The secret coalition document

The Labour is taking another hit on it’s promise for more transparency in Government after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to release a coalition document.

Newsroom: Kiwis left in dark over secret document

The Government is refusing to release a secret document with directives for new ministers, despite Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters promising it would be made public.

The existence of the 38-page document was first revealed by Peters the day after Labour and New Zealand First signed a more slender eight-page public coalition agreement.

Speaking to media after the allocation of ministerial portfolios, he described it as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.

“These are directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure that the coalition works, not in a jealous, envious way, ‘We got this and they got that’, but as a government successively, cohesively working.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into it, in fact day one of our negotiations that was the first subject we raised, how are we going to handle a cohesive coalition arrangement?”

At the time, he said the document was still being finalised, but would cover the appointment process for diplomats.

Peters said then the document would be made public, saying it was “for the province of the Prime Minister to release”.

However, in response to an Official Information Act request from Newsroom seeking the document’s release, Jacinda Ardern’s adviser Heather Simpson claimed “the Prime Minister does not hold any such official information”.

Simpson’s letter referred to Section 2 of the Act, saying official information covered only information held by “a Minister of the Crown in his official capacity”.

The Ombudsman’s OIA guidelines for ministers state that while official information does not include information held by a minister in their role as a member of a political party, “such information may become official information if it is subsequently used for official ministerial purposes”.

Newsroom has appealed the Government’s decision to the Ombudsman.

Not surprisingly National has picked up on this. Bill English: Secret agreement needs to be made public

The Prime Minister needs to release the Government’s secret agreement with NZ First which the Deputy Prime Minister says outlines the way ministers will behave, deal with the media and be held accountable, National Party Leader Bill English says.

“The document, confirmed by Winston Peters, goes to the very heart of the formation of the New Government.

“It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to claim it’s not public information. It is and the public deserves to know how the new Coalition, and therefore the country, will be run.

“This is not the openness and accountability promised by Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters and enshrined in the public version of their Coalition agreement.

“It’s certainly not them living up to their promise to ‘strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information’.

“This lack of transparency is becoming a habit for this Government. It is also refusing to answer even the most basic questions in Parliament as well as written questions from Opposition MPs and queries from the media.

“It doesn’t seem to understand that part of running a country is being sufficiently organised to be up front and to justify and explain the decisions it is making which affect the lives of New Zealanders.

“When these decisions continue to be so ill-thought through and rushed then that’s of even more concern. They appear to be both disorganised and secretive.

“New Zealanders deserve to know what Labour has promised NZ First and how this agreement affects them,” Mr English says.

Most opinion seems to be that the document should be made public, either legally or on principles of transparency..

But Ardern is adamant that transparency only applies when it suits. Stuff: Government denies there’s an ‘official’ coalition document still to be made public

On Monday at the Prime Minister’s regular post-Cabinet press conference both her and Peters denied there was an “official” document to be released other than the coalition agreement that has already been made available.

“We did release the coalition agreement and we were very clear, both actually on the ways that we would work together, but also on the agenda items that we as two parties have formally committed to – so in our minds we absolutely have made public those things that we’ve made commitments to,” Ardern said.

Both Ardern and Peters said notes were made during negotiations, which included further work that could be done under the coalition agreement but wasn’t yet finalised.

“Yes, of course we made notes during the course of those discussions including further areas that we may undertake some work…some issues will see the light of day and at that point we’ll make sure that people are absolutely clear that that was part of our conversation with NZ First but others may not.

“There are constraints on us as a government, not least the financial constraints we’ve been left by the last government so there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“There are other areas we may explore together that may be found to be unworkable, that may be found just to be fiscally irresponsible, that may never be progressed.”

This seems to be the way the Ardern led Government intends to operate – they will be transparent in due course.

As acting Prime Minister while Ardern and Peters were overseas Kelvin Davis appeared to flounder in Parliament when he kept answering questions with non answers, like (9 November).

We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

And like (14 November):

Decisions on interim targets to achieve these housing policies will be made in due course.

Winston Peters also joined the stonewalling yesterday (something he has a long record of hypocrisy on) with some back flipping thrown in:

Peters drew on Moses and the ten commandments to try and make his point, saying, “Moses came down from the mountain and only had ten commandments right? But there’s a lot in the Old Testament as well.”

Peters said the suggestion this was a “secret agreement” was “demonstrably false”.

“I was talking about how we will compartmentalise work of the type that’s just been discussed, send it off to ministers to do some work and see what the result is.”

He said an example of some of that work was how to find a new way to measure unemployment.

“We’ve agreed to work on those things and when we’ve completed the work we’ll tell you what the outcome is.”

This is providing some easy shots from the Opposition:

However, National’s leader Bill English has demanded the government release the agreement, saying it’s “ridiculous for the government to claim either it doesn’t exist or somehow it’s not official information”.

