Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, October 13th, 2017 - 63 comments
Categories: accountability, democracy under attack, election 2017 - Tags: david fisher, democracy under attack, felix marwick, oia, Press Freedom, public service, sian elias
Another term of the Nats would be bad news for the institutions of democracy. Quite apart from rewarding the tactics of blatant lies and dirty politics, the damage to specific institutions would continue. Consider this recent warning on the justice system:
A powerful speech by the Chief Justice Sian Elias has the country’s judges and lawyers talking – and any new government on notice that the rule of law is under threat, Tim Murphy reports.
Judges don’t engage in politics, which is at times a pity.
They do, however, cry enough-is-enough when politicians and bureaucrats are infringing on fundamental rights and changing the quality of our justice.
A little-noticed speech by the Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias, has done just that.
With great care in her words, she has raised questions about cost-cutting, ad-hoc, hasty, and non-consultative decision-making and widening devolution of powers to the police rather than the courts that have sounded alarm bells in the legal fraternity.
Towards the end of her speech, the Chief Justice observed: “It is difficult to escape the feeling that some of these apparently ad hoc developments may not have been thought through in terms of fundamental principles such as the impact on the presumption of innocence, the right to silence and the right to legal advice.”
Cost-cutting was obliquely criticised. Uniform, equal and predictable justice “may not be speedy and it is not likely to be cheap. I do not expect criminal justice ever was speedy or cheap. Its careful observance is however best policy for a state that aspires to live under the rule of law.”
Or press freedom:
Government secrecy is being blamed for New Zealand dropping out of a top 10 ranking of countries that respect media freedom.
Advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has issued its latest report, which places New Zealand at number 13 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. It was number five in 2016.
Joanna Norris, Fairfax’s South Island editor in chief and chair of New Zealand’s Media Freedom Committee, said there were several challenges that threatened media freedom. “Among the most serious of these is the consistent and cynical misuse of official information laws which are designed to assist the release of information, but are often used to withhold it,” she said. …
Similar concerns were raised by David Fisher in 2014 about the whole public sector:
David Fisher: The OIA arms race
The difference between when I started 25 years ago and now is astounding when it comes to dealing with the public service. If I was writing a story then which in any way touched on the public’s interaction with government, I would pick up the phone and ring an official. It really was that easy.
Now, the interviews are gone. We speak to public servants when they have something really good to boast about, or really bad to apologise for. There is no in between. We meet only at weddings and funerals, and that’s no way to build a relationship.
There are far darker, grimmer views out there than mine. Simply, we don’t trust you. By commission or ommission, we think many of those who handle our OIA requests don’t have the public interest at heart. We don’t trust the responses we get.
Of course, we may be completely wrong. We may have made a terrible mistake. But how would we know otherwise? You don’t talk to us anymore. You’re too scared to. Caught between the Beehive and the media, you don’t know which to face. …
See also Felix Marwick in a similar vein.
Another term of the Nats is another term of democracy under attack. And it’s starting to feel a lot like 1996 all over again.