the past 30 years has had quite devastating results for Māori—in respect of forestry, rail, and electricity—so we are not naturally inclined to accept restructuring as necessarily being of any value at all to the wider Māori community. But we do support annual reporting on the capability of the State sector to achieve outcomes for Māori, because such reporting will highlight the fact that in many cases what has been done for Māori by the Crown can normally be done far better and far cheaper by Māori for Māori, anyway.
In respect of this particular issue today, we recognise that whether it be through Whānau Ora, Māori economic development, housing, or education, the empowering of whānau, hapū, and iwi to develop their own future is the only model that can lead to genuine and sustainable success. Therefore, we are keen to see any outcomes achieved across the State sector that will improve the situation for tangata whenua. When we look
at the provisions in this bill to amalgamate a number of existing agencies—the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology into a new Ministry of Science and Innovation, and the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs—we find we will need to reserve our support until we see whether that will lead to better performance and better outcomes for Māori. Government agencies are often restructured in the belief that the change will lead to better performance, but bigger does not always mean better, particularly when considering issues around the development and management of intellectual property.
I want to focus on the proposed amalgamation of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology into a Ministry of Science and Innovation, because of the importance of research and development in driving Māori innovation. In the past, both the foundation and the ministry have made very little funding available for the achievement of Māori research goals or the development of Māori research capability. There have also been some quite glaring inconsistencies in the review of funding for Māori research. Māori researchers have spoken openly about their frustration in respect of Ministers who have not sought, or have ignored, advice from Māori research personnel. We will be looking to this bill to see whether the interests of the Treaty and of both Treaty partners are protected, and to see, for example, whether Māori will have equal access to the $140 million that has been set aside over the next 10 years for natural hazard funding, and whether Māori are actively involved in the water and energy funding from Vote Research, Science and Technology over the next year.
If this bill passes its first reading, we will raise questions in the select committee about whether the new funding arrangement includes any Māori-specific goals, such as the development of Māori research capability and the development of knowledge that will be of benefit to Māori communities. If so, we will be asking how much is allocated to such goals, and whether such funding is ring-fenced for Māori-specific goals or is just contestable funding.
As for the other key amalgamation of the National Library and Archives New Zealand, I will be looking at the submission of Te Rōpū Whakahau. This organisation of Māori librarians has been in existence since 1992 and has advocated for the improved management of Māori workers, Māori material, and Māori clients, and for the recognition and implementation of Māori intellectual and cultural property rights. The organisation has a key role to play in the improved management of Māori issues, taonga Māori, Māori clients, and Māori staff in the profession, and it is only right that it be specifically involved in any future development of this bill. I take the point raised by the previous speaker about the importance of the independent status of the National Library and Archives New Zealand, and the need to ensure that their future is not wrapped up with commercial expectations or the other political expectations of a Government department, such as the Department of Internal Affairs.
The Māori Party will support this bill in its first reading in order to allow time for all Māori groups and individuals who have a stake in this issue to tell the select committee what they think of this bill, and how they think it might be changed to improve services to Māori in the future. Our vote beyond the first reading will be determined by what we hear at the select committee. Tēnā koe.
COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura)
: It is a pleasure to take a call on the State Sector Management Bill. I will start with the purpose of the bill. It is concerned with creating financial efficiencies, effectiveness, and the future viability of the agencies. We notice a little bit of a murmur and a squirm from members on the other side of the House, but New Zealanders voted National into office to achieve gains in terms of
efficiencies, because all New Zealanders at this time are tightening their belts and working their way through the most difficult recession in 70 years. New Zealanders are applauding the work and the strategy of this Government.
What grew out of the last 9 years of the Labour Government was a bloated bureaucracy lacking efficiency and cooperation. This Government is looking at a very systematic coordination in order to create efficiencies, and I applaud the Government for doing that. The way the Government will achieve those efficiencies is fundamentally through greater collaboration and cooperation, and combining those functions under the Department of Internal Affairs makes good sense. The National Library along with Archives New Zealand will come under the control of the Department of Internal Affairs. That move stands the test of what has been done with a number of other departments and organisations that are performing well. I take this opportunity to remind Opposition members that the AgriQuality and Asure organisations were amalgamated under the previous Labour Government and they are functioning very well. I am concerned that the thinking of Opposition members is back in the last century, but we are living in a time when we need greater cooperation.
