Reports 'need' Govt attention

Salvation Army social policy and parliamentary unit director Major Campbell Roberts addresses a large group of people gathered for the Dunedin launch of the Salvation Army's 2013 state of the nation report. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Salvation Army social policy and parliamentary unit director Major Campbell Roberts addresses a large group of people gathered for the Dunedin launch of the Salvation Army's 2013 state of the nation report. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A Dunedin theologian believes the system of government in New Zealand is ill-equipped to deal with reports such as the Salvation Army's recently released 2013 state of the nation report, which tend to get swept under the rug.

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership principal the Rev Dr Graham Redding said there was growing frustration the ''government of the day'' was failing to respond to good initiatives and recommendations made within reports.

He believed establishing something similar to Australia's State Senate would provide another forum where reports of this nature could be ''discussed and debated in a non-partisan way''.

''Reports like this, and others, represent grass-roots statistics and voices that the governments of the day need to hear.

''We're often frustrated that particular recommendations and suggested policies are not taken up by the government.

''I'm not suggesting we pursue a house of representatives in New Zealand, but I would like to see some kind of forum where these reports are taken up in a more formal way.''

He was not sure what form that could take, but ''it would make sure reports like this don't get a polite reception before being dismissed or ignored''.

Dr Redding aired his views during a panel discussion in Dunedin yesterday with Green co-leader Metiria Turei and Labour MP David Clark about the Salvation Army's 2013 state of the nation report.

The report, titled ''She'll be Right'', identified significant positive progress in areas of pre-school education and crime and punishment.

However, the performance in housing, child poverty and youth employment had been less than satisfactory.

Through reference to social and economic data, it identified how little had been achieved over the past five years in areas of serious social need.

The report said New Zealand's popular ''she'll be right'' mantra was a somewhat sceptical reference to what appeared to be a making-do, getting-by sentiment in some vital areas of social policy and human need.

Salvation Army social policy and parliamentary unit director Major Campbell Roberts said it was time to stop the ''she'll be right'' approach to child poverty, youth unemployment and affordable housing and to attack these problems with the same leadership, vigour and drive that had brought success in other areas of New Zealand's public policy.

''It is not an excuse to do nothing about pain and suffering in our communities. All of us have to say, 'She'll be right is not right'.''

Ms Turei said one of the main challenges was trying to make change without harming others.

''We know what needs to happen. The question is, do the people in power have the guts to do it?''Dr Clark believed fairer tax laws might provide a solution.

''If the whole pot grows, it's easier to make sure those less well off are looked after.''

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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