Think tanks are leading the way as political parties play it safe

Helen Clark talks about drug use

OPINION: We are living in unprecedented times with a pandemic of global proportions. For many commentators, this is seen as an opportunity to think “outside the box” about the future direction of our society and economy, and our general election seemed as good a place to start as any. Yet it threw up few new ideas, as both major parties played safe and protected their respective electoral territories. 

If the major parties cannot be relied on to bring big new ideas to the table, who can? The minor parties can make a substantive contribution. For example, under the previous government NZ First promoted the Billion Trees scheme and the Provincial Growth Fund, while the Greens advanced the Climate Change Commission and a series of related environmental and climate initiatives. 

What about the public service? It works within an environment that is constitutionally and politically constrained, responding to the programme of the government of the day and to the policy demands of major events, so there may be few sources of innovation here. 

Another option is think tanks, which are research-based policy and advocacy institutes that form a transmission belt between academia and politics. A recent newsletter of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) argues that think tanks can bring a range of perspectives and advice to governments, introducing new ideas and provoking public debate. 

Read the rest of my article in STUFF.

Published by

Peter Davis NZ

Peter Davis recently retired from Auckland University where he established and headed the COMPASS research group in the Faculty of Arts for ten years and before that taught and researched in health policy and health services in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (and for a time at the Christchurch Medical School) for 30 years. Peter remains an Honorary Professor in Statistics and an Emeritus Professor in Population Health and Social Science at the University of Auckland. He was recently elected to the Auckland District Health Board where his main areas of interest are: the reporting and using of information to improve the performance of health systems, the effective management of public sector organisations to achieve policy goals, and the development of evidence-informed public policy. Peter is also Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Helen Clark Foundation, a New Zealand-focussed public policy think tank.

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