Mechanisms are in place to ensure that digital strategies and suchlike can be tremendously advanced. I refer back to the National Digital Strategy, the development of which was led by the National Library. There was an abundance of money sloshing around in Wellington, and it took forever to achieve that strategy. The process was drawn out, dysfunctional, and disorderly. Given that the strategy was so low on the priority list of the previous Government, it is quite a challenge to understand the substance of the arguments of Opposition members.
This is an omnibus bill, and it reminds us that the biggest business in town is the business of the State sector. Therefore, it needs fine management. This bill will endeavour to meet that need, and in doing so it also addresses the urgent need to reorganise the research, science, and technology sector. This Government, in Budget 2010, directed an enormous amount of new money into that area. We realised that we had to restructure the fundamental structures of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. In order to do that, we needed to move to a science and innovation model. It was an absolute pleasure to hear the Minister of Science, Research and Technology talk about that issue in Marlborough the other day when he visited Cuddon Engineering. That company will potentially benefit enormously from the grants and supporting systems that the Government is offering. It is very, very important that all the money that is wasted in backroom functions is transferred to a sector where it will make a difference. This bill will go a long way towards making that difference.
We look forward to seeing this bill at the Education and Science Committee. The submission process will be positive and constructive. Opposition members support the research, science, and technology side of it, but they have concerns about combining the functions of Archives New Zealand and the National Library under the Department of Internal Affairs. The select committee is very collegial and looks forward to debating those things. I am quite confident that if any tweaks are needed, we can address those at the select committee, and the bill can come back to the House as an even better bill. It is an outstanding bill and I look forward to the opportunity to have input at the committee. I commend the bill to the House.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)
: The previous speaker, Colin King, spoke absolute nonsense. I cannot actually believe that he compared Archives New Zealand with two meat-inspecting State-owned enterprises. I am absolutely staggered that he thought that was a legitimate comparison to make. AgriQuality and Asure are about meat inspection, whereas this bill talks about our Archives New Zealand and our
National Library, and amalgamating those organisations into the “mother of all departments”—the Department of Internal Affairs. In fact, historians have raised some very legitimate concerns about that transfer and what it could mean. The Government should definitely be taking those concerns on board, rather than trying to compare them with meat inspectors, which is entirely inappropriate and something that clearly suggests a very thin understanding of what this bill does.
In a debate about the public services of New Zealand, it would at this time be appropriate to acknowledge the outstanding work that our public services are doing down in Christchurch. The Minister of State Services said this bill streamlined and improved the delivery of front-line public services. What we have seen in the last few days is that the New Zealand Public Service can rise to the challenge when it needs to put the resources into the front line.
We should remember that the civil defence agency is actually very small. It is not large; there is no huge army of people waiting to work in the case of a natural disaster, such as the earthquake in Christchurch. Civil defence pulls together the resources at very short notice, and it does an outstanding job. I think it has been doing very well in Christchurch, and that is an example of how our State sector serves New Zealanders very well.
When we talk about focusing on the front line and talk about improving public services, we should never forget that our public servants already do a very good job and they are already focused on the front line. In fact, broad descriptions such as “front-line public services” can, in fact, be very misleading. At most times civil defence is not a front-line public service. It is largely doing back-office planning and so on, and contingency planning. It is only when there is an emergency that civil defence is pushed out on to the front line. If we make these bald distinctions between back office and front line, I think that can be very misleading and potentially very damaging to the quality of the public services that New Zealanders have access to.
It is worth examining that issue in the light of the debate about red tape, which we often hear about when we are talking about public services. In fact, red tape has protected Cantabrians. A high level of building standards has protected Cantabrians. It is one of the reasons we did not have the huge death toll that has happened in other countries and in other parts of the world in an earthquake the size of the one they have just had down in Christchurch, because we have very high building standards in New Zealand. That may be regarded as red tape by some. I think that is very important and it is why we have a quality Public Service that can come up with these high-quality laws, rules, and regulations. I do not think that is nanny State, I do not think that is red tape. I think that is protecting New Zealanders and is something we should all be very proud of and support.
