More generalist and careerist MPS

A new study has put numbers to what has often been suggested – that today’s MPs have less traditional backgrounds (like farming and unions).

A third of MPs are political careerists with limited experience outside public service and politics. “Over 30% of them have entered Parliament after careers exclusively spanning government, public sector or politics.”

“If you have no real career other than politics, you are unlikely to want to rock the boat. Challenging the establishment will seldom be in a career politician’s best interests.”

New Zealand MPs are now less likely to be from traditional careers in business and unions, and more likely to be generalists who turn to politics as a career, according to a study released today.

The study, by political researcher Geoffrey Miller and public relations expert Mark Blackham, researched and compared the career histories of all 121 Members of the current Parliament.

They found that business owners, agriculturalists and unionists have a falling share of voice in their traditional parties, and have been replaced by people with no specific career interests, or careers limited to government and politics.

Miller said 23% of National MPs had experience working in a business, and only 10% of Labour MPs had worked in a union.

Miller said that while Parliament had become more ethnically and gender diverse under MMP, the range of prior occupations was becoming increasingly narrow.

Miller added that younger MPs were especially likely to be beholden to the parties they represented because of their decision to pursue politics as a profession.

Blackham said the rise of generalists reflected both a change in employment patterns in the wider community, and a perception that politics was an employment option as well as a calling. Almost a fifth of MPs had no definable career before politics.

“Parliament is reflecting something ordinary people are experiencing; the tendency to go through a range of jobs rather than a single career. Wide experience of life may well help MPs to understand the public they represent.

“But there is a less creditable trend toward seeing politics as an employment option. For these MPs, the job follows a working life solely in government or politics. This is a new phenomenon.”

Three major conclusions from the report:

  1. The traditional difference in economic sectors represented in the major political parties is extinct;
    National now has proportionately few farmers or business people.
    Labour has few unionists or blue collar workers, but is strongest in MPs with varied non-specific employment experience.
    The Party with proportionately the most business experience is New Zealand First.
    The party with proportionately the most activists is the Green Party.
  2. One third of our politicians have only ever worked in political jobs. Over 30% of them have entered Parliament after careers exclusively spanning government, public sector or politics.
  3. MPs are now reflecting the wider employment trend of having multiple careers or having worked in a wide range of jobs. Nearly 20% of all MPs have had ‘multiple’ careers.

MPWorkExperience

Noteworthy findings

  1. 34% of MPs have a career history entirely working for the government in some form.
  2. The biggest category was “multiple” careers – where MPs have worked in various employment, and not followed a particular career or field of expertise. Labour had proportionately the greatest number in this category (one quarter of its MPs)
  3. The single most common career has been employment in the business world (19 MPs, and generally management work, not entrepreneurial or operational), followed by a career in government (15 MPs).
  4. There are 10 career politicians (vs. 12 MPs in previous Parliament).
  5. Labour Party now has a notable presence of MPs with careers in the Maori sector (5/32 MPs in 2015 compared to 3/34 MPs in 2014).
  6. New Zealand First remains dominated by MPs with business experience, particularly within SMEs.
  7. The Green Party remains dominated by those with a Unionist or Activist background (5/13 MPs).
  8. The two Maori Party MPs both have a background in education.
  9. Between the 50th and 51st Parliaments, Labour has seen a decrease in MPs with unionist backgrounds (3 vs 5 MPs).
  10. National has fewer agricultural MPs than the previous parliament (6 vs 9 MPs)

National MPs have a wider variety of backgrounds than Labour MPs but part of the reason for this is there are nearly twice as many.

MPNationalWorkBackgrounds

MPLabourWorkBackground

I think that two significant factors behind choices to stand for Parliament now are:

It can be much more high profile with the chance of high media and opponent examination.

The time and cost commitment to standing as a candidate with a chance of being elected is high, especially standing for electorates. You pretty much have to dedicate several months at least to full time campaigning.

This is easier for people already employed by parties.

This isn’t as necessary for small parties (Greens and NZ First) where political unknowns can get in via their party list placement.

But even NZ First’s most recent MP, Ria Bond, a hairdresser from Invercargill, had spent time working for NZ First MPs in Wellington.

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50 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st April 2016

    Strange there is no commentary on the list MP system favouring insider party employees.

    Reply
    • Pantsdownbrown

       /  21st April 2016

      Unless we see the raw data I think these figures look a bit ‘fudged’. Is Jacinda for instance down as a ‘retailer’ because she worked in a shop for 2 seconds, or is she classed as having ‘multiple’ careers rather than the truth of being a life-time trougher without real world experience?

