“The 1972 general election was on,” he recalls. “We had an old valve radio, tone like honey—the family couldn’t afford a TV. I became entranced, listening to the political debates carried live from the big city town halls on 1YA (now RNZ National) and hearing results coming in by electorate over the course of the night.”
In July, Simon started as director of the IGPS, which aims to deliver independent, high-impact research that informs the policymaking process and influences policy implementation. Previously, he has held senior roles at the Reserve Bank, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Social Development and in the Social Policy Division of the OECD in Paris.
He says a highlight of his career to date was speaking to the Family Committee of the Polish Parliament in Warsaw about the implications for Poland of the OECD’s first publication on child wellbeing, which he had coordinated.
Simon says he was attracted to his new role because it offers an opportunity to be centrally involved with public policy research and to make New Zealand a better place.
He’s also aware of the challenges ahead. “I think it’s best to consider democracy fragile—democracy as we know it today has existed for a blink of an eye in human history. Levels of political engagement are too low, especially among younger people. The processes of providing high-quality information to people on the activities of government are failing.
“I’d like to help place the IGPS on a firm long-term footing. We need to address the big issues of our time and build better environmental, social and economic outcomes for all. To successfully do so, we need to imaginatively engage with the public.”
What does good government look like to Simon? “Open, participatory, fair and genuinely tolerant of all.”