The emphasis on bridging the gap between public trust and politicians was a key message that resonated at the Ninth Annual Indian Newslink lecture held at Pullman Hotel, Auckland on Monday, July 29, 2019.
The night witnessed a change from the ‘Sir Anand Satyanand’ brand from previous years, yet the intensity of lecture delivery, the vibrancy of the audience, and the proficiency of the speakers remained par excellence.
The core objective of the Lecture series is to promote Good Governance in the Corporate and Private sectors and individual lives of New Zealanders.
Importance of Governance
This year, Finance Minister Grant Robertson reflected upon the importance of having good governance in government.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff started the proceedings and was at his oratory best in his role as Master of Ceremonies, whilst keeping a mindful eye on ensuring the Programme ran to clockwork.
Labour List MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan had the honour of presenting the Opening Address, a task that Sir Anand had undertaken in the previous eight Annual events.
Ms Radhakrishnan touched on the sad reality of an underlying global fear based on migration. She noted that the openness and transparency in New Zealand government was a contributor to the problem not gaining strength in this country.
Openness and Governance
Unsurprisingly, Mr Robertson’s Lecture hinged largely on the Wellbeing Budget that he delivered in Parliament on May 30, 2019 and its relevance to an open and transparent governance promised by the labour government.
Mr Robertson reminded the engaged audience that governance mattered in many aspects of our lives, but more so in government. Failure to do, he noted, could lead to “disengagement” with the public.
Mr Robertson felt this ‘scepticism about politicians’ now bordered on reaching an unhealthy state, and therefore more needs to be done to bridge the gap of mistrust.
He warned that mistrust between public and government has the potential to lead to “violence, chaos and disorder,” arising from populism and the politics of division.
Faith in Government
He felt it is important the public has faith and trust in any government, and it is upon this notion that the Jacinda Ardern government has embarked on a watershed movement to which the people can relate to the Wellbeing Budget.
The Budget is based around the “four capitals, or stocks of wellbeing, Financial/Physical, Human, Natural and Social”, or as Mr Robertson simplified, “our money, our people, our environment and our communities.”
He pointed out that New Zealand government is the only country in the world that produced monthly reports, and a financial review every six months. The fact that these obligations are embedded into our law highlights the strong governance we adhere to as a country.
Reinforcing our current position, Mr Robertson echoed the fact that New Zealand consistently ranks in the top three in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and tops the World Bank list of best places in the world to do business.
“This, backed by our strong Rule of Law, indicates we are doing well,” he said.
Noting that there is always room for improvement, he said that the government is looking at the Public Finance Act to address weaknesses in areas of transparency and accountability.
Subtle political banter between opposing parties is a welcome norm in this series, and no opportunity was missed in this regard this year as National Party Finance Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith provided his ‘Reflections’ on the Mr Robertson’s speech.
Goldsmith launches attack
Mr Goldsmith called out Mr Robertson on the ‘300 odd’ Working Committees that the government has instituted to-date, and the $3 billion investment in the Provisional Growth Fund costing the taxpayer $3 billion dollars.
“Showing value to the taxpayer must be a tangible action of good governance,” he said.
Mr Goldsmith reinforced the importance of a strong economy and its impact on the citizens, whilst challenging Mr Robertson on statistics and approach to solve the common objective of a prosperous New Zealand.
The Lecture included a Question & Answer Session with the audience, and Mr Goff’s passionate and deep response to a question on multiculturism, was an apt reminder of his popularity among a majority of Aucklanders.
In presenting his concluding remarks, former MP Dr Rajen Prasad provided his wisdom of academic and parliamentary experience to the Governance equation.
Among those who attended the event were Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Government Whip Michael Wood, Labour MPs Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Deborah Russell, National MPs Paul Goldsmith, Mark Mitchell, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Chris Penk, Don Bidois, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, former Member of Parliament Dr Rajen Prasad, Assistant Governor, & General Manager, Governance, Strategy and Corporate Relations, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Simone Robbers, Director of External Communications and Investor capability, Financial Markets Authority Louise Nicholson, Indian Newslink Managing Director & Publisher Jacob Mannothra Focus Marketing Managing Director Kiran Arul, top officials of the government and public and private sector undertakings.
Ravi Nyayapati is an IT Professional and a Columnist in Indian Newslink. He lives in Auckland and writes on Current Affairs, Business, Community and Sports.