      25% of Labour MP’s being classed as ‘multiple’ careers sounds dubious.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  21st April 2016

        I had the same suspicion.

        Reply
      • jamie

         /  21st April 2016

        Presumably the “MPs can be in more than one category” note applies to all graphs?

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  21st April 2016

          Calling an MP a trougher shows that the person saying it has no idea of the hours MPs put in. For many MPs, it’s a lower rate of pay for more work than they did or could earn; I know none who didn’t earn more outside Parliament for not only easier work but less stress. Any who see it as an easy way to earn a good income are likely to have a very rude awakening and be one-term-wonders.

          Reply
          • jamie

             /  21st April 2016

            Very true.

            Then of course there are those who use their time in parliament to grease the wheels of their business outside parliament.

            Reply
  2. Brown

     /  21st April 2016

    The govt wedge is misleading because health, Maori, police, education and so on are govt in disguise. We need people with most of their life outside the civil service trough and it looks like far too few are. MP’s should be limited to 3 terms – get their super then piss off and earn a living.

    Reply
    • Make it about Labour, chuck in the word “trougher”, kick Jacinda around a while, mention the dreaded “civil service” and another interesting topic is flushed down the Blue Toilet.

      In the pie diagrams I’m looking at National has 14% ex-Government employee while Labour has 13%. I think its great that Labour’s got 16% Maori, which is about the proportion of Maori in the general population.

      Your scepticism about the civil service and implied worship of the private sector is charming Brown, and somewhat misguided in my opinion. Is it not remotely possible a civil servant might harbour decent human ethics or be capable of unbiased thinking? Of course all business people and privatised policy-makers are capable of it, right?

      A decent mix of both will always be required in a (so-called) democratically elected government, since government bureaucracy provides or enables the civil service. Or don’t you want a civil service at all?

      Do you not want people from health, education, police and Maori being MPs? As Blazer mentions below, these roughly equate to Ministerial portfolios.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  21st April 2016

        Quite a large red herring, PZ. The concern is about too many MP’s without real world experience and knowledge. While we are on the subject, both health and education services are far too bureaucratic and top down in this country which is a consequence of bureaucracy appropriating the funding and resources.

        Reply
        • Agree with you Alan. There is much wastage. Trickle down in bureaucratic practice. Start with $100. Then it gets clipped at each stage until the bottom where it is magically $0.50c (not accurate but ya know).

          Reply
          • So Ben, what or who should the organising principle be in health and education? Who exactly is the so called ‘private sector’? A great deal of public policy is today made by private sector contractors. Is this any better than a public servant? Is the private contractor any less a trougher? Is this not a recipe for vested interest interference? To put it bluntly, for “graft”?

            We’ve seen over the last 30 years ‘Big Pharma’ firstly in dubious ways influencing doctors directly to prescribe their products – the 1980/90s “perks” scandals – and latterly advertising directly to the public on TV to “create demand”. Does anyone seriously think they will fund ‘public health messages’ currently funded by us and created by ‘troughers’?

            I wonder if there are statistics as to how much per $100 health money gets spent at the coalface? I’m not prepared to consider the American insurance-based version any better unless I see stats. Anecdotally I’m led to believe the Yankee health system is waste personified …

            Reply
            • 1. The organising principle should be that the money goes to those in need of it, not to bloated bureaucracy. Direct and mutual aid.

              2. I never said trougher.

              3. I’m an anarchist. I don’t believe in any of the power structures and systems you do.

              4. Those stats are probably available through figure.nz

              5. The US system is an utter travesty in every single possible way, shape and form.

              As you were, PZ.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2016

              An obvious alternative is to fund patients through their health gatekeepers, their GPs, instead of through DHBs. Then the funds would be spent with the providers who give the best and most efficient services to the clients, not to the bureaucrats. Bottom up funding and control rather than top down.

            • @ Alan – You’ll have to explain more about how this ‘bottom up’ funding would work? You seem to be proposing giving control of the individual health budget of patients to their GPs, hence, in effect, the national health budget? Who would monitor the gatekeepers?

              Without more information I am instantly wary. First, how would a busy GP accomplish this ‘bureaucratic’ task other than establish or expand a ‘practice-level bureaucracy’ to do so? Lots of little bureaucracies instead of regional ones? Second, why would GPs be any less prone to ‘graft’ than anyone else?

