Tomorrow’s Schools review terms of reference

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has announced the terms of reference for the review into Tomorrow’s Schools:

The terms of reference for a review of Tomorrow’s Schools released today sets the framework for a once in 30-year opportunity to shape the way our schools are led, managed and interact with their communities, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“There’s been a lot of tinkering around the edges since Tomorrrow’s Schools was introduced, which has moved the governance, management and administration of schools further and further away from what it aimed to achieve. 

“This broad-based review gives schools, students and communities the opportunity to take part in drawing the blueprint for how schools should be organised from here on.

“It will look at how we can better support equity and inclusion for all children throughout their schooling, what changes are needed to support their educational success, and at the fitness of our school system to equip all our students for a rapidly changing world.

“The review will consider how schools might interact differently with their communities, with other schools, with employers, and with other government organisations, to serve the best interests of our young people.”       

An independent five-to-seven person taskforce will be appointed in April, which will consult widely before reporting back in November this year.

“The review is part of the Government’s championing of a high quality public education system,” Mr Hipkins said.

“We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to be the best they can be, regardless of where they live, or their personal circumstances. And we want to ensure our schools deliver that opportunity for all New Zealanders.

 “A key priority is for our schooling system will be to be more responsive to the needs of Māori and Pasifika children and those children needing learning support for whom the education system has not delivered in the past,” Mr Hipkins said.

The review will also consider the roles of the Ministry of Education, Education Review Office, New Zealand Qualifications Authority, New Zealand School Trustees Association, and the Education Council in supporting schools.

The review of Tomorrow’s Schools is part of the Government’s education work programme, announced in February. The terms of reference for the review are available at

Law Society “to fix sexual harassment and misconduct in the profession”

The Law Society acknowledges there are problems within the profession regarding sexual harassment and misconduct.

RNZ – ‘We know that there is an issue with the system’

Justice Minister Andrew Little has said he would consider a ministerial inquiry if the Society’s work to fix sexual harassment and misconduct in the profession was not up to scratch.

Mr Little said yesterday he had heard reports that the society had ignored serious allegations of this nature in the past.

He said he had no problem intervening if the Society wasn’t up to the job.

“The option I would have would really be a ministerial inquiry, something of that sort of nature, to represent a public interest in ensuring that the Law Society does its job of making sure that the profession is one that has standards, including standards of conduct towards its own employees, that’s what’s in question at the moment.”

The Law Society is trying to address the issue. They have set up a ‘working group’.

The move comes after law firm Russell McVeagh was put in the spotlight over allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and an alleged incident of sexual assault.

President Kathryn Beck said she understood why the minister was concerned but the organisation – which regulates lawyers – was ready to make a change.

“We know that there is an issue with the system if we’re not hearing about these things, either because people don’t know that that’s where they should go or they are not comfortable going there, either way we need to fix that.”

The Law Society on their working group:

Law Society announces working group to focus on sexual harassment reporting

The New Zealand Law Society is establishing a working group to consider what improvements can be made to enable better reporting of harassment in the legal profession to the Law Society.

“There is no place for a culture of sexual harassment in our profession. It must stop. The Law Society is determined to do all it can to tackle a complex issue in an innovative and practical manner,” Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.

“As regulator of the practice of law the Law Society fully appreciates that it must always assess whether the regulatory framework in place is flexible enough to meet current needs.”

“It is essential that all lawyers are able to practise in a workplace environment in which they are free from any harassment. The working group will look at whether the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and its associated rules and regulations allow us to take effective action.”

Ms Beck says the members of the working group, their terms of reference and the timeframe will be announced shortly.

“This is one of a number of actions the Law Society is taking to address a matter which impacts on all lawyers and their clients. The public discussion has been sobering but it has also highlighted matters that we need to resolve so we can be more proactive without re-victimising victims.

“Alongside our processes, we have looked at the practical actions which are needed to openly and fully address the issue of sexual harassment in the legal profession. This includes providing support for people who are affected by it.

“Over 2017 the Law Society’s Women’s Advisory Panel looked at harassment as well as other matters blocking the advancement of women in the profession. It decided that the issue of harassment required its own project and focus, to be further progressed after launch of the Gender Equality Charter in April. This work has been brought forward. Clearly action is needed now.

“What are we aiming for? We must focus on the culture and underlying assumptions which exist in some law firms and legal workplaces. As with the Gender Equality Charter, the change has to come from inside, driven and assisted from outside.”

