As the government wraps up its final days in parliament for 2018, Newshub Nation panelists rate the highs and lows of its performance this year:
Phil O'Reilly, founder of Iron Duke
Highlight: Climate change policy. James Shaw has led a constructive, sensible and sensitive debate on issues that have bedevilled public policymakers all around the world. He and supporting Ministers have actively reached out to stakeholders they could easily have ignored, such as the business community and the opposition with a view to making the policy framework intergenerational. That is the essence of good policy making given the long term challenges of the issue,
Lowlight: My brickbat goes to the banning of offshore oil and gas exploration. It was a case study in how not to effect good public policy. It was overtly political and politicised; there was zero consultation, even with officials and certainly not with affected businesses and communities. It ignored compelling evidence that it wouldn't achieve its apparently-intended purpose. It badly affected local communities and had knock on impacts on business confidence to invest in other sectors of the economy. It did damage to our hard won international reputation as a good place to invest and a country with a stable, predictable public policy environment. It will continue to do us damage in years ahead.
Laila Harre, former MP
Highlight: Public opinion and Parliament swinging behind drug law reform. Despite some silly business from National towards the end of the year, there has been a welcome progressive shift. Acknowledgement should be given to the NZ Drug Foundation in particular for holding this space and being ready for the incoming tide of support.
Lowlight: The signing and ratification of the (CP) Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement despite the three Government parties all joining in rallies against it a year earlier. Above all, this was a missed opportunity to hop off the free trade and investor rights bandwagon and give the Government's Trade for All process more credibility.
Lance Norman, Procare’s Head of Equity and Māori Health Outcomes
Highlight (health policy): Extending the accessibility of the Community Services Card and extending free doctors’ visits to under 14s gives more access to whānau in primary care. The government will need to advertise this though, to ensure that people who are eligible access these services.
Lowlight (health policy): The lack of investment in other areas of public health and primary health care, particularly the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry Report, He Ara Oranga. No funding for Year One? We appreciate the review process that (hopefully) kicks off in year two, but we just really hope that funding flows through to some of the really great initiatives that we know have the potential to provide easy, accessible and equitable wellbeing support for people, such as Te Tumu Waiora. Policy review without a budget adjustment is quite pointless.
Lowlight (social policy): We still have not significantly addressed domestic violence, incarceration rates, homelessness and social deprivation.
Shamubeel Eaqub, economist
Highlight: The big win for me was the rental reforms. It’s a significant bit of policy that will make a real difference to the many people who rent.
Lowlight: The big loss was the state housing target. It’s too small relative to the even the current waitlist. They need to be much bolder on state house building
Tania Sawicki Mead, director Just Speak
Highlight: My performance highlight is Chloe Swarbrick, for her successful advocacy both behind the scenes at Parliament and with members of the public on a health approach to drugs. While it is early days, a policy shift on this has enormous potential to reduce harm, save lives and prevent more people from cycling in and out of the justice system when what they need is help with addiction disorders.
Lowlight: My policy lowlight was the Government's failure to repeal three strikes thanks to a last minute blow from Winston Peters. It was a cynical move on New Zealand First's part, because this law does nothing meaningful in service of safety, justice or rehabilitation. We remain hopeful it will be repealed as part of the Government's promised justice legislative package.
Simon Wilson, NZ Herald senior writer
Highlight: The new ATAP, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project: $28 billion over 10 years that materially refocuses Auckland transport spending away from motorways and towards public transport, local roads and safety. It’s a policy to reinvigorate the prospects of a city with far-reaching consequences, not just for transport and the economy but for health, climate change and community building too.
Lowlight: The lack of big-picture thinking in health. While Minister David Clark has been chasing his tail over building repairs and nurses' strikes, the government has shown no sign of producing a bold strategy to fix the problems of primary healthcare among the most needy, or to adapt healthcare to the demands and opportunities of the modern world. In stark contrast to some other parts of the government's programme, in health they are drifting.
Vernon Tava, former Green Party candidate
Highlight: The Child Poverty Reduction Act, just passed into law, is a policy highlight for the year. The elimination of poverty is the Prime Minister's stated reason for getting into politics and a cause it is impossible not to support; parties differ only on the method of reaching this goal. A highlight of this legislative process is that the bill as introduced to the House was significantly improved by bi-partisan work done with the National Party to refine measurable and reportable indicators of income and employment, housing, education, and health; it also adopted the 'social investment' approach, which I always considered one of the Bill English's finest policy legacies.
Lowlight: The oil and gas exploration ban is the government's poorest policy decision yet in terms of both development and execution. I write this as someone who is very concerned about the environment but, however laudable the objective, the ban itself was carried out in the worst possible way. The bill took the industry - as well as business and investors generally - by surprise: it was not a Labour election promise, was not part of a confidence and supply or coalition agreement, was not consulted upon, and had not even been taken to Cabinet before being announced with immediate effect. Worst of all, it will cause significant economic disruption locally while achieving almost nothing on a global scale and may force us to burn more polluting fuels like coal, entirely negating the hoped-for effect. Surely the uncertainty that other industry sectors will be given the same short shrift has made some contribution to plummeting business confidence. It would have been far better to wait for the Productivity Commission to set out the pathway to a low emissions future and consult with affected parties before making the decision. Indeed, a cynic could easily reach the conclusion that its timing and suddenness had more to do with an impending Prime Ministerial appearance at the UN than a carefully considered policy approach.
Marg Joiner, assoicate partner, SenateSHJ
Highlight: The Government’s successful management of its three-party arrangement, with a good balance of the interests and ideologies of the parties. Winston Peters’ six weeks as Acting Prime Minister was also a good example of the government’s ability to manage change.
Lowlight: KiwiBuild. With expectations set very high, the delivery of the policy has fallen wide of the mark, as confirmed by Treasury’s recent half-year fiscal update showing the government is a long way off achieving its target. Unfortunately, the policy has seen struggling families and young professionals competing for the same houses, which are still upward of half a million dollars each.