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Fisher on the OIA arms race

Written By: - Date published: 11:26 am, October 23rd, 2014 - 27 comments
Categories: accountability, journalism, Media - Tags: ,

Over at Public Address, Herald reporter David Fisher has written a long and fascinating piece on his experiences in getting access to public information. Short form – NZ has over the last 25 years gone from a good place to a very bad place indeed. A couple of extracts below, but go read the whole thing on Public Address

David Fisher: The OIA arms race

At the moment, there is an inquiry underway into whether a blogger gained some advantage in receiving information from the SIS for political purposes. There are also allegations of preferential treatment over the OIA involving the same blogger and the former Justice Minister.

The police are also facing allegations of trying to cover up juked stats by burying an OIA. And a former Customs lawyer has said his organisation preferred to let requests languish in the Ombudsman’s office than dealing with them.

In the 25 years I have worked as a journalist, there have never been so many questions, or such a loss of faith, all at once.

The shift really began after the 2005 election, when Helen Clark’s third term threatened to get away from her. I believe what happened then perverted all that has come since, when it comes to media and the public service.

The “no surprises” policy had been a feature of coalition agreements since 1996, and part of the SOE model. … But before long, it crept out of SOEs and political agreements and spread its grip through the public service.

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.

27 comments on “Fisher on the OIA arms race ”

  1. Tracey 1

    hooton admits deliberately breaching the law. key too. that hoots was ever in a position to so is sobering.

    I dont care who is in govt. the oia is a safeguard for democracy. anyone flouting it for political ends does not care for democracy

    noted that fisher did not have this published by the herald?

    • tc 1.1

      admission is easy when you’re confident there are no consequences.

      • Tracey 1.1.1

        yup and it makes those who routinely behave in their own lives with no ethics feel better about themselves when such a likeable ordinary bloke like key does it too.

    • CnrJoe 1.2

      ‘sobering’ Tracey?
      Remember Hooton was on 3-4 bottles of red wine a day up until a couple of weeks before the 2014 general election, I can imagine he’s broken a whole lot of things over the years 😉

      [lprent: It is rather irrelevant for this post. I strongly suggest you put a cork in it. We all know where that kind of statement leads too.. ]

      • Tiger Mountain 1.2.1

        In publicly declaring his relationship with alcohol Hooton has done a difficult and if others experience is anything to go by, potentially foolhardy thing. If you want to give something up don’t tell the whole world because they will only applaud if you take up the ciggies, go powder or sauce again.

        But anyone that gets beyond denial and tries to make changes deserves some support not snide remarks whatever their politics. Apart from Judith Collins of course in Twitter rehab.

        • wekarawshark


          enough with the addict intolerances and prejudices please.

          • adam

            But balance that with being firm with Matthew at the same time – we do him no favours by encouraging him into old habits. He will slip back into the bottle if he keeps playing political games. From what I’ve heard from him, he needs a major lifestyle change. I wish him the best of luck stopping, but, I would encourage him to look after himself, and change what he does for a living.

            • wekarawshark

              it’s really none of our business what Hooton does with his drinking. If you think it is our business, then please explain why say Slater shouldn’t take an interest in my drinking. See where this goes?

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Matthew has reached out to this community on many occasions: his personal life isn’t our business it’s our solidarity with our fellow citizens without fear or favour.

                I want better wingnuts – how is failure to acknowledge brother Hooton’s cries for help going to achieve that?

                • wekarawshark


                  My objection is to people presuming they know shit about someone’s addiction just because it’s been mentioned online. And to people using someone’s addiction against them. If it’s ok for lefties to do that to Hooton, then it legitimises Slater doing it to lefties.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Yes, people will use it against him: part of that is abominable and part of it is pragmatic.

                    His arguments are valuable more for what they reveal than what they say, and I wish what part of his brain can still think independently well all the same.

              • karol

                Or an interest in my non-drinking. As someone who is teetotal, I am very aware of the way consumption of alcohol is seen as the norm for social occasions, and often as the defining feature of such occasions.

                Some people apply all sorts of pressures to get me to take just one drink for the occasion. It must make life extra difficult for anyone who had to struggle to give up booze, when some people are pretty insensitive.

                I’m with weka on not using a decision to abstain a means of attacking a person, whether I agree with that person’s politics or not.

                • wekarawshark

                  people still do taht pressure thing? Shit, that’s bad.

                  It’s not like we don’t have enough material from Hooton to take him to task over either.

                  We have no way of knowing if someone’s drinking affects their work. Some addicts are high functioning. Using the addiction as stick hurts all addicts. Pretty much the same as other prejudices really.

                  • karol

                    Well, I haven’t had that sort of pressure for a while, but I have no way of knowing if that’s because I’m older.