Ms Beck says the Law Society’s plan of action includes:

  • Development of an online portal and dedicated helpline which enables reporting of concerns related to workplace harassment. The objective is to make it easier for people to raise and discuss sensitive matters arising in their workplace.
  • A free webinar on harassment which will be available to all lawyers. This will be a similar format to the very successful unconscious bias webinar delivered last year.
  • Completion of a review of the National Friends Panel and identifying or recruiting members who are particularly well placed to provide support and advice on sensitive matters.
  • The Law Society will organise and facilitate meetings of key interest groups such as those for women lawyers and young lawyers to look at the issues, what needs to be done and to develop appropriate resources.
  • A national survey of all lawyers which looks at the current workplace environment for legal practice is being scoped. As well as seeking information on harassment, this will also include questions on stress and wellbeing.
  • Development of more local branch and national events which address how to deal with difficult people, bullying and harassment.
  • Provision of more information and practical guidance through Law Society publications, beginning with the April issue of LawTalk.
  • Inclusion of information which addresses harassment and bullying in Law Society publications for young lawyers.
  • Development and maintenance of centralised information resources and support available from organisations both within and outside the legal profession. This will draw upon the Practising Well initiative.

It looks like a lot of work involved there, to review all those issues, and to implement the suggested measures.

Another police chase fatality

Deaths as a consequence of police chases (more accurately as a result of dangerous driving trying to avoid being apprehended) have been contentious. Each incident raises questions over whether police should get involved in chases at all.

More so when an innocent member of the public is a victim, as happened over the weekend.

RNZ: Three dead in Tasman police chase

Police had attempted to stop a vehicle while conducting enquiries to find a wanted person when the driver fled.

The driver crashed into another vehicle while attempting to overtake a truck, police said.

Two people in the fleeing car died along with a member of the public in another car.

Tragic for the innocent victim and their family.

Police said fleeing incidents were “extremely testing”.

“They are fast-moving, unpredictable and high pressure situations that require quick judgements.”

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the crash was a tragedy for the families of those who died, and the officers involved.

He said police were already working with the IPCA on a review of pursuit policies and practices, and he had asked for an update on progress.

The review is due to be completed later this year.

I’m sure the police have reviewed their chase procedures before.

The current review was reported last November: Police pursuits under review as officers report 300 incidents a month

New Zealand Police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) have been working together since July to review pursuits.

About nine drivers a day attempted to flee police last year.

Although fleeing driver events represented just 0.1 per cent of vehicle stops each year, police said they were “challenging, dynamic and complex events”.

“Drivers who choose to undertake high-risk driving behaviour when failing to stop for police increase the risk to themselves and the public, including the risk of serious injury or fatality.”

In June, the Police Association sought harsher punishments for fleeing drivers, including taking their cars off them.

I’m not sure that harsher penalties will reduce the number of people attempting to flee the police. I doubt that they pause to consider the possible consequences – or know what the penalties might be. There are obvious risks of crashing and of dying, and that doesn’t deter those who flee.

This is an issue that there is no easy answer to.

NCEA to be reviewed

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has announced the terms of a review of NCEA, the unit standards system that the last Labour government replaced School Certificate, University Entrance and Bursary with.

This follows the more immediate and drastic scrapping of National Standards that the National government imposed on primary and intermediate schools. It was unpopular with teacher unions and many teachers so was never going to work well.

NCEA review terms of reference announced

Overassessment of students and teacher workload will be addressed as part of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) review starting early next year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Mr Hipkins said the NCEA review is an opportunity to refine and strengthen our key national qualification for young people leaving school, and to ensure that NCEA remains relevant in the modern world.

“The Government is committed to delivering a future-focused education system that equips students with skills and knowledge to be globally competitive.

“The introduction of NCEA represented a significant modernisation of the system of secondary school assessment. However, the full potential of NCEA has yet to be fully realised. This review will build on what has been achieved with NCEA to date, and respond to emerging needs and opportunities,” Mr Hipkins said.

“Students and teachers have told us overassessment is a real issue and impacts their wellbeing and workload. This and the importance of teaching life skills in schools, such as resilience, creativity, communication and adaptability, will form part of the review.”

“The review will also look at the role of each level of NCEA, particularly the structure and relevance of NCEA Level 1 and whether all young people should attempt it.”

