Compare and Contrast

As I have stated in many previous posts, the government is the government and being democratically elected they have the right to implement the policies they see fit. But today my jaw dropped as I saw the launch of the Government Green Paper for Vulnerable Children. Well done Paula Bennett, take a bow.

This is what New Zealand's government law making process used to be like. I love it.

There is a very big issue, the green paper comes out. The stakeholders, the experts and anyone with a strong opinion have a crack at it. Here is the timetable:

Step 1. Child abuse in New Zealand is an identified problem which needs attention so...

Step 2. May-August 2011:
Green Paper developed by a multidisciplinary team of public servants and others.
Advice and peer review provided by a group of academics and scientific experts chaired by Sir Peter Gluckman and a frontline forum including the Children’s Commissioner.
The Green Paper is released by the end of July 2011.

Step 3. August 2011-February 2012 :
Nationwide public consultation Green Paper

Step 4. May-July 2012:
Analysis of consultation.
Development of a White Paper setting out the Children’s Action Plan.

Step 5. August 2012:
Release of White Paper and formal adoption of the Plan.

Compare and contrast the education national standards legislative process.

Step 1. Lack of student achievement in literacy and numeracy is identified as an election issue. In the face of clear data that New Zealand leads the world in these areas.

Step 2. Pass Education Amendment Bill. Under urgency. No select committee consideration, no industry or professional sector consultation, no teacher voice, no parent voice, no university education research voice. That's all folks. Done. Law made.

There is a perverse factor to take into account as you compare and contrast the modes of operation (Minister of Education with the Minister of Social Development) and their degrees of haste. The evidence of child abuse is real and commands immediate action. The evidence of an underperforming education system is harder to find as New Zealand continues to top international performance tables. You would think one deserves parliamentary urgency and the other consultation and careful steps. Sadly it has been reversed.

Actually both issues deserve due process, and enduring and effective solutions require the latter. Well done Paula Bennett for getting back to the way that our country was, and should be governed. You and the cabinet have the ultimate say on what legislation will come out of the process but what you do decide upon will have had some good expert (and every-person) input. Can you pop down the corridor to share your methods with the Minister of Education?