Tracy Watkins on Jacinda Ardern

Tracy Watkins, in her last column as Stuff’s political editor, on Jacinda Ardern:

As for Ardern, her legacy is still unfolding, and so far hers has been the most extraordinary story so far. Labour’s unprecedented, 11th-hour resurrection under her leadership; and her incredible international reach, set her apart from any other leader in recent times.

That presents huge opportunities – and big risks.

The opportunities lie in Ardern’s huge reservoir of political capital, and her supporters are looking to her to use that to lead a truly transformative government.

The risk lies in failing to deliver on those expectations, and they may be unrealistically high – not just domestically, but among her admirers globally.

It’s tempting to think that Ardern’s legacy is already written.

But politics moves so fast these days that crystal-ball gazing is turning into a mug’s game.

Despite the hissing and spitting at Kiwblog and Whale Oil, Ardern has shown some real leadership on some things, most notably the Christchurch mosque massacres, and her follow up in Paris this week.

But she does have to prove she can live up to her ‘transformative’ rhetoric and deliver some significant transformations this year, A lot is likely to depend on the budget due next week.

She will also be hoping some of her ministers learn enough and improve enough to start delivering more.

And she will be hoping that the scandal waiting to happen NZ First manage to survive the term not just without any major embarrassments, but also that they survive the next election.

And also that the Greens survive the next election.

Arden has done a lot well, most notably turning round a failing Labour around in the last election camp, and negotiating governing arrangements with NZ First and Greens.

She has done remarkably well, and still looks strong, but her fate as Prime Minister may be in the hands of her two support parties as much as anyone’s.

 

A busy day for Ardern in Paris

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern achieved her main aim in Paris, a signed ‘Christchurch  Call’ agreement between 17 countries and also the major tech companies based in China. See: Tech companies, 17 Governments sign up to ‘Christchurch Call’

But in getting there Arden had a very busy day.

Henry Cooke (Stuff): Jacinda Ardern’s big day in Paris ends with her getting what she wanted

She held six one-on-one meetings, hosted two more large ones, gave two speeches and two press conferences.

The Prime Minister spent Wednesday in a whirlwind of events as she finalised the Christchurch Calla set of non-binding commitments governments and tech companies are making to fight online extremism.

The pledge was made exactly two months after the terror attack in Christchurch, in which 51 people were murdered and the massacre livestreamed on Facebook.

Ardern sees this pledge as the second half of the immediate response to the attack, after banning the guns used in the attack within weeks.

One more step towards trying to make the country and the world safer. Obviously not all acts of terrorism will be prevented, and not all spreading of hate and violence online will be stopped, but it must be a move in the right direction – towards a more decent Internet and a more peaceful world.

It will need top be an ongoing effort. And going by the effort she put in so far, Ardern will do everything she can to achieve some level of success.

Her agenda in Paris on Wednesday:

The Prime Minister began her day with a swift bilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the OECD Palace, the red carpet literally rolled out for royalty.

Right after that she hosted a tech roundtable with 30 or so representatives of the various tech companies signing on. The cavernous tapestried room, which had tables arranged in something much closer to a square than a circle, featured Ardern, several chief policy officers, and the co-founder of Wikipedia.

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey was not present, but was due to meet Ardern at the next stop.

Dorsey is four years older than Ardern, but looked much younger as he slunk into the room to shake her hand, with wavy 2008-emo hair and a full beard.

After Dorsey, the Prime Minister and a bedraggled group of reporters following her finally arrived at the Élysées Palace where 250 local and world journalists had received accreditation to cover the main event.

Ardern was greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron at the door, who embraced her with a la bise – basically two quick kisses on the cheek, and asked her how she was…The two disappeared into the palace for a long lunch…

Next up was another bilateral meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Norway experienced a similar attack to New Zealand in 2011, but Solberg was not in office at that point.

Then came the proper meeting, the tech representative and world leaders all in one gilded room facing each other across a table. Ardern sat flanked by Macron and Senegal PM Mahammed Dionne. UK Prime Minister Theresa May sat beside the European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker on one end of the table – one imagines the pair were just pleased to talk about anything but Brexit, even if it was extremist terrorist content.

A karanga was delivered and Ardern then spoke at length about the need for tech companies to take responsibility for the huge power they now wield.

“I know that none of you want your platforms to perpetuate and amplify terrorism and extremist violence. But these platforms have grown at such pace, with such popularity, that we are all now dealing with consequences you may not have imagined when your company was just a start-up. Your scale and influence brings a burden of responsibility,” Ardern said.