The Ministry of Education will run the review, starting with range of stakeholders and opening up for all New Zealanders to comment and contribute.

“I will also establish a Ministerial Advisory Group of innovative thinkers, who can challenge traditional thinking on senior secondary education and assessment, to lead the initial phase of the review with a discussion document for public consultation in April 2018.

“I am also keen to hear from young people who are currently working towards an NCEA. I have set up a youth advisory group and will be seeking their insights early on in the process, and I want other students to contribute as well during the wider public consultation phase.”

The Terms of Reference for the review and the Cabinet Paper ‘Reviewing NCEA’ are available at

Poll driven flip flop

It was classic John Key – last week he batted off and played down criticisms of New Zealand tax and trust legislation, but he arrived into this week suggesting and then announcing a review of those laws by an ‘international tax expert’, John Shewan.

Media and political opponents predictably called this a flip flop and a u-turn. And it didn’t take long before there were accusations of being internal poll-driven.

Danyl at Dim-Post in Panama Papers thoughts:

In terms of Key’s reversal from last week on whether our trusts need investigation, I wonder if National now have a formal process in which they respond to breaking stories like this.

Phase one. Deny everything while blaming Labour.

Stage two. Poll.

Stage three. If the polling hits some pre-arranged benchmark then reverse your position and/or announce an inquiry.

Nick R responded to that:

I reckon that’s probably how it works. And it works very well, because the polling seems to be very accurate and the occasional abrupt U-turn in policy position never seem to hurt the PM at all. When he does this, it is so fast that it barely seems to attract any comment at all, and certainly not negative comment.

It often does attract comment.Like amirite at The Standard:

How’s the Dearest Leader polling? Fantastic, only he had to flip flop 360 degrees on his ‘NZs foreign trusts practices are legit-stance, move on, nothing to see here’ to saying he’ll appoint an independent expert to review the policies.

I thought a flip flop would have been more like 180 degrees but the intent of this comment is clear enough.

And like the Greens in Inquiry into foreign trusts must restore NZ’s reputation:

The Green Party is welcoming John Key’s U-turn on foreign trusts…

Danyl happens to be on the Green campaign committee but this could be a coincidence.

Back at Dim-Post Tinakori posted:

My god, a government that often listens to public opinion and/or waits to see if there is substance in an issue. Is that weird or what?

Surely you don’t expect a government to announce an inquiry into a subject the moment it becomes a news story or an issue in Parliament.

Winston Peters and the Greens seem to be quick to call for inquiries, despite a lack of evidence being available. Peters in particular is keen on promoting fishing expeditions based on little more than his innuendo.

The public sector would be engaged in nothing but inquiries if that were the case.

Some issues resonate and some don’t. Some issues have substance and some don’t. Some issues have legs and others don’t…….

Once again, the test is what would you be saying if the incumbent government was one you favoured. I can see the blog post now demanding a measured response to the issue du jour.

That’s politics.

John Key has mastered the art of dampening down or fobbing off issues, and then after a while reacting contrary to his initial indications.

Even if this is in response to polls gauging what the public think and want is not a bad thing at all in a democracy.

And I’m sure David Farrar isn’t the only expert Key goes to for advice.

I’m sure Key gets some advice from the advisers that work in his office, from Government departments and from people around the country and around the world.

While he is open to criticism with the way he manages issues and manages the media, being prepared to react in line with public opinion should be seen as a positive.

And Key’s opponents seem to flip flop between accusing him of being poll and public opinion driven, and being an elite rich person who is out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders.

That’s more like flip flops in futile frustration.

The media just seem to love exaggerating things, sometimes to extremes, to create headlines and drive clicks.

No mass surveillance

The First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand  looked at whether mass surveillance was being carried out by the GCSB.

The report  concludes that there is no mass surveillance.

It was clear to us from our discussions with GCSB staff and from the GCSB’s own internal policy documents that these restrictions are interpreted and applied conservatively.

Far from carrying out “mass surveillance” of New Zealanders, the GCSB is unable to intercept New Zealanders’ communications even where it is for their own safety.

For example, the GCSB would be unable to analyse the communications of a New Zealander taken hostage in a foreign country unless it was assisting the NZSIS, NZDF or Police under their legislation.

That’s unlikely to change the minds of security and surveillance critics. Green co-leader Metiria Turei:

The GCSB had already been “quite liberal and loose” with their existing activities, and they should not be given more powers until it was clear they would follow the law.