              How would hospitals be organised? By competing to provide the most ‘efficient’ services to GPs (is really what you’re saying)? Isn’t this privatisation by stealth? It would be good to model it perhaps, to see if there are ‘savings’, although modelling may not encompass some intangibles and modelling isn’t credible anyway I gather?

              @ Ben – There’s a good deal more to the organising principles of health and education than just money.

              I never said you said ‘troughers’. While @ Person indicates a reply its not exclusively for @ Person, but part of a general discussion, in this case with people who equate ‘bureaucrat’ absolutely with trougher. There is no other kind apparently … no-one who sees a bigger picture or acts for the common good.

              3. Anarchy – big discussion to have sometime maybe? How about you write a topic on it for Pete? I’m tempted to say, the further we progress towards anarchy the bigger Big Pharma will become …

              4. Thanks. 5. Agreed – although to me the US health system seems more anarchic (or minarchic) than ours, surely?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2016

              Similar to the education voucher system Sweden uses to fund education – money follows the patient. Funding would be allocated based on the practice patient enrolment and profile. A similar small scale system already operates for primary healthcare:
              http://www.practicecentre.cyf.govt.nz/policy/caring-for-children-and-young-people/resources/how-the-health-system-works-in-new-zealand.html

              No, not privatisation by stealth. Privatisation without stealth. All patients would then have access to the private specialist services that are currently only available to the wealthy and those with health insurance.

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              I will be forever grateful for the public health system in this country. It gave me 9 more years with my wife than I would otherwise have had.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2016

              @Gezza, though probably the IP that enabled this originated in the global private sector?

              It’s hard to make comparisons when you have only seen one system.

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              IP, Alan ? If you mean the treatment, it did indeed originate in the private sector, in the US I think, but the treatment was only available in Wellington public hospital here at the time my wife required it.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  22nd April 2016

              Yes, that’s what I meant. My wife was a very experienced and multi-qualified nurse working in the large private sector in South Africa who said coming to NZ was a shock to find third world conditions in health services here with everything run and controlled by the Government.

              Sadly South Africa has now been driven down towards Zimbabwe direction by the corruption and incompetence of the Zuma government. Hence so many South African medical professionals now emigrated to NZ and Oz.

        • Your “real world experience” is the equivalent of a communist industry commissar saying owners and managers in an exploitive capitalist enterprise have no “manufacturing process experience”. Of course they do. Henry Ford understood cars and production lines. Howard Hughes aviation and aircraft fabrication.

          It’s every bit as much propaganda bullshit. Why would civil or public service experience NOT BE “real world”?

          You think private enterprise is going to run health and education better? Like it does Healthcare in America perhaps? I’m sure ‘Big Pharma’ is just busting to fund preventative medicine Alan …

          You’re really talking about widening the ‘divide’ and completing the separation – Douglas’s “unfinished business” – in education for example, elitist, favoured ‘private’ and mass, subsistence ‘public’ … producing the ruling elite and the “service-age” version of their cannon and machine fodder … or worse, their “beneficiary-class” overtaken by computers and robots …

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  21st April 2016

            See above.

            Reply
          • I remember reading years ago that the cost to keep a person medically well, was exactly double under the US private healthcare system, than it was under the Australian Medicare system. Working in Australian hospitals also, I found the paperwork and running around for/by ‘private’ patients, far exceeded that for Medicare patients, even though the treatment was identical for both. So I think it is a myth that the Private sector is more ‘efficient’, it can be a more bloated bureaucracy than the public equivalent.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  22nd April 2016

              There has to be competition in the private sector to force efficiency.

  3. Blazer

     /  21st April 2016

    The portfolios allocated to the Canadian cabinet members are a great example of matching relevant experience.

    Reply
  4. Zedd

     /  21st April 2016

    I think the broader the experience, the better the parliament will be. BUT it seems ‘Team Key’ are just obsessed with worshiping the ‘mighty dollar’.. supposing that economists & bankers make the best MPs ? 😀

    btw; having a degree in political science, might be handy, but methinks it does not make for a great MP either :/

    Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  21st April 2016

    One problem with trying to slim down the bureacracy is that every new government since Lange sets out pretty well straight away to do that. Among the standard mantas is that there are far too many people involved in PR and communications. A lot of noise is made about it, some of them get axed, some seem to just move to Ministers’ Offices. Other “unnecessary back room staff” are then declared redundant. Maybe a few middle managers get the elbow, though it’s amazing how many of them survive the onslaught and contribute stuff-all to the operation.

