Achieving Long-Term Commitments to Complex Policy Issues: Should we be Legislating Policy Targets?
43 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2019
Date Written: 2018
Many challenges facing society cannot be overcome within a single government's term in office, so effective solutions need to be long-term. Legislation may be a way to achieve this. Policy targets that are enshrined in law will continue to be binding until a future government repeals or amends them. In this paper I seek to determine whether the practice of incorporating policy targets in legislation is the best way to address complex and long- term challenges and, if it is, to what extent they should be incorporated. I refer to the Child Poverty Reduction Bill 2018 to assess the best way to implement durable child poverty reduction targets.
It is ultimately argued that some form of law is integral to achieving durable solutions, notwithstanding concerns that arise when policy targets are legislated. The best approach is to enact a requirement to set targets but refrain from legislating the substantive targets themselves. Procedural restrictions should be legislated to protect the targets against amendment or revision by future governments without adequate consultation. Inspiration for these may be taken from the national policy statement framework under the Resource Management Act 1991, with the addition of reporting requirements to ensure compliance is monitored. I recognise that the Child Poverty Reduction Bill complies with this recommended approach, although the current proposal does not include sufficient safeguards to ensure the targets are durable.
Keywords: policy, legislation
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation