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Public service reforms stand or fall on implementation: Business NZ

Thursday 15th March 2012

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The quality of implementation will be the true test of the public sector reforms announced by Prime Minister John Key in Auckland today, says the head of Business New Zealand, Phil O’Reilly.

And the Industry Training Federation says the government has missed an opportunity to bundle education into the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

However, O’Reilly says he is not critical in principle of the decision to include the Ministry of Science and Innovation – formed just 13 months ago from two other government agencies – in the new super-ministry.

“I accept that in a perfect world, that looks a bit untidy,” he told BusinessDesk. “But it is really quite a big opportunity to put together business, innovation and skills. It just wouldn’t be logical to leave innovation out.”

However, Business NZ was tempering its support for the proposals with a warning that such reform would require high quality execution if it was not to risk failure.

“We’re saying: ‘great, the success will be in how you execute’,” said O’Reilly.  Putting together large workforces, including the skills and training parts of the Department of Labour and the Ministry of Social Development into the new Ministry was “not trivial”.

“Big companies that restructure in this way, for all kinds of good reasons, sometimes they work really well, and sometimes they don’t.”

Key announced today the new Ministry would be created on July 1.

The Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Food Safety Authority have also been merged to create a new Ministry of Primary Industries.

Key has indicated there won’t be further major amalgamations of government agencies.

Meanwhile, the ITF says the government needs to ensure the new super Ministry does not forget the role that education and skills play in business, innovation and employment.

Chief executive Mark Oldershaw said the two international examples of business-facing government departments the Prime Minister cited in his speech today, in Australia and Britain, both included skills and tertiary education.

“This is sadly missing from the New Zealand proposal, yet it is skills that drive productivity,” Oldershaw said. “While I am heartened by the government’s expectation for a more skilled workforce, it seems to be a wasted opportunity that as it creates a ministry that focuses on business, innovation, and employment, it has left education and skills out of the mix.

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