That’s the opposite of what the report found.

Here are relevant references from the report.

1.11   In New Zealand, there has been considerable debate in the media about whether the GCSB conducts “mass surveillance” of New Zealanders. Having spent some months learning about the Agencies’ operations in detail, we have concluded that this is not the case, for reasons we discuss below.  However, there is a degree of scepticism among the New Zealand public about the Agencies’ activities.

In a survey carried out by the Privacy Commissioner in 2014, 52 percent of respondents were concerned about surveillance by New Zealand government agencies. We received a number of submissions from people who did not see the need for intelligence and security agencies at all and considered there was no justification for the government intruding on individuals’ privacy.

Does the GCSB conduct “mass surveillance”?

3.34  As we discussed in Chapter 1, there has been some debate in the public arena about whether the GCSB conducts “mass surveillance”. In light of this, we considered it important to describe what the GCSB does and does not do. While we cannot go into as much detail as we would have liked given the classified nature of the GCSB’s operational activities, we hope what we can say will inform this debate in a useful way.

3.35  “Mass surveillance” is a term that can be understood in a number of different ways. In this context it is important to distinguish between communications that are collected by GCSB systems – for example, its satellite interception station at Waihopai – and those that are actually selected and examined by an analyst.

3.36  The reality of modern communications is that it is often not possible to identify and copy a specific communication of interest in isolation. If a particular satellite might carry a relevant communication, the GCSB cannot search for that communication before interception occurs. First it needs to intercept a set of communications, most of which will be of no relevance and will be discarded without ever being examined by an analyst. This is the haystack in which the needle must be found.

3.37  Even this “haystack” represents only a tiny proportion of global communications. The GCSB conservatively estimates that there are over 1 billion communications events every day on the commercial satellites that are visible from Waihopai station. These represent approximately 25 percent of commercial satellites that match the Earth’s rotation (although signals cannot always be secured even from those satellites that are visible). We were told the proportion of those 1 billion communications that are actually intercepted equates to roughly one half of a bucket of water out of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

3.38  To find the “needle” (or the communications that are of intelligence value), the GCSB filters intercepted material for relevance using search terms. Only those communications that meet the selection criteria are ever seen by an analyst. The GCSB has internal processes in place toensure analysts justify their use of each search term and record all searches for the purpose of internal audits and review by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

3.39 Given these controls on what information can actually be examined by analysts, in our view the GCSB’s ability to intercept sets of communications does not amount to mass surveillance. That term suggests a kind of active monitoring of the general population that does not occur. It would neither be lawful nor even possible given the GCSB’s resourcing constraints.

3.40 Capacity acts as a check on all signals intelligence agencies, although it is particularly pronounced for the GCSB given its comparatively small size. It is simply not possible to monitor communications (or other data) indiscriminately. Professor Michael Clarke, the (now retired) Director-General of the UK’s Royal United Services Institute who convened the 2015 Independent Surveillance Review, referred to this when giving evidence before the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill:97 The other great safeguard is the sheer physical capacity. One will be astonished at how little [intelligence agencies] can do, because it takes so much human energy to go down one track. The idea that the state somehow has a huge control centre where it is watching what we do is a complete fantasy. The state and GCHQ [the UK’s signal’s intelligence agency] have astonishingly good abilities, but it is as if they can shine a rather narrow beam into many areas of cyberspace and absorb what is revealed in that little, narrow beam. If they shine it there, they cannot shine it elsewhere. The human limitation on how many cases they can look at once is probably the biggest safeguard.

3.41 We also observe that there are currently restrictions on the GCSB’s ability to intercept the private communications of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. These restrictions apply to New Zealanders anywhere in the world, not just those in New Zealand. It was clear to us from our discussions with GCSB staff and from the GCSB’s own internal policy documents that these restrictions are interpreted and applied conservatively. Far from carrying out “mass surveillance” of New Zealanders, the GCSB is unable to intercept New Zealanders’ communications even where it is for their own safety. For example, the GCSB would be unable to analyse the communications of a New Zealander taken hostage in a foreign country unless it was assisting the NZSIS, NZDF or Police under their legislation.




Cullen on virtual merger of GCSB and SIS

The security review was forbidden from suggesting a merger of our two spy agencies, SIS and GCSB, but it has gone as far as it can in recommending much closer links between the two.

