Boomers vs millennials - a recipe to fix intergenerational warfare

Present governments must be encouraged to give more thought to the needs of future New Zealanders, academic Jonathan ...
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Present governments must be encouraged to give more thought to the needs of future New Zealanders, academic Jonathan Boston says.

The Baby Boomers have been accused of failing Millennials over both housing and NZ Super in recent weeks, leaving youngsters facing a financial mountain to climb.

But Wellington academic Jonathan Boston has come up with a recipe to take the intergenerational warfare out of politics.

Boston was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to investigate ways to take the short-termism out of government, and has published his conclusions in a new book.

In his new book Safeguarding the Future Boston sets out ways that governments could be made to pay more heed to the interests of younger New Zealanders, and future New Zealanders yet to be born.

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Boston says the time has come to combat political short-termism.
BEN CURRAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Boston says the time has come to combat political short-termism.

These include passing a "Long Term Reporting Act" requiring every second Parliament to publish an "Intergenerational Report" considering a time horizon of at least a hundred years which would identify issues of concern for the wellbeing of future citizens.

We could also set up a Commission for the Future, modelled on the Finnish Committee for the Future, to keep a permanent focus on future-friendly policy-making.

Ideally it would always have an opposition party MP as chairman, Boston said.

Scotland's Future Forum could also provide a model worth considering, said Boston, who works at Victoria University of Wellington's School of Government.

In 1976 New Zealand did have a Commission for the Future, but it survived for less than a decade, and did not have much impact on policy, Boston said.

Another idea Boston suggested was passing laws requiring sitting governments to formally respond to some of the long-term forecasting that was already being done, such as Treasury's long-term fiscal statements, instead of having the option of simply ignoring them.

As well as measures like these to make it harder for politicians to ignore issues of importance to future generations, Boston raised some more radical ideas.

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One was extending Parliamentary terms to four years.

Another was incorporating new rights, such as the right to an "ecologically healthy environment", or and environment that was "not harmful", into the Bill of Rights, or even a written constitution.

"Governments cannot govern their societies well if they lack proper foresight," Boston said. "To protect future interests - whether of current or future citizens - policy-makers must look ahead, strategise, plan and prioritise."

As Millennials who want to own their own home are finding: "Failure to do so can result in significant costs, unpleasant surprises and missed opportunities."

He hoped MPs would read his book, which is part of the short BWB Texts series that has included Shamubeel Eaqub's Generation Rent, and Andrew Dean's Ruth, Roger and Me. BWB Texts are designed to be read in an evening by ordinary people wanting to get their heads around the big issues facing the country.

"I would be delighted if a significant number of MPs read this, and took it seriously, but the challenge is they are faced with a very large amount of reading material. Reading about how to create a government for the future is almost certainly going to be at the bottom of the pile," he said.

 - Stuff

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