New Zealand’s prime minister resigns; Taiwan passes climate bill enshrining promotion of plant-based foods: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 19/01/2023 | Updated on 19/01/2023
Jacinda Ardern speaking before an audience

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

Jacinda Ardern steps down as prime minister of New Zealand citing burnout

New Zealand’s prime minister of five and a half years, Jacinda Ardern, announced her resignation on 19 January at the Labour party’s first caucus meeting of the year.

Setting her official resignation date for 7 February, she said she “no longer had enough in the tank” to continue serving in office.

“With such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not,” she added.

“I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can. And then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”

Ardern will continue as an MP until the election this year, which is expected for 14 October.

Elected to the role of prime minister of New Zealand in 2017, Ardern led the country throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2019, she was recognised for her role in reassuring the country after 51 people were killed in a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch. She also presided over office when 22 people lost their lives in a volcano eruption that occurred on the country’s northerly White Island later that year.

Ardern’s legacy also includes her government’s emphasis on wellbeing as a key performance indicator for New Zealand. Its September 2019 budget was described as a “world first” for centring government spending around domains of wellbeing such as quality of housing and social connections.

“I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go,” Ardern concluded.

Read more: Inside New Zealand’s ‘what works, when’ approach to join up government

Taiwan passes climate bill to promote plant-based foods

The Government of Taiwan has passed a new climate bill that will require it by law to promote low-carbon diets, in particular plant-based foods.

The bill passed its third reading through the country’s ‘Legislative Yuan’, or legislature, on 10 January.

In a section of the bill titled ‘Article 8’, responsibility for promoting waste reduction and low-carbon diets was given to Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture. Another section titled ‘Article 42’ allocated responsibility for the promotion of plant-based foods to all levels of government, and mandated them to support civil society organisations with similar aims.

Chief executive of non-profit group the Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan, Chu Tseng-hung (also known as ‘Wu Hung’), said he welcomed the news that Taiwan government had managed to pass the bill.

“As the world comes to grips with the importance of food systems in addressing climate change, we are delighted to see an emphasis on low-carbon diets in Taiwan’s climate legislation,” he said, adding:

“In light of this development, we call on The Executive Yuan [the country’s highest administrative branch] to re-visit its 2050 Net Zero Emissions Pathway and Strategy and take steps to address excessive meat consumption.”

Read more: The wisdom of crowds: an interview with Taiwan’s unorthodox digital minister

UK Cabinet Office invites feedback on data sharing legislation to aid digital ID plans

The UK Cabinet Office has launched a public consultation on data sharing powers between departments that could aid government’s plan to make citizens’ online user verification easier using digital identity.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) – part of the Cabinet Office – is currently working with departments to develop and implement the government’s One Login platform, which aims to enable citizens to access all public services using a single reusable digital ID. The platform succeeds the GOV.UK Verify system launched by GDS in 2011, which was wound down after repeated problems with the registration process, lower than anticipated user numbers, and the decision of key departments to develop their own ID verification systems rather than use Verify.

Tested on target users in August last year, the three-year £400m (US$488m) One Login project is designed to replace more than 190 existing sign-in options and 44 separate accounts.

The government has proposed an amendment to the UK’s 2017 Digital Economy Act in a bid to ensure safe data sharing between public authorities for identity verification purposes.

The consultation, which is set to close on 1 March, will take in views about how data sharing should work under the proposed legislation and whether the measures outlined by government would be effective.

Alex Burghart, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office, wrote in the foreword to the consultation document that inclusion of underserved citizens was central to the exercise.

“The proposed data-sharing legislation will ensure that more people than ever before will be able to prove their identity online and access government services, so that anybody who wants to use online services is able to,” he said.

Read more: UK Cabinet Office seeks feedback on data sharing legislation to develop digital ID

Canadian public servants could face discipline for shirking return-to-office rules

The Canadian federal government has said public servants who refuse to resume work at shared workspaces in accordance with its return-to-office mandate could face repercussions from managers on a case-by-case basis.

The mandate went into force on 16 January and requires public servants to work in federal office buildings at least two to three days a week. The new rules will be introduced in phases to smooth the transition for departments and staff and are expected to be fully implemented by 31 March.

Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board of Canada, told The Canadian Press that management would be in charge of deciding whether non-compliant public servants “face disciplinary measures or not” and that “each situation will be assessed case-by-case”.

Building on points made after the mandate was announced in December, she said that the Canadian public service needed a standardised hybrid work model to avoid “inconsistencies” in departmental approaches. Fortier had previously said that the mandate would strengthen collaborative work, fairness, and equity across federal workplaces.

As the new rules take effect, two federal unions have urged the government to rethink its position, claiming the mandate poses a health and safety risk to employees and would cause inconvenience and confusion.

In an open letter to the federal government published on 13 January, Jennifer Carr, president of The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, and Greg Phillips, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, stressed the need for a hybrid work model that “considered employees’ unique circumstances and job requirements”.

“While we support the idea of ‘presence with purpose’ at the office when justified by operational needs, we strongly disagree with a one-size-fits-all policy that has no evidence to support it, puts our members’ health and safety at risk, and contradicts the government’s own strategic goals,” they said.

Read more: Canadian public servants could face discipline for shirking return-to-office rules

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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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