Claire Trevett: A proposed ‘civil union’ of two intelligence agencies

Sir Michael Cullen has never been one to mince words so when he was asked why he and Dame Patsy Reddy had not simply recommended a merger of the two intelligence agencies, he was blunt: it was because the Government had not allowed it under the terms of reference.

That didn’t stop him recommending what amounts to a merger in all but name, which will see the GCSB and SIS remain technically separate entities but controlled by the same legislation with very similar powers – it was, as Dr Cullen said “a civil union”.

The most controversial aspect of it is likely to be the recommendation to allow the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders without requiring a warrant to do so on the behalf of other parties. It breaks a longstanding split between the SIS and GCSB under which the GCSB could only spy on foreigners and the SIS on New Zealanders.

The examples Dr Cullen gave of the virtue of extending that to the GCSB were rather sympathetic to his own case – he spoke of a New Zealander lost at sea and said the GCSB would not be able to use its cellphone tracking technology to find that person because they were a New Zealander.

In reality the split of powers had become increasingly redundant anyway. The review team also proposed a strong authorisation process to ensure there was not indiscriminate spying. In reality that split of powers had become increasingly redundant.

Sir Michael pointed out the SIS had the power to spy domestically but the GCSB had the technology to do so. In terms of the difference in the technology between the two, he said “it’s really a question of can you use Snicko and Hawkeye or can’t you in order to establish whether there was a no ball?”

Dr Cullen argued it was not a vast expansion of powers, but rather an attempt to clear up the current conflict for the GCSB. The legislation covering the GCSB already allows it to spy on behalf of other agencies with a warrant. One of Dr Cullen’s more surprising admissions was that despite the attempt to change the GCSB’s legislation to specify when it could spy on New Zealanders, the GCSB had only become more hesitant to do so. That happened after it was found to have unlawfully spied on more than 100 people due to confusion over its powers when acting on behalf of other agencies.

Dr Cullen said the GCSB and it had become overly cautious in the wake of that controversy to an extent it was impacting on its work. That had, he argued, almost put the Government in a position of failing in its duty to protect the lives of New Zealanders.

In short the review recommends a simplification of multiple laws, clarification of what powers the SIS and especially the GCSB have, and better oversight.

If the recommendations are followed – and they will need the approval of both National and Labour at least – it could leave two separate agencies but in practice sets up a virtual merger.

Balancing the need for effective security with the privacy of individuals will continue to be contentious.

Intelligence and security review

The report of the First Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand was released today.

Stuff reports: Spy agencies explainer: What you need to know about the report into spying laws

What’s this spying report about?

Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy have published their independent report on the laws that cover New Zealand’s spy agencies – more specifically, whether they’re fit for purpose or need changes.

What have they said?

There are 107 recommendations, but the main one is a new law to cover both the SIS and the GCSB. The agencies are currently covered by various pieces of legislation dating as far back as the 1960s, and Cullen says having one law for both agencies will eliminate the confusion and contradictions that are stopping them from working together more effectively.


What do our politicians think about the report?

Key has been fairly complimentary, saying it makes “some very valid points” about improving the balance between national security and the public’s right to privacy.

Labour leader Andrew Little says he “certainly sees some sense” in having one law for both agencies, but he has some concerns about how far the GCSB’s powers will be expanded, as well as proposals to provide the agencies with greater access to government agencies’ databases.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei is scathing about the report, saying the recommended changes would represent “one of the most significant erosions in New Zealanders’ privacy that we’ve seen in modern times”.


So, what happens next?

Key says the Government will take a look at the recommendations and speak to Labour about what the two parties could back together.

Any new legislation would be put forward by July, although the Government wouldn’t necessarily adopt every proposal, and the law would go before a select committee so the public could share their thoughts.

Key is keen to win cross-party support, and Little’s initial comments seem to indicate Labour could back some form of new law, which would provide a comfortable majority.

Spy overhaul needs cross party support

Security versus privacy and protection from spying is a difficult balancing act for the Government, with more transparency and oversight being very important without compromising the ability of our spy agencies to do their jobs effectively.

A report on the future of New Zealand’s spy agencies is due this week, and the results of several spy inquiries are due soon too.

This poses a test of John Key’s ability to bring together other parties into working on and agreeing on a way forward for our spy agencies. It it also a test of Andrew Little’s willingness to deal with this in a non-partisan way, given that the major parties have historically mostly put politics aside when it comes to security and intelligence.

