Progressive engagement spells qualitative government

Priyanca Radhakrishnan

The Indian Newslink Lecture (held on Monday, July 29, 2019 at Pullman Hotel Auckland) was the ninth of its kind but the first in the rebranded series.

Previously known as ‘Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture Series,’ the annual event aims to provide our communities with the opportunity to hear from those with direct experience of governance and to discuss matters related to Good Governance and the principles that underpin it.

In my Opening Address (that was a privilege to deliver), I said that Good Governance matters at all levels of governance because people must have confidence and trust in the institutions that serve them.

Rising public suspicion

Governments are facing a rising tide of public suspicion, globally and here in New Zealand. People tell me that they do not vote because they are not sure why it matters to them. Politics matters because it is about decisions that have the power to affect people’s lives – for better or worse.

The main speaker this year was our Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

In his early remarks, as Minister for Sport and Recreation, he talked about the importance of Good Governance in all spheres, including sports.

He spoke about the attitude, courage and integrity displayed by the Black Caps in the recent World Cup Final, in which they neither lost nor won!

Stating that the government is more than just laws and regulations, Mr Robertson said that it decides on the priorities for spending hard-earned taxpayers’ money; how much is spent on Health, Housing, Education, Roads and Rail, Defence and Police.

These are all decisions that shape our lives for generations to come.

Some of the scepticism about politicians is because people feel that politics is something that is done to them, not with them.

Mr Robertson said that scepticism is reaching an unhealthy level.

“The journey from scepticism to distrust and ultimately disengagement can be short, and profoundly dangerous to our democracy,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

Varying disengagement

Around the world, we are seeing disengagement play out in various ways. At the extreme, it can lead to violence, chaos and disorder.

It can also drive populism and the politics of division.

If people look to government and simply cannot believe what they are told, or do not see themselves reflected, they will disengage.

If a population is told time and again that they have benefited from globalisation, but all they see is unemployment and stagnant wages, they will become cynical. In such a state,  they become easy victims of those who spread fake news, tell comforting half-truths and provide easy answers. This feeds intolerance, racism and exclusion.

In other words, it is against all the things that underpin the values of a country like New Zealand. Good Governance is the critical way to fight the rising tide of populism and government by division and exclusion.

Wellbeing Budget

The main thrust of Mr Robertson’s speech was the Government’s Wellbeing Budget 2019.

The difference is that the ‘Wellbeing Approach’ is now a part of every stage of the Budget process, from using evidence of wellbeing in setting our Budget priorities and subjecting each Budget proposal to a Wellbeing analysis, to measuring our success against a set of wellbeing indicators.

It is important to note that taking this approach is not at the cost of the financial and fiscal health of our nation. Generating wealth and prosperity is a critical element of our current and future wellbeing. It is not enough on its own.

Living Standards

The Treasury’s ‘Living Standards Framework,’ along with expert advice from inside and outside government, specified five Budget priorities namely Mental Health, Child Wellbeing, Addressing Disparities for Maori and Pacific Peoples, Building a more Productive Nation and a Sustainable Economy, in particular, meeting the challenges and taking the opportunities related to Climate Change.

At each stage of the Budget process, we focused on two important elements- how to break down the silos of government and what would have the biggest impact on future generations. If there is one thing that will erode trust in government, it is the inability of the government to work together.

It is a start to getting the outcomes we want, to improve our collective wellbeing. It is an attempt to tackle the long-term challenges facing us as a Nation.

The alternative is to be complacent and allow the cynicism to turn to distrust.

As Mr Robertson said, a government does not dictate a person’s wellbeing but if it truly believes in people and their capabilities and puts wellbeing at the core of what it does, then it gives every New Zealander the chance to succeed.

That is good government and good governance.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Member of Parliament on Labour List, delivered the Opening Address at the Ninth Annual Indian Newslink Lecture held on Monday, July 29, 2019, at Pullman Hotel, Auckland. Finance Minister Grant Robertson was the Guest Speaker, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff as the Master of Ceremonies, National List MP Paul Goldsmith providing his Reflections and former Labour MP Dr Rajen Prasad offering his Concluding Remarks. Please read related stories under Homelink and Businesslink and our Leader under Viewlink.

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Featured in the Group Picture are Finance Minister Grant Robertson with MPs Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Carmel Sepuloni (Social Development Minister) Paul Goldsmith, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi; Standing (from left) Police Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, MPs Marja Lubeck, Michael Wood, Deputy Commissioner of Police Wallace Haumaha, Deborah Russell, Chris Penk, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Jami-Lee Ross, Lucy Schwaner, Dr Rajen & Prem Prasad, Trinh Hoang, Jacob Mannothra, Kiran Arul, Dr Don Brash, Vanisa Dhiru and Irvinder Kaur Bakshi.

 

Photo :

  1. Some of our guests at the Lecture (clockwise) Carmel Sepuloni, Phil Goff, Grant Robertson, Dr Rajen Prasad, Prem Prasad, Reserve Bank of New Zealand Assistant Governor Simone Robbers and Peter Neilson (partially seen). Pictures by Narendra Bedekar, Creative Eye Fotographics.
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