When the closed-meeting finally ended, Ardern and Macron emerged for the kind of press conference where four questions take up 30 minutes.

A short stroll away from the palace, at a building Napoleon built for his sister, Ardern had a brief meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, followed by another press conference for the itchy New Zealand journalists, who had breakfast shows that were just coming on air.

So a very busy day for Ardern, who was making the most of her visit to Paris where a number of world leaders and tech company representatives had gathered.

And from the coverage I saw, Ardern acquitted her aims with aplomb, representing Aotearoa New Zealand very well. She keeps doing very well on the international stage.

Widespread praise makes pride in Ardern’s performances obvious, despite the efforts of a small number who show their displeasure regardless of what Ardern achieves or does.

People who rise to be very good leaders are able to please most of the people most of the time.

If her Government here in New Zealand can get up to speed and deliver on some significant policies, whoever leads National will be powerless to compete, and relatively powerless after next year’s election.

From the Beehive:

 

 

Jacinda Ardern in Paris on the Christchurch Call

Stuff: PM tells tech companies they must take on more responsibility

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has directly asked tech companies to take on more responsibility for the way their platforms are used.

Ardern made an address at the Chirstchurch Call summit in Paris to seven world leaders and several leaders from the tech world.

The Prime Minister said she stood before the gathered leaders “with the 51 lives lost in New Zealand heavy on my mind.”

Ardern said that the attack had been specifically designed go viral online.

“The sheer scale of its reach was staggering. It’s hard to quantify the harm this caused. But the fact it caused harm is unquestionable. Thousands of New Zealanders called our nationwide mental health support line saying the video was causing them distress.”

She directly asked that the tech companies present – including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft – to treat the problem as seriously as possible, as their huge size gave them a lot of responsibility.

“I know that none of you want your platforms to perpetuate and amplify terrorism and extremist violence. But these platforms have grown at such pace, with such popularity, that we are all now dealing with consequences you may not have imagined when your company was just a start-up. Your scale and influence brings a burden of responsibility.

“I know what we are doing isn’t simple, and that our goal – of eliminating the upload of this kind of content is ambitious – but it is also necessary.”

“We ask that you assess how your algorithms funnel people to extremist content and make transparent that work.”

“Some of this is already under way. But we need to see the progress you are making. We are asking you to report regularly in a verifiable and measurable way.”

A Christchurch Call agreement has now been signed by 17 Governments and a number of the major tech companies. The US has endorsed but not signed it.

See Tech companies, 17 Governments sign up to ‘Christchurch Call’

 

Facebook tightening livestreaming rules

Just prior to signing the Christchurch Call agreement in Paris Facebook announced that they are tightening rules on livestreaming.

Reuters: Facebook restricts Live feature, citing New Zealand shooting

Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it was tightening rules around its livestreaming feature ahead of a meeting of world leaders aimed at curbing online violence in the aftermath of a massacre in New Zealand.

Facebook said in a statement it was introducing a “one-strike” policy for use of Facebook Live, temporarily restricting access for people who have faced disciplinary action for breaking the company’s most serious rules anywhere on its site.

First-time offenders will be suspended from using Live for set periods of time, the company said. It is also broadening the range of offences that will qualify for one-strike suspensions.

Facebook did not specify which offences were eligible for the one-strike policy or how long suspensions would last, but a spokeswoman said it would not have been possible for the shooter to use Live on his account under the new rules.

The company said it plans to extend the restrictions to other areas over coming weeks, beginning with preventing the same people from creating ads on Facebook.

It also said it would fund research at three universities on techniques to detect manipulated media, which Facebook’s systems struggled to spot in the aftermath of the attack.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded:


Comment from Jacinda Ardern on Facebook livestreaming announcement

“Facebook’s decision to put limits on livestreaming is a good first step to restrict the application being used as a tool for terrorists and shows the Christchurch Call is being acted on,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“Today’s announcement addresses a key component of the Christchurch Call, a shared commitment to making livestreaming safer.

“The March 15 terrorist highlighted just how easily livestreaming can be misused for hate. Facebook has made a tangible first step to stop that act being repeated on their platform.

“Facebook’s announcement of new research into detecting manipulated media across images, video and audio in order to take it down is welcomed.