“I think it’s remarkable the prime minister has decided the public should not know about the detailed negotiations between Labour and NZ First because clearly the public agreement is not one they take seriously.

“It was going to be a billion trees, now it’s going to be half a billion trees, they were going to go into Pike River and now they might go into Pike River – we can go through the list of undertakings that they don’t appear to be able to keep,” English said.

This closely follows other examples of a far from open Government – see yesterday’s Government not walking the transparency talk.

Journalists tend to despise information being held from them. Claire Trevett: PM Jacinda Ardern’s hat trick on ‘secret’ document

What Ardern was trying to say was that the coalition agreement was not a full and final settlement – but could be added to. There was, it seemed, a long wish list by NZ First which Labour had not unequivocally said “no” to.

The public might be entitled to presume that what was in the coalition agreement was the cost of NZ First’s support for Labour.

We don’t need to wait for ‘in due course’ to see whether the Government was bullshitting us over promises of increased transparency, it is becoming obvious already they are no better than something that has deteriorated under the past two governments.

It now seemed that may have been only a down payment – but nobody will know what else might be extracted until it is done.

Ardern justified this by saying she did not believe it met the criteria of “official information” that merited release.

This hovered perilously close to former Prime Minister John Key refusing to release information by claiming it happened when he was acting as party leader or a normal human being rather than as Prime Minister.

Labour railed against Key and his many hats, yet here was Ardern merrily leaping to the hat rack herself.

Anyone thinking Ardern may herald a new era of openness should reconsider. She seems to be reverting to opaque and secretive and fobbing off type, like any politicians who think they can get away with it.

I think it’s quite damaging for Ardern’s credibility. She is accruing quite a negative record already.

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  1. duperez

     /  28th November 2017

    It’s obviously just stuff they did as party leaders wasn’t it?

    • Whatever, Peters promised it’d be released, but, with what’s beginning to look like an MO, Ms Ardern is fudging the issue.

      She needs to release it for her credibility. Watch as H2 scrambles to sanitise it with Winnie. Good luck with that Labour HQ.

  2. David

     /  28th November 2017

    If she and winston have signed these “notes” then they should be disclosed because we have to pay for whatever is in there. If they were given to the NZ First board we should see them too so we know what legislation is coming at us so if necessary we can anticipate and adjust for it.

    • Blazer

       /  28th November 2017

      they are entitled to change their mind about releasing them.National sat on many reports…with the most feeble justifications…the public at large ,are not…interested.

  3. Down in the Rest Home Mum is telling me she’s fast gaining a reputation as a constantly open mouth. Says a lot, but nothing of substance, if you get the drift.

  4. Blazer

     /  28th November 2017

    mum in a rest home….the European way….that astonishes ethnic communities.

    • My bad. Not a rest home actually – it’s a top notch retirement village. Like all independent and mindful seniors, she’s far happier with her own place and not being bothered by family day to day dramas. I’ve just told her of your position. She says to tell you she loves being with her peers, loves her autonomy and the self sufficiency of life in a village. She’d rather not be bundled up in a someone’s back bedroom in a busy, often preoccupied household. The last thing she wants is to be given the evening spuds to peel.

      I can assure you that our first world programs for seniors afford our elderly far more dignity than third world alternatives.

      • Blazer

         /  28th November 2017

        2 screw ups in one thread…please be more careful…in future…; )

        • PDB

           /  28th November 2017

          “2 screw ups in one thread”

          Speak for yourself Blazer…traveller seems quite normal

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th November 2017

            An old man I knew moved to one-his house in the village was really good, spacious, well-designed, didn’t seem like an oldie’s place at all. Any aids for seniors were not noticeable.

  5. Zedd

     /  28th November 2017

    does any one remember, all the ‘dirty deals’ Natz did with Act/UF to get the numbers, they needed to remain above 60 MPs/in Govt. ?

    I cant believe all this trash, Im reading/hearing about the ‘TERRIBLE things’ that this new GOVT. are supposedly guilty of..
    again; “your SORE LOSERS” get over it folks.. Natz ARE in opposition now !

    • Corky

       /  28th November 2017

      Geez, what did you expect..fairies eating candy floss? You are proof Lefties live in a fantasy world. Like I said before, New Zealanders had stability under National. That may be boring, but it conditioned New Zealanders into not liking surprises or uncertainty.

      Guess what this new government is giving New Zealanders?

      • Zedd

         /  28th November 2017

        ‘You are proof Lefties live in a fantasy world. Like I said before, New Zealanders had stability under National’

        Now whose living in a fantasy world Corky ?

