‘Digital and media expert group’ advising on social media regulation revealed

It has taken an Official Information Act request to reveal the members of a digital and media expert group assembled by the Prime Minister to advise her on possible regulation of social media.

Information about the objectives of the group was withheld – “I have considered the public interest considerations”, but surely secrecy is not in the public interest here.

NZ Herald (6 April 2019): Ardern changes down a gear from speedy gun reform to social media landscape

The areas of policy in which Ardern will be more deliberately paced are in regulation of social media, and other issues that impinge on media generally, free speech and the free exchange of ideas. The effects would be more wide-ranging and could be insidious.

Ardern has put together a group of digital and media experts who met with her for the first time in Auckland yesterday to discuss what happened and may be a sounding board and think tank for future policy proposals.

NZ Herald (8 April 2019):  Jacinda Ardern calls for global approach to block harm on digital platforms

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the global community should “speak with one voice” when it comes to blocking harmful content on social media platforms.

Ardern has criticised the role of social media in the Christchurch terror attack on March 15, and she met with a group of digital media experts in Auckland on Friday to learn more about the issue.

“I wanted to make sure I had the views of those that work in the [social media] space, particularly given that questions are being raised around what role New Zealand could and should play in this debate at an international level.”

Many people ‘work in the [social media] space’. Meeting with an unnamed group is only going to get a small number of views.

She said she would be happy to say who she met with, but would seek their permission to do so first.

So if people she meets with don’t want to be revealed Ardern would keep this secret?

Matthew Hooton spotted the reference to the ‘expert group’ so put in an OIA request asking who the experts were, and also who had been invited but couldn’t attend. Yesterday he received a response.

Official Information Act request relating to the digital and media expert group the Prime Minister met with on 5 April 2019.

The group provides an informal way to test policy ideas and inform government thinking about its response to the role of social media in the events of 15 March 2019 in Christchurch. The people currently involved are:

  • Jordan Carter, Chief Executive, Internet NZ
  • Nat Torkington, technologist
  • Miriyana Alexander, Premium Content Editor, NZME
  • Rick Shera, Internet and Digital Business Law Partner, Lowndes Jordan
  • Michael Wallmansberger, cybersecurity professional, independent director; Chair of the CERT NZ Establishment Advisory Board
  • Victoria Maclennan, Managing Director, MD OptimalBI Ltd; Chair of the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group; Co-Chair, NZRise
  • John Wesley-Smith, GL Regulatory Affairs, Spark
  • Lizzie Marvelly, NZ Herald columnist, Villainesse.com co-founder and editor

Not all people involved in the group attended the meeting on Friday, 5 April 20129.

The Office and the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet assembled the group to have a mix of technology sector, media and legal expertise. The Government Chief Digital Officer and the Minister for Government Digital Services, Hon Dr Megan Woods, provided input on their selection.

To the question for “5. Information on future meetings and the objectives and work programme for the group”:

With regards to question five no formal work programme has been established.

Information was withheld on future meetings and the objectives, and also on these requests:

  • What were the objectives for the group at it’s first meeting?
  • All notes taken by officials or ministerial staff at the first meeting.

So until now we had a semi-secret advisory group, and the objectives and work programme are still secret.

What happened to Ardern’s Government’s promises of openness and transparency?

Ardern’s Chief of Staff closed his OIA response with:

In making my decision, I have considered the public interest considerations in section 9(1) of the Act.

From the Act:

9 Other reasons for withholding official information

(1) Where this section applies, good reason for withholding official information exists, for the purpose of section 5, unless, in the circumstances of the particular case, the withholding of that information is outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make that information available.

I would have thought that it was desirable in the public interest for discussions on social media regulation to be as open as possible.

Social media is used by and affects many people. This sort of secrecy on an advisory group on possible social media regulation is alarming.

Consultation should be as wide as possible, and given the medium involved, that should be easy to do.


Martyn Bradbury makes a reasonable point: Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm shouldn’t an advisory board to the PM on censoring the internet require some academics and experts on civil rights and freedom of speech?

Another Nottingham court failure highlights failures of courts

Dermot Nottingham keeps clocking up failures in courts. The latest is in the Supreme Court, which dismissed an extension of time to appeal a prior appeal.

There is some history going back over four years (with related proceedings that go back to events in 2009). The judgment being appealed: NOTTINGHAM v DISTRICT COURT AT AUCKLAND [2018] NZCA 75 [28 March 2018]:

[1] On 27 April 2017 Gilbert J granted the second respondents’ application to strike out Mr Nottingham’s statement of claim in a judicial review of the District Court at Auckland alleging a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Judge ruled that the claim was replete with scandalous and outrageous allegations without any attempt having been made to provide supporting factual particulars, almost all of the relief sought could not be granted in the context of an application for judicial review and that the flaws in the claim were of such a fundamental character that they could not be saved by amendment.

