20 March 2007

Justice system review

Recent bad news about the Corrections dept has prompted a review of the whole justice system by the government, and this will be worth watching, especially for 724 students. There is a good article on the topic by John Armstrong in the Herald too. The previous National Govt split Corrections, Courts and Justice as part of the general move to disaggregate large bureaucracies into single-purpose agencies, and to avoid 'provider capture' by separating policy advisors from service providers. Labour have chosen sometimes to re-integrate such departments, but only as needed, rather than undertake more 'radical reforms'. Hence, for example, the amalgamations that created the Ministry of Social Development. They also merged Courts and Ministry of Justice, and now it looks like Corrections could be amalgamated into Justice too. We'll wait and see.
In the bigger picture, such changes suggest more than just a political knee-jerk reaction to bad publicity. They suggest a gradual turn-around and re-thinking of NZ's whole approach to public management, reversing some (but by no means all) of the reforms of the 1980s and 90s.
In a later posting, I would like to expand on this theme, and ask whether we need now to reconceptualize public management, in a way that puts the term 'public' clearly back into the picture. Do we need now to develop new ideas about public institutions, public services and public spaces?

08 March 2007

What's up in public policy this year?

Just to get you into thinking about the practical trends for us in public policy in 2007, a good place to begin is with the PM's statement to the House, read at the opening of Parliament. If you do get around to reading it, please note her use of the key terms 'sustainable economy', 'living standards' and 'national identity'. And think about the practical strategies that the government is undertaking to live up to these values. Anyway, each of these concepts is relevant to 721. Indeed, there is an essay topic on the meaning of 'sustainability'. What does the present NZ Government mean by this term? And why might 'national identity' be the business of government? You can link this project of creating and sustaining a sense of cohesive nationhood to the topic of 'social contract' in next week's lecture.