Public policy matters

On Thursday and Friday last week the Business Roundtable held its 6th Dunes Public Policy Symposium for Emerging Business Leaders (pictures to come).  It attracted a most impressive group of upcoming senior executives interested in a serious engagement on the principles of good public policy.  A perspective that is often misunderstood but that was fully grasped by the group is that the drivers of successful businesses are quite different from those that underpin sound public policy.

The calibre of this group – and their enthusiasm for the topics and the concept generally – convinced me of its value and that we should continue to run these forums.  It was a shame we had to turn some would-be attendees away.  The speakers also entered into it in the right spirit, including ministers and MPs who weren’t into political grandstanding but wanted instead to shed light on public policy processes. 

There are few business leaders better qualified to speak on public policy than Roderick Deane,  whose presentation The New Zealand Economy: Challenges and Opportunities was one of the symposium’s highlights.   Also well worth highlighting was Don Brash’s Answering the $64,000 Question aka catching Australia by 2025.  If Don could get these facts out to wider New Zealand I’m convinced the public would be clamouring for change.  A good task for public service broadcasting?

For me, and for many of the attendees, a welcome break from public policy and a star turn of the two days was a riveting after-dinner talk by Fletcher Building chairman Ralph Waters exploring risk – its history, mitigation and management, its manifestation in current Australian politics, and its place in his own early career.

The increasingly lonely business of leading the world

Watching last night’s Back Benches special on our ETS, I was somewhat bemused to see a British diplomat (chapter 3 online) effusing over New Zealand’s ETS bravery, rather patronisingly assuring us that we are not alone, and challenging New Zealanders to look a Pakistani flood victim in the eye and tell him we’re not willing to raise petrol prices by a couple of cents to save him. If only it was that simple.

 I won’t go into whether it’s appropriate for a British diplomat to be commenting on New Zealand politics on a pub politics TV show.  But it’s timely to reflect on the ETS, now that the next stage has been in place for a couple of months and the costs are beginning to bite.  The decision to proceed when our major trading partners such as Australia and the US still have nothing comparable in place, remains, in my view, a dubious one, as I noted in this article published in The Spectator last March. While the government was wise to ensure the scheme was a relatively low impact one, it has nevertheless pushed up power and fuel costs for consumers, who will also be bracing themselves for the impact of the upcoming GST increase.

 Post election, the Australian position is more uncertain than ever. Both parties appeared to foreshadow little action in this area in this next parliamentary term, although the influence of the Greens may come into play. The major international milestones coming up are the UN meetings in Mexico at the end of this year and South Africa at the end of 2011.  It’s highly unlikely that the Mexico meeting will see important agreements on major issues.  If the same happens at the 2011 meeting in South Africa, there’s a real possibility that there will be no second Kyoto commitment period.  In that event New Zealand politicians will surely think twice about proceeding with further costly stages of their pledge to fight global warming.

 http://www.spectator.co.uk/australia/5831998/kiwis-cant-lead-the-world-on-climate-change.thtml