We look through the glass darkly at the future. We cannot see it with clarity, if at all. What we do understand are the problems, the tensions and the demands of the present. The Cabinet and Parliament are focused on those problems of the present and what to do about them in policy terms. Parliamentary questions on contemporary issues are asked. There are inquiries conducted of many different types, some parliamentary, some departmental, some through Cabinet committees. The advocacy of pressure groups and lobbying may cause new problems to be added to the list.
One of the wisest political observations on what governs the issues to be picked up and those to be left for another day is attributed to Harold MacMillan, during his time as the British prime minister. Asked what his biggest problem was, he replied, ‘Events, dear boy, events’ (Knowles, 2001, p.488). Or, as Donald Rumsfeld said, ‘Stuff happens’. This is as true in domestic policy and economic policy as it is in foreign policy. The immediate need to react to earthquakes, fires, floods and international financial crises that hurt people and their property often dominates the agendas of governments. But the immediate is no excuse for neglecting the future.
This article develops arguments about improving legislative quality, parliamentary scrutiny and accessibility of the law in New Zealand.