Israel to prepare climate change readiness plans; Australia made ‘significant mistakes’ in COVID response, review finds: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 27/10/2022 | Updated on 27/10/2022
Israel has been hit by flooding in recent months and years. Photo by Einat via Flickr

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

Israeli government departments to prepare climate change readiness plans

All government departments in Israel will be required to submit readiness plans by the end of 2023 detailing the measures they will take to tackle climate change and prepare for its impacts.

The requirement follows a vote by cabinet on Sunday. Ministries will also be expected to deliver annual reports on progress against their plans.

“With appropriate action and preparations, the climate crisis presents us with exceptional opportunities – not only a persistent struggle but for prosperity and advancing the Israeli economy to a new world,” prime minister Yair Lapid said.

“Ahead of the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Conference [COP27], we are taking another important step in preparing government ministries for the climate crisis by setting a deadline for submitting a readiness plan that will require all of the relevant ministries to present the cabinet with annual reports on their progress in implementing the action plans.”

Environmental protection minister Tamar Zandberg called global warming “the world’s most severe crisis” and highlighted the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and associated toll on people and businesses.

“Advance preparations on a national level are critical in saving lives and the environment. The step we are taking today is a significant step toward preparing Israel to deal with the damage and the changes brought by the climate crisis,” she said.

However, environmental groups have voiced doubts about the requirement, highlighting that a similar decision was made in 2018 but never implemented.

As reported by the Times of Israel, the advocacy organisation Adam Teva V’Din pointed out that the latest vote did not carry the status of a formal government decision and that unless anchored in law, it would be hard to enforce.

The Society for the Protection of Nature also noted that no funding had been allocated for the ministerial work. “It would have been appropriate, just a few days before the UN climate conference, for the government to present actions and not just plans for the future, (and evidence of) implementation and not just statements and a repetition of what has already happened. We need action now,” it said.

The plans will be written in accordance with climate change scenarios prepared by the National Emergency Authority (NEA) and the Environmental Protection Ministry, and will align with analyses of climate trends prepared by the Climate Change Authority, according to Israel National News.

It is understood a consultant from the National Security Council, which has been responsible for inter-ministerial coordination, will assist departments to map their needs and write their plans.

Adam Teva V’Din said it would be better for each government ministry to have a permanent official in charge of climate issues.

Read more: Israel unveils tech-driven climate change plan ahead of COP26

‘Significant mistakes were made’, finds review into Australia’s COVID response

Australian public services must improve collaboration, capability and communication, the diversity of their workforces, and their use of data if they are to respond better to the next health crisis, an independent review of the country’s COVID-19 response has found.

The review, titled Fault Lines, was funded by philanthropic organisations and authored by four experts including former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold.

Though the authors acknowledge that across jurisdictions, the government and public servants “were making decisions in the fog of uncertainty” amid the pandemic, they said that “looking back, we are persuaded that significant mistakes were made”.  

The review said that economic supports should have been provided fairly and equitably; that lockdowns and border closures “should have been used less”; that schools should have stayed open; and that older Australians “should have been better protected”.

Most of the government’s failings as presented in the review centre around the finding that initiatives to address ‘fault lines’ throughout society “remained at the periphery of the planning process rather than being placed at its core”.

The report cited examples of “wrong-headed policies” including “deliberately excluding temporary migrants from financial support” and “preventing elderly people in aged care facilities from accessing hospital care when they had COVID-19”.

The report said that in order to be better prepared for the next health crisis, social inequities needed “to be considered from the start” and disadvantaged people placed “at the centre of our planning”.

It put forward six recommendations. To help improve public service collaboration, it called for a “major review” into how cross-jurisdictional effectiveness could be enhanced and for the federal government to “significantly improve the collaboration of public servants across jurisdictions and with business and civil society” and establish a “clear authorising environment” for cooperative work.

It said the government should expand and improve channels of public communication, particularly with those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and that governments at all levels should increase the diversity of public sector employees.

In addition, it said that the national cabinet should establish an interjurisdictional Public Service Centre of Excellence, focusing on enhancing digital and data analytics skills and placing greater emphasis on the professional skills required to deliver major projects. It called for government – at all levels – to modernise how it uses data, including by amending legislation to make data sharing the default option and building a culture of “real-time evaluation and learning”.

Other broader recommendations included strengthening crisis preparation, planning and testing, and establishing an “expert body and trusted voice” on public health.

Read more: Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout flawed, audit finds

UK MPs launch inquiry into AI regulation

The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is to conduct an inquiry into the government’s plan for the regulation of artificial intelligence.

In a policy paper published in July, the government set out its vision for a “pro innovation” and “context specific” AI regulatory regime. It outlined governance principals for AI systems including ensuring they are fair; transparent and explainable; “technically secure” and function as designed; and that routes are available for people or groups to contest AI decisions. It confirmed that the government was not planning to introduce new legislation to regulate the technology.

It is expected to publish its proposals in a white paper later this year, which the committee is to examine as part of its inquiry.

MPs on the committee will explore how AI can be used ethically and responsibly, focusing on examining the potential impacts of biased algorithms in the public and private sectors, how AI can be applied transparently, and how automated decisions can be challenged.

It said it is seeking evidence on the current governance of AI, whether the government’s proposed approach is the right one, and how its plans compare with other countries.

The committee’s chair Greg Clark said: “AI is already transforming almost every area of research and business. It has extraordinary potential but there are concerns about how the existing regulatory system is suited to a world of AI.

“With machines making more and more decisions that impact people’s lives, it is crucial we have effective regulation in place. In our inquiry we look forward to examining the government’s proposals in detail.”

The committee has published a call for evidence and will be accepting submissions until 25 November 2022.

New Zealand bans jargon from government communications

Lawmakers in New Zealand have passed legislation that bans the government from using complex language when communicating with the public, in a bid to improve inclusion.

The aim is to ensure that public documents can be easily understood by the intended reader “after one reading”. Under the new law, idioms such as ‘innovation readiness’, ‘change-adaptability’ and ‘internal pain points’, all of which have appeared in New Zealand government literature in the past, would fail the plain language test.

MP Rachel Boyack, who presented the bill, said that the government’s failure to communicate clearly with citizens risked breeding distrust among the public and could negatively affect the elderly, people with learning disabilities, and those for whom English is a second language.

“People living in New Zealand have a right to understand what the government is asking them to do, and what their rights are, what they’re entitled to from the government,” she said.

“Much of the information we receive as members of the public from government departments uses complicated language, jargon, and unnecessary acronyms. This is a common-sense change that will make engaging with the public sector simpler for New Zealanders.”

The bill won the support of the Labour, Green and Māori parties. However, the National Party criticised it, saying it would make little difference to the quality of most public documents and that funding and resources would be better used elsewhere. It has vowed to repeal the legislation if elected next year.

The new law was based on the United States Plain Writing Act of 2010 which requires the US federal government to produce public documents in a clear, concise and well-organised manner.

Pierre Marcel Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has said that he would move to pass a similar bill if he were to become the country’s prime minister.

Read more: New Zealand lawmakers debate bill banning jargon from government communications

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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