[2] Mr Nottingham did not file a notice of appeal of that judgment within the required time…

Background

[3] In March 2014 Mr Nottingham commenced a private prosecution in the Auckland District Court against the second respondents. Following a Judge alone trial extending over 17 sitting days, on 20 June 2016 Judge Paul dismissed all charges, acquitted the second respondents and made an order that the appellant pay costs totalling $117,000. Mr Nottingham’s application for leave to appeal pursuant to s 296 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 was declined by Davison J.

[4] The prequel to the criminal proceedings were complaints by both Mr Nottingham and Mr Honey to the Real Estate Agents Authority which culminated in a decision of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal,
an appeal to the High Court and a further appeal to this Court.

The prequel goes back a long time – to 2009.

[5] On 12 September 2016 Mr Nottingham commenced this judicial review proceeding alleging that Judge Paul had conspired with court staff and with the second respondents to defeat the course of justice in order to wrongfully acquit the second respondents of the criminal charges Mr Nottingham had brought against them in the private prosecution.

[8] In the present case the delay of six months is substantial. While the notice of application states there are reasonable grounds including medical reasons for the delay, there is nothing in the extensive materials filed in support of the application that provides any detail of such a reason.

[9] Indeed it is difficult to understand how it could credibly be said that Mr Nottingham was precluded on medical grounds from lodging a simple notice of appeal within the 20 working day period provided in the Court of Appeal (Civil) Rules when he was actively involved in other litigation. On 15, 22 and 23 May 2017 he appeared in the High Court at Auckland in support of the application for leave to appeal heard by Davison J. He also appeared in the High Court on 12 June 2017 in support of an appeal from the District Court at Auckland finding him in contempt of Court for wilfully insulting a judicial officer.

[10] In Almond v Read the Supreme Court stated that a decision to refuse an extension of time based substantially on the lack of merit of a proposed appeal should be made only where the appeal is clearly hopeless. One of the examples given of a hopeless appeal was where there was an abuse of process such as a collateral attack on issues finally determined in other proceedings. We consider that Mr Nottingham’s judicial review proceeding is an example of such a collateral attack.

[11] Mr Nottingham’s private prosecution was dismissed. An application for leave to appeal was declined. An application under s 303 to this Court is still extant. In those circumstances we consider the nature of Mr Nottingham’s judicial review proceeding offends the general rule of public policy explained in Hunter.

[12] The implications of this collateral attack by a still further litigation process has obvious relevance to the third and fourth of the Almond v Read considerations.

[13] Having regard to all of these factors we conclude that the interests of justice plainly require that we should decline to exercise the discretion to extend time under r 29A for the filing of an appeal against the judgment of Gilbert J.

Result

[14] The application for an extension of time to appeal is declined. The appellant must pay the second respondents costs for a standard application on a band A basis with usual disbursements.

The latest judgment from the Supreme Court dated 20 November 2018 – Nottingham v Auckland District Court and Honey, Honey and Taka.

[1] Mr Nottingham wanted to appeal to the Court of Appeal against a decision of the High Court. He did not file his notice of appeal within time so applied for an extension of time. The Court of Appeal declined to grant an extension of time. Mr Nottingham seeks leave to appeal out of time to this Court against that decision.

[4] The principles applicable to the Court of Appeal’s decision whether or not to grant an extension of time were set out recently by the Court in Almond v Read. Mr Nottingham does not challenge those principles; rather, he seeks to challenge their application by the Court of Appeal to the particular facts of this case. No point of general or public importance accordingly arises. Nor does anything raised by Mr Nottingham give rise to the appearance of a miscarriage of justice. We add that his delay in filing in this Court is unexplained.

[5] For these reasons the application for an extension of time to appeal is dismissed. The applicant is to pay costs of $2,500 to the second respondents.

So a simple judgment, but again using court time and imposing further time and costs on the respondents after an extensive amount of litigation over nearly a decade.

In 2015 Nottingham told me that if ongoing litigation took him ten years he was up for it.

This judgment follows a similar judgment and a similar award of costs earlier this month: DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v HEMI TAKA, MARTIN RUSSELL HONEY AND STEPHANIE FRANCIS HONEY [2018] NZSC 102 [5 November 2018]

Costs are supposed to be a deterrent to frivolous, vexatious and hopeless litigation, but they don’t deter Nottingham, who has clocked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs awarded against him which led to him being adjudicated bankrupt in September – see HONEY v NOTTINGHAM [2018] NZHC 2382 [11 September 2018].  I was involved in that proceeding and am owed court awarded costs by Nottingham for another failed private prosecution.

