Government not walking the transparency talk

Prior to and on becoming Government Labour and the Greens talked the transparancy talk.

From the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

From Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Speech from the Throne:

This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.

But they are not walking the walk – instead they seem to be sticking a finger up to the Opposition and to media.

The refusal of Ministers to properly answer written questions is covered here: Parliamentary question spat

Media are also getting frustrated at being denied information they should be provided with.

Stacey Kirk in Labour promised transparency in Government, but they seem to be buckling on that early

Labour is also yet to release what’s known as the “Briefings to Incoming Ministers” – or BIMs.

They are the documents prepared by the experts and officials, delivered to ministers in their first week to give them a crash course on the portfolio they’ve just been handed – in some cases rendering them responsible overnight for the spending of public funds totalling billions.

All of them have been requested under the Official Information Act by reporters across New Zealand. All of them have been denied by the Government on the grounds they’re about to be released publicly anyway.

The trouble with that is the law actually applies to occasions where the document in question is yet to be printed or the minister hasn’t had a chance to read it first.

These were read by the ministers more than a month ago, and its understood to decision on when to release the BIMs – state sector wide – is to come from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“[The section] should not be used to delay the release of information which is intended to be incorporated in other material which, although to be made public at a later date, may still require the making of other policy decisions,” is the expressed order of the Ombudsman.

Kirk also comments on the written question spat:

They can lodge questions to ministers on matters related to their portfolios, and ministers must respond within six working days. There is no limit as to how many questions can be lodged, they must be concise and targeted.

Undoubtedly, 6000 written questions in a month is a lot.

But is it fair to demand those answers? Absolutely. Is it hypocritical of National to be complaining they’re being blocked? You bet. Does that matter? Not one bit.

Because the answers, or at least the willingness to provide those answers, benefit New Zealand as a democracy.

In July 2010 Labour asked 8791 questions in a single month.

More than 7000 of those questions came from MP Trevor Mallard alone.

Now in the Speaker’s chair, it’s his jurisdiction to force answers where they are not fairly being withheld if a complaint is laid.

Labour is getting off to a poor start on transparency.

That’s certainly how it looks, and it seems a deliberate tactic not to be transparent.

Where is Jacinda Ardern’s leadership on this? She has promoted absolute transparency. Like in Debate #1:

Ardern managed to get in a couple of references to the generation factor, including “your generation” directed at her opponent. He pushed hard at the tax nerve, and Ardern’s response was all about being “absolutely transparent”, which is evidently a cousin of relentlessly positive.

But the even then the walk didn’t match the talk.

Ardern’s insistence she was being “transparent” and “clear” about her refusal to reveal any detail on tax – or really anything much at all – started to grate as the hour progressed.

And at election time:

Ardern unilaterally ditched her party’s commitment not to implement tax changes in a first term, declaring herself absolutely transparent about profound uncertainty.

Ardern in particular has benefited from at times very favourable media coverage, but transparency alarm bells have also been sounded, during the campaign and since.

 

 

“This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

Ardern and her Government need to start walking that talk.

Otherwise he light may be shone through a thin veneer of Ardern insincerity and Government bull.

If journalists don’t get Government information they are entitled to they may get increasingly grumpy.

They may be more inclined towards their own transparency tricks “allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen”.

 

 

34 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  November 27, 2017

    Feels like a rudderless government trying to get their ducks in a row before becoming ”transparent.” That is exactly what I envisaged when I stated Labour should be in government for this parliamentary term.

    Correct me if I’m wrong…didn’t Helen Clark’s government start the other way around to the present Labour government. When Clark came to power she had ”special” news conferences every week. Those weekly specials disappeared when the wheels started coming off her government?

  2. Thanks for this article.

    To hold a caucus meeting at a venue away from Parliament but in Wellington last Friday when Parliament was in recess, meant politicians had to fly to the capital from all over the country for around three hours, which would have cost us all a pretty penny.

    Theyre establishing themselves as arch hypocrites so early in their governance and it is not a good sign. Their failure to look like a mature, fit and proper government will soon catch hold, such behaviour speaks to incompetency so gross, so flagrant as to be almost unbelievable. No matter how they spin this the negativity will stick.

    • Blazer

       /  November 27, 2017

      I am getting very cross with you and your never ending negativity.Just chill and let them get settled into the role of Govt…afterall its been 9 long…years.

      • Missy

         /  November 27, 2017

        Blazer, are you saying Labour aren’t ready for the role of Govt? Wow, perhaps they should have turned down NZ First and given themselves another 3 years to get themselves ready for the role of Govt.

        • Blazer

           /  November 27, 2017

          No,they’re ready..starting today.National have taken to opposition like ducks to…water.

          • Missy

             /  November 27, 2017

            Well how can they be ready if they need time to settle in to the role of Govt? Either they are ready, or they need time, it can’t be both.

      • Oh dear Blazer. You might as well just not read my posts. I’ll not let up. I’ll rile against the Govt, much like you through the “9 long years”. I’ll be endeavouring to keep a civil tongue in head and try not to resort to ad hominem with other contributors here. It’ll be an effort, but as long as breath remains in me I’ll hold to this hot potch of a government to account.

        I am afraid I don’t have any faith in Ms Ardern to deliver anything other than designer dresses, a nice lipstick, photo opportunities, platitudes, sound bytes and showing up our ANZUS partners.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  November 27, 2017

        You’re getting cross with someone else’s negativity….Thanks Blazer – I almost fell off the chair laughing at that one. Made my morning.
        Who knew you had a sense of humour?