        1) increased GST
        2) a failed flag ref. cost $26mil
        3) constantly blaming GFC, ChCh quakes & prev. Govt. for everything they did wrong
        4) widening gap between rich & poor
        5) unaffordable houses
        6) high unemployment
        7) highest prison population
        8) biggest tax-cuts always going to the wealthiest
        9) leaky/cold rental homes
        10) sell off of state assets
        11) no intention to amend outdated drug laws, even Med-use of cannabis

        Do I need to go on ? I hope not..
        btw; remind us, who you voted for.. AGAIN !

        If you are going to attack my comments, at least try to sound intelligent/rational 😀

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  28th November 2017

          You are living in fantasy Zedd.

          2. Lefties hypocritically sabotaged their own election policy re the flag.
          4. There was no widening rich/poor gap.
          5. The big jump in housing unaffordability was under Labour and due to their policies which National did not have enough Parliamentary votes to reverse.
          6. Unemployment was low
          8. Those who pay the most tax will always get the biggest cut.
          9. National implemented a home insulation scheme which improved rental properties, not worsened them.
          10. The “State Assets” National sold improved performance and gave bigger returns to Government than when wholly State owned.

          • Blazer

             /  28th November 2017

            this one ,kinda cancels the rest of the…rant..’National did not have enough Parliamentary votes to reverse.’

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  28th November 2017

              No rant. Fact. Troll?

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              @Al…this is NOT fact…’The big jump in housing unaffordability was under Labour and due to their policies which National did not have enough Parliamentary votes to reverse.’…comprenez.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  28th November 2017

              National wanted to end the Auckland urban boundary & reduce red tape through changes to the RMA. They were prevented from doing so by Labour Mayor’s and a lack of parliamentary votes to make the RMA changes.

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              @HFD…those are not the main factors inflating the housing bubble.verstehensie?

            • High Flying Duck

               /  28th November 2017

              You took that fairy tale in the Herald to heart, didn’t you Blazer.
              The article didn’t explain why there is such a strong correlation for areas with few land restrictions and steady and reliable housing supply to have low house prices. I guess the debt monster and the master plan of the nasty money lenders is localised and only applies, coincidentally to areas with high levels of planning control and land use restrictions.

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              @HFD…that article was supported by evidence ,graphs and facts.I know the truth about the housing crisis is an unpalatable one for you and your political party of choice,nevertheless the facts speak for themselves.Your attempt at deflection is quite pathetic and cannot withstand independent…scrutiny.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  28th November 2017

              Nothing to do with party politics – doesn’t the article say Labour will “actually fuel the problems they claim to solve, reinforcing inequality for decades to come.”

              The graphs didn’t prove her point at all – they were very general.

              There is PLENTY of evidence to refute what the Herald article says. But you won’t like it because it isn’t one person railing against reality.

              You don’t even need to read reports though, you can look at actual evidence from actual cities that shows the direct correlation.

              “A Government-commissioned report has found that land use regulations add about 56% to the cost of houses in Auckland; ‘prices far outweigh costs in most major NZ cities'”

              From a Science Direct study in Hong Kong:

              The results in Section 7 show that the planning indicators: (i) the approval rates of planning applications; (ii) the residential floor area under planning applications; and (iii) the area of greenbelt and open space zones, have significant impact on housing prices.


              From an English Study:

              “…we find that: i) Regulatory constraints have a
              substantive positive long-run impact on the house price-earnings elasticity”

              The OECD say:

              “Restrictive land use and planning regulations are a key factor behind lagging supply and the resulting high house prices…In addition land-use planning has become more complex and costly over time, involving considerations of infrastructure provision, environmental sustainability and economic resilience.”

              If you want about a million more corroborating studies, let me know.

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              @HFD..I simply don’t accept your arguments,they are just plain wrong.And yes the article points out the dangers of increasing stock without addressing the underlying issue…i.e housing as an advantageous trading …commodity.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  28th November 2017

              There is a very long list of perfectly rational facts that you simply don’t accept Blazer.
              And therein lies your problem.

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              @HFD…a problem I share with Bill English..then.Your view of the world is a very black and white one..or perhaps blue and red one.The reality is shades of…

            • High Flying Duck

               /  28th November 2017

              I think you’d be surprised about the nuances of my views. You have a tendency to treat debates as good versus evil which forces a one dimensional view.

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              @HFD..I’ll let you into a little secret…the very astute dave1924…figured out how I treat..debates.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  28th November 2017

              Rubbish, B. All of my statement was factual. The only period National had the votes to gut the RMA disaster they were dealing with the GFC and Chch earthquake.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th November 2017

            Why is a coalition dirty work when National does it and not when Labour does ?

            I’d say that this one was dirty work with WP wasting everyone’s time pretending that he might go in with National-and who knows, if they had been daft enough to offer him the deputy PM job, he might have-when he had already begun proceedings against them.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  28th November 2017

    As I said previously, these clowns don’t even know what they are going to do, let alone what the unintended consequences will be. So they continue to spout vague aspirational nonsense.