I met with the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group on Monday to have my say, making suggestions on what I want from the criminal justice system and and how we might make it better. This focused on much of what is again highlighted in this judgment – successive courts have allowed Nottingham to proceed through multiple stages of litigation, incessantly  breaching laws, court rules and timetables, and not paying costs that are supposed to deter these sorts of abuse of the judicial system.

The Advisory group will make recommendations to the Minister of Justice next year, and then it is over to the Minister, Cabinet and Parliament as to what they change.

As per what is highlighted above, requiring judges to enforce procedural legislation and timetables could make a significant difference in limiting vexatious and hopeless litigation.

 

 

 

Former National minister to head justice advisory reform group

In what I think is a smart move Minister of Justice Andrew Little has appointed former National MP Chester Borrows to head a criminal justice reform advisory group.

Borrows was a police officer before getting a law degree and practicing as a lawyer before becoming an MP, and served a term as Minister of Courts, so looks to have a good background.

RNZ: Chester Borrows to head criminal justice advisory reform group

Mr Little said Mr Borrows was the obvious choice to chair the group because of his experience in the justice sector.

“I was keen to have Chester on board because of his background as a former frontline police officer, prosecuting sergeant and then later as a defence counsel after he got his law degree.

“He knows the political system, he was a minister outside cabinet, he was a deputy speaker of parliament – he brings a good understanding of the political process as well.”

Mr Little will announce the other members of the advisory group later today.

He said his advice to them was to be “bold” and “courageous” with their recommendations while drawing on experience, science and data.

“We should all be incredibly concerned at a reoffending rate of those in prison of 60 percent within two years of release – that to me is a failure.”

Borrows says that he never liked the three strikes law and was forced to vote for it by the party whipping system.

In his first interview ahead of Justice Minister Andrew Little announcing the group later today, Mr Borrows has blamed political parties’ self-interest in staying in power for the lack of progress in law and order reform.

An example was the three strikes law introduced by National and ACT under the previous government, which Mr Borrows said National never supported but was introduced to appease their confidence and supply partner.

“Three strikes was never part of National’s plan, it came up as a political move because they needed a confidence and supply partner and that was it. I never liked it, I sent that back.

“Unfortunately it was a party vote and you fall under the whip on those occasions and that’s what happened.”

The reality of party politics.

Many of the problems facing the criminal justice sector today were the same issues Mr Borrows dealt with as a police officer decades ago, he said.

“That is because law and order policy is so frequently governed by politics and not by a sensitive and sensible approach to it.”

“If you’ve got politicians too scared to introduce policy that actually might work because it’s seen to be soft on crime they won’t do it because of how it might be reflected in the ballot box.”

There will always be failures in the justice system, some of them high profile and they will be used to by crime and punishment activists.

But Borrows sounds like he could be a good person to lead the review.

And Little looks like a Minister who wants to make a significant difference – but he has a potential problem, party politics, or more to the point, Winston Peters and NZ First.

But with Borrows’ connection to National he may be able to get them onside with justice reform to get the votes with Labour that will get it through Parliament.

I might be able to contribute to the review in a minor way. I now have three years experience dealing with the justice system (ongoing with a possible third appeal plus I have now been dragged into a bankruptcy proceeding as a creditor in which Dermot Nottingham is trying to avoid paying about $220k in court costs that he keeps appealing).

Courts are under a lot of time pressure due to increasing workloads and resigning judges. One problem I have experienced is their lenience with misguided lay litigators who repeatedly fail to follow legal procedures and repeatedly ignore court directions and timetables, and flood proceedings with large amounts of irrelevant paperwork. They should get tough on this, it will save some time in the court system.

And while private prosecutions are an important part of our judicial system they are too easily open to abuse by vexatious litigants who try to inflict costs in protracted hopeless cases.

 

Ministerial Advisory Group for health

The Minister of Health, David Clark, has announced “the urgent establishment of a new Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System”.

Advisory groups, working groups, committees and commissioned reports are all things that are used in Government to kick the can down the road, to bury a promise, to deliberately delay.

For example the Tax Working Group seems to be a device to get advice that the Government wants to hear. After nine years in Opposition one could wonder why Labour hadn’t already done all the research needed to inform adequately on reforming our tax system.

But I think the health Advisory Group may be justified. Clark is not very experienced in Health, and it is one of the most demanding portfolios, with one of the biggest responsibilities. Life and death is at stake, costs are escalating, as is the age of the population, so it is difficult to get the right levels of care to balance on a budget.

New Ministerial Advisory Group established for Health

Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced the urgent establishment of a new Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System.