    Then Ministers start demanding all sorts of policy changes to be made and things to be done and things start going wrong as remaining staff get overloaded taking on the unnecessary “back room” work as well as their other roles, because sometimes quite a few of them were actually necessary, or at least there needed to be a lot more planning or say IT work done to somehow fill the gaps.

    Before you know it the payroll’s looking the way it was before and the comms & PR staff all seem to be back there again. :/

    Reply
    • @ Gezza – IF ONLY … However, since 1984 there has been another very significant component, privatisation. Considerable policy-making and other aspects of bureaucracy have been privatised, partly in order for the forces of ‘financialisation’ to achieve their desired outcomes, and partly for a semblance of saving money, when all that has truly happened is a shift of payment and emphasis.

      Ultimately the “bureaucracy” is just as large only ‘different’ … This is echoed in taxation, yes? Income tax reduced, yay!!! GST and numerous ancilliary taxes make the actual tax take up to about what it was before … with some punishing austerity making up the difference … Shift of emphasis. (To exaggerate) Different winners, bigger ‘wins’ for fewer, the same losers …?

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  21st April 2016

        One of two departments I worked in (actually a pretty efficient one) outsourced its IT development and maintenance years ago. It made sense. It wasn’t “core business”. There seemed to be several people forever busy working away on their own pet projects that weren’t necessary. The outsourcer snapped up all the staff. It increased their pay straight away. And commenced providing about the same level of service – certainly no better, sometimes worse. Suddenly we had no IT managers with any idea how to maintain oversight of the quality of service we were getting, the type of systems we had, and what to do when things weren’t delivered on schedule, or weren’t to the quality standards expected.

        Specifications for work were often vague because of this lack of knowledge and user testing was more tedious, frustrating and time consuming than before, with every stupid flaw having to be laboriously documented, sent dow there, and paid for to get fixed, when it should have been a simple change and never even have occurred or would’ve been fixed on the spot before. To-ing & fro-ing was the norm and getting quick access to your developer difficult because of their bureaucracy. We would regularly send people down to their offices to do some types of testing in their test database before the systems were loaded up and went live. It was quite a large operation, lots of staff servicing several clients.

        We sometimes needed to hire in someone with particular expertise to user-spec and test specialist jobs. One of them went down there one day and came back later that afternoon. He said while he was there they must’ve thought he was a newbie of theirs. He overheard a conversation: “X department has refused to pay this bill because they reckon it was our fault and they shouldn’t have to pay for it to be fixed. He said the next thing he heard was “Don’t worry about it, we’ll just spread it across several other activities in next month’s bill”. It sounded like it was normal.

        I didn’t have access to our financials but I bet from day 1 we were spending more on outsourced IT than we ever did when it was in-house.

        Reply
        • Interesting personal experience Gezza, and I wouldn’t mind betting not uncommon.

          Reply
        • Conspiratoor

           /  21st April 2016

          So what’s the answer g? I feel a good debate coming on

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st April 2016

          It’d be a long one to explain Conspiratoor. The place got restructured /realigned /reorganised every 3-5 years. They eventually flattened the structure because the SSC decided it was all the rage in business around the globe. Took out all the middle managers and left just the head honchos. Many were imports, some from private industry to give the place a shake up and a more business-oriented approach. They suddenly had masses of all these complex legal delegations they didn’t understand, & weren’t adequately trained in (they used to be spread over a couple of useful, functional supervisor tiers) and huge numbers of staff.

          The new more efficient short vertical direct lines straight up to one senior manager didn’t work because their fiefdoms were so large they often didn’t know what they or their staff were doing, were scared of getting it wrong and ending up in the poo with top management, so quite a few of them just toddled off to management meetings all day & procrastinated with everything else. What happened was the checking and authorisation lines didn’t shorten: they ended up going sideways. The place still managed to function, but it was because of the skills and training of the staff. When some of these managers weren’t there, productivity actually went up.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st April 2016

            Twice when we downsized through top down reviews (instead of bottom up) and uneccessary back room staff were made redundant, within 6 months it was realised they weren’t unnecessary at all. Quite the reverse. We had to hire some of them back. They’d already been paid redundancy, but felt they had been shafted, and now they knew what they were really worth, so guess what happened pay-wise.

