[Appropriate mihi to Les McCarthy, Karen Moses and Jay Lamburn of Public Service Training Organisation, Jim Matheson of Skill NePacific Island Affairs
[Appropriate mihi to Les McCarthy, Karen Moses and Jay Lamburn of Public Service Training Organisation, Jim Matheson of Skill New Zealand and the candidates]
We've come together today to celebrate the achievements of some outstanding public servants. It's fashionable today to denigrate the efforts of public servants, to refer to them dismissively as bureaucrats with all the perjorative implications of being idle timeservers more worried about when the next teabeak will be, rather than serving the public of New Zealand.
As someone who deals with public servants every day and who relies on the quality and speed of their service and advice, I can honestly say that this image is very wrong.
The importance of a well-trained, motivated and skilled public service to the well-being of New Zealand is crucial. We politicians can make policy and frame legislation but it is often you, the public service, that has to implement and administer those laws.
Laws that are poorly administered will soon earn the disrespect and contempt of the public and society suffers as a result. So the work you do is of major importance.
I would like here, too, to compliment the Public Service Training Organisation and Skill New Zealand for the work they have put into this Tu'anaki Project.
A year ago, you recognised that Pacific people were too heavily represented in the lower ranks of the public service and put together this pilot scheme to lift the skill levels of those people.
At the moment, they are concentrated in the business administration areas of reception, accounting and general clerical skills, but I look forward to the days when you move ever onward and upward into running the Government departments you are now working with.
It will not be an easy task as Maori public servants will tell you, but persistent endeavour on your part, coupled with the demographic changes underway in this country, will bring you success in your chosen careers.
I'd like to digress here to point out forcefully that New Zealand still has a considerable way to go in ensuring that the whole population of this country is represented in the public service.
Research I carried out last year showed that the public institutions, and indeed the private ones as well, of this country are still reluctant to hire staff in such a way that they reflect the local population.
Government departments in areas where there are strong Maori populations do not reflect that fact in their staffing and I suspect the same holds true for our Pacific concentrations of population.
This is not just some wishful politically correct way of looking at the public service. If New Zealanders go into Government departments and the people behind the counter look and talk just like them, an immediate barrier has gone down to the successful interface between the Government and the public. The system will simply work better.
I am aware Tu'anaki is an on-going project but already there are clear signs that it is, and will continue to be, a successful one.
Already we have ten candidates receiving recognition of their improved skills and I'm told at least two of you, never having tried tertiary education before, are already planning to extend your studies into this area.
I applaud the effort you have already put in and warmly encourage you to continue them.