    Eventually they will do something that is not just a continuation of the previous Government’s policies and it will most likely be a disaster with only the timing and scale being in question.

    • Gezza

       /  28th November 2017

      Too soon to say. But they don’t sound like they know what they’re doing yet – in the sense that they haven’t figured out HOW they’re going to implement their stated policies & how much they’re going to cost.

      But it takes time for that level of detail to be worked out & for some operational planning & design for implementation has to be worked through (who will do what, where, across how many operational areas, using what systems & resources (e.g. legislative impacts (Regulations, Amendments to Acts, new Act etc, Amount of human, operational, equipment, IT & other resources it will require etc.

      Ministers put an earlier paper or two to Cabinet outling proposals & seeking Cabinet authorisation to commence detailed planning work, the detailed policy development process often throws up issues that need interim papers & Cabinet decision on options etc. But then cost of all those previously mentioned factors has to added up & included as a ball park figure before a detailed proposal can go to other Depts, then Treasury, for input & scrutiny, before the final Cabinet Paper goes to Cabinet as for signoff to be implemented as Government policy.

      National know this. Rushing to implement hastily thrown together policy is risky because of the potential for unforeseen adverse impacts & officials would be pointing that out as they work things through. I wouldn’t expect any major policy signoffs until well into the New Year.

      Unless they were sensible policies for which the work was being done under National already & a couple of cosmetic tweaks can be made so that the new government can then claim it as theirs (which EVERY new administration does, quite shamelessly, as the general public don’t know what work has been being done in the background anyway).

      • High Flying Duck

         /  28th November 2017

        Where the hell did you come from?
        I thought you’d left. You were probably here the whole time though.
        Things were getting out of hand, so I’m glad you’ve popped in to fix things up.

        • Blazer

           /  28th November 2017

          he’s trying to make up for voting the MP into extinction.Conveniently forgets Nationals well thought through ..blunders..cue McCully and the Saudi sheep deal…need more ..just ask…Bol.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  28th November 2017

            I will say again – parliament is well rid of McCully.
            National had its share of issues, as every 3 term Government does. But in the realm of actual governance they were a hell of a lot more good than bad.
            I think a term in opposition will be useful for them though. 2 if Jacinda can actually get her government working at all.

            • Blazer

               /  28th November 2017

              never mind McCully then…National always disowns its ‘heroes ‘ when its expedient..(Muldoon for instance)…do you want other examples..just say..!

          • Gezza

             /  29th November 2017

            I don’t conveniently forget anything. I’ve worked in departments thru complete Administration between National & Labour numerous times. Every seismic shift between right & left brings in a bunch of newbie Ministers & those who don’t know how the normal, legitimate processes of government work quickly learn from the BIM onwards with their departments that policies signalled by Opposition parties during campaigning which require significant resource use or change to systems & legislative can rarely be rushed into effect without being first worked through thoroughly – for practical reasons – to identify & minimise risks of adverse consequences (fuck ups that will hit the media & embarrass) the Minister & government) not apparent in Opposition because they don’t know the operational details, exactly what work is required, how long it takes to develop and operationalise the policy (contractors did all our IT system changes – that requires design, testing, debugging, sorting out inevtable conflicts within complex IT structures etc).

            I’ll just ignore the rest. It’s irrelevant to my point. I don’t give a toss which administration is in power. They all run the risk of screw ups if they pressure departments to rush things. These matters are drawn to their attention. They have to be. The convention of Ministers taking responsibility when their departments gets something wrong (especially when they disregarded advice) disappeared with the Douglas administration & so it is necessary for these matters to be raised & recorded more than ever as Ministers nowadays default to blaming their departments.

            Labour is bound to have no hopers in their Cabinet lineup. Every government does. For me it’s a test of how good the PM is at the job how quickly they move them out & replace them with a good Minister.

  7. Corky

     /  28th November 2017

    Ah,ha. Your list is socialist fantasy Island stuff. What’s my proof? This. 44.4% of the election vote. 56 seats. Pretty solid endorsement after nine years, I would say.

    ”Do I need to go on ? I hope not..”

    No, of course you don’t.

    ”Btw; remind us, who you voted for.. AGAIN !”

    I didn’t vote. May I remind you for the tenth time, I consider National, THE BEST OF A BAD BUNCH!!!

    ”If you are going to attack my comments, at least try to sound intelligent/rational”

    Short memory? I said National needed to lose this election because a Labour government would be woefully unprepared to govern. Not to mention short on talent.

    And what’s happening at the moment? It’s not me who’s short on intelligence.

    To redeem yourself, you need to start making predictions and getting them them right as often as me.

    Way you go…….? 😵

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