Rodney Hide explains why governments like making new Ministries

“We” as in the people don’t have ministers – the government does. That’s a crucial distinction. The interests of government – and by that I mean politicians and civil servants – seldom align with those of the people either as a whole or in part.

The driving force with politicians is votes. Without votes they can’t be politicians. They certainly can’t be in government. Sure, they want to “do good” but to “do good” they first must win. And that means votes.

Politicians chasing votes make different choices to politicians out to increase, say, freedom and prosperity, or just the general welfare as they see it.

For politicians winning votes must trump “doing good.”

Indeed, a good politician these days is one good at winning votes rather than good at governing or making tough decisions. The distinction is a sharp one.

And so the question is not why do “we” have a Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, etc. The question is why do politicians? And to ask the question is to answer it: votes.

A Minister of Women’s Affairs shows you care about women. Don Brash as leader of the National Party advocated getting rid of the ministry only to be lambasted as anti-women by members of his own party.

It was never about what the ministry achieves (nothing) but the signal the ministry sends (we care).

Plus, having such ministers ensures invites to a multitude of events that provide a platform for continuous electioneering. The minister gets invited to every event. So, too, the so-called shadow ministers.

I remember Ethnic Affairs Minister George Hawkins groaning about how many events he had to attend every weekend. He said the tricky thing was that the various competing ethnic and cultural societies timed how long he stayed to compare their status.

He told me ethnic affairs took more time than police. That was because of the continual demand to attend functions.

Poor George didn’t even like curry. But he always turned up. It’s too good an opportunity for politicians to miss.

No government can afford to abandon the field to the opposition. Ethnic affairs was a fertile ground for the government that first opened it up but now it can never be surrendered. To do so would be to lose votes.

The answer to why we have the many ministers that we do is simple: votes.

That’s not a cynical view of government. That’s just how government is.

This explains why there is no Ministry of Missing Millions then.


– Rodney Hide, NBR

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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