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Ardern Government rings in new values and cultural change

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

By John TamihereJT


Around the world new governments’ assert their mana as a new administration in their first 100 days in office. But unlike President Trump’s first 100 days where nothing happened, the Labour-led coalition is changing the culture of government as much as its substance, very quickly and very early.


After nine years of a National-led administration, a number of people have become embedded in process, in procedure, in benefits, and many policy administrators in the New Zealand Public Service have become arrogant and entitled.


Any new government must assert its values and culture quickly; to work out whether its senior bureaucrats have the will to change and the ability to implement change.


Unlike Trump, who could not muster the votes from within his own party, this government has confidence and supply numbers to change legislation and direction.


We have a process adopted from Great Britain called Whipping. The Party Whips make it clear to their members that they must be disciplined and vote consistently to their negotiated policy framework to provide certainty, solidity and stability for the next three years. This in turn gives certainty and stability to society, the community and the country.


The new administration has quickly announced that it will repeal National’s tax breaks that advantaged those earning over $90k a year. Prime Minister Ardern and her colleagues have also moved to clearly express what New Zealanders know - we need more social workers, more teachers, better parenting and less domestic violence. And, we do not need more prison beds that cost the taxpayer over $100k a year per prisoner. The 3 strikes law has also been chopped. That was dog-whistle politics from the Act Party, strongly supported by National and its application over 7 years applied to just TWO prisoners.


The ban on foreign buyers on existing housing stock has been warmly received by over 90% of New Zealanders, though there are a few upset real estate agents, lawyers, accountants and bankers. But in good west Auckland terminology, we would say to these folk, ‘so sad too bad!’


Paid Parental Leave goes from 18 to 22 weeks and Chris Hipkins will be acknowledged as one of the best Education Ministers the country has ever produced. His decision to question NCEA, to scrap national standards, and increase student allowance is long overdue.


A change of culture and values gives mana to the Pike River 29, as significant resource will be needed for a manned entry to return those great West Coast men to their whānau. It is also right that the Government adopt the High Court recommendation regarding Teina Pora by allowing for inflation and increasing compensation for his wrongful conviction.


But the test of this government will be in meeting the huge log jams and pent up expectations left by the last government. All New Zealanders’ need to be proud of a government’s attention to basic and fundamental values, attributes and assertions of culture by addressing the call from nurses, teachers, low-paid hospitality, cleaners and construction workers to increase wages. These are the values that distinguish us from the world.


Ardern has said she is privileged and humbled to lead a more empathetic government. Her first 100 days can set the scene to demonstrate value-led decisions and provide a cultural shift to a New Zealand where everyone benefits.