Minister embarrassed by Advisory Group failing to keep minutes

Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister, and Associate Minister for ACC and of State Services (Open Government) Clare Curran has been embarrassed by a letter that shows an advisory group she set up failed to take minutes at meetings when they found out they would be subject to the Official Information Act.

In Parliament today:

12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government): Has she provided any guidance to State agencies and Government bodies about best practice to achieve open and transparent Government?

Hon CLARE CURRAN (Associate Minister of State Services): No, and that’s because the State Services Commissioner provides leadership to the State services on these matters.

Melissa Lee: How concerned would she be if she were to learn that a Government-appointed body had decided not to minute their meetings because those minutes could be subject to the Official Information Act?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: Well, the State Services Commissioner provides, as I said, leadership to the State services. Some examples of that: guidance is provided on the Official Information Act (OIA) to increase public access to information, there is guidance on providing free and frank advice and codes of conduct for staff in ministerial offices, as well as speaking up guidance—so a range of advice on a range of matters. So that’s good advice to the State services, and if there are instances of concern, then I suggest that she raise them with the State services.

Melissa Lee: Is she concerned that the ministerial advisory group appointed by the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media to decide the future of public media funding in New Zealand has decided not to keep minutes of their meetings because they would be subject to the Official Information Act?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I’m not aware of that, but what I would say is that that the ministerial advisory group has provided reports to the Minister, which will be provided in due course publicly.

Melissa Lee: Is it open and transparent for the public media ministerial advisory group responsible for millions of taxpayers’ dollars for public broadcasting to no longer take minutes of their meetings in order to avoid being subject to the Official Information Act?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I think I’ve already answered that, but I’ll repeat that ministerial advisory groups provide advice to Ministers—that’s what they’re set up to do. That advice is made public to the media in due course as the process goes through.

Melissa Lee: Is it open and transparent for the public media ministerial advisory group responsible for millions of taxpayer dollars for public broadcasting to no longer take minutes of their meetings—

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I’m unaware of any allegation of that sort. My understanding is that my ministerial advisory group is providing reports to me which will be made public in due course. I’m unaware of that matter that that member is raising.

Melissa Lee: I seek leave to table a letter dated 19 June 2018 from Te Manatū Taonga, which is the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and the 27 February 2018 minutes of the public media advisory group, released from the Minister’s office under the OIA.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to those documents being tabled? There appears to be none.

Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

A screenshot of the minute recorded.A screenshot of the minute recorded. Photo credit: Screengrab/Newshub.

Melissa Lee: Will the Minister be asking the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage to encourage her department, who are providing secretarial services to the advisory group for public broadcasting, to specifically advise the group that deciding not to keep meeting minutes fails to meet expected standards of openness and transparency?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I’ll certainly be looking into the matter.

Lee followed up: Curran far from open and transparent – yet again

Associate State Services Minister Clare Curran talks a big game about her ‘open and transparent Government’, but she has come up short once again, National’s Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media spokesperson Melissa Lee says.

“The Ministerial Advisory Group that was created by Ms Curran in February to investigate establishing a Public Media Funding Commission has decided after its first meeting not to keep minutes after noting they were subject to the Official Information Act.

“Her claim in Parliament today that she ‘is unaware’ that her own Ministerial Advisory Group is not taking minutes is staggering.

“This working group for a working group will decide the future of public media funding in New Zealand, and is responsible for millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, and they’ve now made the call their dealings shouldn’t be subject to public scrutiny.

“Ms Curran declared last year that this Government would be the most open and transparent government that New Zealand had ever seen. But after eight months in power, it’s anything but.

“She has already tried to cover up the now-notorious breakfast meeting which cost Carol Hirschfeld her job, she left hundreds of Parliamentary questions unanswered till after their due dates and has given no guidance to Government agencies on best practices for open government.

“The only open and transparent approach has been from other Ministers’ offices who have failed to correctly redact OIA documents, leaving the public with the simple task of copying and pasting the document into a Word document to reveal all.

“Ms Curran’s claim that this Government is the most open and transparent is now proven to be nothing but hot air.”

Newshub: Advisory Group notes meeting subject to OIA, stops taking minutes

Curran has had a challenging start to her ministerial career.

25 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  June 28, 2018

    It’s not a good week for Labour, is it ?

    • PDB

       /  June 28, 2018

      Have they had a good one?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  June 28, 2018

        Er…um….there was the one where….well, no,

        A Huntly businessman had two talks with Phil Twyford about prefab houses months ago, rather an important issue, which PT now denies having, as he makes it seem as he’s just thought of this idea.

  2. chrism56

     /  June 28, 2018

    You are being a master of understatement there, PG. Ms Curran hasn’t had a “challenging” start, she has gone from disaster to disaster. The opposition don’t want her to resign, she might be replaced by someone who is competent.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 28, 2018

      I wonder if Labour thinks that Melissa Lee is Chinese.

  3. Trevors_elbow

     /  June 28, 2018

    Is it common practice to deliberately not minute in this manner in Government agencies or their various advisory boards etc to specifically circumvent the law of the land??

    Where is that distinguished ex State Employee, the Earl of Pukeko aka The Lord of North Wellington… to answer my question?

    • PDB

       /  June 28, 2018

      Apparently only happens if you declare you will run the most open and transparent govt ever otherwise you have to do minutes, measure outcomes and not hide information that should be publically available.

    • Gezza

       /  June 28, 2018

      Trevor

      Yes, it is. I used to have to take minutes of departmental & interdepartment meetings & circulate them for confirmation & filing when I worked as a policy advisor early in my career. It was a job I hated as I often couldn’t keep up with all the back & forth chat.

      Minute taking at meetings in my department stopped around the time of the implementation of the Official Information Act. After that there would be an agenda & there would be a record of decisions taken or made. That was it.

  4. PDB

     /  June 28, 2018

    Ardern promised this would be the most open and transparent govt ever and that is the end of the matter.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 28, 2018

      Do you mind ? People reading that might well be having an after-dinner coffee and not want to ruin their keyboards.

  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  June 28, 2018

    There are two interpretations of all this (above)

    Clare Curran had no idea that this was happening.

    She knew but did nothing. One must hope that she didn’t instruct the people not to take minutes.

    Either way, she looks bad; either incompetent or dishonest.

    • chrism56

       /  June 28, 2018

      Clare isn’t clever enough to be cunning – she is just incompetent

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  June 28, 2018

        I fear that you’re right.

        She gives me the impression of being someone who gets flustered and denies things in a crisis, like a child who’s being asked if they took the last chocolate biscuits.

    • PDB

       /  June 28, 2018

      Going by her RNZ dodgy dealings I’d suggest she most likely did this (verbally off the record of course): “One must hope that she didn’t instruct the people not to take minutes”.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  June 28, 2018

        If that’s true and can be proved, she deserves to be sacked at the very least.

        I wonder if (in the event that it’s true) the people would be loyal enough to cover for her. Probably not, why should they ? I wouldn’t if it meant losing my own post.

        • PDB

           /  June 28, 2018

          “If that’s true and can be proved”

          Wasn’t…..minuted

          The advisory group will not go and bite the hand that feeds them.

  6. Blazer

     /  June 29, 2018

    Gezza just explained…nothing new there.
    The last admin stated they were the most transparent Govt ever…clearly a joke phrase.
    Btw Melissa Lee was born in Sth Korea,that’s near ..China.
    Ex Chinese spy trainer Dr Jiang parachuted into Parliament by the Nats has a chinese surname.He is from China.

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