Members of ‘digital and media expert group’ respond

Yesterday members of the ‘Digital and media expert group’ advising on social media regulation revealed.

There was some interaction on this on Twitter with two of the members, Nat Torkington and Lizzie Marvelly.

@MatthewHootonNZ:

What are its objectives? What is Its work programme? It looks to me like a sinister Labour move so censor dissent, like they did with the Electoral Finance Bill.

@LizzieMarvelly responded with information that the Prime Minister’s office withheld from Hooton’s OIA request – what the objectives of the group are:

It is an informal group of tech sector, legal and media folks that can provide feedback on request to help the Government to make sure its work in this area is effective and well-informed. This is an important kaupapa, particularly given what happened in Chrischurch.

To be clear, by ‘this area’, I mean social media policy proposals.

@MatthewHootonNZ:

There is no such thing as an “informal” group if it is set up by DPMC and the PM discusses it the day of its first meeting with the political editor of the NZ Herald.

Why haven’t you declared your involvement in it? How much have you been paid? What is the work programme? Has there been a second meeting?

At that point Marvelly disengaged from the discussion, but Torkington joined in.

@gnat (Torkington):

Oh hai, Lizzie. Is it normal for you to get this kind of pig-dog blind aggression? I’ve never encountered it before. It’s like being hassled by an uppity mall cop. “I know you think you’re a knight defender of Western democracy, but your cap gun and plastic badge fool nobody.”

Pig-dog blind aggression? Torkington’s lack of encountering what looks fairly reasonable questioning to me suggests that he is not much of an expert on social media, or politics. I wonder if he has ever watched Question Time in Parliament.

@AlisonMau:

It’s very normal, Nat. For Lizzie and lots of other women.

And men. While women like Marvelly are subject to some awful stuff, that’s not what happened here, so this is trying to swing the conversation to a different agenda.

Torkington:

I understood that intellectually, but this is my first time in the Flappy Asshole Blast Zone. And I know this is tame in comparison to threats of sexual violence, doxxing, families, professional fuckery, etc. that y’all get every day. You deserve a🏅for showing up every day!

Later in the day Marvelly got involved again.

If the expert advisory group had been announced and named by the Prime Minister, and it’s objectives revealed rather than kept secret, then this sideshow wouldn’t have happened.

There are benefits with being open and transparent, but the current Government seems intent on avoiding walking that talk.

 

‘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?

Expert Group announced for ‘overhaul of the welfare system’

An overhaul of the welfare system was included in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

‘Overhaul’ sounds like the Government is expecting major change. I think we can assume few if any beneficiaries will be worse off as a result of any changes, so this could be expensive to implement.

One aim in particular is contentious – “remove excessive sanctions”. Some say that removing ‘punishments’ is essential to be fair, while others fear a no questions asked welfare system, effectively providing a choice for some, will increase the number on welfare considerably.

Yesterday the Government announced an expert advisory group.

Expert Group established to provide independent advice on welfare system improvements

Minister for Social Development, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, has today announced the formation of an expert advisory group to support the overhaul of the welfare system.

“This Government is committed to overhauling the welfare system to ensure it is accessible and fair for all New Zealanders,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“To support the overhaul of the welfare system” sounds like the experts are required to advise an overhaul. What if they decide that tweaks would be better? Are the compelled to support an overhaul?

“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to undertake a broad-ranging review of the welfare system. It will deliver advice to the Government on ways to ensure people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with respect, can live in dignity, and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.

A broad-ranging review of the welfare system is a good idea if it is able to recommend anything the Group sees as appropriate.

“Areas that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to focus on range from considering the overall purpose of the system, through to specific recommendations on the current obligations and sanctions regime.

“The welfare system touches the lives of New Zealanders from all walks of life. I am pleased that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group members themselves come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience, including but not limited to Māori, Pacific, disabled, and young people.

“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group will deliver its advice to the Government in February 2019. I am looking forward to receiving the Group’s recommendations.”

Minister Tracey Martin said the working group would be a great support to the much needed overhaul of the welfare system.

“Having a range of experienced perspectives outside of government contributing to the Government’s vision in this sector is crucial to getting it right and delivering better outcomes for New Zealanders.”

