This website began hosting a series of Briefing Papers from early in 2014. The papers are focussed on assessing the state of the country as the basis for public discussion and debate. A group of writers has been assembled to write short briefing papers based on extensive research programmes and presented in a form that can be easily understood by the public at large.

The Briefing papers are aimed at providing the public with an overview of critical issues facing New Zealand society in the 21st century. The goal is to promote informed discussion and debate, so crucial to economic and social development, with the central question being:

how is the public

interest being served?

The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government. It is a key factor in assessing jobs and the cost of living, educational opportunities, housing options and the way in which the policy makers of today are protecting the interests of future generations.

In order to address these questions, the Briefing Papers are designed to examine the underlying assumptions on which policy options are based and what interests, public or private, are being served. As Herbert Gans once suggested, this means both understanding and assessing, who benefits?


The Papers

Democracy is for Everyone

Dame Anne Salmond

The three Briefing Papers posted today were written by Professor Anne Salmond of the University of Auckland in response to what she describes as the Slippery Slope of Democracy in New Zealand. The first paper was written in the wake of Dirty Politics, the book released by Nicky Hager that has

For Richer, For Poorer

Dame Anne Salmond

The three Briefing Papers posted today were written by Professor Anne Salmond of the University of Auckland in response to what she describes as the Slippery Slope of Democracy in New Zealand. The first paper was written in the wake of Dirty Politics, the book released by Nicky Hager that

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Ruth Herbert

Intimate partner violence (IPV) and child abuse and neglect (CAN) are at epidemic proportions in New Zealand and are undoubtedly two of our most critical social issues. Despite a plethora of reports, a strong legislative framework and the efforts of successive governments and many NGOs that have strategised and delivered

New Zealand’s Wages System is Buggered

Bill Rosenberg

Wages and salaries (henceforth just ‘wages’) have a number of functions: providing income to households, distributing the income generated by the economy, providing incentives. None of them are working properly. Providing income to households The most important function of wages is that they are the primary method of providing income

Too Many Immigrants?

Richard Bedford

The triennial election year debate about immigration has been warming up over recent months. The switch from a small net loss of people through permanent and long-term (PLT) migration in the year ended 30 June 2012 (-3.191) to one of the largest PLT net migration gains ever in the year

Local Government

Christine Cheyne

A healthy local government sector is vital for a healthy democracy. It is the tier of government that is closest to people and therefore provides access to decision-making processes at the local level. Much of our environmental and transport planning, for example, is devolved to local government. Underpinning the philosophy

Regional Development

Paul Dalziel

Regional Disparities The two maps on this page were drawn by Statistics New Zealand (the originals can be accessed in a Hot Off the Press release available here). They show the percentage changes in the populations of district and city councils between the Census of 2006 and the Census of

The Public Sector in New Zealand

Len Cook

In a democracy, the public service is more than the operational arm for doing what Ministers want. It is in essence a guardian of the constitutional foundations, processes and practices of our society ensuring the equality of all citizens in the way that they are regarded by the state. The

Policy and Prosperity

John Walley

Over the past 30 years economic strategy has separated into two broad camps, largely driven by the underlying culture which made the choice. The Anglosphere countries such as New Zealand, the US, Australia, Canada and the UK have followed a deep belief in the primacy of markets, an intent if


Ivan Snook & John O'Neill

Just over 30 years ago, OECD examiners reported on our education system: “To an extent greater than in some other OECD countries the parents, citizens, employers and workers of New Zealand appear to be reasonably happy with what is done for them in schools, colleges and universities.” (OECD Report, 1982)

The Cost of Doing Nothing

Elaine Rush

Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean Poet who received the Nobel prize in literature in 1945, wrote: “Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are formed, his mind developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today” We cannot wait for more

What should be done about Child Poverty?

Susan St.John

Budget 2014 was presented in an environment of economic recovery and growing optimism. A more buoyant economy provides an opportunity to repair the damage to the social fabric suffered during the recession by policy measures aimed at reducing child poverty and inequality. What is deeply troubling is that there no

The Purpose of Government

Bryan Gould

The proper role of government is perhaps the most central and hotly debated issue in democratic politics. Even during the immediate post-war era, which we can now see in retrospect was the heyday of confidence in government and its power and legitimacy, contrary voices warned against the threats to personal

The Conversation

Ranginui Walker

The longest running conversation on the New Zealand Constitution between Māori and the Crown is climaxing in our time towards mature nationhood. The conversation began in 1840 when the rangatira, the sovereigns of the soil made it clear to the British Resident James Busby they would not surrender their mana

Population Matters

Natalie Jackson

It is ironic that as Paul and Anne Ehrlich were writing their influential book The Population Bomb (1968), the global population growth rate was beginning to fall. Driven by declining birth rates, it has continued to fall, and today is half its 1960s’ level of 2.2 per cent per year.

The Purpose of Social Policy

Ian Shirley

Social policy in New Zealand from European settlement to the present day has fluctuated between two dominant traditions. The first can be traced back to 1547 when the city of London imposed a compulsory tax on the rich in order to alleviate poverty. It was an imported model based on

The Purpose of Economic Policy

Brian Easton

The annual May budget is a public spectacle. The Minister of Finance is photographed holding aloft a copy of his speech while those from political parties and sectors dominate media discussions debating the significance of economic growth targets, the level of inflation, and the fiscal deficit – there will even


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