I shall talk a little bit about the abuse of the parliamentary process that we see with this bill, and we see it time and time again with bills put forward by the National Government. When the Government moves a referral to a select committee, it gives that committee the power to meet at all times whenever it feels like it, even when Parliament is sitting. That is incredibly damaging to our democratic system. The parliamentary process is designed so that members can attend select committees and put the effort into understanding and hearing the submissions on a bill, without the distraction of having to be in another place at the same time, such as the parliamentary debating chamber. Unfortunately, this Government does not respect that distinction. It expects MPs to be dividing their time between select committees and the House, or actually not dividing the time but doing both simultaneously. I do not think that is fair; I particularly do not think that is fair on the smaller parties in Parliament. For National with its 58 MPs, and even for Labour with our 42 MPs, it is a little bit easier to cover those things, but for the
parties with only five or nine MPs, actually dividing time between select committees and the debating chamber, if those things are running at the same time, can be incredibly difficult. I know that for the small parties, if all the select committees are sitting at the same time, it can be a difficult challenge without also having to worry about the House.
So I am concerned that with bills such as this one where there is no pressing need for urgency, there is no need to push this through in a hurry, the Government is abusing the parliamentary process and is abusing its majority to force this through without giving all parties in Parliament an adequate opportunity to hear submissions and to hear what the public have to say. We know that this bill will be contentious, although not the part about research and development—because generally speaking, from what I have seen, there is a high level of support for that part of the bill—but when it comes to Archives New Zealand and the National Library it does appear that that will be controversial. It appears that a lot of people will want to have their say. Therefore, truncating the select committee process, which is what the Government is effectively proposing to do with its referral motion, is quite outrageous. That is something we will strongly oppose.
I shall talk about some of the concerns that will arise during the select committee process, particularly around the merger of New Zealand Archives and the National Library under the Department of Internal Affairs. That move will not save very much money and will not lead to much greater efficiency, but will potentially significantly undermine the independence of those institutions. The Chief Archivist needs to be in a position to enforce the law that requires other Government agencies to keep and deposit their records. That will be compromised by a merger into the Department of Internal Affairs. It was one of the reasons that it was separated out in the first place, so that it would have that independence and would be able to negotiate with some mana with other Government departments when it came to the storing of critical records of national significance. They should be in the archives and they should be protected by the independence of those archives.
When the National Library was taken out of the Ministry of Education, one of the reasons for doing so was that it had struggled to have a voice when it was subsumed under the Ministry of Education. The separation allowed it to develop a voice, to be a strong advocate. That is something we should really protect and defend. A merger into the Department of Internal Affairs is not appropriate for organisations that have very specific roles in the transparency of our Government and the protection of our history. The next thing we know, we could have the Government suggesting that the Ombudsman, for the sake of administrative efficiency, should be merged into the Department of Internal Affairs, because we would save about the same amount of money as we would save in doing these mergers. But that would be an absolute outrage, because it would clearly impact on the independence of the Ombudsman. It is something we would not do. The Government is not proposing to do that. I cannot understand why it is proposing to do it in this case, particularly when we are talking about savings of about $165,000 a year—not very much, at all. When I think about the fact that 15 jobs will go out of this exercise, I am not sure that it will save much money, at all. So there are a lot of concerns.
I will now turn to some of the concerns that have been raised about this already, before the select committee process has even begun. The New Zealand Historical Association president, Catharine Coleborne—and I apologise if I pronounced that name wrongly—said that historians were concerned that the merger could lead to political interference at Archives New Zealand, the agency tasked with collecting Government and community records. I will quote her: “We’re very uncomfortable about the threat that this could mean for the autonomy of national archives, and also of the Chief
Archivist’s role within Government … To just create a new ruling that merges these institutions is very dangerous and unsound without the opportunity for comment and consultation.”
Of course, as I have outlined already, the Government is abridging the select committee process for comment and consultation, in what I think is quite an outrageous abuse of parliamentary process, in the referral motion that it is putting forward.
The New Zealand Society of Authors has raised serious concern. Maggie Tarver, who is the chief executive officer, is quoted as saying that this is obviously a cost-cutting exercise on behalf of the Government, and the society questions the validity of such a move, especially when it is clear that no significant savings will be achieved in the short term.