The perspectives of the group are largely social orientated. Having people with experience in social services is a good thing, as long as that is balanced with what is practical and within a possible budget. There is no indication whether the group is required to consider budgets and what might be ‘affordable’ reform.

The group with (abbreviated) biographies:

CHAIR – Professor Cynthia (Cindy) Kiro (Ngapuhi, Ngati Kahu, Ngati Hine):

Having focussed on Education for the past five years, Professor Kiro also worked in Public Health and Children’s Advocacy for many years. She has extensive experience working in roles to improve outcomes for the New Zealand population. Professor Cindy Kiro is Director of the Starpath Project and also ‘Te Tumu’ – responsible for Māori/indigenous education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, where she has worked for the last three years.

Professor Innes Asher…

…is a Paediatrician, with vast experience of children and families interacting with the welfare system, and the broader determinants of well-being of children and families. Professor Asher is a committee member and health spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group.

Kay Brereton…

…is an experienced advocate for people within the welfare system. She is currently employed as a senior advocate at the Beneficiaries and Unwaged Workers Trust. She has extensive experience working directly with Work and Income clients assisting them to access their full and correct benefit entitlement, and to access their statutory review and appeal rights.

Dr Huhana Hickey (Ngāti Tahinga, Tainui, Ngai Tai)…

…has a long standing interest in the human rights of people from marginal backgrounds and the consequences of discrimination and social oppression. Dr Hickey currently sits on the NZ Human Rights Review Tribunal and is the Chair of the Auckland Council Disability Strategic Advisory Panel. As the recipient of a main benefit, Dr Hickey brings lived experience of the welfare system.

Professor Tracey McIntosh…

…is the Head of Department for Sociology at the University of Auckland and has conducted extensive research in the field of sociology and Māori and Pacific studies. Professor McIntosh advocates for sociology that supports and reflects issues that concern Māori communities. Professor McIntosh also served as the co-chair of the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty.

Dr Ganesh Nana…

…is currently the Chief Economist at BERL, having joined the company in 1998 as a Senior Economist. Dr Nana’s work is often related to the Māori economy, regional New Zealand and its economic development, and education and workforce training plans and programmes.

Labour have used BERL to cost their campaign policies, so Nana will be familiar with their policies and their financial inclinations. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this.

Phil O’Reilly…

…has developed long-term working relationships at all levels in the business community as a previous Chief Executive of BusinessNZ. He chaired the Green Growth Advisory Group and his membership of public and private advisory boards and committee appointments has spanned academia, research and development, business, labour and social development, and manufacturing and trade.

Robert Reid

…has over 40 years’ experience in trade unions and in community employment development.  Much of Robert’s work has been with disadvantaged groups and has included work with Maori, Pacific Peoples and migrant communities. Mr Reid is currently Honorary President of FIRST Union.

Trevor McGlinchey…

…is currently the Executive Officer for the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. In 1986 Trevor started the Te Mahi o Waitaki Trust in Oamaru, this kaupapa Māori Trust developed and operated numerous social enterprises and community initiatives. In his community roles Trevor chairs Moeraki Ltd, a marae based charitable company, and Te Ana Whakairo Ltd a social enterprise based on Māori Tourism.

Latayvia Tualasea Tautai

…is a young Pacific leader from Auckland. She is currently a second-year university student, studying on a University of Auckland Pacific Excellence scholarship towards conjoint Law and Arts Degrees, majoring in Pacific Studies and Political Studies. She has lived experience of the welfare system, growing up in a household with her mother receiving main benefits.

Charles Waldegrave…

…is the founder of the Family Centre 1979 and the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit 1991. Mr. Waldegrave co-leads the New Zealand Poverty Measurement Project. He has led or jointly led research, evaluation, service and teaching contracts with multiple government agencies. He has written many research articles and specialises in social policy regarding youth, ageing people, and poverty, among others.

The challenge will be to advise on what is good reform but presumably without an open chequebook available.

While the Group largely appears to have been selected based on their advocacy for far better systems of providing welfare, there is some risk for the Government.

If the Group makes expensive recommendations the Government may have to prune things back to fit within future budgets with competing pressures from other big budget things like housing, education and health.

I can see no indication of when any reform may be implemented. The Government may try to fit changes in this term, or they may decide to put welfare reform alongside tax reform (another Group is currently working on that) to the electorate for the general election in 2020.