Getting ready for government

Brenda photoBrenda Pilott
National Manager
Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA)

I’m writing this column as we near an announcement about which parties will form the next government.  It’s been a week since the final election results were declared and three weeks since the polls closed. 

Since MMP, there has never been a single-party government.  You would think we’d had enough time to get used to the process and timeframes for coalition-forming.  But if you read the newspapers, or listen to TV or radio commentators, you’d think this brief hiatus was a terrible imposition and really just a bit of grandstanding.

Perhaps our media should take a wider view.  In Germany, they are a month on from the election and coalition talks are just starting with an outcome not expected till Christmas.  And they are trying to stitch together a coalition of conservatives, free marketeers and lefty environmentalists.  Good luck with that.  The Netherlands earlier this year took over 4 months to form a coalition government.

Belgium famously had no functioning government for well over 500 days, with the public service carrying on regardless and the people not really missing the politicians.

The relatively brief period we wait for a government to form in New Zealand gives public servants a welcome respite from attending to ministers.  It gives NGOs and others time to reflect on the matters about which they want to influence the incoming government.  Across Wellington, many people are busy writing briefings for incoming ministers, all the time not knowing which party they are writing for, and which minister they will be briefing or lobbying.  Well-resourced public service departments may have different blue and a red versions of their briefing papers, presumably with provision for a bit of green or black too.

By contrast, most of us NGOs have an agenda that won’t change all that much whoever is in government.  Fair funding is an issue for us.  Improving how government and community agencies work together is an issue.  Data collection and use that respects privacy and autonomy is an issue.  Building and supporting the capability needed to deliver the best quality services is an issue.

There are solutions to all these matters and the organisation I work for, Social Service Providers Aotearoa, is keen to work with whoever is in government to get progress.  I know this approach is shared by most in the NGO sector.

We all look for a signal about the importance a government places on the NGO sector by having a high-ranked Cabinet minister with the community and voluntary sector portfolio.  Wouldn’t it be great to see the next Prime Minister claim that one!

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network

ComVoices actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/