“Multiple edited and manipulated versions of the March 15 massacre quickly spread online, and the take down was slow as a result. New technology to prevent the easy spread of terrorist content will be a major contributor to making social media safer for users, and stopping the unintentional viewing of extremist content like so many people in New Zealand did after the attack, including myself, when it auto played in Facebook feeds.

“The Christchurch Call gets agreement from tech companies to take initiatives to end the spread of terrorist content online. There is a lot more work to do, but I am pleased Facebook has taken additional steps today alongside the Call and look forward to a long term collaboration to make social media safer by removing terrorist content from it.”

 

Jacinda Ardern on CNN on gun laws and extremist use of social media

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda is getting more international attention after speaking to CNN as she prepares for meetings and a summit in Paris on the use of social media by violent extremists.

CNN:  New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern ‘does not understand’ why US has failed to toughen gun laws

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she does “not understand” why the United States has not passed stronger gun laws in the aftermath of mass shooting events.

Ahead of a summit on online extremism, Ardern was responding to a question by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asking whether countries can learn from New Zealand.

The Prime Minister said guns have a “practical purpose” in New Zealand but “that does not mean you need access to military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles.”

“Australia experienced a massacre and changed their laws. New Zealand had its experience and changed its laws. To be honest, I do not understand the United States”.

On Ardern’s ‘Christchurch Call’:

Ardern told CNN on Tuesday that the meeting “is not about regulation, it is about bringing companies to the table,” adding that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given “Facebook’s support to this call to action.”

The focus will “very much be on violent extremism,” she said. The pledge will not limit or curtail “the freedom of expression.”

Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the Christchurch attacks in the first 24 hours after the massacre. It also blocked 1.2 million of them at upload, meaning they would not have been seen by users.

“When it came to the way this attack was specifically designed to be broadcast and to go viral, (responding) to that needed a global solution, so that was why we immediately got in contact with international counterparts”.

RNZ also covered this, and have details on what is happening in Paris.

Ms Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron are hosting the meeting of world leaders and tech giants to look at how to stop extremism spreading online.

Heads of state from Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia and the European Union are attending, though US President Donald Trump is absent.

Ms Ardern said co-operation on ending extremist content online was the least that should be expected from Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook is absent from the meeting but the social media company’s vice-president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, is there.

“I’ve spoken to Mark Zuckerberg directly, twice now, and actually we’ve had good ongoing engagement with Facebook. Last time I spoke to him a matter of days ago he did give Facebook support to this call to action.”

Ms Ardern said governments cannot ignore the way people are being radicalised, and had a role to play in preventing it.

The Prime Minister is holding a series of one-on-one meetings today with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the King of Jordan, Norway’s Elna Solberg and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey.

She will have an hour-long lunch with the French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace ahead of the Christchurch Call summit. Tomorrow, she will attend the Tech for Good dinner where she’ll make a speech before a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

There have been some questions about whether Ardern will achieve anything in Paris. I think that’s premature.  She has already achieved some significant attention, including the involvement of some other world leaders.

We will see what suggestions or plans come out of the Paris initiative over the next day or two, but I expect it will take time for things to change.

We won’t know for some time how effective any changes might be.

 

Ardern mastery of detail and engaging on extremist use of social media

David Farrar writes that he was invited to attend a “dialogue” on the ” Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online” at the offices of InternetNZ on Friday 10 May. He was surprised by the engagement there by Jacinda Ardern, and he was impressed by how she handled things, and how she was “over all the detail of what is a very complex landscape which is an intersection of Internet architecture, free speech issues, social media companies, behavioural incentives and issues of market dominance”.

The purpose was “engagement” and to ” to build a unified sense of purpose on constructive measures to address violent extremist content online”.

This is stuff Governments do all the time. I’ve been to a lot of these.

I was a bit surprised when I got the agenda 48 hours before the meeting and read that the PM was attending the second half of the meeting for around half an hour. That was pretty unusual for a PM to attend a consultation meeting. I figured it was mainly for optics – allow for a photo op (which was mentioned in the agenda) and allow us to hear what the Government wants to achieve directly.

As the meeting resumed after the tea break, Jacinda walked in and sat down in the circle of chairs with us. I looked around the room for her minders (as I know a few of them), and there were none there. This is pretty rare. Normally a press secretary will always be with the PM, making sure they record what is said, and also an advisor to field technical questions.

