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Dunne Speaks

Dunne Speaks

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I know it is election year, and that that always generates a certain amount of frenetic silliness, as parties jockey for first mover advantage, but this year’s various efforts are probably the best yet.

From chemtrails, to non-launches of new parties, to the series of disconnected announcements from across the spectrum on areas as diverse as education, support for families, political overrides of the judicial process, they all smack of a peculiarly New Zealand version of the theatre of the absurd. The pace has been fast and furious with all the finesse of a Parisian traffic jam. In short, a series of symptoms desperately looking for a cause. The one possible exception is the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation Report, although its particular understandable focus discounts its impartiality somewhat.

Such policy making in a vacuum, or to put it more colloquially scratching every apparent itch (one party has made this a shabby art form over many years) might be fun in election year, but is no way to run a credible government.

Some years ago the Irish government adopted making Ireland the best place to raise a family as a key policy objective, and then geared its social and economic policies, including what the required economic growth rate to achieve those would be (around 6% from memory) towards meeting that goal. Such an approach might be far too organised for New Zealand in its current frame of mind. But it would certainly be a death-blow to the spraying around of expensive, unco-ordinated wish lists that seem to pass for serious policy these days.

What all this points to is the need for governments to have thorough and coherent information on which to base their policies and is why the annual Families Status Report the Families Commission is now required to produce is so important. This initiative was promoted by UnitedFuture in its 2011 confidence and supply agreement with National and was implemented last year. The 2014 Families Status Report will be released in June.

It will provide good baseline information on the status of New Zealand families and whānau today, their issues and concerns, and will be the ideal platform on which to build viable policies for the future. That of itself is probably a major reason why Opposition parties keep promising to abolish the Commission. However, spite over substance never wins the day.


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