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Bridges Both Ways
Transforming the openness of New Zealand government
Max Rashbrooke (2017)
Review by Michael Macaulay
Associate Professor at the School of Government, Victoria University
TINZ delegated authority for Open Government Partnership
Bridges Both Ways—Transforming the openness of New Zealand government written by Max Rashbrooke, is a new report that looks at New Zealand’s record on openness, public transparency, political participation and anti-corruption policies. It questions New Zealand’s long-standing international reputation for integrity and openness, and puts forward ideas to make government more open.
While New Zealand has much to be proud of, there are serious problems. These have been highlighted in previous research, including, TINZ’s Integrity 2013 Plus National Integrity System Assessment.
Max explains: “Political donations are badly regulated, official information laws very are being widely circumvented, and opportunities for deep citizen engagement with politics are very limited. New Zealand is also passing up the chance to get on board the latest global push for greater openness, which is being impelled both by advances in technology and citizens' growing expectations of greater transparency in all parts of their lives.”
Making government more open means ensuring that where possible, core political decisions are made in the full view of the public.
Max discusses his report at a recent seminar conducted by Victoria University of Wellington’s Institute of Governance and Policy Studies
“That means key information is available, political decisions are free from corruption, the public can hold its leaders accountable, and ordinary people are directly involved in making decisions as often as possible. Ultimately this makes government more honest, more effective and more democratic. It also builds trust between the governors and the governed, and gives political decisions more legitimacy.”
The report suggests there are many ways to improve New Zealand’s level of openness, from straightforward fixes to legislation, to more far reaching and innovative ideas.
Suggestions include crowdsourcing bills, so the public gets the opportunity to submit proposals for legislation, and democratising party funding by giving each voter a voucher to allocate to the party of their choice.
Max argues that regardless of which policies are taken up, inaction is not an option. “While New Zealand's long-standing reputation as an open and transparent country should be a source of pride, it cannot be a source of complacency.”
The report should act as a spur to New Zealand’s continued concrete progress on international initiatives, especially the Open Government Partnership.
Download the report here http://igps.victoria.ac.nz/publications/publications/show/377
Wallace Chapman interviews Max Rashbrooke spanning five key ideas (2 July 2017): http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/201849597/max-rashbrooke-towards-a-truly-open-government.