As the discussion from the first session was summarised, the PM grabbed a piece of paper and started taking notes. Not a staff member, but the PM. Then the facilitator handed the meeting over to the PM. She actually chaired or facilitated the next session herself after a brief outline of what they are trying to do. As each person made a contribution, she responded with comments or followups and kept making notes.

It dawned on me that rather than this being the PM telling us what she is doing, she was genuinely engaging with those in the room for their ideas about various issues and complexities.

She was very much over the detail of what is a very complex landscape which is an intersection of Internet architecture, free speech issues, social media companies, behavioural incentives and issues of market dominance.

The combination of her mastery of detail, her actively seeking opinions and taking her own notes, her lack of staff in the room, and also the total lack of barriers between the PM and participants (all sitting around in a circle) made everyone in that room feel they were genuinely being useful, and this wasn’t just tick the box consultation. Her performance reminded me in fact of John Key at various events, as Key had a way of talking with an audience, rather than to an audience, that was first class.

This sounds very promising, both that social media issues related to violence and terrorism may have a chance of being addressed by international leaders and online media companies, and also that Ardern is growing into the job as Prime Minister and on some issues at least she is very capable of leading.

Attendance at Ardern and Macron’s social media summit in Paris

New Zealand prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is co-chairing a meeting with world leaders and the tech industry with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday (NZ time), to build support for Ardern’s “Christchurch Call” – a pledge to try to stop violent extremist content from spreading online.

Ardern explained her aims in an op-ed in the NY Times – see Jacinda Ardern ‘opinion’ in NY Times.

There aren’t a lot of world leaders attending in Paris – short notice would have made it difficult for some – but enough to make it a worthwhile attempt to get things rolling. Actually too many leaders may have made it more difficult to get agreement

Stuff: Who is and isn’t coming to Jacinda Ardern’s Paris summit on social media

This week’s meeting is being co-chaired by French President Macron. France is hosting the G7 Digital Summit, which sits alongside the Christchurch Call meeting.

The pledge will be launched two months to the day after the terror attack in Christchurch, which the alleged killer livestreamed on Facebook.

She will be joined by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Senegal President Macky Sall, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Ardern said talks were “ongoing” with the United States, where most of these large firms are based, but it was clear President Donald Trump would not be making the trip.

Because of a quirk of tax law however, many of the companies have vast subsidiaries based in Ireland, who are sending a leader.

Facebook itself is sending head of global affairs, and former UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

Zuckerberg did travel to Paris to meet Macron on Friday, who he has an ongoing relationship with.

Ardern has engaged with both Zuckerberg and Sandberg following the attack. She told Stuff it would have been preferable for Zuckerberg to attend, but she was more interested in a concrete result than who attended.

“Would we have found it preferable to have Mark Zuckerberg there? Absolutely. However the most important point for me is a commitment from Facebook. I would absolutely trade having them sign up to this than anything around a presence at this event. It’s the action that is important to us.”

Twitter is the only tech company sending its chief executive, Jack Dorsey. Microsoft is sending President Brad Smith while Wikimedia is sending Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Google is sending Senior Vice President for Global Affairs Kent Walker.

I expect that any of the tech companies would have to approve any commitments through their management so it’s unlikely the Christchurch Call summit in Paris will provide anything like a final solution to violent extremist content online, but it is a step in the right direction.

Jacinda Ardern ‘opinion’ in NY Times

An opinion piece from Jacinda Ardern has been published in the New York Times. This isn’t available from the official Beehive news release website, so I presume it’s intended as a message to the world rather than to the people of New Zealand.

Her aim (as stated) is not as some people claim, to shut down free speech or to stop critics from speaking. There is absolutely no evidence as some claim that Ardern is fronting some sort of UN conspiracy to take over the world and subjugate the world population.

She says:

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

The vast majority of us, nearly all of us, are not terrorists or violent extremists, so we hopefully have little to fear from what she is trying to achieve internationally.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.

Of course it is up to us here in New Zealand to engage with discussions over free speech and hate speech and terrorism and extremism and attempts to promote violence online, to help ensure that social media regulations are intended for the extreme minority and shouldn’t affect the rest of us.


Social media needs reform. No one should be able to broadcast mass murder.

By Jacinda Ardern
Ms. Ardern is the prime minister of New Zealand.

At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped.

He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack.

For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover.

This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet.

The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.

The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering. Many people report seeing it autoplay on their social media feeds and not realizing what it was — after all, how could something so heinous be so available? I use and manage my social media just like anyone else. I know the reach of this video was vast, because I too inadvertently saw it.