                    Yep. Focusing on someone’s addiction is not a useful line of attack.

        • Tracey

          my use of sobering was not a play on words.

          I have no time for hooton and if he genuinely is fighting an addiction rather than it being part of some strategy good luck to him.

          may it make him a generous honest and compassionate human who no longer behaves badly cos its in his dna

          • CnrJoe

            all very well. I personally believe it was a ‘play’. It gave him and the P.M (or his office, or his cat) a diversionary line of conflict, some ‘distance?’.
            He claimed this addiction on twitter and elsewhere and yet the whole time was playing the high-octane election and Dirty Politics post-publication fall-out at a million miles and hour. Exceltium, television, radio, columns, twitter, blogs parenting, consulting, soooo busy busy……and a rather massive alcohol intake? Yeah, Right.
            Yes LPrent, I’ll ‘leave it out’ but I don’t really know how the man lies straight in bed.
            Apologies for threadjack or whatever. ‘Fomenting merry mischief’ or somesuch defence.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.3

      noted that fisher did not have this published by the herald?

      Russell Brown (in comments):

      Tim Murphy was actually the first to retweet the link to yesterday’s post, where I mentioned this speech, and I asked him if the Herald would run it, or whether I could. He kindly suggested we both could, so a shorter version may yet turn up on the Herald website.

  2. Wayne 2

    New Zealand has gone “to a very bad place indeed.”

    Seriously, you need to connect back to reality. Just about every international measure places New Zealand near to the top.

    So if we are a “very bad place indeed”, the rest of world must be a total disaster.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      So, you think relative comparisons are ok.

      Fisher makes a relative comparison using not national boundaries, but a timeline as his comparative method.

      To put it another way, he’s saying we once set a higher benchmark. I’m afraid your argument is just another “he did it too”, Dr. Mapp.

      Edit: I note “loss of trust” is (yet) another symptom of increased inequality. Slow clap.

    • Anne 2.2

      Just about every international measure places New Zealand near to the top.

      That was before “Dirty Politics”. Goodness know where NZ would end up after a Royal Commission of Inquiry. John Key knows, which is why he won’t agree to such an inquiry eh?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1

        The establishment knows, which is (one reason) he no longer has sole charge of the security services. Loose lips sink ships, and Key leaks like an incontinent weasel. Not as Pry Minister, obviously. That would be wrong 🙄

      • Wayne 2.2.2


        You grossly over estimate the effect that “Dirty Politics” will have on our international reputation. It will have about the same effect as it did on the average New Zealand voter.

        • vto

          Wayne, you are being too clever – and failing.

          It is clear, as OAB says, that Fisher was referring to a timeline comparison i.e. NZ today is in a “very bad place” compared to 25 years ago.

          It was clear wasn’t it wayne.

          You just ignored that major component of the post in order to support your own political affiliations.

          so see through ….

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          That’s a lovely shiny benchmark you have there Dr. Mapp. Did you polish it yourself?

    • wekarawshark 2.3

      “Just about every international measure places New Zealand near to the top.”

      What, like our youth suicide stats?

  3. Tracey 3

    Please find attached a letter advising of need to transfer your request to the Minister of Social Development for response. We apologise for the delay in transferring your request and are working with the Minister’s office to try and prevent this late transfer from unduly delaying your response.


    I made the following oia request on 22 october 2014

    Sent: Wednesday, 22 October 2014 11:07 a.m. To: OIA_Requests (MSD) Subject: RE: Response to Your Official Information Act request – Unemployment statistics

    Please provide as a matter of urgency pursuant to the OIA the “research” MS Bennett was relying on when she stated

    ““research had shown there were “touchpoints” for people going from work back onto a benefit -at six months and again at 12-14 months.”” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm? c_id=1&objectid=11326254

    As this document will be readily accessible, as she has already referred to it, I expect to receive it as soon as reasonably practicable, and not on the 20 th working day.

    i received an acknowledgement as shown…

    “Thank you for your email received 22 October 2014, under the Official Information Act 1982. Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate officials at National office to respond. You may expect a response to be sent to you as soon as possible.


    Official and Parliamentary Information team | Ministerial and Executive Services

    Ministry of Social Development”

    Today i received this

    “.Please find attached a letter advising of need to transfer your request to the Minister of Social Development for response. We apologise for the delay in transferring your request and are working with the Minister’s office to try and prevent this late transfer from unduly delaying your response.


    Official and Parliamentary Information team | Ministerial and Executive Services

    Ministry of Social Development

    Our Purpose: We help New Zealanders to help themselves to be safe, strong and independent Ko ta mātou he whakamana tangata kia tū haumaru, kia tū kaha, kia tū motuhake …”

    i have forwarded my progress to the ombudsmen.

    this is our open and transparent government in action.

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