    • Thank you for that, Traveller-was that story downplayed ? I hadn’t heard it. How ridiculous-it’s like the Christine Rankin luxury hotel ‘retreat’ for her staff. The one that she made someone else sign off, so that that woman was the one who was sacked (and had the last laugh when her dismissal was decreed to be unfair and she had a massive payout)

      Oh dear, that sort of witless extravagance doesn’t bode well for Labour-the working class can kiss my arse, I’ve got the government job at last.

      The impression I have of them and their merry men in coaltion is one of unprofessionalism.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  November 27, 2017

        I well remember my astonishment that given all the real estate her department owned in Wellington the first planning meeting I was asked to attend had to be held in a flash hotel.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  November 27, 2017

          I would have been astonished then, I am not now.Did she come in through dry ice and to music that time ?

          I heard a few things about her regime from a friend who worked there at the time ! He told me about the woman who was dropped in it being given a very large payout-I forget how much, but it was a lot-and she deserved it. CR’s meanness in doing this was most unedifying.

          I remember her putting on a pensive and regretful face when all the hoohah broke, and then getting into a lift and smirking when she must have thought that nobody could see.

  3. Might be appropriate to post my daily Winston gif in here.

  4. Corky

     /  November 27, 2017

    Jim Bolger used to ask the same question. But Jim already knew the answer….sleeping.😄

  5. David

     /  November 27, 2017

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11948313

    Their day doesnt seem to be improving, this government is getting a pretty awful reputation before it actually does anything. We dont want to go back to the Clark/Simpson era where the only things that wernt hidden were the favourable leaks to selected journalists which kept the media tame and the public in the dark. I thought Ardern might have been a little different which leads one to wonder what the hell is in this 38 page document that she is too embarrassed to release.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 27, 2017

      That really is a serious constitutional issue. The electorate is entitled to know the whole truth about what their elected representatives have agreed and documented.

    • PDB

       /  November 27, 2017

      Winston is happy for the agreement to be released, Ardern isn’t – it’s obvious as to who shafted who during negotiations.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  November 27, 2017

      I’m pretty sure, based on the last few weeks that they are just too embarrassed by the brevity of the agreement to release it.

      It probably just reads:

      “Announce committees and working groups, but keep everything National did in place & change nothing.”

      Latest example:

      The Government is likely to stick with the approach National was taking to crack down on multinational tax rorts, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash has signalled.

      Before the election:

      Finance Minister Grant Robertson appeared to query whether the former government was doing enough to clamp down on tax rorts in July, saying it was “a joke that the government itself has estimated that multinationals are avoiding $300 million of tax per year, but is only budgeting on its policies recouping $100m of that”.

      Now:

      Nash said he did not see “a significant variation in approach” from the new Government.

      “The immediate priority is advancing the … work already underway. These changes have been forecast to increase revenue by approximately $200 million per year.”

      Before Election:

      Nash said in 2016 that it was “almost impossible” for Inland Revenue (IR) to assure the public that issues were being addressed appropriately without providing specifics of individual companies’ practices, agreeing a clause in the Tax Administration Act could give it that power.

      Now:

      But he said now that he would be “disappointed if IR started releasing details about dealings it was having with specific companies”.

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/99252323/stuart-nash-sees-no-significant-variation-on-approach-to-multinational-tax-rorts

      • Blazer

         /  November 27, 2017

        If in fact they are doing what National did you should be really happy…yes!

        • PDB

           /  November 27, 2017

          Not really Blazer – this new govt trying to run the economy as well as National is like a bunch of 5 year olds trying to drive the family car as well as their parents.

        • High Flying Duck

           /  November 27, 2017

          Unfortunately they seem to have taken over and put things on cruise control. Running an economy isn’t a long flat never ending straight road though – unless you know how to work the controls you tend to…crash.

          • Blazer

             /  November 27, 2017

            economies largely run themselves,remember the ‘free market’.Govts have little to do with it…forex rates and interest rates the most important dynamic.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 27, 2017

              And yet in the same economic environment some countries manage to succeed and others become basket cases.
              It’s almost like…you’re wrong.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 27, 2017

              What utter drivelling unadulterated rubbish, B. Why am I bothering to say so?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 27, 2017

              Just to be clear for the umpteenth time, Governments are required to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens and in doing so support market freedom and enforceable contracts. Failures in those requirements result in economic catastrophe.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  November 27, 2017

              An anarcho-capitalist mini-manifesto!

            • Blazer

               /  November 27, 2017

              @HFD…some examples please…apples with…apples.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  November 27, 2017

          As I said yesterday, so far so good because they’ve done nothing. The problems will start as soon as they do something.

  6. Kitty Catkin

     /  November 27, 2017

    Blazer-do tell-WERE you thinking of Fawlty Towers when you talked about not mentioning the war ?

  7. Zedd

     /  November 27, 2017

    Theyve been in power a month & all the Tory nay-sayers all ready have the daggers out, ready to condemn them before they have hardly begun..
    maybe after 9 LOOOOONG years, youz can also say ‘I told you so’, but FFS give them a decent chance, would ya !

    Oh thats right; you guys ‘know it all !’ & ur never wrong, eh wot 😀

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