Tony Simpson, the president of the society, talked about research facilities being important not only to historians and writers of historical fiction but also for the protection of our history. I think that is something that is really important. It is really important that we look after our history. Do we want to go back to the days when the Treaty of Waitangi was left in a basement so that rats could eat it? Is that what we want to go back to? No, we do not want to go back to that. So I think the protection of the importance of these departments—
Jacqui Dean: Oh, that’s just silly.
CHRIS HIPKINS: It is not silly, at all. I say to Jacqui Dean that it is not silly, at all. When Archives New Zealand and the National Library are subsumed within the Department of Internal Affairs, they will not have a voice, and their budgets will be prone to cuts. When they have a Minister who is as ineffective as the Minister of Internal Affairs at the moment, who just refers any decision to the officials in the department and does not seem to know what is going on in his department, New Zealanders will have absolutely no confidence that the independence of our archives and our National Library will be preserved and will not be subject to unnecessary funding cuts. It is a bad bill.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Research, Science and Technology)
: I am taking a call on the State Sector Management Bill in my role as the Minister of Research, Science and Technology. In due course that title will change to the Minister of Science and Innovation. I will spend the bulk of my speech on those points.
Chris Hipkins: Is he still the political correctness eradicator?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I say to the previous speaker, Chris Hipkins, who raised all sorts of straw man arguments, that he needs to remember that when we became the Government, we inherited a National Library that was in huge physical disrepair. That party over there spent 9 years in Government, with 9 years of surpluses, and it did nothing. The previous Labour Government passed on, along with the rest of the problems in the Government sector, a National Library that was in physical disrepair. So if members of the public wonder why they are not able to access the library at the moment, I say it is because tens and tens of millions of dollars are being spent to refurbish that facility—$52 million, in fact, I am informed by the Minister of Internal Affairs. That will lead to a greatly improved facility. The reason why in the past the Treaty of Waitangi was damaged was that it had not been properly cared for. A new, properly refurbished library should have been provided years ago. We are providing it now. We will ensure that that sort of disgrace will never again occur. I can only say to the previous member that that was simply mock outrage on his part.
I will get on to the more important, and for me the material, part of the bill. The bill is significant in that it merges the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology into a single new ministry to be called the Ministry of Science and Innovation. That, amongst other reasons, is why this
process is truncated. Mr Shearer talked about the problems of transition. There is no doubt that during a period of transition staff become concerned; they worry about their futures, and so forth. It is extremely important that when we go through a transition of this nature, it is done quickly. That is one of the lessons that Sir Roger Douglas puts out as one of the key principles of reform—to do it quickly, because that minimises disruption and enables people to get on with things and look to the future. That is one of the reasons why there is a shortened period. When a reform is fundamentally about the internal processes of Government, it is appropriate in that case to have a somewhat shorter process than might otherwise be the case.
The merger of the two organisations is part of the fundamental reforms that are occurring in the research, science, and technology sector. There are four parts to them. The first was to get a clearer set of priorities. The previous Government simply had not done that in its 9 years in office. I inherited a sector that, frankly, was disillusioned and dispirited. Certainly some things had been done in the previous 9 years, but an ad hoc approach had occurred over a number of years and there was no real sense of direction or sense of priorities. The very first thing that needed to be sorted out was getting a strategic sense. Last year we set out in a document much more transparent Government priorities. That made it apparent to the sector what the Government saw as the key priorities. Those priorities are at the centre of this Government’s reform process: improving the performance of the economy. The reason for that is that in the previous 5 years, export performance in this nation had been fundamentally flat. There had been a huge growth of credit, and we are reaping the consequences of that today.
When the Government talks about the years of economic mismanagement by the previous Government, it is focusing on quite specific things: the fact that under the previous Government economic performance had been flat for 5 years; and the fact that there had been a substantial growth in the public sector, which was essentially squeezing investment out of the private sector and leading to an excessive growth of credit. We have to deal with the consequences of that today. We have to put that right, and this reform is part of that package. Science and innovation form one of the six key drivers of this Government’s agenda.
