Holding the government to account improves governance

Holding the government to account improves governance

Priyanca Radhakrishnan

Although this year’s Indian Newslink Lecture (held on Monday, July 29, 2019) was the Ninth of its kind, the series was formerly known as the Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture.

The event this year was the first of the rebranded lecture series and therefore, the first one where the Welcome Address was not delivered by Sir Anand.

So while it was a privilege – it was also somewhat daunting.

Sir Anand Satyanand

I felt fitting at this point to acknowledge that the man who lent his name for so many years to this Lecture series. Particularly, as in his Welcome Address at the Inaugural Lecture in 2011 he began by quoting Oscar Wilde who famously said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

To say that the career of Sir Anand is an illustrious one is an understatement.

A Barrister and Solicitor of the High court, Judge, two terms as an Ombudsman, our first Governor-General of Indian origin.

In all these roles, we trust that those who hold them act in a manner that is honest, transparent, accountable and steeped in integrity; all the values that Sir Anand has and continues to embody.

Good Governance everywhere

It was therefore appropriate that a Lecture series about Good Governance bore his name for all these years.

Good Governance matters at every level; in the NGO sector, the private sector, public service and in local and central government.

In all spheres, it is important to have trust in your institutions. And you cannot have that trust without attributes like integrity, transparency and accountability.

They used to say that lawyers and politicians are the least-trusted professions. And then a 2015 Survey in New Zealand indicated that trust in politicians had risen slightly.

We were no longer at that bottom of the least-trusted list, we were slightly ahead of journalists who occupied that least-coveted spot.

Importance of Trust

So we were in good company at the Lecture; an event organised by a journalist, featuring a whole cast of politicians as speakers!

On a more serious note, we are facing a rising tide of public suspicion. We often get people who say they’re not going to bother to vote because politicians are all the same and…why does it matter anyway?

It matters because the decisions we make in Parliament and in (City) Councils, have the power to make life better or worse. The choices we have and the decisions we make affect everyone. And so, if you are alive, you have a stake in the decisions and the political process.

Transparency matters

And we have one of the most transparent, accessible processes – anyone in New Zealand can have their voice heard on a Bill that is being considered by a Select Committee and all that information is on the New Zealand Parliament website and often on their social media sites as well. Get involved, have your say. You also have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming Local Government Elections.

A Section of the audience at the Ninth Annual Indian Newslink Lecture (July 29, 2019)
Pictures by Narendra Bedekar (Creative Eye Photographics)

The Fear Complex

Globally, we are seeing a rising tide of fear. The fear that underpins conversations around migration and fuels the “Them and us” narrative. Fear of increasing insecurity – groups of people who feel they no longer enjoy the economic security they once did. That the disparity is growing and they’re being left behind.

We have seen this kind of fear manifest in Brexit, rising protectionism and mistrust of the rule of law.

Good Governance matters because without it, people lose trust and faith in those who are meant to look out for their interests.

Good Governance matters because without it we politicians cannot take our communities with us.

Good governance matters because without it, and the attributes that underpin it, we cannot contribute to long-term change on issues that do not fit neatly in box. The big issues like climate change and poverty.

And so, it is chicken-and-egg situation. We need Good Government to build the trust that allows us to make the changes that benefit the nation.

Now that I had suitably confused everyone (!), I left it to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, the Guest Speaker, to clarify how this government is tackling that growing divide and delivering long-term change on the big issues that are facing us.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan is a Member of Parliament on Labour List and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ethnic Communities Minister. The above was her Opening Address at the Ninth Annual Indian Newslink Lecture held on Monday, July 29, 2019 at Pullman Hotel, edited to suit the print and web editions.

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Photo Caption:

A Section of the audience at the Ninth Annual Indian Newslink Lecture (July 29, 2019)

Pictures by Narendra Bedekar (Creative Eye Fotographics)

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