            Reply
            • patupaiarehe

               /  21st April 2016

              I would guess that their motivation, and loyalty were inversely proportional to their new pay rate as well Gezza 😉

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              He he pp. Oddly enough, no. The place had always managed to maintain a collegial atmosphere. It was heartbreaking to see them go and when they returned, on higher pay, they slotted straight back in and were as loyal and dedicated as before, except we all now knew the management was shit and we needed to have as little to do with them as possible.

          • Conspiratoor

             /  21st April 2016

            @g. Let me guess. The railways? My question was more to do with your comment about the IT department and your thoughts re in house or outsource

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              No, not the railways conspiratoor. Complex legal delegations weren’t required there as far as I know. If you don’t mind, I’d rather not say too much more. I don’t want to identify the department. Things went somewhat spectacular a year after I left. I’d hope it’s running ok now. It looks to me like it is from the outside. I haven’t kept in touch with folk there. Most of those I worked closely with seem to have left within a year of me.

              The problem wasn’t that changes were made. It was the completely inept way in which they were made. Several times.

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              Oh, I see Conspiratoor. I’ll skip to a new post down further if you like, save us getting into the narrows?

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  21st April 2016

          That story sounds so familiar I have to wonder if it was the same department I had an involvement with. Outsourced IT because it “wasn’t core business” but actually it was. Left itself completely dependent on its single provider. Utterly, almost unbelievably, incompetent IT management brought in. All institutional knowledge embedded in code no-one in the department had access to or understood. Fantasy “upgrade” project initiated. I told them life was too short to get involved in obvious disasters and bailed. They continued and blew $35M before the project was canned.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st April 2016

            I’ll say no more Alan. That’s sounding quite familiar.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              It might not be the same department but the symptoms are similar.

  6. David

     /  21st April 2016

    The end of politics as a career would be the single best thing that could happen to democracy in generations.

    Reply
  7. Gezza

     /  21st April 2016

    @ Conspiratoor. In-house would have been better. Huge system. Plenty of ongoing update/changes work. Needed an IT Manager from outside who was knowledgeable and ruthlessly efficient. Someone like Alan probably, but with more patience and maybe slightly less sense. 😎

    Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  21st April 2016

      I’ve seen it from both sides. Best in my view for project work is a strong IT manager with in-house PM, BA and solutions architect through to design spec then outsource to contract developers. No role confusion. Acountability at each step. Don’t scrimp on the BA. Outsource everything and you will be taken for a ride but keep it all in house and you will wait forever

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  21st April 2016

        The biggest deficiency we had was a series of wombles with no IT experience at all, responsible for managing the ongoing systems and getting the specs for the big upgrade. Your proposal above sounds like it would’ve worked well for the big new system. A small in-house team would’ve been better for the ongoing programmed regular updates IMO. But managed closely, no pet projects, just maintenance and updates.

        Reply
        • Conspiratoor

           /  21st April 2016

          IT staff with no IT experience sounds like an oxymoron. Were they employed for ahem ‘other’ skills?

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  21st April 2016

            I know you will find this unbelievable, because I kept shaking my head for several years about it, but the theory was, as we had outsourced our IT, and we trusted our IT provider (because they had some of our former staff) all we needed in the new flat structure was someone with and MBA and “generic management skills” to oversee a small empire.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2016

              The guy I dealt with before my legendary patience ran out (that didn’t take long) could not even manage himself let alone anyone else. Failed to turn up to crucial strategy meeting with experts flown in from all over the country and you couldn’t get hold of him because he didn’t answer his phone and his voice mailbox was full. Contractor sighed and told us he did this all the time. Complete moron.

            • Conspiratoor

               /  21st April 2016

              you are correct G I do find it unbelievable, but perversly also believable

            • Gezza

               /  21st April 2016

              Outside of the IT area Department X paid an imported manager from an overseas airline to fly down and stay in Welly every week to manage one specialist unit. He was hardly ever there and when he was, the office door was closed. It was rapidly obvious the contracted recruitment agency had looked at the CV and recommended him. They hadn’t checked with his former employer why he was on the market, or if they did, they got bombed with bullshit and bought it.

              Nobody seemed to know what to do about him. No one at top management level wanted to admit they’d shot themselves in the knees. When he finally bailed after about 18 months, the kindest thing anyone who worked with him had to say was that he knew less about the job when he left than when he started.

  8. Pete Kane

     /  22nd April 2016

    So they don’t count David Parker as a ‘lawyer’? (Or Andrew Little for that matter who spent the majority of his working life as a staff lawyer with his union.) Or Rino Tirikatene for that matter. Interesting approach.

    Reply

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