No political witch hunts, Greens say

The Green Party is rejecting proposals for a register of the political interests of civil servants and their partners.

“Any such registry will open the door to political witch-hunts, disadvantaging those civil servants whose political views are at variance with those of the Government,” the Green Party State Services Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“Any register is also clearly in contravention of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees civil servants freedom from discrimination on the grounds of belief. It also guarantees freedom of association, which also means one cannot be penalised purely for having the ‘wrong’ partner.

“It is one thing to abide by long-established procedures that politicians and civil servants step aside when decisions are being taken where they (or people close to them) might personally benefit.

“It is quite another for Government departments to require civil servants to write down the organisations they belong to and to list any ‘strong political or personal views’ they may hold, or declare whether they have close friends or relatives who might benefit from decisions made by a public entity — to cite just some of the terms and suggestions offered in last month’s Auditor-General’s report.

“I don’t think New Zealanders want the public service whittled down to political sycophants, or to people who don’t feel strongly about anything. Any list such as the one proposed would risk being used by selection panels to err on the side of avoiding controversy, and selecting only the safest and blandest candidates.

“It has been a long, hard fight to achieve a politically neutral civil service — whose members routinely separate their private opinions and activities ( and those of their spouses ) from their professional roles,” Mr Locke says.