This issue of Policy Quarterly commences with five articles on aspects of government regulation in New Zealand. A separate editorial note (see below) by Dr Peter Mumford and Keith Manch summarizes the purpose and content of these articles. My sincere thanks to Peter and Keith, and also Dr Veronica Jacobsen, for their efforts in overseeing the selection, preparation and peer review of these articles. Collectively, these pieces provide a fascinating insight into the evolving nature of public regulation in this country, not least the important quest for better regulatory stewardship and improved regulatory practice.
The remaining eight articles fall into two categories. First, there are five articles on various topical policy issues from a range of (mostly academic) contributors. These cover the following matters: the ethical, societal and policy implications of artificial intelligence; the extent of income volatility in New Zealand; trends in top pay in New Zealand; ways to enhance education on civics and citizenship; and the implications of climate change for household insurance.
The final three articles are from students in the Graduate Pathway Programme in the School of Government: Alice Denne, Matthew Macfarlane and Danijela Tavich. These articles are based on research undertaken by these students as part of their internships with various public and nongovernmental agencies. This is the first time Policy Quarterly has published such material, but I trust it will not be the last. My grateful thanks to Dr Barbara Allen, who coordinates our School’s Graduate Pathway Programme, for suggesting the idea of having these students contribute to the journal and for overseeing the preparation of their articles. New Zealand has a new government. The February issue of Policy Quarterly will, accordingly, include reflections on the political and policy implications of the change of government. In the meantime, I trust that readers will find much of interest in the November issue.
Articles on regulatory issues This issue of Policy Quarterly continues the regulatory theme that has emerged over the past couple of years. This recognises the critical role that regulation plays in maintaining a society where people are safe and secure, and an economy that supports growth and prosperity. Recent regulatory failures have graphically demonstrated the costs when regulation does not deliver on its promises, and parliament has ‘upped the game’, by requiring under the State Sector Act that chief executives exercise ‘stewardship’ over the legislation administered by their agency.
The five regulatory articles traverse a number of issues. Two are conceptual. The first, by Stephanie Winson, argues that regulators have a lot of value to offer in the policy development and review process. You may or may not agree with Winson’s assertion that policy analysts may ‘dismiss or may not appreciate’ the real world of regulatory compliance. However, she makes a compelling argument that regulators have unique insights that can be exploited through good leadership and collaboration across regulatory systems, underpinned by effective information management and competency.
Ben Wauchop and Keith Manch tackle the contentious subject of whether regulated entities (those who are required to comply with the law) are ‘customers’ of the agencies that are regulating them. Does it matter what they are called? In his seminal work on the philosophy of language, Wittgenstein concluded that ‘Different words create different worlds’. From this perspective it does matter as both regulators and those they regulate may condition their behaviours based on what they understand the term ‘customer’ to mean.
A further two articles provide insights into the regulatory practice world. Both deal with critical infrastructures – ports and rail, and both deal with safety. The quest for better regulatory outcomes can involve experimentation and the ports and rail safety stories show how the regulatory regimes have evolved based on what both the regulators and regulated entities have learned from experience.
Keith Manch emphasises the features of coregulation that align the mandates, incentives and capabilities of the national regulator, local government regulators and port companies. Chris Ballantyne shows how the regulator first had to recognise the need and then change its regulatory culture, capabilities and ‘rules of thumb’ to implement effectively the safety case approach that was introduced through legislative change in 2005.
Finally, New Zealand has implemented the most modern regime for regulating outer space activities and high altitude vehicles originating from its territory. Kirsty Hutchison, Katherine MacNeill, Peter Mumford and Val Sim describe this regime and what it seeks to achieve. Put into the context of regulating disruptive technologies and markets so that the benefits are secured while managing the risks, this article puts a stake in the ground for a permissive approach which facilitates innovation and entrepreneurship, but with rigorous checks and balances to ensure that what is permitted is safe and secure.
Keith Manch and Peter Mumford on behalf of the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative (G-REG). With thanks to Dr Veronica Jacobsen for her contribution to the editorial review of the five articles.
NB: This is the entire issue of Policy Quarterly November 2017. Individual articles will be posted progressively.