The second stage of the science and innovation reforms was the work of the Crown Research Institute Taskforce. It has been well accepted around this House, and I do acknowledge Mr Shearer’s acceptance of the importance of that work. That is being implemented now.
The third phase of the reforms was primarily the 2010 Budget, which followed on from the increase in fundamental science funding in the 2009 Budget. In this area the two Budgets have to be seen as a package: 2009 was fundamentally focused on science; 2010 was more focused on business. Seen as a package, there has been a significant increase in overall science expenditure: nearly $100 million in the space of 18 months across the two Budgets. That is quite significant in the circumstances that we face, when we consider that the Government has a deficit in the region of $9 billion—nearly 4 percent of GDP. It is a significant challenge to increase funding in those circumstances, so I am surprised that the Opposition is not willing to acknowledge the challenge of increasing expenditure in a particular sector in the face of such substantial deficits. One needs to remind the Opposition members from time to time that they had 9 years of surpluses while they were in Government. Some of those surpluses were produced by increased taxes, but some of them were produced by overall increased economic activity during their 9 years in Government. It is much more difficult to do these things in the circumstances of the current Government, and the previous Government needs to recognise what we have had to inherit compared with what it inherited from us in 1999.
The fourth component of the reforms is the one that we are dealing with today: the merger and renaming of the institutions, and I want to emphasise that particular point. Research, science, and technology are three words that, as a package, tend to convey an impression that the ministry is primarily about the public sector as opposed to the private sector. The Ministry of Science and Innovation has two elements to it. Firstly, that simplifies the title; that is self-evident. But it also indicates much more a sense of direction for the package. There is science, which is more public sector - related, and we have innovation, which is more private sector - related. The new name is intended to indicate to the sector and more broadly outside the sector the direction of travel for this new ministry.
Although there will be some savings from the establishment of the ministry, that is not the prime reason for making this reform. The prime reason is to have a more effective ministry that will drive ahead this element of the Government’s agenda and start to get a framework in place that will enable greater effectiveness in terms of the expenditure that New Zealand taxpayers make. I understand that people say there should be greater expenditure. I understand that a number of other nations with which we might compare ourselves spend more than we do—although it is fair to note that they have a larger industrial component to their economies than we do, and that explains some of the difference.
In closing, the package of reforms that I have described is intended to lead to a cultural as well as an economic change. It is intended to say to the sector and to the private businesses that interact with it that this represents an opportunity, that the Government is backing the sector, and that we are looking at ways, both in Budget 2010 as that is rolled out and also in the future, to see what we can do better in a time of economic strictures. We will focus diligently over the next period of time on enhancing this sector. I have two portfolios. I understand that this portfolio is crucial to New Zealand’s economic future and growth prospects, and in my role as the Minister I intend to do everything that I possibly can to realise the potential of the sector.
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour)
: The previous speech was made by Wayne Mapp, a Minister who understands his portfolio. It was pleasing to hear him endorse Labour’s spokesperson David Shearer, with his support—not so much his concern—for the amalgamation of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology into this new organisation. That is not the aspect of the State Sector Management Bill that Labour is opposed to; our greatest concern with this bill is the merger of Archives New Zealand and the National Library into the Department of Internal Affairs.
When the Minister of State Services, Tony Ryall, came into the House today and spoke very quickly in a very quiet, moderate voice, people would have thought that this bill was absolutely inconsequential, quite dry and dusty, and with no impact on front-line services. From the Minister’s point of view it was just about an obvious merger. Far from it. It is quite ironic that today we have had a ministerial statement in the House on the Canterbury earthquake, which we are all concerned about. Government members opposite, when in Opposition, went around the country ranting about a bloated bureaucracy. Yet today here they are thanking front-line public servants in Canterbury for their initial response in working with local government down in Canterbury to help remedy the dreadful situation that people are in. So the “bloated bureaucracy”, which this Government is determined to stamp out, is, ironically, the very bureaucracy and Public Service that is helping in Canterbury today and doing such a brilliant job.