Tracey Watkins writes Spy agency overhaul needs political buy-in to restore public confidence.

When John Key and Andrew Little eyeball each other across the table during a closed door session of Parliament’s intelligence and security committee this week, the prime minister will be ready to turn the tables on his opponents.

Key is asking Labour to back him on legislation overhauling the country’s spy agencies, the Government Communications Security Bureau and Security Intelligence Service.

The only tables being turned should be on dysfunction between National and Labour in particular on security issues.

The rise of the brutal Islamic State, and the emergence of its “lone wolf” disciples so close to home  – think Sydney’s Martin Place Cafe seige – have caused a further shift in the weight of the debate around individual privacy versus national security.

In that environment, this week’s report to Parliament’s intelligence and security committee takes on even greater significance.

The report, prepared by former Labour deputy Sir Michael Cullen and lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy, will likely recommend closer cooperation between the spy agencies. Greater transparency and oversight also seems to be on the cards after Sir Michael publicly criticised the overly secretive ways of those spy agencies and a culture of keeping things secret for secrecy’s sake.

Both moves are long overdue.

And both national and Labour need to deal with this responsibly.

Any move toward granting more intrusive powers to either spy agency will be fiercely opposed by the Labour’s activist base.

But Little’s job will be trading off those concerns against those of middle New Zealand, where he has to grow Labour’s votes.

He also has to put a priority on his responsibility to the country as a whole, regardless of some activists and voters.

The pending release of three serious inquiries may further strain the Labour leader’s ability to back any new powers, given that they go to the heart of confidence in our spy agencies.

The first of those inquiries, by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, is the most serious, looking at whether the intelligence agencies spied on other governments to boost the prospects of former Trade Minister Tim Groser against his rivals for the top World Trade Organisation job.

The other two inquiries, into whether the GCSB picked up the private communications of New Zealanders in the South Pacific, and its links to America’s CIA, may be less controversial.

Regardless of the outcomes of these inquiries they are likely to stir up opposition to spying.

But given the current state of unease and fear worldwide at the rise of terrorism, any further loss of public confidence in our spy agencies would be serious and significant.

Which is why both John Key and Andrew Little might want to see eye to eye on this one rather than go into another election campaign squabbling about spies.

It’s critical that Key and Little put politics aside and together workout what is best for the country as a whole, and for the rights of us, the citizens.

Any overhaul of our spy agencies and protection of our right to privacy needs to be as non-political as possible. At least National and Labour need to be more or less on the same page.

On the Ombudsman review

The ODT has an editorial on Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem’s review of the Official Information ActNo room for complacency.

Dame Beverley’s year-long investigation was undertaken after she says she became aware of growing public concern and criticism about perceived practices within government agencies in relation to the Act.

Her report (released this week) concluded most agencies are compliant most of the time, and there was no direct evidence of political interference in the release of information.

That is certainly pleasing. It adheres to our democratic principles, reflects international findings such as the Corruption Perceptions Index (which rates New Zealand the second-least corrupt country), and reinforces the goals to which we aspire as part of the international Open Government Partnership and our recent ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

However, Dame Beverley’s report raised several red flags.

The report found greater leadership was required.

While chief executives and senior managers understood their obligations, there was little OIA training for staff, and policies for proactively releasing information were lacking.

Ministers gave ‘‘mixed messages” to departments about compliance and some Government ministers’ offices had attempted to interfere in their departments’ responses to information requests.

All of the above created a

‘‘cycle of distrust and suspicion” between the public and agencies.

The training and policy lack is concerning given the Act has been in effect for more than 30 years.

While the report found departments put ministerial officials right about their obligations and released the information, the fact influence is being exerted is worrying.

Worrying too is the possible extent of this.

Wakem has been criticised for being to weak in her role.

The public (and media) ‘‘distrust and suspicion” around transparency is certainly real, and was discussed in an editorial in this newspaper only last week.

The situation has not been helped by Prime Minister John Key’s admission the Government sometimes delays releasing information right up to the 20-day OIA deadline if it is in its interests to do so. (It is a legal requirement to release the information as soon as practicable within that time frame.)

It must be acknowledged privacy provisions and security considerations come into play when releasing some information.

Most will understand that conflict and the difficulties in obtaining the right balance.

Unacceptable, though, is the withholding of information, or delaying tactics, for political purposes.

Politicians need to be much better  at serving the interests of the people. And the Ombudsman needs to be better at ensuring this happens.