Green Attacks On Winz "Petty Garbage"

  • Peter McCardle
Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income (Work and Income)

Associate Work and Income Minister Peter McCardle dismissed the claims made today by Rod Donald regarding WINZ as both petty, and a desperate attempt to lift his party up to one per cent in the polls, in order to raise the Greens Party's fortunes.

"While they may have some basis to their positions on issues such as mutating vegetables, spying, and hemp, Opposition spin-doctoring on Work and Income NZ is just self-serving puffery, " Mr McCardle said.

"I take valid criticism of WINZ seriously, and have required the department to urgently address performance in relation to student allowances, and to look at further improving procedures around confidentiality. These are areas where WINZ needs to do better, and it acknowledges this.

"However WINZ does its job very well overall. It is the country's newest and biggest department. It has over 4,500 staff, it spends over $10 billion in taxpayers' money per year, and over $600 million in wages and programmes.

"It will save the taxpayer around $15million a year in the future because it is more efficient than its predecessors.

"Yet, despite this, Opposition MPs grandstand on every piece of trivia they can get, or invent, about WINZ to advance their own cause. They waste both staff time and tens of thousands of dollars of public money asking petty Parliamentary Questions on everyday spending such as carpets, desks, name badges, training sessions and management meetings which are standard for any large organisation. Answering these questions costs approximately $100 per hour of taxpayers' money - tens of thousands of dollars per year for this office alone.

"Here are some examples: I have been asked in a Parliamentary Question to give details about the design specifications of desks bought by WINZ. It is a nonsense question, yet it cost hundreds of dollars to research and answer.

"I have been asked to list details of what it cost to produce name badges for staff. For what possible purpose?

"I have been asked by Labour to give details of all managers' meetings held since January 1. "Where, when, for what purpose, and what was the total cost by item." Shock horror probe! WINZ managers have held meetings!

"Today there is more nonsense. WINZ has been attacked by Rod Donald for allegedly hiring an expensive array of what he claims are "spin doctors". That is completely wrong. First, they were not recently hired but were part of the former Income Support before the merger which created WINZ. Income Support has always had people in these roles.

"Second, despite the title, most of those communications staff around the country spend the bulk of their time dealing with local organisations. The so-called spin doctors in the regions are primarily community liaison officers, and spend little time dealing with local media. There is a small communications unit at Head Office, as there is in any large organisation in both the private or public sectors, to deal with national media inquiries, among other things. To call these people an army of spin doctors is totally false.

"While there can be no doubt that campaigning opposition MPs will continue to spin trivia-based claims dressed up as something important, always expressed with seeming outrage, the public should know it is just grandstanding," Mr McCardle said.