Regulatory policy

Trump’s White House ‘pushed back on COVID advice’: Policy news in brief

Next, US President Donald Trump coronavirus provides a briefing on the COVID-19 update Wednesday, April 8, 2020 Photo Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

The Global Government Forum’s weekly roundup of all the news you need to know but may have missed

Trump’s White House pushed back on COVID-19 advice from government scientists

Senior White House officials have questioned proposed government coronavirus guidelines to advise Americans not to attend church or other religious services due to the risk of transmitting the infection.

Documents released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis last week revealed that officials said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on attendance at religious services was “problematic” after urging churches and other entities to organize virtual services.

As the Government Executive reported, Associate White House Counsel May Davis emailed her colleagues saying she had offered to remove “tele-church suggestions.” Another official, Paul Ray, who was the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House, said the planned guidelines “would raise religious liberty concerns,” and said he would recommend “removing offensive passages”.

The CDC later released the guidelines without mentioning virtual services, instead stating that “CDC continues to work with state, tribal, local, and territorial leaders to provide technical assistance and resources that can help support decisions to to protect health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 consistent with the rights of free exercise of people of faith”, but stressing that “there are several published reports of outbreaks of COVID-19 triggered by large gatherings, in both non-religious and religious in nature”.

Read more: Trump officials changed scientific reports on COVID-19

New Zealand lays the groundwork for a ‘managed withdrawal’ from areas threatened by climate change

New Zealand has released its first National Climate Change Adaptation Plan which sets out how the country will “live and thrive in a changing climate”.

The plan, which has been released for consultation, sets out the 10 most significant risks facing the country from climate change, and steps to address them in five categories – natural environment, human impacts, economy, built environment and governance.

Among the priority actions is the emphasis on reforming institutions “so that they are adapted to climate change”. Necessary changes include reforming the country’s resource management system to better prepare for the risks of natural disasters and better mitigating emissions that contribute to climate change. It is also proposed that the government establish plans for a “managed retirement” policy that would allow people to strategically move assets, activities and culturally significant sites away from areas at risk from climate change and natural disasters.

Read the full document here.

Read more: Trust and teamwork: Hannah Cameron explains how New Zealand dodged the COVID bullet

Israel to open government data to private research and development

Israel has announced a plan to make government data more easily accessible to researchers and private sector companies.

In a joint statement, the Ministry of Finance, the National Digital Agency and the country’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology said they would aim to make government and public databases accessible to researchers, manufacturers and other people of interest with the aim of unlocking innovations. The government has launched a tender on how to make data accessible while maintaining privacy, ethics and information security.

Read more: Israel is developing a national artificial intelligence strategy

Australia’s competition chief calls for collaboration

The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has called for close collaboration between international regulators for complex cross-jurisdictional mergers.

Speaking at an international event for competition regulators in Berlin, reported by The Mandarin, Gina Cass-Gottlieb stressed that cross-border collaboration helps both competition investigations and better regulation.

“The ACCC views collaboration with our international counterparts as a key element to our effectiveness as a regulator,” she said.

“Each competition regulator will have its own individual approach to resolving issues in its local jurisdiction, but support among global partners only strengthens our ability to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all.”

Listen: Stepping into the unknown and embracing your flaws – and strengths – as a leader: GGF’s latest Leading Questions podcast with Australian governance chief Stephanie Foster