“Since becoming the Minister of Health, it has become increasingly clear to me that all is not well within our public health system. Nine years of under-resourcing and neglect have taken their toll.

“New Zealanders deserve better and the Labour-led Government will not sit back while the public is short-changed by a health system operating under such stress. We have a significant health agenda to roll out, including in primary care, mental health and disability services.

“We’re committed to investing an extra $8 billion in health, and it is vital to have a health system in its best shape possible to ensure all New Zealanders can access quality health and disability services.

“The Ministerial Advisory Group will help ensure that investment makes a positive difference to people’s lives. It will provide fresh perspective and independent advice about how we can improve our health system and deliver better services to New Zealanders.”

Dr Clark has appointed Sir Brian Roche as chair of the group. Professor David Tipene-Leach, Muriel Tūnoho, Dr Karen Poutasi and Dr Lester Levy have also been appointed members for a term of two years. They will report directly to the Minister of Health.

“These five individuals are extremely experienced and highly regarded in the health and disability sector.

“I’ve asked them to advise me on lifting the Ministry’s performance and leadership, strengthening relationships across the sector, and helping to deliver the Government’s strategic direction for health. This work is critical to improving the quality of our health services.

“There are good people nationwide working hard to improve people’s health. Both they and the public deserve the highest standards of leadership and performance,” says Dr Clark.

Background Information:

The Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System is a Ministerial Committee established under section 11 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2001.

Chair Sir Brian Roche has extensive governance and management experience, a former Chief Executive of PWC NZ, oversaw a significant transformation of the New Zealand Post Group as Chief Executive and is an experienced chair of numerous entities, both Crown and private.

Professor David Tipene-Leach is a Professor of Māori and Indigenous Research at the Eastern Institute of Technology. He has a distinguished medical practice and academic history, and has led innovative public health projects on prevention of long-term conditions, particularly diabetes.

Muriel Tūnoho is president of E tū, one of New Zealand’s largest unions and national coordinator for Healthcare Aotearoa, which represents many community and iwi controlled primary health providers. She is also involved with Hutt Union & Community Health Service and is an executive member on the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa board.

Dr Karen Poutasi is a former Director-General of Health. She oversaw the establishment of district health boards and the amalgamation of the former Health Funding Authority with the Ministry of Health. She has extensive experience at both a governance and management level, with deep knowledge and networks in the health system.

Dr Lester Levy has extensive knowledge of the health sector. He is Chair of the three Auckland district health boards, and has a wealth of experience in other private and government governance roles.

The best possible advice is essential for making decisions on health, and this group should the Minister.

David Farrar gives it a tick in Clark pushes out Chuah:

I don’t know all the members but Roche, Poutasi and Levy are well regarded and could well play a good role in improving the performance of the Ministry of Health.

Clark dines pushing Chuah: Outgoing health boss ‘not pushed’

Labour has been highly critical of Chai Chuah in the past but it was his choice to resign, David Clark says.

Hobson’s choice perhaps, but as Farrar said, Clark needs to have confidence in the Health boss.

In Parliament yesterday Clark responded to patsy questions (and one from the Opposition) with some of his expectations.

12. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: Why has he established the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Health System?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Today, I announced that I have established a ministerial advisory group because it has become increasingly clear to me that all is not well within our public health system. I require strong, independent advice about how we can lift the ministry’s performance and leadership, to begin to address the challenges facing our health system and, in particular, to rebuild the relationships that were seriously strained under the previous Government.

Dr Liz Craig: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What does he expect the ministerial advisory group will do to improve New Zealand’s health system?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I expect that the ministerial advisory group will provide the strategic advice required to deliver on this Government’s commitments in health and ensure that the $8 billion we have committed to investing in health will make a positive difference in people’s lives. This will include, for example, improving access to primary care by lowering the costs of visiting a GP.

Dr Shane Reti: Isn’t it more correct to say he’s set up the ministerial advisory group to tell him what his health plan in health should be, because he doesn’t have a plan?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.

Dr Liz Craig: Will the ministerial advisory group improve relationships across the health sector?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: One of the first things I expect the ministerial advisory group to do will be to rebuild relationships across the health sector. Strong and productive relationships are required to deliver the healthcare New Zealanders expect and deserve. I’m confident that the ministerial advisory group will be able to do this, and I have no doubt that its members will be talking and listening to district health boards, primary health organisations, and others up and down the country.

A line up of doctors, with both Craig and Reti having worked in health roles. That’s not necessarily all positive, the last Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, seemed to lack in communication skills, something that’s essential in this portfolio.

I wish Clark and his Advisory Group well – I may need their help some time in the future, and there’s been some scary bad health stories coming out of Dunedin Hospital – the hospital whose case for replacement has been kicked down the road for a while now.