Every day, we can see how law gets operationalised: when we drive too fast and get ticketed, if we are unhappy with the behaviour of a teacher and want their conduct to be investigated in order to protect our child, or when we lodge a request for a building consent to modify our home.
Sometimes, however, the operation of the law exposes shortcomings with the design of the policy that underpins it.
The State Services Act 1988 is a prime example. A creature of its time, this piece of legislation provided the foundations for the formation, operation and financing of government entities. Since 1988, these government entities tackled Aotearoa New Zealand’s wicked social problems in the context of global and national societal, labour market, economic and technological changes. Their financing arrangements (Budget appropriations) have operated in isolation and this has made it hard for agencies to ‘join up’ to provide wraparound support to tackle difficult problems.
Thirty years on, we know that our complex social problems cannot be addressed in isolation. A Public Service Legislation Bill has recently been introduced into Parliament to reform and replace the existing Act. Once the Bill has passed, the leaders of government departments will be able to come together as across-agency ‘Boards’ or joint ventures. They can then be accountable to a single Minister and have a Budget appropriation targeted at the issue they have come together to specifically address.
The State Services/Public Service legislation is a demonstration of the policy cycle: policy development once led to a law which was implemented but, over time as issues arose, further policy analysis was needed. The nature of these issues and problems was uncovered and an option was developed to address them. That option is now being implemented into law.
The second session of my Public Policy 1010 training course covers the interface between law and policy development and, in turn, policy development and law. Case studies include the physical restraint provisions in the Education Act 1989, compliance frameworks in transport settings, the interface between the tax and benefit systems, and the ‘three waters’ review.
This session of the training course also goes through the 'machinery of government' that governs the making of new policy, laws and regulations. By the end, you might wonder how we ever manage to make progress!