We can quantify the reach of this act of terror online, but we cannot quantify its impact. What we do know is that in the first week and a half after the attack, 8,000 people who saw it called mental health support lines here in New Zealand.

My job in the immediate aftermath was to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and to provide whatever assistance and comfort I could to those affected. The world grieved with us. The outpouring of sorrow and support from New Zealanders and from around the globe was immense. But we didn’t just want grief; we wanted action.

Our first move was to pass a law banning the military-style semiautomatic guns the terrorist used. That was the tangible weapon.

But the terrorist’s other weapon was live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear. He wanted his chilling beliefs and actions to attract attention, and he chose social media as his tool.

We need to address this, too, to ensure that a terrorist attack like this never happens anywhere else. That is why I am leading, with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a gathering in Paris on Wednesday not just for politicians and heads of state but also the leaders of technology companies. We may have our differences, but none of us wants to see digital platforms used for terrorism.

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

Numerous world leaders have committed to going to Paris, and the tech industry says it is open to working more closely with us on this issue — and I hope they do. This is not about undermining or limiting freedom of speech. It is about these companies and how they operate.

I use Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter. There’s no denying the power they have and the value they can provide. I’ll never forget a few days after the March 15 attack a group of high school students telling me how they had used social media to organize and gather in a public park in Christchurch to support their school friends who had been affected by the massacre.

Social media connects people. And so we must ensure that in our attempts to prevent harm that we do not compromise the integral pillar of society that is freedom of expression.

But that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.

And so, New Zealand will present a call to action in the name of Christchurch, asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks. We also hope to see more investment in research into technology that can help address these issues.

The Christchurch call to action will build on work already being undertaken around the world by other international organizations. It will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.

 

 

‘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?

‘Clean energy centre’ to be established in Taranaki

The Government announced today that a clean energy centre will be established in Taranaki to help address the transition to cleaner energy.

It’s a bit ironic that the ban on more oil and gas exploration licenses has been claimed to result in less clean energy being required to fill medium term energy needs.

More investment in cleaner energy alternatives is a good move, as long as it is sensible investment with good prospects of a reasonable return. Only a relatively small amount is being spent ($27 million, similar to what was spent on the flag referendums) so it’s much less of a risk than the $1 billion a year at Shane Jones’ disposal.

But I still think that more attention should be given to energy conservation – the less energy we need the less alternatives will be required.


Government invests in clean energy centre to help power New Zealand’s economy

The Government will establish a clean energy centre in Taranaki to help lead New Zealand’s transition to a low carbon future, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

To tackle the long-term challenge of climate change, the Government will also invest in early stage research into cutting edge energy production.

“The National New Energy Development centre will help create new business and jobs in Taranaki while helping New Zealand move towards clean, affordable, renewable energy and away from fossil fuels,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The centre will look at the full range of emerging clean energy options such as offshore wind, solar batteries, hydrogen and new forms of energy storage.

“Our global confrontation with the changing climate requires us to face the long-term challenge of sustainably powering our economy over the next 30 years to ensure we are the best place in the world to live, to work, to raise a family and to get ahead.

“For decades, Taranaki has been our top energy producing region and now, in the 21st century, the region can be a leader in clean energy as well. It’s well known that local businesses and workers already have the skills, experience and international links to support new developments in clean energy technology and infrastructure.

“That’s why the Wellbeing Budget is investing $27 million to set up the centre in Taranaki, alongside $20 million over four years to establish a new science research fund for cutting edge energy technology so that we can look into the likes of organic photovoltaics, super conductors, nanotechnologies and inductive power.

“Investing in cutting edge science that could have global application is one of the best ways a country like New Zealand can contribute to the battle against climate change.

“Locally, the vision for the new centre has come from people on the ground, through the region’s 2050 roadmap process that brought together business, unions and iwi leaders to chart a future path for the local economy. Now central Government is investing to help make that vision a reality.

“The centre will be established on a strong foundation with pledges of collaboration and support from the energy sector, research organisations and supply chain businesses – both local to Taranaki and from around the world.

“This centre will complement our investments in hydrogen, Green Finance Ltd, the Zero Carbon Bill and our upcoming renewable energy strategy to help New Zealand create new jobs in new industries while moving away from fossil fuels that cause climate change,” Jacinda Ardern said.

These initiatives are part of a Wellbeing Budget package focused on research into agriculture, emissions and energy under the Budget priority of creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low emissions economy.