From our point of view this bill is certainly not a dry, dusty, and inconsequential bill. In fact, it goes to the heart of New Zealand’s national identity. In 2000, only a decade ago, after a review of the Department of Internal Affairs we separated out the National Archives and the National Library as stand-alone entities with their own autonomy. We
think it is very important that that review be revisited. There is absolutely no justification for the merger other than the determination of this Government to supposedly improve services within existing baselines, reduce costs in the short to medium term, and future-proof the long-term delivery of Government services.
We cannot find any justification for why the Department of Internal Affairs is now going to subsume the independence of Archives New Zealand and the National Library. It is a pity to do so just in the name of efficiency and short-term cost saving. The actual cost savings are only $165,000 a year and 15 jobs will go. Those jobs are not inconsequential. They are done by 15 people with specialist skills both in the National Library and in Archives New Zealand, not just by bureaucrats pushing paper. Those jobs will go.
This is a cost-cutting exercise we are really concerned about. It is a step backwards for transparency and democracy. I was really concerned when Grant Robertson talked about trying to get access through the Ombudsman to find out why this legislation was necessary. Access to that information has been blocked from the very Government that talks about transparency.
This bill is about pure ideology. It is a rant against the Public Service that says we can get greater efficiency gains. If the Minister opposite had really thought about this bill, why did he not talk to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage? The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has the archival component of heritage in film. The Film Commission and Peter Jackson have been showing concern about the Film Archive, so why did they not just bung that in as well for efficiency? That organisation is crying out for reform. That was not even considered by this Government, which shows that the two Ministers do not talk.
The Minister of State Services said that this merger was because of technological advances and that it was now easier to put the two together. We are concerned that by doing this, just a decade after a massive change to the National Library and the Archives New Zealand, those organisations are, on a political whim, being put back into the Department of Internal Affairs.
We are concerned about the role of the Chief Archivist. This role needs legislative independence. We have no confidence, given the provision that the Chief Archivist has to report to the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, that that independence will be protected. That aspect will be looked at during the Committee stage.
When the National Library was administered by the Department of Internal Affairs and the Department of Education, before Labour separated it out, the National Library struggled to have a voice. It did not have a voice, at all. The separation allowed protection for what we deemed to be an iconic institution: the Alexander Turnbull Library. But it does not matter now! The Minister now says that we can put them all together, that we should not worry about the iconic status of the Alexander Turnbull Library! We should not worry about the independence of the Chief Archivist, that that will be sorted out and will be a second-tier or third-tier position within the Department of Internal Affairs! Labour is very concerned about the operational efficiency of those roles, especially in terms of the protection of our history, which is a very vital role for us in terms of maintaining our national identity.
I too mention that the consultation on the development of this bill was very, very limited. That was of great concern. Organisations could respond only once they heard of the proposed merger of the National Library and Archives New Zealand into this omnibus department, the Department of Internal Affairs, where this Government thinks it can put disparate entities together. The professional historians of New Zealand have said that under this merger it is inevitable that the Chief Archivist and the National
Librarian will become second-tier or third-tier divisional heads, losing the ear of the Minister.
I wonder whether the Minister, Nathan Guy, can give us the assurance that those positions will still be able to report directly to the Minister of Internal Affairs. The Minister has his head down; he obviously has no idea where those very, very important roles sit within the current department and what part of their independence is guaranteed under this new relationship. The New Zealand Society of Authors put it absolutely correctly when it said: “If it’s not broken then don’t fix it”. Tony Simpson, the president of the society, said: “Research facilities are not only important to historians and writers of historical fiction, but also to the protection of New Zealand history. It is crucial that the integrity of New Zealand’s research facilities be maintained and we are concerned that through this merger Archives New Zealand will lose its autonomy which would jeopardise its objectives with serious consequences for freedom of speech.”
Labour shares the view of the Greens today. I do not call this measure a new dawn, at all. There is no justification for it, other than political rhetoric and another tirade against the Public Service. There was no justification. Labour will vote against this bill, for the reasons that all the speakers in the Labour team have outlined today. Thank you.
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs)
: As the Minister responsible for the three departments concerned—the Department of Internal Affairs, the National Library, and Archives New Zealand—I am very pleased to be able to take a call on this very important bill. I have worked hard in this process, I believe, over the last 12 months. These three agencies share very natural synergies. They all have a common focus on using digital technology and making public information more widely accessible to citizens of New Zealand.
