Australian voter poll shows priority shift to wellbeing, US federal government plans to replace geographic site names: policy and delivery news round-up

By on 24/02/2022 | Updated on 28/02/2022
A map of Australia in flag colours

Australian voters want government to prioritise wellbeing over law and order

A recent poll carried out for the Centre for Policy Development has found that Australian voters increasingly see the primary purpose of government as boosting wellbeing rather than enforcing law and order.

Participants were asked in February how they perceived the primary purpose of government. Around 32% of respondents said they believed wellbeing should be its main aim, up from 27% in 2021, while 11% (down from 18% last year) answered maintaining safety and the rule of law.

The poll tracked a five-point year-on-year rise in respondents who supported the view that government’s job is to enhance wellbeing and recorded a seven-point drop in those who said government should prioritise public safety and the rule of law.

Respondents were asked in February what they thought was the primary purpose of government, 32% of respondents said improving wellbeing (up from 27% in 2021) and 11% (down from 18%) said maintaining safety and the rule of law.

More respondents than last year also said they considered delivery and funding of social services government’s primary purpose (31% compared to 28% in 2021).

The Centre for Policy Development’s research into how voters perceive the correct role of government has shown a steady rise in the number of Australians who value its ability to deliver critical services. Travers McLeod, the centre’s chief executive said: “Since COVID has revealed the critical weaknesses in our service systems people have become even more forthright in their views, not just about the purpose of government, but about the need for government to maintain and deliver the social infrastructure at the heart of our nation.”

[Read more: New Zealand sets out 2021 budget with new inclusive wellbeing framework]

US agency leads efforts to remove derogatory names from national sites

US federal officials at the Department of the Interior have drafted a list of names to replace those of more than 660 geographic sites that are deemed derogatory towards racial and ethnic minorities.

Deb Haaland, US interior secretary, declared in November last year that the term “squaw” – historically an insult directed at indigenous Native Americans – should be removed by the federal government from place names across the country.

According to the department, the word appears in several geographic features. It has already been removed for sites such as a mountain in Phoenix, which had its name changed from ‘Squaw Peak’ to ‘Piestewa Peak’ in 2008 in honour of the first Native American woman killed in combat while serving in the US military.

Haaland said the role of the agency was to ensure people of all backgrounds have access to and feel welcomed in the country’s public lands and waters.

“Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue,” she said. “Throughout this process, broad engagement with tribes, stakeholders and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion.

The sites are in three dozen states. The agency is preparing three virtual meetings and will consult with tribes in March this year. More recently, Arizona Senate passed a memorial urging the federal government to replace the names of feature in the Grand Canyon region with Native American names to advance understanding of and appreciation for the “unique and significant cultures and heritage of the Grand Canyon’s tribal peoples”.

Estonia’s CIO explains country’s rise to digital government supremacy

Global Government Forum has spoken to Estonian digital government leader Siim Sikkut to share the story of Estonia’s remarkable digital systems and services.

Sikkut, who’s just stepped down after five years as government CIO, told GGF that “I quite quickly realised that if Estonia has one shot in the world, that’s in digital”, and then joined the Government Office of Estonia “working for prime ministers on digital policy, in a coordination role across government”.

To marshal government’s digital staff behind those goals, Sikkut operates with a central staff of just 30; so delivery is necessarily left to the departments. His team provides “direction, and coordination mechanisms so that everybody’s on the same page,” he says, but “every agency is a digital agency in their domain. They’re the service owners, and run the show in their field. We try to nudge everybody forward.”

No country has a perfect governance model, he adds; there’s nothing magical about Estonia’s organisational set-up. It doesn’t matter where the central team is situated, for example: “What matters most is the leverage mechanisms you have, and how much resources you have to charm [agencies] or build stuff yourself.” Similarly, he notes that it’s easy to produce a “nice, elaborate strategy”, but the key to success lies in “operationalising things for delivery” – and that requires the flexibility to adapt as circumstances change.

Find out more about how Estonia became an international digital leader, including its ‘No Legacy’ policy – under which its IT systems should be renewed every 12 years, protecting the nation’s digital agility.

[Read more: Siim Sikkut on Estonia’s remarkable journey]

Canadian government supports efforts to reduce food waste and enhance sustainability

The Canadian government is to provide up to $1,545,000 in funding for Outcast Foods Inc, a food waste technology company, to expand their operations in food waste reduction that upcycles surplus and unsaleable fruits and vegetables from growers, processors and retailers into dried, plant-based powders and solid food ingredients.

More than half of Canada’s food supply is wasted annually and nearly $50 billion of that wasted food is avoidable. By encouraging more solutions to food waste in Canadian society, the government aims to increase food availability, save consumers and businesses money and strengthen the food systems, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The funding will support the expansion of their demonstration plant in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and commission a new full-scale facility in Burlington, Ontario. Together the two plants are projected to process up to 35,800,000 tonnes of waste fruit and vegetables by 2024 into more than 4,100,000 million pounds of plant-based, powdered ingredients annually. The plant-based ingredients created at these facilities are sold as branded health products as well as raw food and beverage ingredients that are high in nutrition, vitamins, phytochemicals and natural flavours.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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