• Robert MacCulloch

The Attorney General's comments about (lack of) bias aren't recognizable to my economics colleagues

A row has blown up today about how Mike King, a former comedian now best known for his work in mental health, had asked for funding for his 'Gumboot Friday' initiative but got nothing. He called it a "truly sad day". National MP Simon Bridges says King is right to think he's not getting multimillion-dollar contracts to run mental health services because he's too outspoken. "It absolutely is personal, they want to get rid of me, they really do", King told The AM Show.

Bridges added "there's a vindictiveness there in the Government. If you're the guy speaking out, you don't get the funds. I personally believe there is something in that, because you see it. You see it in all the other outlets". His comments were rebuffed by Attorney General David Parker who dismissed claims officials reject applications from organisations and individuals who criticize the ministry. "For that to be true, you'd have to effectively be saying that's the motivation of the officials that make those decisions within the Ministry of Health… I think that's a pretty rough accusation. I think just about everyone goes to work well-motivated to make a difference, just like Mike King does".

Hang on, David. My economist colleagues who have criticized the government or don't have the preferred (partisan) political profile are regularly excluded from offers of prestigious positions in the public sector. Many of these positions are not well paid, but have high status. As a result, the person who ends up getting the position can easily translate that status into bucks. So a whole lot of money is effectively at stake. I know of specific examples where folks were chosen for prestigious positions over and above way-better-qualified-with-way-better-work-experience alternatives. Why? Since political factors completely unrelated to competency were heavily weighed. Yes, David, its a rough accusation, but its one which strikes a chord with many of my fellow economists. Since its the truth.