The principle behind the integration is simple. It will allow expertise and resources to be combined while at the same time sharing back-office costs. Any savings will be redirected into better front-line services for the public, and the strengths and qualities of these three combined departments will serve the public well, I believe.
Since becoming the Minister responsible for these three departments I have spent a lot of time talking to and listening to stakeholders. I have had regular meetings with the Archives Council, the guardian or kaitiaki of the Turnbull Library, and the Library and Information Advisory Commission. I have also met with Friends of the Turnbull Library, the National Library Society, and the New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA), amongst others. Key stakeholders were also given the opportunity to make a comment on the draft bill before it was finalised. I have listened very, very carefully through this process, and I am pleased that the legislation addresses a lot of concerns that have been raised by these various groups. The Government has always made it clear through this process that this is not about changing the major roles or functions of the departments concerned, and the legislation confirms this.
In particular, the independence and integrity of the Chief Archivist is safeguarded. This position will be responsible to the chief executive of the new integrated department and will be protected from any improper influence in performing his or her independent statutory functions. It is important to maintain the principle of an independent check on Government record-keeping. There are plenty of examples from around the world where the Chief Archivist works in a variety of different models with his or her independence preserved. Over the Tasman in Australia, for example, the Chief Archivist sits within the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio. In the United Kingdom the Chief Archivist sits within the Ministry of Justice. In Ireland the Chief Archivist sits within the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport. [Interruption] I think it is important for Mrs Chadwick to understand Crown Law opinion on this bill, because that opinion has been sought and I do not think she has had the chance to hear about it. So I will tell her. I
quote: “The opinion confirms that the nature of the services provided by Archives New Zealand and the National Library will remain the same.” That is the opinion of Crown Law.
What I want to tell Mrs Chadwick this afternoon is what the PSA said. National secretary Brenda Pilott said that the PSA is happy with the bill because it retains the statutory roles of the National Librarian, the Chief Librarian, and the Chief Archivist. Mrs Pilott went on to say that the PSA appreciated being consulted by the Minister, Nathan Guy, and that matters raised by its members have been picked up in the bill. I am not sure whether Mrs Chadwick was aware that the PSA came out in support of this bill. I am sure that she is indeed now aware of that. I am sure that Mrs Chadwick is now aware of the Crown Law opinion, and that will, I am sure, give her some reassurance.
I say in conclusion that it is important to note that this bill amends the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa) Act 2003 and the Public Records Act 2005 to reflect the change in legal status of these agencies. It represents the next chapter in what is a very exciting future for all three agencies. It builds on other work by the Government to modernise the way we store and preserve information and keep up with the latest technology. I am very proud, as the Minister responsible for Archives New Zealand and the Minister responsible for the National Library, to have secured in this year’s Budget $12.6 million of new money over the next 4 years to create a Government digital archive. That shows the commitment of this Government to ensure that we preserve and look after vital information for future generations of this country.
This Government has also invested $52 million in the National Library, and we can see that happening right now across the road. I was also given a wonderful opportunity to open the new library in Auckland. There has been a million dollars of investment in that area. So this Government is making a huge commitment to these iconic institutions that will be here for future generations to enjoy.
The Department of Internal Affairs, I know, is a very strong and professionally functioning department. Archives New Zealand and the National Library will soon have access to a greater range of resources and expertise than they have ever had before. I encourage everyone to please try to embrace the opportunities and maximise the benefits. I look forward to hearing more during the select committee’s deliberations.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the State Sector Management Bill be now read a first time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 4; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
|Bill read a first time.
Hon PANSY WONG (Minister for Ethnic Affairs) on behalf of the
Minister of State Services: I move,
That the State Sector Management Bill be considered by the Education and Science Committee, that the committee report finally to the House on or before 24 November 2010, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 187 and 190(1)(b) and (c).
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): There is an amendment to the referral motion in the name of Grant Robertson to omit all the words after the words “Education and Science Committee”.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That all the words after “Education and Science Committee” be omitted.
||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
|Amendment not agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the State Sector Management Bill be considered by the Education and Science Committee, that the committee report finally to the House on or before 24 November 2010, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 187 and 190(1)(b) and (c).
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
|Motion agreed to.